NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — The most difficult part is behind you.
Despite your jitters, shaky voice and obviously faux sense of confidence, you managed to squeeze out the words: Do you want to grab dinner tomorrow night? And, to the surprise of you and your roommates alike, it worked. You’re finally going on that date.
New Brunswick, of course, is made for this kind of thing. In fact, the city’s downtown harbors enough cozy, dimly lit bars and restaurants to make pinpointing the perfect place something of a challenge. So how do you narrow down your options?
Let TAPinto New Brunswick help. Our team has sifted through the city’s thriving dining scene to come up with nine top-of-the-line choices, each with its own style and charm, for your next date night. It certainly wasn’t an easy task. But here they are, in no particular order.
Clydz, 55 Paterson St.
A Hub City institution for 20 years, this martini bar delivers much more than a stiff drink. Its low-key, comfortable bar and dining room provide longtime couples and first dates an intimate chance to connect. The seemingly never-ending list of martinis and cocktails—including a riesling-based drink called Sex in the Hub City—makes for easy conversation. And Clydz’ menu of exotic meats, from alligator and python to kangaroo and bone marrow, is sure to make this date one to remember.
Catherine Lombardi Restaurant, 3 Livingston Ave.
You can’t go wrong with a bottle of red, some antipasti and a hearty Italian entrée from this joint. With its fireplaces and welcoming decor, Catherine Lombardi gives diners the chance to overlook the downtown cultural district from its second-story perch. Chat over pasta and meat dishes made from fresh, organic ingredients before catching a show.
Veganized, 9 Spring St.
Never ate vegan? No problem. Veganized is the type of organic, veggie-friendly restaurant that caters to herbivores and omnivores alike. Its second-floor, brick-wall dining room offers a relaxed environment to shoot the breeze and chow down on meatless burgers, cheese-free mac and cheese or vegan lasagna—all of which are renowned for, well, making carnivores feel at home. This BYOB restaurant also brings a sense of sophistication at an affordable price.
The dining room of Clydz. Photo courtesy of the restaurant.
INC American Bar & Kitchen, 302 George St.
Another ambitious New Brunswick restaurant, INC is all about quality, style and trying something new. Isn’t that what date night should be, too? Its menu contains a number of small plates—including truffle fries, Vietnamese steamed buns and even grilled duck hearts—that encourage light picking, sharing and experimenting. Grab a whiskey or beer from INC’s hefty list of options, sink into a wide-back chair and see where things go.
Due Mari, 78 Albany St.
There’s a lot to like at Due Mari, but it’s most notably a seafood lover’s dream. Chef Michael White recommends going for the $65-per-head, four-course prix fixe menu ($99 with wine pairing), turning a run-of-the-mill date into something more. But if you’re on a date, you can’t pass on Due Mari’s oysters, long said to be an aphrodisiac. The restaurant’s elegant bar and dining room offer a natural setting for a candlelit conversation.
The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis St.
After more than 30 years in the business, The Frog and the Peach has repeatedly cemented itself as one of the state’s best eateries. While not necessarily cheap, the menu is sure to fill and excite, offering something delightful even for couples whose tastes clash. Dishes like cacio e pepe, an iconic take on spaghetti, sit alongside roasted duck breast and tuna sashimi. What’s more, this once-industrial building boasts some of the most unique aesthetics in the city—thanks to its shining wood-top bar, wine- and cocktail-inspired decor and collection of diverse dining rooms.
Ramen Nagomi, 49 Bayard St.
Affordable and unlike anything else in New Brunswick, Ramen Nagomi is a rising star in the local culinary scene. This BYOB spot dishes up rich, flavorful bowls of ramen and quirky appetizers to please just about any palate. Its charm rests not only in its food, but also in its warm, laid-back vibe. Why not show your date a good time by breaking routine—but not breaking the bank?
The bar at Steakhouse 85. Photo courtesy of the restaurant and Facebook.
Steakhouse 85, 85 Church St.
This New York-style steak joint is made for couples. Indeed, Steakhouse 85 hosts date nights every Monday and Friday with a $99-per-couple prix-fixe deal that includes a bottle of wine. In addition to classic steakhouse menu items and a fully-stocked bar, this restaurant serves up a classy, refined atmosphere that appears designed for couples hoping to unwind.
The Dillinger Room, 338 George St.
When you walk into The Dillinger Room’s bar area, the candles and strings of lights make it seem like you’re entering an intimate backyard patio. Craft cocktails, local draft beer and high-quality food—whether you want a burger or a salad—further the Dillinger’s trendy, casual ambience. It all adds up to form a hangout that suits star-crossed lovers and relative strangers who want to get to know each other.
Of course, this brief rundown can’t hit every grade-A date spot in New Brunswick. So please feel free to mention your favorite restaurant or bar for schmoozing on TAPinto New Brunswick’s Facebook or Twitter page.