The Best Outdoor Dining Spots in NJ
Photo courtesy of Leslie Werner
23 Ocean Ave., Long Branch; 732-759-2900; leclubavenue.com
From its Parisian brasserie-like menu to stunning ocean views, the Avenue is a perfect date night spot. The restaurant’s seafood fare includes salmon tartare, seared Spanish octopus with cherry heirloom tomatoes, chorizo and lemon brulee and a salt-crusted whole branzino for two. If seafood isn’t your thing, try the ultra-rich boeuf bourguignon with fresh pappardelle or opt for a classic Avenue burger or steak frites. Cap off dinner with one of our favorites: warm apple tarte tatin or dark chocolate pot de crème. Come early for happy hour and get a deal on oysters, clams, a specialty cocktail or glass of wine from Avenue’s extensive list.
Make it a late night at Avenue Nuit, a rooftop lounge with a pool above the restaurant. Between the DJ, outdoor fireplace and white ivory and sea blue décor channeling the French Riviera, you’ll be torn over whether to cozy up in an oversized chair or get up and dance. Avenue Nuit sometimes closes for private parties, so call before you go.
24 Nolan’s Point Park Rd., Lake Hopatcong; 973-663-9600; alicesrestaurantnj.com
If you plan on spending the day at Lake Hopatcong, stop at Alice’s for lunch or dinner. Located on historic Nolan’s Point, you’ll be treated to views of the lake along with sailboats, kayakers and fishers. Time your visit just right and you’ll catch a spectacular sunset on the water.
Alice’s seasonal menu features classic faves like the All-American burger, Atlantic salmon and jumbo lump crab cakes. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too. Don’t miss the local corn on the cob seasoned with zesty cotija lime crema and chili salt or the miso glazed tofu.
The restaurant just renovated its Big Fish Lounge, the place to be for happy hour, live music, trivia night, karaoke or to watch a game on one of the flat screen TVs.
Grounds for Sculpture; 16 Fairgrounds Rd., Hamilton; 609-584-7800; ratsrestaurant.com
Situated in one of the state’s most beautiful gardens, Rat’s is surrounded by gorgeous greenery and impressionist-inspired sculptures. Named after a gregarious character in founder Seward Johnson’s favorite childhood book, The Wind in the Willows, Rat’s is meant to make you feel like you’re dining in Claude Monet’s northern French town of Giverny. Expect to try a consummate French classic like coq au Riesling (chicken sourced from nearby Griggstown Quail Farm served with bacon, oyster mushrooms, cippolini onion and pommes pureé) or traditional onion soup. Start with a drink at the bar while you wait for your table—we recommend the plum Prosecco cocktail. And plan on sampling one of the restaurant’s popular starters like an artisanal cheese platter, charcuterie or mussels. If you’re a cheese lover, try something off the creamery menu paired with a salad sourced from local spots like Terhune Orchards.
Expect a longer wait if you want to eat outside and haven’t made a reservation. Check the website before going since Rat’s sometimes closes for private events. You don’t need to pay the Grounds for Sculpture admission fee to eat at Rat’s unless you plan to explore the park before or after your meal.
Haven Riverfront Restaurant & Bar
2 Main St., Edgewater; 201-943-1900; havenedgewater.com
Just steps away from the Hudson River, Haven is beloved for its breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. The restaurant boasts a modern lounge and dining area but the outdoor patio is where you’ll want to be during the summer.
Oyster lovers will savor the mix of Atlantic (briny), Pacific (sweet) and Kumamoto (buttery) offerings. Try them all by indulging in an around the world oyster tasting. Or opt for another kind of seafood starter, like creamy lobster risotto croquettes or yellowfin tuna tartare.
Montauk swordfish, ribeye steak frites and goat cheese and beet terrine are popular menu staples. If you plan on making a brunch reservation, don’t miss the just-added Southern fried chicken Benedict. Make a point of going on a weekday for happy hour (5 to 8 pm) to try an apple thyme tonic, dark & stormy or Moscow mule for just $6 each.