photo courtesy of: istock.com/ galaxia
2023 Hudson St., Fort Lee
This new spot in Fort Lee is chock-full of fresh, sustainable farm-to-table fare created by James Beard award-winning Chef Sherry Yard. (We especially love the braised short ribs, shrimp and grits and burger with red onion marmalade.) The farm-to-glass cocktail menu created by Master Barman and Advanced Sommelier Adam Seger is also not to be missed. Try an El Corazon (made with tequila, passion fruit, pomegranate, blood orange and a salt and peppercorn rim) or a Norma Jean (vodka mixed with homemade strawberry lemonade) before catching a flick at the swanky iPic movie theater upstairs.
428 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair
Get a taste of summer in February by taking in fun tropical decor, authentic music and servers in Cuban garb. Go for the reasonably priced ropa vieja, a classic Cuban shredded beef dish, or warm up with a hearty serving of carne con papas (beef stew). If you’re treating yourself, spring for Havana-style suckling pig with tangy orange mojo. Best part? It’s BYOB! Bring a bottle of vino to use with one of their house-made sangria mixes (we love Armando’s Passion, a white punch mix with strawberries, peaches, oranges and coconut), or some silver rum for mojitos. There’s usually a wait, so get there early.
541 River Rd., Edgewater
Indulge in fresh seafood while taking in a stunning view of Manhattan at this new waterside spot. If you love oysters, the New Orleans-inspired charbroiled oysters bathed in hot bayou butter are a must. We love the signature fish menu, especially the Shaghai Sea Bass, served with rice wine soy sauce and ginger. Mitchell’s also has an extensive hand-crafted cocktail menu—we recommend the Millionaire Margarita and the Brown Derby Old Fashioned. If you’re planning a V-Day dinner, Mitchell’s Decadent Lobster and Shrimp Stuffed Sea Bass with roasted tomato hollandaise, sautéed asparagus, and smashed redskin potatoes will be $32.99 from February 10-14.
517 Lake Ave., Asbury Park
The name of this downtown Asbury Park staple says it all. With beautiful views and a menu filled with fresh, local seafood, juicy steaks and an incredible pasta selection, it’s a must for V-Day. Start with lamb quesadillas or white bean bruschetta before chowing down on filet mignon or baked Icelandic cod. They don’t take reservations for two, so make sure you get there at least an hour early to snag a table.
383 Market St., Bldg. D, Saddle Brook
Calling all beer nerds! You and your partner will love scouring this casual Bergen County gem’s 41 taps and 200+ bottles of craft brews, many from local NJ breweries. Not a beer person? No worries; there’s plenty of wine, cider and soda to sip on, too. This is not your average pizza joint. Kick back with a personal-sized sourdough flatbread pizza. If you want a lighter pie, go for the C.A.B., cilantro-lime chicken, avocado, bacon and mozzarella on a garlic avocado creme sauce. For something that’ll stick to your ribs, ask for the Las Carnitas, loaded with beer-braised pork, tomatillo salsa, jack cheese, guac and sour cream. If you and your love want to split some apps, spring for avocado egg rolls (pro tip: ask for a side of sour cream!) or no-sauce, no-mess Cajun wings. If you’re staying in on V-Day, take advantage of the February take-out special: buy two pizzas, get one appetizer free.
149 Newark Ave., Jersey City
If you’re craving some Southern cooking, The South House in downtown Jersey City is a little slice of heaven, complete with record albums that double as menus and classic rock on a constant loop. Pig out on bacon-wrapped onion rings (yes, totally worth the calories), before noshing on smoked BBQ ribs, buttermilk fried chicken or a Texas Frito pie (homemade chili with sour cream and Fritos on top). After dinner, head downstairs for your favorite cocktail and a few rounds of shuffleboard.
5 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick
Spring for a traditional duck breast or pepper seared tuna at a super-swanky eatery in downtown New Brunswick that’s a double threat between its wine and food menu. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, split a 45 day-aged Tomahawk steak with your special someone or order a steak tasting for two that comes on a 500-degree Himalayan salt brick. FYI: No phones are allowed in the dining room, which means some seriously cozy one-on-one time with your partner.