For more than 27 years, the customers of NJ's Tavern & Restaurant have relished its elevated tavern fare. They dunk french dip sandwiches—stuffed with thin sheets of roast beef—into steaming bowls of au jus, or sink their teeth into juicy Monster burgers tamed by the restaurant's special sauce. The kitchen crafts pizzas with seasonal organic vegetables and infuses the crusts with parmesan. On weekends, diners choose from a brunch menu with both sweet and savory options, including pancakes, crème brûlée french toast, and frittatas.
Lambert Epperly, founder and owner of National Bartenders School, oversees the progress of each of his school's students, and provides individual advice and adjustments from their first class through graduation. His bartending gurus pass on their knowledge and techniques in a custom-designed cocktail-lounge classroom, engaging students in hands-on training behind a 40-foot-long, fully stocked bar. These experienced instructors lead a 40-hour certificate program and other seminars in both English and Spanish, tailoring class times around students' work and crime-fighting schedules. For extended courses, they provide a bartending textbook spanning more than 200 drink formulas and detailing elements of the craft, such as types of glassware and customer-service practices. Licensed by the New Jersey Department of Education, the school keeps tuition low and connects its students with free job-placement assistance in local watering holes.
Gold-leaf writing inscribed across the towering red portico at the entrance to The Shannon Rose Irish Pub announces what one might expect to find inside: “Premium Stouts,” “Irish Whiskies,” and other culinary staples of the Emerald Isles. Behind this imposing entryway lies a series of dining rooms that have a markedly different effect; chandeliers create a sense of intimacy as they illuminate Gaelic artwork and aged hardcovers resting on lofty bookshelves.
With six handcrafted beers on tap and a full menu of delicious pub provisions, J.J. Bitting Brewing Company enrobes taste buds in warm, comfortable flavors. The Blazing Brewhouse wings ($5.95) perk up palates with a tangy zest that earned them the title of Best Hot Wings in Woodbridge by BestHotWings.com. Wrangle the Colorado burger's bison patty into hungry mouths aided by sautéed onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried-tomato pesto mayo ($7.95), or follow the delicate salmon steak's incredible journey through pan-searing and potato-breading before rousing it from snug beds of rice and fresh veggies ($15.95). Like the cool table in a high-school cafeteria, Bitting's homegrown pints ($4.50 each) stay popular with or without delicious food. The Garden State IPA balances appealing bitterness with a floral aroma, and the heavily roasted Black Jack Stout swoops up from cellars to slake any thirst in the house.
It's no secret that kids have short attention spans. Normally that's a challenge, but at Kidz Village, it's the expectation. The staff has assembled more than 12 themed play areas inside the facility, ranging from simulations of a hair salon and a comic-book store to an arcade (with real prize tickets) and a fairy-tale castle. And if families feel like dropping by on a whim, they're more than welcome, as open play is available everyday. Adults always receive free entry and can relax in an area with complimentary WiFi and views of all the play areas. An onsite restaurant, Perky's Pizza, serves chicken tenders and hot dogs to keep kids fueled.
The party packages at Kidz Village are quite accommodating, as they include a mix of both open access to play areas and reserved time in a private party room. In the private room, staff hosts orchestrate a custom lineup of games that might include limbo or trivia based on the birthday child's favorite TV shows. Even once the private-room reservation is over, groups are welcome to stay and party for free until closing time or the staff's nap time.
Since its beginnings in 1980, Staten Island Fencing Club has developed the skills of collegiate athletes and Olympic hopefuls under the guidance of head coach and founder Steve Khinoy, a Johns Hopkins PhD with more than 30 years of coaching experience. In 2010, the club—once relegated to college cafeterias and church basements—took up permanent residence at Staten Island Fencing Center, a full-time facility as bright and spacious as the Man in the Moon's front yard, complete with fencing strips, an armory, and a pro shop. There, Dr. Khinoy cultivates an atmosphere of camaraderie, teaching both novice and advanced swordsmen to master the Olympic and NCAA sport's triumvirate of blades: foils, sabers, and épées.
Beyond the center's one-hour introductory lessons, regular courses stretch for several weeks, during which competitors learn the strategies and fancy footwork necessary to best opponents on the piste and during freestyle dance contests. Summertime day camps and clinics sharpen slashing technique with five hours of daily instruction that include warm-ups, basic drills, and individual lessons. The staff also hosts parties for birthdays or other celebrations, in which guests practice the art of dueling amid cake, refreshments, and bouquets of colorful balloons shrieking in terror.