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.
A union of Middle Eastern and Western cultures, Fire N Ice Hookah Bar combines the laid-back charm of a hookah lounge with the music and swank of a nightclub. Customers roam through the electric bi-level space flooded by soft colorful lighting before picking their poison—hookah, drinks, food, or all three.
In the hookah lounge, they curl up on plush sofas cushioned by satiny pillows and reach out every so often to grasp the hookah pipe as it’s passed around, inhaling any one of 25 exotic hookah flavors. The smoke spirals up toward Middle Eastern tapestries hanging overhead or snakes around the top-shelf cocktails perched beside the pipe. It even intermingles briefly with the aromas wafting from Middle Eastern dishes—such as chicken tikka, korma sliders, and kebabs—before vanishing into the air as quickly as a magician at a science fair.
As the night lingers on, Fire N Ice begins its transformation into a full-blown nightclub. Belly dancers take to the stage first, twisting and shimmying across the spacious dance floor. By 11 p.m., the club's three DJs begin spinning top R & B and hip-hop hits intermixed with a few Arabian jams, signaling to guests that it's their turn to hit the floor.
Big Shots' massive, three-floored space bombards sports fans with walls covered in flat-screen televisions, ensuring they never miss a kick, toss, or posttouchdown pirouette. While patrons soak up multimedia entertainment from every direction, cooks whip up a menu of classic bar grub, such as specialty pizzas and burgers named after NFL teams, including the brown-gravy-drenched Chicago Bear and the cheddar- and bacon-topped Green Bay Packers. At night, the establishment can transform into an all-out dance party led by live bands and DJs.
As seasonal brews flow from taps behind Flanagan’s Restaurant & Pub’s wood-paneled bar, the waitstaff flits past the dining room’s framed artwork and hanging plants to deliver platefuls of Irish and American comfort classics to tables. In this congenial setting, buffalo wings, littleneck steamers, and crocks of french onion soup pave the way for 8-ounce burgers and fresh seafood.
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.
Under the umbrella of The Bowling Proprietors' Association of North Jersey, an eclectic group of alleys work together to fill the region with the thunder of scattering pins. At most of Bowling Proprietors' bowling centers, bowlers keep track of pummeled pins with automatic scoring, and bumpers, which arrive at the call of a button, keep balls on course without filling the gutters with retired VCRs. Snack bars at some locations bolster ravenous bowlers, and game rooms in select centers keep hand-eye coordination in peak condition. Free WiFi is available in some centers so that winners can exercise bragging rights.