Music is a way of life at Taste Bar & Bistro, especially Thursday through Saturday nights, when the restaurant thumps to the sounds of karaoke, DJ music, or live jazz. But it’s Taste’s thoughtfully prepared pub food that draws crowds even before the musicians take the stage. The menu comprises small plates such as steamed littleneck clams and spicy calamari, as well as heartier entrees that include cheeseburgers and spaghetti and shrimp fra diavolo. Throughout festivities, bartenders mix specialty martinis and pour wines and draft beers that enliven dinner time or can be used to paint a smiley face on one’s shirt during happy hour.
Winner of the JerseyArts.com 2009 People's Choice Award for favorite Professional Theater, Paper Mill Playhouse has been opening the curtain on top-quality musical theater and plays since its debut in 1938. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a Tony Award-winning musical comedy, follows the travails of a group of young students participating in their countywide spell off. With hilarious tunes and frequent fourth wall demolition, the musical expertly tickles audience funny femurs while filling their ears with the harmonious euphony of the Tony-nominated score. Groupon buyers will leave the theater with a Paper Mill Playhouse cup (a $5 value), allowing patrons of the arts to signal their theater affiliation to rival gangs of symphony and museum cup holders.
The pub-fare prodigies at Rolf's Restaurant appease neighborhood noshers with occasional live music, a seasonal outdoor patio, and a hearty menu. Pork tenderloin ($16.95) stuffed with fresh basil, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella leaves room for whipped potatoes and a drizzle of balsamic-vinegar reduction. The chef's burger ($10.95) showcases a compound-butter-infused patty, fried shallots, roasted tomatoes, and garlic mayo, and the potato-horseradish salmon ($16.95) disguises itself under an edible crust like it was taught to do in CIA training. Along with American eats, an authentic German menu sports wienerschnitzel ($21.95) and a bratwurst sandwich ($8.95) paired with potato salad. Rolf's opens its doors on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. for brunch, and an international beer and wine menu whets whistles, leaving them warmed up for swing shifts directing traffic.
Since its post-Prohibition opening in 1933, the Cloverleaf Tavern has been owned and operated by the same family, serving a hearty menu of casual American and international eats. Begin a meal with the counter-intuitively best-selling hot, bubbling crab dip, a mouth-watering concoction of fresh crab meat baked in a gooey white-wine-cheese blend and served with toasted baguettes ($9.99). Pub classics abound, such as the charbroiled burgers ($7.49+) and irish cottage beef pie, with brown gravy and hearty vegetables bubbling under the mashed-potato crust ($12.99). Cloverleaf Tavern, which was the first saloon in Caldwell to secure a liquor license after Prohibition, also proffers a full bar and vast beer selection of 25 beers on tap, plus more than 50 bottled brews, which makes it an ideal place to stop for a post- or prework celebration.
The Fieldhouse Pub beckons to visitors with the inviting smell of American-steakhouse fare mixing with that of Italian, French, and German cuisine. Head Chef Hans Jurgen Stender loads the tables with saucy veal schnitzels, spinach- and ricotta-cheese-stuffed capon, sauce-laden pastas, and juicy blackened steaks. Like 2001: A Beer Odyssey, his pub menu explores beer's longtime on-and-off relationship with burgers, overstuffed wraps, and shareable finger food.
Hanging plants hold court alongside a sun-friendly, greenhouse-style glass wall in the dining area. Upstairs, grainy timber accents define a bar that features a jukebox and stools clad in billiard-table-green leather. DIRECTV sports packages keep guests entertained with the glory of games, and occasional karaoke and all-ages stand-up routines keep them in stitches over the antics of professional comedians or amazed and terrified at human Auto-Tune impersonations.
The rich scent of real hickory, apple, cherry, and oak wood drifts from low smoldering fires, infusing the racks of meat above with flavor in a Southern Pride smoker. Drawing inspiration from all over the south, SuzyQue’s BBQ & Bar’s cooks apply spicy dry rubs to every ounce of meat before slow-smoking them, then diners can either enjoy it au-natural or slather plates with one of their signature sauces. Their sauces are inspired by recipes from Texas, North Carolina, and St. Louis and built upon a Vinegar, Tomato, or Molasses base. They also whip up an Orange Habanero sauce full of peppery spice.
The resulting mountains of melt-off-the-bone ribs, smoked wings, sausage, and brisket come to table alongside fine dining entrees, including rib-eye steak and salmon mignon with a pumpkin seed and tamarind crust. Eight on-tap and 18 bottled beers lodge at the full bar, along with glasses of craft cocktails and wine, preparing palates for dessert and punctuating the sound of live bands, comedians, and poker games.
When Eugene Gillespie left Ireland to visit his brother in New York in 1972, he didn't know that he would be inspired to stay. The Irish economy was down, so Eugene decided to pursue the American dream by moving to the Mid-Atlantic region. He didn't leave Ireland entirely behind him though, and Eugene proceeded to spend the next several decades opening traditional Irish pubs and restaurants throughout New York and New Jersey.
With two locations, Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub demonstrates a commitment to the flavors of Ireland. The menus feature familiar comfort foods—certified Angus burgers and thin-crust pizzas—including a number of Irish favorites, such as beer-battered fish and chips and stews filled with Guinness-braised beef. To achieve an even more authentic taste, the chefs occasionally import ingredients such as Irish cheddar cheese, Irish sausages, and Irish rainbows.
The menu's iconic dishes contribute to the pubs' cozy, inviting ambiance almost as much as accents such as the stone fireplaces or the bar made of imported red mahogany. Spirits remain lively and the mood stays festive thanks to the live entertainment hosted throughout the week. Live bands perform contemporary hits as well as traditional Irish songs.