Sconces cast a soft glow on modern, wooden tabletops. Green glass tiles glint in the light of fluted hanging lamps. Tea candles flicker next to plush, low lounge seating. The lighting inside Cubanu creates a romantic atmosphere before dates even dig into its menu of American-influenced Cuban dishes, such as empanadas stuffed with goat cheese and spinach. Patrons can also drink glasses of signature house-made sangria, or cap off long nights of filing joint tax returns by munching on late-night tapas dishes served on Friday and Saturday.
Head chef Andrew DiCataldo helms Patria Restaurant and Mixology Lounge, crafting Latin fusion cuisine so artfully executed it moved the New York Times to advise readers: "Don't miss the place". DiCataldo's menu highlights classic ingredients such as avocado, plantains, and queso fresco, presenting them in contemporary updates of traditional Latin dishes. Patria and its afterhours lounge are divided in both atmosphere and décor, alternating between the restaurant's scarlet walls, rich wood furniture, and luxurious curtains, and the lounge's cool-toned lights, well-stocked bars, and wizards attempting to resurrect disco.
The culinary artists at The Rail House 1449 draw customers into their restaurant, housed in a renovated 18th-century home, with a menu of fresh fish and seafood, homemade pastas, steaks, and poultry. Elegant eaters can nibble on the sweet-corn arepa, a yellow corn cake topped with gruyere, queso blanco, goat cheese, roasted-pepper-tomato relish, and baby greens newly weaned off broccoli pacifiers ($9).
Mr Subs has come a long way since it was thought up by a group of college friends at Rutgers University. Since then, the sandwich shop has expanded to four separate locations throughout the area. Each follows the same formula—heap savory meats and farm-raised, seasonal veggies between slices of freshly baked bread. Cold subs are the shop's specialty; they come in varieties that include honey-roasted turkey, roast beef, and prosciuttini with capicola and cheese. Diners can also sink their teeth into grilled cheesesteak and BLT sandwiches as well as breakfast options.
Couples on dates and families sharing special meals gather at Luciano's Italian Ristorante & Lounge, a 200-seat eatery that serves classic pastas, meaty entrees, and zesty seafood dishes. To accommodate the dietary needs of their many diners, chefs are able to prepare any pasta dish without gluten by swapping in wheatless ravioli, gemelli, spaghetti, or penne. Regulars and New York Times critics alike rave about the sicilian braised short ribs and pan-seared scallops, which are both featured on the chef's tasting menu as well as the a la carte. The spacious restaurant fosters an upscale supper club ambience, with a large fireplace at one end of the dining room and impressive wine racks displaying an ample stock of bottles. Located walking distance from Rahway Station and Union County Performing Arts Center, Luciano's boasts a convenient spot for a pre-theater dinner or post-train heist cocktails.