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.
Arthur Murray Dance Studio has been a leading name in franchise dance since 1912, when the entrepreneur began selling mail-order dance lessons. Expanding his reach, he enlisted teachers to spread his signature dance lessons on first-class steamships and skyrocketed to fame in the '30s after introducing the public to such dances as the Lambeth Walk and the Big Apple. By the 1950s, Arthur and his wife, Kathryn, were hosting their own highly popular TV show on ABC, the Arthur Murray Dance Party, which ran for 12 years. Today, Arthur Murray's team prepares students for rug cutting at special events and weekend nightclub jaunts. Clients who arrive to lessons partnerless will be paired up with other classmates as the instructors assess their current skill level and make recommendations on the most appropriate program. Throughout lessons, instructors teach the foundations of two to four dances from a long list of styles that range from Latin to country-western, helping students to learn basic step patterns, timing, and the ability to lead or follow.
The Maplewood Theatre's name hovers above the marquee in an art-deco script over a row of lights, conjuring up nostalgia of the classic cinemas of yesteryear. But the retro-style facade doesn't mean that the movies are also throwbacks. Instead, the modern movie screens flicker with first-run films. The theater's 3D capabilities allow patrons to slip on glasses that make them feel as if they're in the middle of the action or to protect their eyes when they accidentally dunk their faces into 3-D popcorns.
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.
If it’s not clear from its name, MoonShine Modern Supper Club is an amalgamation of concepts. This is also demonstrated in its dark walls and bright paintings of pink birds and horses, and its menu that takes comfort-food classics and adds a spin of sophistication. Appetizers of truffle gnocchi with meatballs bathe in sherry-cream sauce, and the duck egg and hash is served with duck confit, peppers, and onions. Cooks put a twist on classic ravioli, filling it with sheep-milk ricotta and piling on hazelnuts, brown butter, and a pear puree, and they dress roasted atlantic salmon in cilantro-basil pesto and chorizo. A restaurant called MoonShine wouldn’t be complete without its share of housemade beverages, and double-certified sommelier and mixologist Joe San Philip delivers. His take on the manhattan combines white whiskey with Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, cherry bitters, and a cherry garnish. The Winter Moonshine Punch takes cranberry-infused Midnight Moonshine and adds cinnamon-infused rye whiskey, amaretto, pomegranate juice, and walnut bitters.
Martini Bistro & Bar’s specialty drink should come as no surprise. Creative martinis—such as the Lebowski, which features Three Olives Dude lemon-lime vodka—fill out the majority of the cocktail menu. The restaurant’s red-hued space sprawls over 5,000 square feet and encompasses both a lively lounge and a private dining area. Here, chefs serve plates of upscale American fare. They spread a smoked-jalapeño aioli over ahi-tuna burgers and sprinkle pepper jack, mozzarella, and cheddar over barbecue-chicken pizzas. The chic eatery also has a full sushi menu. Specialty rolls include the Mustang roll—with layers of tuna, crayfish, and yellowtail—and the shrimp-and-crab-filled King of the Sea, the only sushi roll that’s okay to eat with a trident.