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.
Chevys serves up Mexican fare in Texas-size portions, with salsa and tortillas made from scratch daily. Begin by ordering a bowl of guacamole to witness a server capture, skin, and gut a live avocado right at your table before hand-mashing it into fresh guacamole. From there, let your taste buds tango across tender tamales wrapped by hand each morning, or play mad scientist and suture together an electrified monster plate from enchiladas, tacos, grilled chili rellenos, tamales, and chimichangas ($10.29 for any two, $11.99 for any three, $12.99 for any four). Seafarers, meanwhile, will want to try the grilled fish tacos—a mélange of grilled fish, chipotle aioli, lettuce, and pico de gallo, warmly embraced by the floury flaps of El Machino tortillas and topped with a sprinkling of crumbled cotija cheese ($10.99). To keep the hot peppers and piquant salsas from singing the sinuses, douse your mouth-flames periodically with drinks such as the Kraken fruit punch, black spiced rum coupled with spicy mango and orange juice ($8.75), or the Blue Agave margarita, a mixture of El Mayor Reposado tequila and blue Curacao ($6.75 regular, $11.50 grande).
The aroma of Harp-battered fish and fresh-cut potatoes frying in the kitchen mingles with tender filet mignon browning on the grill at Molly Maguire's Irish Pub & Restaurant. Chefs also prepare traditional Irish dishes such as shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage. They help diners wash down their bites with sips of Guinness or Smithwick's Irish Ale poured from the full bar into pint glasses or lengthy top hats. The dining area's dark wood panels bedecked with Guinness signs add an Irish ambiance to a traditional pub atmosphere. Twelve high-definition flat-screen TVs broadcast NFL games, and music from karaoke, acoustic sets, and DJs fills the pub on weeknights. Live rock bands take the stage each Friday and Saturday night.
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.
At Lucky Dublin, entrees born in Irish and American pubs come together over foam-topped pints of Guinness. Multicultural amalgamations such as irish nachos—fried potatoes with cheese, bacon, jalapeños, and scallions—whet appetites for hearty entrees such as shepherd's pie, bacon cheeseburgers, and Reuben sandwiches served with crispy natural-cut fries. Cocktails and beers, including Yuengling, cultivate a merry atmosphere in Lucky Dublin's dining room, where tall wooden chairs proffer views of sports games on flat-screen TVs. The restaurant further embraces tomfoolery with special events throughout the week, such as Latin DJ nights and "Grown and Sexy Fridays," during which guests are encouraged to don swanky little numbers sewn from their most recent tax returns.
Ten Brunswick Gold Crown IV pool tables offer up their ample pockets to shooters' careful aim in Joe Broadway's Billiards & Sports Bar's spacious playroom. Every night until 3 a.m., an Internet jukebox augments the triumphant clamor of hefty breaks with players' favorite songs or high-school geometry lectures. In between games of pool, players can belly up to the full bar for a drink of domestic or imported beer, play a game on the Xbox or PS3 console, or raise the stakes with a free round of darts. Seven large-screen plasma TVs let players keep one eye on the game, and an onsite pro shop lets serious shooters replace their repurposed parade batons with real cues.