All the restaurants originally featured remain frequent in the date night rotation. Though varied, they all seem just right for whatever date night mood we (or the beneficiaries of my lists) are after. Red Cadillac, now graces the lists for Friday family night out. No matter our dining companions, we leave with a warm, cozy feeling that only comes from time with those you love, and yes, a slight tequila buzz.
We have happily discovered a few more options. This is mostly thanks to my research for food with a view, which has sent me further afield in search of the best NJ restaurants have to offer. Fortunately, it is also reflective of some of the great new restaurants opening in the area. Date night has improved quite a bit in just two short years.
Here’s a new batch of favorites. Grab your favorite date and try one!
Sweet & Simple
These are our go-tos when we find ourselves with an unexpected free evening. Yes, it does happen. But we also love these for those planned free evenings when work, family, and life hit hard. We all need a familiar, comfortable place to reconnect.
EVOO & Lemon
45 Main Street ⋅ Millburn ⋅ evooandlemon.com
New in the rotation, this Greek spot is becoming a fast favorite. There are a lot of good Greek options in our area, but we love EVOO & Lemon for their gentle, serene approach to service. Everything on the curated menu is deliciously authentic, sparking dreamy plans for a return to Greece. EVOO & Lemon is BYOB, and one of my favorite wine shops, Unwined, is around the corner.
photo by jenn kosar, actually taken in Greece
Turtle + The Wolf
622 Valley Road ⋅ Upper Montclair ⋅ turtleandthewolf.com
The Turtle + The Wolf became a fast favorite on opening a few years ago, and yet it still seems to enjoy ‘hidden gem’ status. In my view, that’s what makes the elevated American bistro food extra special. The intimate, cozy dining means you might want to plan ahead for weekend dates to guarantee a table, but they do hold the counter for walk-ins. The restaurant is BYOB.
Trap Rock Restaurant and Brewery
279 Springfield Avenue ⋅ Berkeley Heights ⋅ traprockrestaurant.net
When husband is in the mood for beer, we head to Trap Rock. I favor it in colder weather; the Pacific Northwest lodge-inspired decor just makes me want to snuggle up in a cozy sweater with a glass of red wine, and their best dishes are perfectly paired with a pinot noir. You can read my full review here.
The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen
160 Maplewood Avenue ⋅ Maplewood ⋅ thecassidy.net
New to the Maplewood dining scene, The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen is high in our rotation, both for date nights and family weekend brunch. The rotating seasonal menu keeps things fresh despite our frequent visits, and the wine, cocktail, and beer list is outstanding. Full review coming soon!
photo by jenn kosar
A little extra something
Sometimes you want a little more from your date night. Maybe it’s a double date with good friends, or just a chance to dress up and see your special someone with fresh eyes. These popular NJ restaurants require more advanced planning, but I always smile when husband throws one on the calendar.
395 Springfield Avenue ⋅ Summit ⋅ summithousenj.com
Readers of foodwithaview.com will know I love Summit House, but if you’re new here, welcome. It is one of my favorites. You can read my full review here, but to sum up: outstanding service a notch above anything you experience outside the major food cities, delicious food, and an inventive cocktail list, all served up in a subtly sexy art-deco space.
photo by jenn kosar
Stone House at Stirling Ridge
50 Stirling Road ⋅ Warren ⋅ stonehouseatstirlingridge.com
Stone House at Stirling Ridge is a bit of a drive for us, but we love it for group dinners. The extensive menu has something for everyone, and when the wine and laughter starts flowing, you will fit right in to the boisterous, fun-loving crowd at Stone House. The outdoor patio is gorgeous, perfect for drinks and dinner a warm summer evening.
De Novo European Pub
275 Bellevue Avenue ⋅ Montclair ⋅ denovomontclair.com
De Novo definitely requires advanced planning, but it is worth the effort. The upscale italian food, the strong wine list, and the beautiful space combine to deliver a lovely evening every time. We like De Novo for double and group dates, because De Novo is the place for food lovers to share. Grab a group and try as many of the appetizers as you can.
photo by foodiesfeed
Rudolph’s Steakhouse and Tavern
1 Mill Street ⋅ Bernardsville ⋅ rudolphssteakhousenj.com
Rudolph’s regrettably missed our radar for a few years, perhaps overshadowed by a nearby favorite, The Bernards Inn. I’m happy for alternatives in the steakhouse category, and the gorgeous renovated farmhouse makes the traditional steakhouse fare special. My wine loving readers take note: the owner has graciously opened his personal wine collection to diners, offering unique finds at bargain prices.
Birthdays, anniversaries, a weekend where the kids didn’t drive us crazy. These are all the kinds of things we celebrate. These long-standing best of NJ restaurants definitely require advanced planning for the weekend, particularly if your celebration is larger than a table for two.
168 Maplewood Avenue ⋅ Maplewood ⋅ restaurantlorena.com
We have had the privilege to dine in some of Paris’ historic and most-loved restaurants, and in my view, Lorena’s has earned the word ‘authentic’ through and through. Like a good Parisian restaurant, they serve seasonally appropriate dishes, focusing on a few menu options and executing flawlessly. We love that the same servers who treated us like regulars twelve years ago are still celebrating with us today. Local tip: you can score a same-day weeknight reservation, and even some weekends if you can eat a little early (or late). Lorena’s is BYOB.
Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash
167 Park Avenue ⋅ Rutherford ⋅ cafematisse.com
Café Matisse honors the French tasting menu tradition, with the added flexibility on both number of courses and the order in which they are served. It is French, so the dessert course is not optional. Calories you are required to eat don’t count, right? Delicious food and superior service are de rigueur; Café Matisse earns high marks for the decor. Whether you dine in the jewel-toned, glittering indoor space, or the whimsical outdoor garden, it will surely be romantic. Café Matisse is BYOB.
Worth the trip
For us, these add considerations of travel and safe driving. Perhaps you are lucky enough to live nearby and can frequent them with no logistical challenges, lucky you! Wherever you call home, these are excellent choices for a delightful date night, particularly if you enjoy a tasting menu.
The Ryland Inn
115 Old Highway 28 ⋅ Whitehouse Station ⋅ rylandinnnj.com
The Ryland Inn serves elegant cuisine with a warmth and ease that we love. Sometimes, you just want to enjoy fine food without wondering if your foodie credentials are being judged. If you want to experience farm-to-table food and wine pairing in a beautiful, comfortable setting, The Ryland Inn is for you.
Photo by Pinar Kucuk on Unsplash
Brick Farm Tavern
130 Hopewell Rocky Hill Road ⋅ Hopewell ⋅ brickfarmtavern.com
Another farm-to-table restaurant, but the real deal: you are actually in a renovated farmhouse, surrounded by farms, enjoying the fruits [really, meats] of their labor. Diners can opt for the no-reservations casual but upscale tavern or book a table in the cozy dining room. The tasting menu highlights the best of the kitchen, but don’t stop there. Brick Farm Tavern really shines when you experience the inventive wine pairings in the hands of the Sommelier team.
Do you have a favorite date night restaurant in the area? Share and let us know your view!
In the neighborhood? Join us at SOMA Eats Local for a discussion on the best of the dining out scene in South Orange, Maplewood, and surrounding towns.