Unsurprisingly, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday for eating out, second only to Mother’s Day, according to the National Restaurant Association.
But much to the dismay of mediocre home chefs around the world, the high number of COVID-19 cases last year has left many couples with no choice but to try their hand at a romantic meal.
This year, however, restaurants are once again eagerly awaiting a dining room full of duos and prix fixe menus. Here’s what some of the most romantic in the region will treat you to for the holidays.
The Clinton House, Clinton
As a nearly 280-year-old restaurant, the Clinton House has seen plenty of Valentine’s Day due to its upscale American cuisine, long list of steaks, daily fresh seafood, and… wine list recognized by Wine Spectator.
This year, the Clinton House will serve its regular menu as well as a list of specialties, which will be available February 11-14. Normally, the restaurant is closed on Mondays, but it will be open for the holidays from 12 noon to 8 p.m.
Specials will include Lobster Mac and Cheese, langoustines with prawns, seafood towers and French Kiss oysters. On its regular menu, the Clinton House also serves East and West Coast oysters, South African lobster tails, wet and dry-aged steaks, and locally sourced ingredients and beverages. of farms, suppliers and breweries in the tri-state area.
The ambiance of the Clinton House also plays a part in the romance. The historic restaurant is outfitted with exposed beams, brick and stone walls, a fireplace, white tablecloths and candlelight.
“We are always excited on Valentine’s Day,” said Michelle Konish, General Manager. “Historically, the Clinton House has been a restaurant for special occasions. People want the full experience while on vacation and here you get it with our food and service, from the moment you walk through the door.”
Go: 2 W. Main St., Clinton; 908-730-9300, theclintonhouse.com
Clydz, New Brunswick
The themed restaurant and cocktail bar at Speakeasy Clydz has seen many changes recently. In May, it welcomed new executive chef Jackie Mazza, a name Hub City foodies have long known. In December, Clydz was acquired by new owners. But it still has the brick-lined, vintage vibe that regulars have loved since it opened in 1997.
“Clydz is the perfect date for Valentine’s Day,” Mazza said. “With its dimly lit speakeasy atmosphere, you can definitely have a romantic date in our dining room. Our creative cuisine and cocktails are the perfect way to impress your date.”
Clydz will celebrate Valentine’s Day with a $70 prix-fixe menu on February 14, with an optional $40 cocktail. A $40 whiskey flight is also available. Menu options include seared Long Island duck breast, arctic char, duck confit gnocchi, grilled octopus, and miso-roasted eggplant.
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On February 14, the restaurant will be open for dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the bar will be open until 2 a.m. Valentine’s Day diners are also welcome on weekends for the regular menu.
Go: 55 Paterson Street, New Brunswick; 732-846-6521, clydz.com
Luciano’s Ristorante, Rahway
Rahway is packed with casual eateries from around the world, but in the heart of town there has long been Luciano’s, an Italian dining destination with white tablecloths, candlelight and a fireplace.
During Valentine’s Day weekend February 11-14, Luciano’s will serve a special a la carte menu with entrees ranging from $18 to $54. Options include homemade linguine with fra diavolo shrimp, seared halibut, seared scallops, Sicilian-style braised ribs, and stuffed chicken.
Manager Katherine Dluga recommends guests make their reservations as soon as possible, as many have already been made for Feb. 14, when dinner service will be from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
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“Luciano’s is the perfect place to dine on Valentine’s Day because there’s nothing better than bonding with someone you love over great food, some of our signature cocktails and the lovely Frank Sinatra anthems,” Dluga said.
Go: 1579 Main Street, Rahway; 732-815-1200, lucianosristorante.com
Restaurante MV, Bernardsville
With a 14-foot olive tree at the center of the dining room, 200-year-old stone walls and white tablecloths, the nearly year-old Italian destination Ristorante MV will scream romance on St. -Valentine. And there’s an Italian-American twist: a singer from Frank Sinatra will perform all night.
“We do this old school, classic, ‘Lady and the Tramp’ kind of Italian cuisine in a villa in Tuscany,” co-owner Michael Vitiello said. “It’s that cliche moment in a more upscale setting.”
On February 14, the main dining room at Ristorante MV will offer a pre-fixed three-course menu for $150 per person across its three seating locations at 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. About 350 to 400 customers are expected, Vitiello mentioned. The upstairs trattoria will serve its normal a la carte menu during its normal hours.
Pre-fixed menu options include homemade mozzarella; cavatelli with Bolognese sauce; veal cutlets with peppers, capers and tomato; Panna cotta; and tiramisu. A specialty cocktail will likely be available, in addition to the full bar.
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“It’s the best we have to offer, and it’s a la carte full portions,” Vitiello said. “It’s our first Valentine’s Day, so we wanted to make it a special night.”
Go: 1 Mill Street, Bernardsville; ristorantemv.com, 908-766-7979
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member of the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, having become a blogger-turned-journalist after founding her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her food, drink and fun stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.