Robyn Lane

Robyn Lane

Robyn Lane

I thought about some of my favorite restaurants in Monmouth County to enjoy a marvelous meal with my beloved. Then I thought about putting together what I consider, a near perfect list of those restaurants that would be considered good date night restaurants.

I asked for the help of my local fellow foodies who, like me, enjoy the occasional date night with their ride or die.

When I think of restaurants that would be considered good date night places, I think of places where Bruce and I can converse with little to no distraction. I don’t mind a little background chatter or background music, I just want to be able to hear him while we talk. I think of places that are quaint, places that take you back in time with specific old world period décor and other aspects that are on my list of criteria.

During the course of my research, and when I say research, I mean asking people from the area about their favorite date night restaurants, I quickly found out two things: Number one, romantic and intimate are not mutually exclusive, and number two, romantic dining seems to be a state of mind between couples.

Everyone needs time away from the kids and all of the stressful day-to-day things we routinely deal with.

I did my best to come up with a short list of restaurants with the assistance of locals who kindly offered many traditional suggestions. In some cases, where you dine is less important than who you are dining with.

There are a several restaurants in Monmouth County that meet my criteria. I’m talking lots of places we can keep in rotation for years to come should they remain open well into the future. There are also new restaurants opening all the time, so we’re good to go. The hardest part will be choosing which Asbury Park and Red Bank restaurants to include on this short list.

If you’re on the hunt for a good date night eatery, this list might be just what you need.

Let’s look at 7 of the restaurants in Monmouth County that meet my date night criteria.

  • One Willow - 1 Willow St, Highlands, NJ 07732

    You can’t beat the breathtaking views. Wall to wall windows with a view of the bay and magnificent sunsets. One Willow, Where the Ocean Meets the Table. After hearing about the Happy Hour at One Willow from Gerry M, I want to check it out after work sometime soon. But we’re focusing on date night right now. Wednesdays are Raw Bar Night, $1.00 East Coast Oysters and 50 cent local clams. You would expect only the highest quality seafood at a place on the water at the Jersey Shore, and that’s what you’ll get when you dine here. The menu looks divine. They have an appetizer called, Seafood Donuts” – Clams, Scallops, Shrimp, Chives, with a Chipoltle Maple Aioli. They also have a version of one of my favorite apps. It’s Tuna Tacos, made with a Crispy wonton shell, spicy tuna, wasabi ponzu, shaved napa cabbage. I need not read any further, I’m in.

  • Il Nido - Willow Point Shopping Center, 184 US-9 North, Marlboro, NJ 07726

    If you’re searching for a place that serves fresh organic ingredients, then look no further than Il Nido. My husband’s brother’s eyes lit up when I asked if he and his wife have ever eaten here. They adore this rustic Italian place! Several friends and acquaintances raved about the food and the service. Artisanal cocktails, inventive dishes, a lovely dining space, and a commitment to quality. This should be the next place for you try.

  • Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro - 30 E Main St, Freehold, NJ 07728

    You feel the positive vibes the minute you walk into Aarzu. NJ Monthly name Aarzu one of the 30 best restaurants. The staff is incredibly attentive and the food must be experienced. I am dying to try this place! I hear the Duck Paratha Taco appetizer, and the Smoked Butter Chicken are off the charts. Naan is a must for me at any Indian meal. Folks who have eaten here have told me they eat way too much of the garlic naan. To heck with carbs! Reinventing classic Indian food, along with unique food pairings and exceptional service.

  • Nicholas Barrel & Roost - 160 NJ-35, Red Bank, NJ 07701

    Talk about a varied menu! Bruce and I love it here, and so do our friends. I should have included this place on my Best French Onion Soup list because the French onion soup here is more than worthy. I love the reinvention of Nicholas! It’s more accessible and less pretentious, and the menu is everything I love about dining out on date night. Other than the French onion soup, I highly recommend the Nicholas Burger and the Short Rib sandwich. The braised octopus is also a showstopper.

  • Clementine’s Restaurant - 306 Main St, Avon-By-The-Sea, NJ 07717

    Another Cajun Creole place I fell in love with. My late friend, Joanne used to talk about how wonderful this place is, and so did a lot of listeners in the area. Our friends, Michelle and Mike chose this place for us to join them for a double date night. I fell in love with the unusual decor. Every room is different! The bathrooms are nicer than any public restroom I’ve ever been in. The restaurant is cozy, the service is good, and the food is extraordinary. Seafood Jambalaya, Flat Iron Steak, Crab Cakes and the Grilled Salmon all prepared perfectly. Please leave room for the Gooey Butter Cake, it’s insanely good. They also serve a hearty Brunch, The biscuits and gravy are what I’ve dreamed of.

  • Mar Belo Portuguese Restaurant/Lounge - 611 Broadway, Long Branch, NJ 07740

    One Of the best restaurants you’ll find in the state. I wrote about this place back in January and I can’t say enough good things about them. My absolute favorite appetizer is the Polvo à Espanhola which is grilled baby octopus, olive oil, garlic, & lemon. A simple preparation with just a few ingredients makes the octopus the star of the show. Everything I have ever had here is prepared to near perfection. The cocktails are expertly crafted, especially their martinis. If you can’t make it up to Newark’s Iron Bound District for a Portuguese meal, then this will become your favorite Portuguese place on the shore.

  • Moonstruck - 517 Lake Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712

    Romance is their middle name. This upscale eatery has 2 wraparound porches and multiple floors. The cuisine is American-Mediterreanean fare, plus a large wine list, live piano music & a bar. It would definitely fall under the heading of hidden gem if so many people didn’t already know about it. The roast duck is one of my favorite dishes and the apps are incredible. In fact, you can make a meal by sharing every app on the menu. Cocktails, great food, and romantic surroundings make this place perfect for a date night to remember. keep an eye on their mid-week specials. 3 course dinners for $45.

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