The day of the downtowns

Even though Monday was a pretty rainy and dismal day, with a busy week ahead, I was determined to visit Clinton, a small, picturesque town in Hunterdon County, to at least get a taste of it to prepare for my upcoming column about it.

With fall (supposedly) on the horizon, I figured it would be a great destination feature, and I could get some nice photos, of the town nestled in the deep Hunterdon woods with a 1950s-feel and the signature Red Mill Museum Village overlooking the river.

Photography by Michael Politz

Photography by Michael Politz

Mike, who had never heard of Clinton, wasn’t thrilled at the idea. “Why don’t we just go to Paterson?” he said sarcastically. Paterson, riddled with crime and trash, has never made the top of the list for New Jersey destinations.

Unfortunately, although I’m sure that Clinton is a great fall destination, and it sure is pretty, it definitely isn’t a destination for those who are off on Mondays such as Mike and I. Ninety percent of the businesses were closed – including the Red Mill Museum Village, the Hunterdon County Art Museum, Fourchette; an olive oil, balsamic and cheese shop, the Clinton Fudge Company, and Pru Thai; the Thai restaurant I had hoped to go to for dinner.

However, when these little businesses are in full swing and the surrounding foliage finally changes color, I have no doubt that Clinton makes for a great day trip if you live within 30 minutes or so of the area. Even with the shops open, there’s really only one main drag to explore, but they’re a great way to kill a few hours on a lazy day.

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

After we spent some time wandering Clinton, taking photos, hanging out at the Clinton Book Shop and checking out the paintings from Clinton Falls Framing, we tried to figure out how we could kill a few more hours. Mike, who loves Marley’s Gotham Grill in Hackettstown, suggested we head back up there to wander their downtown and have some wings at Marley’s.

Being that I used to actually reside in Hackettstown, I figured I would have a little more insight of the area, but we we headed down Main Street I realized I truly had not been in the vast majority of the businesses that were housed there, including several Spanish bakeries and eateries, a new Vietnamese restaurant, several boutiques and even a board game store. I had never even been to Donaldson Farms, where we stopped to shop at the farm stand, which is right across the street from where I used to live.

Now that I was actually giving Hackettstown a fighting chance, I realized it wasn’t really so bad after all (not that I’m moving back or anything – sorry Hackettstown). This feeling was only emphasized when we had a fantastic dinner at the Pandan Room, a colorful Thai fusion restaurant which was even better than I remembered it being.

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

We started out with the house sampler, which has corn fritters, spring rolls, wontons and more, making for a pretty hearty appetizer. I then got the sate combo, which came with skewers of shrimp, chicken and beef with a peanut sauce and the best sticky rice I have ever had wrapped inside a lotus leaf.

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Mike got the Thaiella, or paella – Thai style – with yellow rice and seafood, topped with Thai basil. And then, of course, we ended with the peach cobbler, which is made with gingerbread. I mean, how can you say no?

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Photography by Jenna Intersimone

Funny how a rainy day meant to be spent indoors ended up being a day we pretty much spent the entirety wandering downtowns both old and new.

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