Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 1/15/18
As the home of the Union County Performing Arts Center, art galleries, dance studios and cultural programs, Rahway has become known as the Central Jersey hub of the arts, bringing in those with a creative spirit from all over the state.
However, no show is complete without a top-notch meal, and with Rahway Restaurant Week coming for the third year Monday, Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 26, when about 20 restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu of $40 or less, visitors will be able to sample meals at a bargain price.
“Not only do we have a thriving arts district, we also have amazing restaurants with great walkability from one another,” said Ann Marie Williams, managing director of the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership and Rahway resident for about 13 years. “People come for the destination and the restaurants have been a huge part of that. They want dinner and a show.”
Throughout Williams’ Rahway residence as well as Amy Garcia Phillips, the executive director of the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership who has also lived in Rahway for about 13 years, the two have watched the restaurant scene develop as more apartments have been built and more events have been held to show that “this is not a scary place,” said Garcia.
“We have a cute little Main Street which has been able to support more restaurants, so now we have a more diverse food scene with sushi, a brewery in which you can bring your own food, high-end Italian, Latin fusion, Peruvian, Mexican and more,” she said.
Some of the restaurants that will be participating in Rahway Restaurant Week include Beana’s Para Siempre, Meatballs & Brew, The World Famous Waiting Room, Cubanu Latin Fusion, Hugo’s Restaurant, Lucianos Ristorante, Nancy’s Towne House, The Irving Inn, Patria, Sabor Peruano and more.
Plus, this year, visitors can bring their dinner receipt to the Union County Performing Arts Center box office and receive one free ticket (six tickets maximum) to the Feb. 16 screening of “A Princess Bride.”
By showing a receipt from a Rahway Restaurant Week meal, visitors can also gain 50 percent off admission at Rahway Kitty Hall, babysitting from 6 to 8 p.m. (and 9 p.m. with a reservation) for $10 at the Gateway YMCA of Rahway, $1 off at Wet Ticket Brewery, one cigar with the purchase of two at Sticks Cigar and 10 percent off at The Watt Hotel Bar.
Joseph Mastrella, executive chef and partner at Luciano’s Ristorante, which is participating in Rahway Restaurant Week for the second year, said that the 10-year-old Italian eatery will offer a mix of simple classics as well as restaurant specialties, including their spiedini alla romano, penne alla vodka, housemade ricotta gnocchi and more.
“Customers are creatures of habit — they go to work, go home and then go to their favorite local restaurants,” he said. “However, with Rahway Restaurant Week, we want to show them that there are all of these great restaurants within walking distance from one another that offer amazing food, service and ambiance.”
Luciano’s Ristorante, which serves “Italian classics with a modern twist,” brings in about 1,200 to 2,000 guests a week to their 200-seat upscale restaurant that features a mahogany bar, cozy fireplaces and woodwork accents.
“All of the restaurants coming into Rahway have been making more of an effort to create a great menu selection, ambiance and events,” Mastrella said. “Plus, our local dining scene offers a very diverse selection of cuisine so visitors can ‘see the world’ without using their passports.”
In the past, Rahway’s Restaurant Week has been held following their annual Taste of Spring, a large food and wine tasting that brings in 1,500 visitors yearly to sample items from Rahway’s restaurants.
This year, the restaurant week was moved to January to assist the eateries during their slower times. More restaurant weeks may also be held in Rahway later this year.
According to Garcia and Williams, Rahway’s walkability has been a huge factor in its restaurant scene success because the train station, a parking garage and housing are within walking distance from many of the eateries.
“If you’re on Main Street, you can catch quite a few restaurants within just one block,” Williams said. “This proximity allows you to get a drink here and then go to dinner there and then get dessert here.”
Plus, Garcia said that unlike many other downtowns, Rahway’s food scene is one that is focused on camaraderie and “even if restaurants are right across the street from one another, they know they will both succeed if they help one another.”
“We have more restaurants join in every year and the number of extra deals has only grown, which ties into the collaborative spirit,” Garcia said. “New York Restaurant Week is going to be fantastic, but you can bet that a restaurant isn’t also rooting for the one across the street.”
Rahway Restaurant Week
When: Monday, Jan. 22, to Friday, Jan. 26
Cost: $40 or less for prix fixe menu (not including tax, tip or drinks)
Participating restaurants include: Beana’s Para Siempre, Meatballs & Brew, The World Famous Waiting Room, Cubanu Latin Fusion, Hugo’s Restaurant, Lucianos Ristorante, Nancy’s Towne House, The Irving Inn, Patria, Sabor Peruano and more
More information: mycj.co/2CH1rLW