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A Night on the Town

Dinner and a show--maybe Sondheim and poached salmon, Mamet and mussels marinara, or Shakespeare with a grilled sirloin? How grown-up, how sophisticated, how positively New York.

But the combination of the New Brunswick Cultural Center--with its three theatres--and the city's vibrant dining scene makes dinner and a show quite doable without crossing the Hudson River. In fact, from a financial and logistics standpoint, it's eminently more attractive than going into New York for an early dinner and a Broadway show.

Consider, first of all, the price. Tickets for shows at the State Theatre, Crossroads Theatre and the George Street Playhouse top out at about $25. Tickets for a show in New York are twice that.

Food costs are going to be hard to quantify. You can get by for less, but, in general, expect to pay $60 for two at a decent restaurant in the Theater District, without drinks or wine. By using pre-theater packages or discounts in New Brunswick, you can pay about the same--or less. And you don't have to put up with train schedules, squeegee guys, New York cabbies, traffic, New Jersey Turnpike tolls or outrageous parking charges.

New Brunswick's restaurants are all within a five-minute walk of the Cultural Center on Livingston Avenue and they all guarantee to get you out before curtain time, providing you sit down to dinner before 6:30 p.m. Some even offer to hold dessert for you until after the final bows.

Incentives fall into two varieties, either pre-theater fixed-price packages from a shortened menu or a flat 10 percent discount off the food bill. Some restaurants offer post-theater snacks, desserts, cappuccino and music. In addition, there are a number of coffee bars downtown that stay open late and offer pastries and designer coffees.

Here is a selection of New Brunswick restaurants that offer some kind of theater and dinner deal:

Stage Left: An American Cafe, 5 Livingston Ave.; (908) 828-4444.

The name says it all. Located next door to Crossroads Theater, one of the best African-American theater troupes in the country, Stage Left is a theater groupie's dream. Mingle at its cozy wooden bar--stocked with the best beers, wines and spirits a Broadway mogul's money can buy--and you'll likely find yourself next to someone from the cultural center.

In addition to the Lambic beer on tap, and the sophisticated cocktails--they do the only authentic Sazerac in town--Stage Left offers terrific new American food using local produce, top-quality meats and seafood and artisanal cheeses.

Except for the summer, when the Cultural Center quiets down, 40 percent of Stage Left's dinner patrons are on their way to the theater, according to Mark Pascal, an owner. This year, Stage Left again will offer a three-course, fixed-price dinner for $29. The fixed-price menu hasn't been selected yet, but the offer will begin a week before the theater season starts and is available up to 6:30 p.m. the night of the performance.

Stage Left | 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 | T: 732.828.4444
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