October 20, 2020

Guide to dining and dating destinations in the area

This Valentine’s Day, remember, “butterflies in your stomach” won’t actually feed you. Go out and get some dinner with your partner. Here are some places to try:

Customizable burgers are available at Cheeburger Cheeburger, located in Lawrenceville. (AP Photo)

First Date: Cheeburger Cheeburger in Lawrenceville

Cheeburger Cheeburger is a ’50s-style diner in a small strip mall off Route 1. Inside, you can order a cheeseburger and select as many toppings as you’d like from a hefty list for no extra charge.

The best part and reason I consider this restaurant ideal for first dates? Each table comes equipped with Trivial Pursuit cards. That’ll give you and your date something to do besides stare at each other with a mixture of longing and fear.

Everything is customizable at Cheeburger, from the size of the burgers (one pound all the way down to 5.5 ounces) to toppings (choose guacamole, artichoke hearts or onion rings — or get them all) to shakes and salads. The menu emphasizes burgers but includes vegetarian options such as the delicious Grilled Portobello Mushroom Melt.

The place is cute and its staff is friendly. The food comes quickly and tastes good.

3349-70?Brunswick?Pike, 609-799-2222, cheeburger.com

Destination Date: Marrakesh in Philadelphia

The destination date – it’s like a destination wedding, but more attainable and better tasting.

Marrakesh is a Moroccan restaurant tucked into an alley off South Street. (Don’t let the connotation scare you — it’s safe.) In order to enter the restaurant, you have to knock on the front door, an ornate portal of the “Open Sesame” variety. You’ll be ushered inside and seated on cushions in one of several dimly lit rooms. Richly patterned rugs swath the walls. Belly dancers drift through the rooms. Everywhere you look, there’s color.

The ambiance is enchanting, but Marrakesh’s success hinges on the quality of its six-course meal. Go there once, and you’ll realize why the place is so successful. Courses include a three-salad platter, beef shish kebab, couscous and marinated chicken. Dessert is hot mint tea with Moroccan pastries and an entire basket of fresh fruit. You eat everything with your hands, and a waiter comes around with an urn of warm rosewater to pour over them between courses.

You might be thinking, “There’s no way I can afford this.” That’s one of the many joys of Marrakesh — you can. Meals clock in at around $25 per person.

517 S. Leithgow St., 215-925-5929, marrakesheastcoast.com

Close to College: Café Mulino in Ewing

Café Mulino is an Italian restaurant located about 10 minutes from the College. It’s a small, quaint building nestled among trees off Bear Tavern Road — far removed from the chaotic main drag of Route 1 in attitude if not distance.

Inside, choose from thoughtfully prepared Italian entrees in an attractive, roomy dining space. The pasta is delicious, and no dish is too expensive.

938 Bear Tavern Rd., 609-883-5100

Desserts: House of Cupcakes and Small World Coffee in Princeton

Princeton is a lovely place to take a date: It’s quiet, everything is within walking distance and there’s plenty to do. While you’re there, step off Nassau Street for a moment to try

Getting dessert and coffee is a simple, and sweet, way to share the evening with that special someone. (Flickr Creative Commons)

the eponymous fare at House of Cupcakes and the dessert and drink choices at Small World Coffee.

House of Cupcakes was recently featured on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Its cupcakes are top-notch and include varieties such as Boston crème, red velvet, crème brulee and German chocolate. They sell for $2.25 each.

A few storefronts away, Small World Coffee sells pastries, desserts and tons of caffeinated goodness. Drink offerings include Mexican hot cocoa, cider from Terhune Orchards, hot almond milk and a range of teas and coffees. Small World is also a vibrant hub of local art and entertainment. It sponsors an art show every month and hosts local singer/songwriters. More information is available on its website. The coffee shop has another location on Nassau Street — but why venture that far from cupcakes?

30 Witherspoon St., 609-924-0085, thehouseofcupcakes.com

14 Witherspoon St., 609-924-4377×2, smallworldcoffee.com

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu.

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