Put heart into Valentine’s Day

Your ticket to making a big impression at dinner is … a pair of tickets.

Roses fade, chocolates implode after 30 seconds of bliss, but with a little bit of planning, nothing purrs “Here’s looking at you, kid” like a romantic dinner and a show.

NJPAC is in a city with hundreds of restaurants, so live entertainment and food are highly compatible. No matter your plans for Valentine’s Day, you’d be smart to have tickets in advance, recheck dates and times, and reserve early for this dining destination weekend, second only to Mother’s Day.

Visitors to the Arts Center know they don’t have to go further than the lobby to find creative cuisine, handcrafted cocktails and pre-performance buzz at nico kitchen + bar. In the following scenarios, though, we play matchmaker by connecting our attractions to something cookin’ in the area:

First pairing: Toni Braxton and B&P

Avoid this year’s February 15-17 crunch by celebrating on February 8, when NJPAC co-produces a concert featuring Toni Braxton, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and SWV at the Prudential Center (The Rock) on Lafayette Street. Braxton’s As Long As I Live Tour promises plenty of ultra-smooth R&B, which warrants a restaurant with a high degree of cool. Try the Southern specialties at Marcus B&P, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s chic establishment in the Hahne & Co. building.

Second pairing: A-list comedians and B-B-Q

On Valentine’s Day itself, Michael Blackson, John Witherspoon, Luenell, Nephew Tommy and others will be dishing out the laughs at NJPAC as part of the Valentine’s All-Star Comedy Show. Then, on February 16, Emmy-winning comic Russell Peters brings his Deported World Tour to Prudential Hall.

Get a serious “ribbing” from the grill at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Tops Diner in close-by East Newark bears mentioning because the abundance of yummy menu selections is “ridiculous.”     

Third pairing: Patti LaBelle and ‘Blues’

Philadelphia’s GRAMMY-winning Patti LaBelle, who returns to NJPAC on February 15, knows from soul. Her appearance with special guest Freddie Jackson calls for pre-show helpings of feel-good kitchen favorites. Dig into the health-conscious comfort food at Vonda’s Kitchen.

Fourth pairing: Patrizio Buanne and bella notte

Also on February 15, Patrizio Buanne, the ambassador of romantic Italian song, brings The Special Valentine’s Day Show to Victoria Theater. Celebrating amore over a superb dinner comes naturally to proprietors of time-honored Italian restaurants throughout Greater Newark: Just two examples are Fascino in Montclair and the Belmont Tavern in Belleville.

Fifth pairing: Maurice Hines and fine wines

Think of seductive songs like “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – now think of “fizzy” and “bubbly.” Nothing goes together quite like the Great American Songbook and wine, especially sparkling wine. In two shows on February 16, the ever-sophisticated tapper Maurice Hines performs standards like those and tells his story in Tappin’ Thru Life, backed by the all-female DIVA Orchestra.

An oasis on Newark’s bustling Ferry Street, Adega Grill, whose name comes from the Portuguese for “wine cellar,” offers a wow selection of wines and Champagnes in its cushy lounges and dining areas.  

For tickets to NJPAC events, visit njpac.org or call 1-888-GO-NJPAC (466-5722).

Jan. 8, 2019