The high ceilings, sleek banquettes, and cool, clean neutral palette at the Theater Square Grill set a
contemporary tone fitting for a fine-dining eatery adjacent to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Opened in October of 1997 with the launch of the arts center, the spacious, 180-seat Grill has blazed its own identity as a culinary destination to enjoy before a show (it is open for dinner only in conjunction with performances at Prudential Hall), for lunch, or for special occasions. The Grill is especially popular as a lunch spot for those who work at or visit downtown Newark’s corporate centers. It features eclectic lunch entrées created by chef Chris Bilyk that include North Atlantic salmon with lobster-whipped potatoes and edamame; and seared tofu, baby bok choy, and bean sprouts, in miso-corn broth. For a more classic palate, there’s an Angus burger with cheddar, caramelized onions, and fennel slaw; or basil-grilled chicken with baby-spinach salad, goat cheese, roasted shallots, and blood-orange vinaigrette.
For the dinner/theater crowd, the chef’s creativity continues to shine with opening acts of lobster bisque with cognac cream and panko-crusted shrimp served with jicama slaw and a sweet chili glaze. Winning main courses include the jumbo crab cake with roasted corn salsa, baby herb mix, and smoked onion remoulade; and the Alaskan halibut, broccoli rabe, and white bean and chorizo stew. Encores—desserts—are equally pleasing and offer the tried and true, along with a few departures from the ordinary. There are perennial favorites: Valrhona chocolate layer cake with Grand Marnier ganache, and vanilla crème brulee with biscotti. And there are also flights of fancy: a sweet parmesan cheese tart with grilled figs and crème fraiche, and yogurt panna cotta with red beet-genoise.
Tuesday through Friday (and on weekends in conjunction with performances), the 50-seat annex bistro offers a scaled-down version of the Grill menu. The Bistro maintains much of the main restaurant’s savoir faire, with (slightly) lower price points.
During the summer months, outdoor patio dining is available weekdays from 11:30 am to 7 pm at the Calçada. The tented space has an open grill and wood-burning stove, and features steaks, burgers, and Jersey-caught fish. Meals are often accompanied by live music.
Theater Square Grill The Bistro Calçada
1 Center Street, Newark
The skinny: Contemporary American fare that plays backup for one of New Jersey’s premier theaters.