Stage Left Restaurant in New Brunswick is gearing up to celebrate their 25th anniversary. On top of that, the contemporary American steakhouse, owned by Francis Schott and Mark Pascal, recently underwent a renovation. The owners hired Alfano Renovations of Union County, N.J., and Dublin, Ireland-based Restless Design for a $200K-plus+ remodel of the dining rooms and bar. So what’s changed? New banquettes excude a clubby, yet comfy feel in the bar area (which is still centered by its 1930s vintage bar). And just like the restaurant's early days, the walls have have come alive as a hip gallery space. First up: dramatic large-scale abstract paintings by Caribbean-born artist and Montclair resident Paddy Cohn.
The Stage Left Burger ($17) is critically acclaimed, having been named one of the best in New Jersey for years. The 11 oz. wood-grilled burger is topped with aged Vermont cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon and comes served with a side of thick cut steak fries and their signature chipotle mayo.
Did you know that upstairs from Stage Left is another restaurant also owned by the duo? Catherine Lombardi is the 100-seat restaurant and cocktail lounge named after Mark's Neapolitan grandmother. It’s been open since 2005.
The Italian menu spotlights her authentic recipes such as eggplant rollatini, lasagna and black meatballs. The look is classic with vintage family photos lining the walls. Two fireplaces and banquettes overlooking the theatre district add to the homey vibe.