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Looking to outdoor dine? Here are five places near campus to check out

Outdoor dining is a great option for those looking to grab a bite with friends while also wanting to remain safe amid the pandemic.  – Photo by Unsplash.com

It's finally that time of year again — outdoor dining season! Enjoying a nice meal with friends and family is always a great way to destress, and being able to sit outside feels good because that means spring and summer are finally upon us.

Outdoor dining is a great resource that restaurants have provided for those who are still hesitant about sitting indoors due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. It makes maintaining social distancing and remaining safe easy while allowing visitors to still enjoy their meal.

It can be a bit overwhelming looking for good restaurants that offer outdoor seating, have the foods you like and are near campus. So, I've put together a list of restaurants on campus or near Rutgers—New Brunswick that offer outdoor seating and some great food recommendations.

So without further ado, here are five places to check out outdoor dining:

Old Man Rafferty's

Located right off the College Avenue campus, Old Man Rafferty's is an excellent spot for a family dinner, brunch with the girls or a romantic date night. The joint features a quaint little outdoor dining spot next to its restaurant with plenty of available seating, and if you're comfortable with sitting inside, it's also open for indoor dining.

This classic American restaurant has an extensive menu serving a variety of foods at a reasonable price, with the average cost of an entree being between $15 to $20. But, if you're looking for a romantic date idea or a place to celebrate something, it's definitely worth the price.

I highly recommend the creamy tomato soup and the tavern steak served with buttery garlic bread. The filet mignon sliders with sweet and tangy barbeque caramelized onions are also another favorite. But no matter what you order, the food is outstanding and you're sure to have a great time.

Stuff Yer Face

Stuff Yer Face is a Rutgers classic — everyone knows and loves the small casual eatery located on Easton Avenue. Although its outdoor seating section is a bit small, it's a great place to go out with friends, get some drinks and eat some excellent bar food!

The restaurant is known for its bar food and how affordable it is, especially for us broke college students. It offers a wide variety of items from burgers, pizza, salads to even vegan options. Some of my favorite things to get when I'm there are the Pepperoni Boli, the buffalo wings with hot sauce and the giant pretzel with beer cheese.

Fat Cactus Cantina

Fat Cactus Cantina is a relatively new restaurant located right on George Street. It offers outdoor seating in the section of George Street that is closed off, as well as indoor seating. The outdoor seating section is spacious and is set up with televisions and speakers so that you can catch all of Rutgers' big games.

This trendy Mexican restaurant offers a large selection of classic Mexican staples like tacos, burritos and Mexican street corn. The Revolution Burrito is stuffed with spicy fried jalapeños for a salty, spicy kick and is a great dinner option that will fill you up.

It also has a super cool build-your-own taco menu where you fill out your menu sheet like a Scantron with all of the ingredients you want.

Along with great food, it has a wide variety of fantastic drinks, including some delicious mocktails, like the virgin mojito, virgin piña colada and virgin margarita. While a bit more on the pricier end, the food and drinks are still affordable and definitely worth it!

Houlihan's

Houlihan's is another excellent affordable American food joint. Located in New Brunswick, near Cook and Douglass campuses, the restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

Its outdoor patio is minimal, so make sure to call ahead of time to see if it's busy. The restaurant is also open for indoor dining and takeout, in case its outdoor patio is packed. 

This American classic offers a wide variety of foods, accommodating vegetarians, vegans and offering gluten-free options. Houlihan's has a massive menu with everything from tacos, to steak, to scallops, to burgers. They are reasonably priced, averaging between $12 to $19 for entrees. It also has an all-day fix menu option for $20.99, where you can choose one appetizer, entree and dessert.

This is one of my favorite restaurants, so I have a ton of recommendations! My favorites are the pot roast, the loaded potato soup, the ultimate nachos, the filet mignon with creamy mashed potatoes and the salted caramel gooey butter cake for dessert.

B2 Bistro

B2 Bistro is the farthest restaurant from New Brunswick, but it's only a short 10-minute drive into the next town over — North Brunswick. The restaurant is located on Lake Farrington, making it beautiful for any special event or date. It has a vast outdoor dining area right on the water, and the restaurant is large, spacious and beautifully decorated. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating and has a great menu to choose from.

This restaurant is definitely on the pricer end but still affordable. Its menu is small, but it offers various options differing from sushi to pizza, steak to a raw bar with oysters and shrimp cocktail.

Some great options for eating here are the wood-fired personal pizzas — my favorite is the exotic mushroom pizza. It also has killer Thai chili calamari and great fish tacos. And between the extensive sushi menu and brunch menu (including French toast, eggs Benedict and avocado toast), it's truly a delicious place to eat!

Outdoor dining is a great way to get back out into society and reacquaint yourself with normalcy in a safe manner. It's also a great way to spend some time outdoors and enjoy the spring weather.

But if outdoor dining is not available at your favorite restaurants, there are still many creative and fun ways to enjoy a safe meal with friends and family. Some great options include ordering takeout and having a picnic at the park or near a lake, like Passion Puddle. You can also have a car picnic — if you have a big enough car — and sit in the trunk with your takeout and enjoy the view of whatever scenic place you want to drive to.

The possibilities are endless, so there's no need to worry if the restaurants you love aren't offering outdoor seating!

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