Three stars for Luciano’s

Luciano’s received three stars in a review featured in Friday’s Star-Ledger, and had a few interesting things to say about Rahway as well: “If you haven’t found yourself in Rahway recently, you’ll be surprised by the ever-increasing reasons to go. This is a city on a quest to become a vibrant community, full of urban artists and commuters, with all the energy that entails. It stands to reason, then, that the restaurant scene would enjoy an invigorating renaissance as well.”

Owner Michael Merlis is also quoted: “Merlis expects even more people to re-discover the town and sit at one of the tables that not so recently would have been in a vacant lot. ‘They can’t believe they’re in Rahway.'” Hmm, where have I heard that before?

New eatery targets July opening

The Original Nile Restaurant will replace the former Back Porch Bar and Grille, with plans to open by the start of next month. Hassana Kaba, an area Realtor and former River Place resident, owns the restaurant with her husband and is hoping to have all inspections, permits, etc., completed by July 1.

Kaba, whose parents owned The Nile Restaurant in Elizabeth many years ago, described the fare as southern-style “comfort food,” soul food and general American cuisine with random specials. She’s hoping to have the outdoor seating on the deck available for the grand opening, though the restaurant won’t being serving alcohol (the previous tenant still holds the liquor license, from what I understand).

[Thanks to reader “nomad” for the photo above]

Two-way traffic: July 1

The two-way traffic patterns slated for Irving and Main streets that been talked about for months finally are set to take place July 1 — if the electronic signs on Irving Street are to be believed. In addition to bringing two-way traffic to Irving and Main, three streets will become one-way toward Irving Street: East Cherry, Coach and Poplar.

The Fulton-Irving Street realignment originally had been ahead of schedule for April, according to city officials earlier this year, and two-way traffic had been planned by May 15. The traffic light was one of the conditions for the new hotel at Irving Street and East Milton Avenue.

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Another center for performing arts, the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, is looking for a government bailout. Millburn is considering a $9.1-million purchase/lease-back of the playhouse and its four-acre property. Last year, as part of the $6.2-million renovation and expansion of the Union County Arts Center, Union County purchased the 80-year-old Irving Street facility for $1.3 million.

According to that report, subscriptions for the Paper Mill last year were 18,000, almost twice as many as the 9,700 at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center, and more than McCarter, George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison combined.

Station shop expected to open this month

Welcome to Coffee Shop Awareness Month at Rahway Rising. After last week’s sharp back-and-forth among readers about the new coffee shop in the SkyView development, and the news about a coffeehouse in the Park Square project, NJ Transit expects the former Moca Motion Cafe to be open by the end of June.

The proprietor is in the process of obtaining inspection approvals, according to a spokesman for NJ Transit, and if all goes well, the shop is expected to open by the end of this month. The sign in the window (photo at right) says Express Cafe, but the spokesman indicated it would be called Metro News and Cafe. Let the debates ensue!

It was referenced in last week’s raging Cuppy’s debate, so in case you missed the marigolds spelling out Rahway, here they are. They’re located below the NJ Transit stairs off the northbound platform on Irving Street, near East Cherry (across the street from David Drake).

That’s three straight posts about coffee downtown. I’ll be sure to mix it up a bit more later this week…as long as everyone agrees to cut back on the caffeine…

Cuppy’s is coming, Cuppy’s is coming

It’s not a Starbucks. Forget Panera. And never mind about Atlanta Bread Co. Cuppy’s Coffee, Smoothies & More has signed a lease to become the first retail tenant at Carriage City Plaza. The Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based national chain doesn’t have much of a presence in New Jersey (or the Northeast), but has locations “coming soon” to East Brunswick, Phillipsburg and Whippany.

In fact, none of the aforementioned coffee franchises were even in the running at Carriage City since the retail space for a coffee shop does not allow for a kitchen. Also, Intercontinental Hotels Group, which operates Hotel Indigo, has an exclusive license agreement with Starbucks, which will be served in the Golden Bean and Phi Lounger, located in the hotel lobby.

Other retail tenants for Carriage City Plaza are expected to be a dry cleaner, salon and day spa, fitness center and a “well-known New Jersey-based restaurant brand.”

Park Square in talks with coffee house

Developers of Park Square are in “serious discussions” with a tea and coffehouse, as well as an optometrist for half the commercial space, according to Eric Harvitt of Landmark Companies.

The first major residential redevelopment project to break ground downtown, Park Square is expected be ready for occupancy by August. It is comprised of 159 luxury rental one- and two-bedroom apartments and 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space along Irving Street between Elm and Elizabeth avenues. Since the retail space can be subdivided, the number of tenants will depend on their size.

Construction has begun on the Main Street side of the project, which will mirror the Irving Street side. Formerly home to Cliff Hardware and other properties, including a boarding house on Elm, Park Square broke ground in October 2006.

Hot Rods and Harleys a hit

Blog readers seemed to enjoy Hot Rods and Harleys, according to our latest poll. But while half of those who voted thought it was great, almost a quarter didn’t even attend the event. What gives?

“How did you like Hot Rods and Harleys?”
50 percent, Great! Plenty to see and do (20/40)
22 percent, Didn’t go, not my thing (9/40)
20 percent, OK, but would prefer more vendors (8/40)
5 percent, Liked the $2 Miller Lite specials a little too much (2/40)
2 percent, Good, a little overwhelming (1/40)

Any thoughts on how to improve Hot Rods and Harleys? What would make those other 22 percent of you go? Should there be more events like it thoughout the year?

We’ll take a break from poll questions this week but if anyone has suggestions, we’ll post our favorite next week.

A blog about all things redevelopment

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