A Weekend at the Jersey Shore
I am just back from another 4th of July at the Jersey Shore. My Mother was from New Jersey and I have been going there every summer since I was nine months old. I go to Manasquan, a small town in northern New Jersey, which is south of Spring Lake and Sea Girt and north of Point Pleasant and Bay Head. This is the real Jersey Shore versus the one portrayed on the infamous TV show.
These towns are easily accessible from Newark Airport by the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway or by New Jersey Transit from New York and Newark Airport. It is also easily reachable from Philadelphia via the Philadelphia International Airport. Consider heading down for a break after you are in Manhattan on business. It is a great place to relax and recharge, eat some great seafood and just enjoy walking on the beach. I find it a great alternative to the Hamptons and Cape Cod. The weather is great into October, so you still have time for a getaway weekend.
My top recommendations on where to go include:
Bay Head is a really lovely town which some describe as “the East Hampton of New Jersey” with stunning beach front homes and equally stunning properties on Barnegat Bay. You might just see people in their old wooden boats on their way to dinner at the Bay Head Yacht Club. There is a small downtown area with a good bakery, some great restaurants and shopping.
Mueller’s Bakery, at 80 Bridge Avenue, is a local institution. Stop in for crumb cake or one of their wonderful pies! As expected, they also serve coffee.
Charlie’s of Bay Head.
Opened in 2016, is the upscale Charlie’s of Bay Head. This is a very welcomed addition to the dining scene in the area. It has a very attractive decor and great outdoor seating with nice views of Twilight Lake. They are open for lunch and dinner. For lunch they have a number of salads, soups, pizzas, burgers and entrees. The dinner menu is somewhat larger with pastas and more entrees. It can get crowded so make sure to book way in advance. I loved the food and enjoyed my lunch with local friends.
Point Pleasant Beach
On the opposite side of the Manasquan inlet and north of Bay Head is Point Pleasant Beach. I love Point Pleasant for its restaurants. I make a point to visit every July when I am in the area and have trouble keeping up with the new openings! I found four new spots last month! In my mind it is one of my favorite “foodie” destinations anywhere in the US. There are some amazing casual dining spots as well as upscale fine dining.
My favorite place on the entire shore is Red’s Lobster Pot at 57 Inlet Drive. They have a large outdoor patio for casual dining and a very small 12 table indoor dining room that is really charming. The food is really wonderful and you are literally right on the docks so the fish and lobster is really fresh. I first heard about it in a New York Times review in 1997 and now go every time I am there.
One of my favorite spots is Spike’s Fish Market & Restaurant at 415 Broadway. It has been a local’s favorite since 1926. It has a great fish market, plus a great eat in menu for their casual dining room. I love the lobster roll!!! It is also my go-to fish market for my fresh fish and scallops, lobster bisque, Manhattan clam chowder and crab cakes when I want to eat at home.
A great new find for me is The Ark Pub & Eatery. Recommended by a local friend, I met other friends there for dinner on a Sunday evening. What a great experience! I loved the atmosphere, food and service. My friends had the flounder which was nicely done. I totally enjoyed the Ark Sampler which included two clams casino, two stuffed clams, two large shrimp and two scallops! Our server, Lisa, had a perfect personality for the restaurant! Check it out at 401 Sea Avenue, NJ 35.
Last month, I also found Daniel’s Bistro at the suggestion of local friends. What a wonderful new find! It is an elegant, fine dining restaurant just west of the boardwalk at 115 Broadway. They have two nightly seatings and have a large menu of starters and entrees. They also feature an number of nightly specials and it is BYOB, so you can bring your own wine. My server was extremely knowledgeable about the menu and the specials. I really enjoyed the scallops in a champagne sauce with a crab risotto. My friends loved the fish special and the Hudson Valley duck breast. It is a very special place and I will definitely go back.
Point Pleasant has a nice small boardwalk with amusements and rides. Jenkinson’s is the place if you want to buy salt water taffy, take a chance at one of the prize wheels or play some skeeball. They have weekly fireworks on Thursday nights and also concerts on the beach.
Between Point Pleasant and Manasquan is Brielle, which is a lovely residential town along the Manasquan River. It also has some great restaurants and is known as the charter fishing boat capital of New Jersey.
The Shipwreck Grill at 720 Ashley Avenue, has excellent food and is on the river and near the boat marinas. I recently went back for a fun dinner with my nephew. I enjoyed the raw clams and the shrimp bucatini, a pasta with shrimp, plum tomatoes, garlic, capers, Thai basil and a shaved riccota salata. It is more of a fine dining experience compared to many of the more casual venues nearby.
Mariner’s Cove is known for its wonderful breakfast menu with over 200 omelette combinations, a good choice of waffles, pancakes, crepes and French toast. You might try going during the week, as weekend mornings can be crowded. It is located on 712 Union Ave.
The 4th of July Parade in Manasquan.
This Monmouth County Borough is where I have been going every year since I was nine months old. We have a family cottage there right on the beach. There are some really lovely old Victorian homes surrounding the downtown, but the highlight is the beach. By the 1920’s, a mix of Victorian homes, seashore cottages, and beach shacks dotted the shoreline. Some remain, but many have been torn down and rebuilt particularly on the beachfront after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The beachfront has never looked better! The boardwalk is a great place to walk in the morning and evening. The nice thing is that here you are right on the beach and do not have to cross a busy street for access. Manasquan is at the Manasquan inlet which is the beginning of the intracoastal waterway that goes south to Florida and west to Texas.
Two years ago I went back to Squan Tavern for the first time in several years and loved the classic atmosphere and the excellent food. I highly recommend the mussels in the marinara sauce and the scallops with sauteed spinach in a tomato sauce. I also love their slogan, Buon Cibo, Buon Vino and Buon Amici. Good Food, Good Wine and Good Friends! I just went back again and enjoyed the fried calamari and the pasta marinara with mussels, shrimp and clams.
I always enjoy Green Planet Coffee at 78 Main Street for a good latte. Nearby is Third Avenue Chocolate Shoppe, from Spring Lake, at 97 Main Street, which has great ice cream and chocolates. Sunburst Pie Co. is new at 150 Main Street and features sweet and savory pies and baked goods.
At my nephew’s suggestion, I tried Max Devros at 144 Main St. This is a casual breakfast and lunch spot. I had to try the pork roll sandwich and really enjoyed it.
Sea Girt is another lovely town though smaller than nearby Spring Lake.
Check out the Beacon House for accommodations at 100 & 104 Beacon Blvd. The Parker House hotel/restaurant is across the street and has been there since 1878. They have a restaurant with dining on the porch, a raw bar, a back porch with bar and casual dining and a downstairs Tavern. I just went back after several years and had a really excellent meal. The scallops in a balsamic reduction along with grilled asparagus and a large portion of crab salad was perfect. I suggest going during the week as the crowds can be huge on weekends in the summer and parking can be tight. You can find it at 290 1st Ave.
Spring Lake is a gorgeous town with some amazing old homes with large porches. It has been a major destination on the shore for over 100 years. Turn-of-the-century architecture borders the wide tree-lined streets which surround a large lake. There is a nice downtown shopping area with a few good restaurants and shops.
After getting great reviews from my local friends, I had to try Larimar at 1311 Third Avenue.
It is a lovely spot for French and Italian inspired food. This is a fine dining restaurant with an excellent menu. Rarely do I find so many things that I would like to try. I shared a number of plates including a strawberry gazpacho with lump crab meet and basil ice; the poached pear salad with almonds, gorgonzola and port wine poached pears; the oysters Rockefeller with spinach, leeks, truffle oil and gruyere cheese and the scallops with golden beets, raisins and almonds in a perfect sweet corn puree. All were excellent. I will definitely go back and highly recommend it. The dress code is business casual with no shorts or flip flops.
As far as hotels, go The Breakers Hotel at 1507 Ocean Avenue, has been there since the late 1800s and has a good restaurant. The Grand Victorian also has rooms and a good restaurant overlooking the ocean. Formerly the Black Trumpet, it is now Bareli’s by the Sea featuring Italian food with classic dishes, pastas and local fish. Both hotels are across from the beach and short walk to restaurants and shops downtown.
Last month, I saw a poster for a production of Hello Dolly by the Spring Lake Theatre Co. founded in 1923. I was not aware of the theater before, but decided to attend a Sunday matinee at 2pm. It was a really excellent production with first rate costumes, staging and cast. Their season runs from July through April and includes six musicals. I was so glad I found it. All performances are located in the Spring Lake Community House at 300 Madison Ave. They also provide a number of theater and dance programs and classes for children during the summer months. I can’t wait to go back next year.
Belmar is a popular Jersey Shore destination. When in town don’t miss Klein’s Fish Market and Waterfront Cafe, a local institution since 1929. This is a great spot for lunch along the water at 708 River Road, at Main St. It has a large menu of seafood, sushi and pastas. They are also known for their Sunday brunch.
Recently opened is the Beach Haus Brewery in Belmar at 801 Main Street. They do offer tours and their tasting room upstairs is a great spot. I really enjoyed trying the Herb’s Rye – American Wheat Beer that was very smooth to drink. They also make a number of pilsners, lagers, IPAs, ales, porters and seasonal offerings like a Pumptoberfest pumpkin marzen/Oktoberfest beer. It is part of the Jersey Shore Craft Beer Tour.
I normally don’t think of New Jersey when I think of barbecue, but I was tempted when I saw this casual spot in Belmar. Jersey Shore BBQ is a fun spot when you are tired of seafood!! Their Texas-style barbecue is pit-cooked on local hardwoods. They have an extensive menu of ribs, platters or sandwiches with pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket and brisket burnt ends. There are some great sides, starters, and salads. They do offer quesadillas, nachos plus some seafood po-boys. There are several BBQ sauces to choose from. I enjoyed the pulled pork platter with slaw, sweet potato fries and a piece of corn bread. One of the other diners loved his meal so much that at he started serenading the others! You can find this gem at 811 Belmar Plaza.
The Great Auditorium – Ocean Grove.
Ocean Grove is not to be missed. Founded in 1869, it is right out of the Victorian era. There is a nice downtown area and some small hotels, but it is known for its Methodist Camp Meeting and the Great Auditorium which was built in 1894. Methodist Camp Meetings were open air revivals held in woodland or seaside settings and lasting many days. Some grew into enduring communities. Permanent structures replaced many of the original tents. Ocean Grove is one of the few camp meeting sites left that remains true to its original purpose and still holds a Camp Meeting Revival every summer. In addition to religious services and events, there are many musical events including classical music and organ concerts. There are also musical events in the Boardwalk Pavilion throughout the Summer.
You have to check out Day’s Ice Cream, which is a great ice cream parlor that has been there since the late 1800’s. 48 Pitman Ave. You will love the atmosphere! Next door, you can eat there at The Starving Artist restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. I particularly like it for lunch or brunch. The building is unique and out of a different era. Enjoy a unique meal at 47 Olin St.
The Boardwalk in Asbury Park.
Asbury Park is back!!! There used to be a great boardwalk with amusements and rides that I remember visiting as a child. It went through some tough times, but it has seen a big resurgence in its downtown area and along the boardwalk. It has been featured in a number of recent articles as one of the hippest places on the shore. It is well worth the visit.
Asbury Lanes is a vintage bowling alley and bar with live performances ranging from live musical acts, burlesque, dance parties, film and art shows. It recently re-opened in its original location from the 1960s. They also have a fun diner that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday, and for dinner only on Tuesday. You can find it at 209 4th Ave.
To stay in Asbury Park, my favorite hotel is The Asbury. With a more contemporary vibe, this 110 room boutique hotel has great public areas, a rooftop garden, a beer garden, and a lounge with table tennis. You will find live music, yoga, movies on the roof, tea dances, a lobby bar and two rooftops with artificial turf. There is no restaurant, but there is grab and take-out food.
TAKA – Asbury Park.
TAKA: At 660 Cookman Avenue, this is a wonderful sushi restaurant. The decor is really wonderful and colorful. Looks like it could be in New York or Chicago. I chose the lunch bento box special which was a great value. Loved the salmon, California roll, salad and other tastes. I highly recommend it.
At 527 Lake Avenue is Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten—a great bar featuring a large selection of craft beers. They also have entertainment and events including Polka on the roof, yoga, music and more.
The team who created Barrio Costero, the contemporary Mexican spot in town, recently opened Reyla with a contemporary approach to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is located in a casual, contemporary spot downtown, near Cookman Avenue at 603 Mattison Ave. They are open for lunch and dinner plus brunch on the weekends.
Near the boardwalk is the famous The Stone Pony associated with Bruce Springsteen and many others. Check out their concert schedule online. The address is 913 Ocean Ave.
Avon by the Sea
Avon by the Sea, pronounced “Ah-von”, is a small New Jersey Shore town of 2,000 people that is located between Belmar and Bradley Beach. It was incorporated in 1900 and named after Avon, England. It is more residential than many of the nearby towns and reminds me a lot of Spring Lake, NJ. It has some very beautiful homes, wide beaches and a boardwalk with a Pavilion.
At the suggestion of some local friends, I decided to meet a friend for lunch at the Avon Pavilion on the boardwalk. Located at the north end of the boardwalk in the former Sullivan and Flynn Pavilion, it is a casual restaurant along with walk-up windows for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. It is BYOB and has some great views of the boardwalk, beach and water. After being open for 24 years, it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. However, it was totally rebuilt in 2014. Today it has a great contemporary design along with some great art. I enjoyed an excellent strawberry salad along with a crab cake. The service was very good also.
Nearby is Bradley’s Beach Plum Ice Cream located at 420 Main Street in Bradley Beach, which is a classic ice cream shop. I stopped in and loved the bourbon and pecan flavor! On my next trip, I want to visit Vic’s American – Italian Restaurant for pizza and Italian specialties. Established in 1947, it has a traditional Italian atmosphere. You can find it at 60 Main St.
I hope you have enjoyed my tour of the Jersey Shore. It looks like all we do there is eat, but it is a great spot to relax, grab a glass of great rosé, pig out on Taylor Pork Roll and go back to a simpler time!!
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