Jersey Shore

7 Jersey Shore Rooftop Bars to Visit This Summer

Drinking on rooftops is one of those universally beloved activities. And during summer months in the Garden State, there’s no better perch than a rooftop bar down the Shore.

Some specialize in cocktails and raw shellfish, others offer a beer garden experience, but all feature beautiful, beachy views. Wherever they are, these Jersey Shore rooftop bars, listed north to south, are sure to elevate your summer outings.

The rooftop pool at Avenue Le Club. Photo courtesy of Bread & Butter PR.

Long Branch

This rooftop bar and lounge is located right on the beach in Long Branch—and it has a pool, too. Sip on an Endless Summer (rum, coconut purée, passion fruit and turmeric) or a Pineapple Cilantro Jalapeño Margarita by the pool, which overlooks the ocean. During the day, from 10am to 5pm, the rooftop is only open to beach club members. Starting on June 15, the Nuit nightclub is open from 10pm to 2am. And starting June 24, it will be open for Monday Pool Parties from noon to 5pm.
23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900

Asbury Park

Mingle over giant mugs of beer and Bavarian pretzels at communal tables on this 9,000 square-foot rooftop bar. The Austro-Hungarian beer garden is a popular attraction year-round, but especially on those warm, breezy summer nights. Enjoy dozens of draft beers, wursts, schnitzels, potato pancakes, smoked trout, sauerbraten and strudel.
527 Lake Avenue, 732-997-8767

The view from Salvation in Asbury Park. Photo courtesy of the Asbury Hotel

Asbury Park

This seasonal rooftop bar set atop the Asbury Hotel opens each May, and is one of the hottest spots in town during the summer. It features guest DJs all summer long, cocktails and some of the best views in Asbury Park, especially during sunsets. Heads up: Per the website, a dress code (no athletic wear, baseball caps, tattered clothing, etc.) is enforced for entry after 9pm, when it becomes a popular nightlife destination.
210 5th Avenue, 732-774-7100

Asbury Park

The rooftop deck at the Watermark, a modern bar and lounge, overlooks Asbury Park’s boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. You also get a western view, making it an ideal spot for sunset drinks. The menu includes craft cocktails, wine, beer and light, seasonal bites to snack on.
800 Ocean Avenue, Floor 2, 732-455-3447

O-Bar, the rooftop bar at LBI’s Daddy-O. Photo courtesy of Daddy-O.

Brant Beach

The Daddy O Hotel boasts LBI’s only rooftop bar, O-Bar, that is decked out in a simple yet elegant beachy theme: lounge chairs, colorful umbrellas, stringed lights. While the restaurant downstairs might require fancier dress or footwear, beach attire and flip-flops are perfectly fine up on the roof. Enjoy cocktails, sushi and other small plates with a refreshing rooftop breeze. The O-Bar opens daily at 4 pm on weekdays, at at noon on weekends, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
4401 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-1300

Atlantic City

Take in the panoramic view of the Atlantic City skyline and ocean at the aptly-named Vüe Bar and Lounge, located on the 23rd floor of the Claridge Hotel. Enjoy small bites like cheesesteak spring rolls, flatbreads and sliders. You can go all out and order bottle service, or come for Happy Hour, which is offered from 4-7pm, Sunday through Thursday.
The Claridge Hotel, 23rd floor, 114 South Indiana Avenue, 844-224-7386

The view from Harry’s rooftop bar. Photo courtesy of Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille

Cape May

Find this popular rooftop bar at the family-owned and operated Montreal Beach Resort. Harry’s offers local oysters and clams, salads and sandwiches, and their signature clam chowder, plus cocktails, local beer and wine. From the rooftop bar, enjoy a panoramic view of the beach, just across the road.
1025 Beach Avenue, 609-884-2779

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Lucky Leo’s, Seaside Heights Icon, Remains on a Roll

Lucky Leo’s has been a Seaside boardwalk mainstay for 66 years. Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

Boing! Zoink! Beep! Playful sounds fill Lucky Leo’s Amusement Arcade on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Kids playing Skee-Ball aim for the Bull’s-eye ring. Teenagers race against the clock at a ring toss game with neon-colored bottles. Tongues poke out of mouths, signaling intense concentration. Smiles stretch across faces as purple tickets stream out of the machines. They read: “Lucky Leo’s Est. 1953.” 

Luck began following Leo Whalen, now 92, even before he opened his iconic house of fun on the corner of Hamilton Avenue. 

At 18, Leo was drafted into the army in June 1945. World War II officially ended that September. Leo lucked out; he didn’t have to go to war. Instead, he went back to Toms River High School, worked at boardwalk stands in Seaside Heights, and married his high school sweetheart, Barbara. One day, while Leo was calling numbers for a skilo game (similar to bingo), he spotted Seaside mayor J. Stanley Tunney. He ran over and asked him about renting a site on the boardwalk. Tunney agreed, and Leo built his first stand. Eventually, Leo took over the lease for several other stands the mayor had owned. 

In those days, Leo was also teaching middle school math and science in Seaside Park and Berkeley Township. But Leo, a master at chit-chat, was destined to work with customers full-time. In 1975, he helped build a block-long arcade with his sons. “I put about 220 games in there, air-conditioned, new carpeting, big signs,” he says. 

Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

At the time, there were four other Seaside arcades to compete with. But Leo was lucky and business was brisk. 

“It was always a friendly business, and it was always happy times when you met people on vacation,” he says. “I made it a success. My two sons, Stevie and Tommy, made it what it is today.”

The siblings have been running the business since 1986. Steve’s daughter Kelly started managing the arcade about 10 years ago. Some of Kelly’s cousins work behind the counter as well. 

“We all have a bit of crazy,” she says about her family, “but it’s very much, I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.”

In 1985, Leo retired to West Palm Beach, Florida, with Barbara, now 87. They spend much of their time golfing.

Luck continues to follow the couple. Barbara has made two holes-in-one in her lifetime; Leo has three. His reward for one of his aces was a Jeep Cherokee. “Who in the hell can beat that?” he says. “If I won two boxes of chocolate from the boardwalk I’d say, ‘My god how nice.’”

Leo still sees familiar faces when he visits Seaside. People say, “Leo, I remember you as a young kid when you worked the stand back in the ’60s. And I remember you when you put this building up,” he says.

Indeed, Kelly says nostalgia draws families back to Lucky Leo’s. “And the fact that we’re a family, too,” she says. 

This summer, families can enjoy five new games in the arcade. Players with 200,000 points or more are considered VIPs. These gamers can attend weekly parties with drawings for prizes such as Broadway tickets and cruises. 

The affinity for entrepreneurship runs in the family. 

In 2005, Kelly’s sister Patty Sabey opened a boutique next to Lucky Leo’s. Hurricane Sandy destroyed the shop, but Sabey reopened in Lavallette. “Guess she couldn’t get the boardwalk out of her blood, either,” says Kelly.

In 2017, the Whalen family opened a candy store one block down from the arcade. Courtesy of Lucky Leo’s

Sabey is not the only one. Leo’s son Tommy now manages Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop, the latest Whalen family boardwalk business. Opened in 2017, the candy store makes everything from fudge to CBD-infused chocolates. When Tommy, who has his father’s charm, offers customers a chocolate sample, he provides the following directive: “It’s not a piece of meat. No chewing. Let it melt in your mouth.”

Will future generations of the Whalen family continue in the arcade business?

“I guess they will until they get tired,” says Leo. The reality seems more promising. When Kelly’s 3-year-old son visits the arcade, “he doesn’t want to play the games,” she says. “He always wants to be behind the counter.”

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For Tide Table Group, Nearly 40 Years of Food and Fun

The Tide Table Group partners gather at Beach Haven’s Black Whale. From left: Bob Nugent, Linda Burris, Melanie and Eric Magaziner, Bill Burris and Ginna Nugent. All photos by James J. Connolly

First jobs don’t often portend where a person will wind up professionally, something for which anyone who has bagged groceries as a teenager is probably grateful. Not so Eric Magaziner, who began his career cleaning clams at age 14 on Long Beach Island. It wasn’t so much the bivalves that made Magaziner want to spend the next 30-plus years shucking shellfish. It was more the people who showed him how.

Magaziner, who lives in Manahawkin, is one of the founders of Tide Table Group, a company that owns and operates five restaurants in and around Long Beach Island, all of them nearly impossible to get into in July and August. He doesn’t look the part of the corporate exec. On this sunny March afternoon at Beach Haven’s Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third restaurant and, with 150 seats, one of its biggest, Magaziner, in T-shirt and baseball cap, slouches in a booth picking at oyster crackers with his wife, Melanie, and two of their Tide Table partners, Ginna and Bob Nugent.

Though they’ve just closed on their seventh property, a 5-acre tract on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay in Eagleswood that won’t become a restaurant until 2020, and are less than two months away from opening their most ambitious place yet, Beach Haven’s Bird & Betty, no one is in a hurry. Stress levels are happy-hour low, and everyone is up for tracing the trajectory that has won them local fame and the kind of fortune that can’t be counted in dollars.

“It started with Ginna and Bob,” says Melanie, a Manahawkin native. “Ginna’s family has been in the seafood business going back more than 50 years.” Ginna’s father, Marti Cassidy, fished out of Barnegat Light in the 1960s and ’70s when she was growing up in Beach Haven Terrace. Cassidy sold what he caught at his own place, Cassidy’s Fish Market. Ginna didn’t intend to surround herself with fish forever, but then she started dating Bob.

“Bob was getting the business going,” she says, meaning Ship Bottom Shellfish, the 50-seat seafood market and restaurant they opened in Ship Bottom in 1981, four years before they were married. Ginna, then a college student in California, came back to LBI to help Bob launch the tiny shop at the former site of an ice cream store. The work was hard, but business was good: “People loved the freshness of the local seafood,” she says. Four years in, they hired Eric, whose father, Bill Magaziner, was a regular and a friend.

Eric, who grew up in Philadelphia and spent summers in Beach Haven Park as a kid, liked the work at Ship Bottom Shellfish, partly because it was seasonal—six months of intense fish, clam and oyster slinging, followed by six months of doing whatever he wanted, including surfing with Bob—and partly because of the laid-back atmosphere fostered by Ginna and Bob. By the time he was in his mid-20s and a Stockton College graduate, Eric had his eye on a place of his own.

“A piece of land opened up at Mud City, and we got it cheap,” says Bob of the site that would become the Nugents’ and Magaziners’ second seafood restaurant, Mud City Crab House, in Manahawkin. “By then, we knew that Eric wasn’t going to pick mussels and clean clams the rest of his life.” Eric was 26 when he signed on as a partner in Mud City. Then it was Melanie’s turn to blow off grad school and join her boyfriend in becoming an entrepreneur.

“I had always worked in restaurants, so I knew the front of the house,” says Melanie. “I was just about to go away to school. That got thwarted.”

Mud City opened in 1999 and, like Ship Bottom Shellfish, was an instant success, says Bob. And that’s despite the fact that, when it was under construction, “people would drive by and tell us we were crazy to open a restaurant there, because it was out of the way and in a marsh.”

Now, Melanie says, “for people to think it was out of the way is mind-boggling.”

Within three weeks, the 65-seat crab house was one of the most successful restaurant in the area, the partners agree. All four credit the seafood and the fact that Manahawkin residents didn’t like having to cross the bridge to LBI for something good to eat. “Beach Haven West, across the highway, did not have any restaurants at the time,” says Melanie.

Though the partners got used to seeing each other every day at their restaurants, roles were never clearly defined. They still aren’t. All four of the partners do a bit of everything. “He cooked,” says Bob, meaning Eric; “She cooked,” he says, meaning Ginna: “and I just came along for the ride,” he jokes. Eric, Bob says, lost 30 pounds the first year Mud City was open because he was working so hard. “At one point,” says Bob, “we realized Eric hadn’t had a beer in like a month and a half. I go, ‘Are you sick?’”

Eric was not sick, just consumed by his new responsibilities. But he had already been through a major health scare. “Eric had cancer as a child,” says Melanie. He doesn’t talk publicly about his past affliction and current health status, she says, but it’s obvious he’s a survivor. Though he is upbeat and talkative, his voice is all but missing; he can barely speak above a whisper.

“It’s one of the reasons we work with local cancer organizations,” says Melanie. Typical of their efforts is Crabbin’ for a Cure, for which Tide Table hosts a crabcake dinner each year that benefits Jetty Rock Foundation.

Tide Table Group’s charitable instincts don’t end there. The foursome, together with Linda and Bill Burris, the couple with whom they partnered in the Black Whale and two more Beach Haven locations—Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon and Bird & Betty’s (due to open this summer)—are known throughout the area for their support of local nonprofits. In addition to Melanie’s volunteer work on the board of the Hunger Foundation of Southern Ocean County, there is Chowderfest each fall and each winter, Arctic Outreach, an organization that helps local people and environmental causes. The partners also support Clam Jam and Coquina Jam, surf competitions that bring the surf and business communities together; Coquina also raises funds for women with cancer.

Even that barely scrapes the sandy surface of their local good works: Jeremy DeFilippis, Jetty Rock’s treasurer and one of three directors, says his organization collaborates on about 10 charity events with Tide Table every year. “They are over-the-top dedicated to their community is why,” he says. “We partner with other restaurant groups, but none of them anywhere near the extent of Tide Table. They were the first, and the relationship blossomed from there 15-plus years ago.”

Tide Table’s willingness to pitch in sealed its relationship with Jetty Rock, but it’s the vibe of their establishments that makes it a pleasure, DeFilippis says. “Not only are they great people, their places are fun,” he says. “They’re places where you find yourself having a good time.”

That seems to be the case regardless of what each new restaurant has to offer. The first two restaurants did not always have liquor licenses, for example (Mud City now does), so regulars got used to bringing their own coolers of beer and wine. The coolers were fully packed, says Billy Mehl, the Nugents’ son-in-law and Tide Table’s general manager, because most patrons knew they might wait outside upwards of two hours for a table. The Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Tide Table’s third location, opened with a liquor license in 2006.

Though the formula for the Black Whale is slightly different, the result upon opening was the same. “It was a new adventure, because this place is a little more refined than the first two,” says Melanie. “But it was instantly successful. I think our reputation followed us. Plus, in Beach Haven, once the summer gets here, you’ve got a captive audience.”

The reliable formula of fresh, local seafood in a town where every summer night is a Saturday night, according to Bob, accounts for why Tide Table has focused on Beach Haven for its latest openings. After the Nugents and Magaziners joined forces for their fourth place in 2014, a 100-seat seafood and steak house next door to Mud City called Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, they returned to Beach Haven to open Parker’s Garage, their most ambitious restaurant to date.

Parker’s opened in 2017 in an old boat-engine repair shop right on Barnegat Bay. It’s the only restaurant for which they brought in a top-tier chef, Kyle Baddorf, who formerly worked with the Garces Restaurant Group of Philadelphia.

“When you have four restaurants that are established, you can’t just do the same old thing,” says Melanie. “People expect more from you.” With Parker’s, they got it.

The restaurant’s view across the bay “is like being on Key West every night of the summer,” she says. Summertime sunsets, seen out the open back of Parker’s Garage, can be extraordinary. Parker’s also opened a new chapter in local farming for Tide Table. In 2017, just as the restaurant was opening, the partners started an oyster-farming co-op with the Barnegat Oyster Collective.

“We have 75 cages, called float cages. You get a few thousand oysters in each cage,” says Eric. Tide Table also has its own local oyster farmer, Shane Logo. DeFilippis likes the plan for oyster recycling that Melanie implemented after learning about a Virgina-based program. After the staff collects empty oyster shells, they are dried and returned to the bay, where spat, or oyster larvae, can attach to them and grow. “One oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day, so in essence, they’re cleaning the bay and contributing to the health of our coastal waters,” he says, of the program now run by Jetty Rock Foundation, Stockton University, Parsons Seafood and Long Beach Township.

The Nugents, Magaziners and Burrises weren’t necessarily looking to expand when they landed their sixth property, a giant nightclub and restaurant across the lane from Parker’s, in 2017. The historic building, which can accommodate 1,200, opened as a hotel in the early 1900s and is believed to have been home to Long Beach Island’s earliest tavern. Melanie dug into local history books to research the onetime fisherman’s bar and found that it was popular during Prohibition. But a more recent chapter in its history interested the Tide Table partners.

In the 1950s, the building, then known as the Acme Hotel, was sold to a local married couple, Bird and Betty Clutter, who owned it until 1976.

“Betty was well known in the community for yelling at everybody to leave when it was closing time,” says Melanie. “She’d shout, ‘Get out!’ But nobody ever did. People have been stopping by to tell us stories about them. They were characters.” Acme changed hands again in the 1980s and became the Ketch, a nightclub and restaurant. Tide Table plans a throwback 1960s and ’70s feel for the location, which they dubbed Bird & Betty’s. It will be their first expansion into nightlife.

“We’ll have a talent booker. We may get national touring acts,” says Bob. The menu will include Neapolitan pizza in addition to seafood and cocktails. Baddorf will be executive chef.

“It’s kind of monstrous, but it’s a natural progression for us,” says Melanie during a tour of the vast building, which Tide Table GM Mehl was gutting in anticipation of a pre-Memorial Day opening.

For the moment, the partners are too preoccupied with Bird & Betty’s to think of a name for their seventh place, the 5-acre site in Eagleswood that will become a restaurant in 2020. But no one minds the distraction.

“As crazy and as busy as we are, we’re in a fun profession where we get to try new food and cocktails daily. We’re lucky,” says Melanie. Her partners are quick to chime in about the other things that make them feel lucky: the quiet winter months, when several of the restaurants are closed and the Nugents and Magaziners often travel together; the five or six employees, including waitresses and bartenders, who have been with them for more than 20 years and feel like family; and the promise that Mehl and his wife, Brianna, the Nugents’ daughter, are on board to guide the business into the future.

“It’s not a bad life,” says Melanie.

“We wouldn’t trade it,” says Ginna.

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Exploring 5 Fun Destinations at the Jersey Shore

An aerial view of Townsends Inlet Waterfront Park, a popular surfing beach on Sea Isle City’s south end. All photos by Jessica Orlowicz

It’s always a tough call: With so many great destinations down the Jersey Shore, which beach towns should we feature in our annual Shore Guide? This year, we’ve made it easier by highlighting five different destinations.

We start with Long Branch. One of New Jersey’s earliest beach resorts, Long Branch has historic sites to go with its wide beaches, ample shopping and dining options, and exciting nightlife. Speaking of history, no Shore town sticks to its traditions like Ocean Grove, which still shows off its roots as a religious retreat while also attracting a new generation of beachgoers. Next, we move on to Manasquan, which, we find, is the very embodiment of Americana. In Seaside Heights, family fun spots sit side-by-side on the boardwalk with attractions for young couples and the single set. Finally, we visit Sea Isle City, a popular vacation spot that doubles as an active fishing village.

Long Branch: History, Hot Dogs and Oceanfront Indulgences

Ocean Grove: Where Summer Congregants Maintain a Century-Old Tradition

Manasquan: The Epitome of Americana

Seaside Heights: The Boardwalk Town with Something for Everyone

Sea Isle City: The Fishing Village That Reels in Summer Crowds

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Recalling Precious Summers Past in Ortley Beach

Photo by Colin Archer/Agency New Jersey

Like many New Jerseyans, the Shore has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Newark, but every summer, there was a brief escape at the Shore. My extended family rented a two-room bungalow in Ortley Beach for one week. We didn’t have air conditioning, but we did have a screened porch. Six kids—my sisters, our three cousins and I—would sleep out there on blow-up rafts.

The block we rented on in Ortley was not far from the local sewage-treatment facility. (We had a saltier name for it.) The odor was unbearable, but its presence made our summer indulgence somewhat affordable. Speaking of indulgences, on special occasions, my father would take us in the family station wagon for hot dogs at the legendary Max’s in Long Branch. 

Eventually, the family bought a small beach house on Lanyard Road, still in Ortley Beach. That was the best. My two sisters and I still had to share a bedroom, but at least we were off the porch. Still no air conditioning, but box fans kept us cool.

When we were teenagers, the family moved for the summer to West Point Island in Lavallette. Soon, I was frequenting all the best spots at the Shore. I will admit to being a regular at the Surf Club in Ortley. Yes, it was the disco era, and I am too embarrassed to show any pictures of myself from that period. We would hit what we called the “Sunday matinee”—a nonstop dance party that began at three in the afternoon and ran until nine or ten at night. Then, I’d head home for a quick shower, a change of clothes (clean T-shirt, different shorts, but the same sneakers) and return to the Surf Club for more dancing and partying.

But time down the Shore was also about family time. We loved Rossi’s Bikes on Bay Boulevard in Ortley. It’s been there forever. We’d rent a bike for four or more, with a front and back seat. It wasn’t easy to steer, but it was endless fun. Or we’d head to Barnacle Bill’s, an Ortley institution since 1964, with 18 holes of miniature golf, an arcade and an ice cream parlor. Bill’s is still a big part of my life; last summer, they provided our son Nick with his first paid job.

At night, we’d often wind up at the Seaside boardwalk. They frequently talked about making it more family friendly, but it always had a rough edge. I appreciated the boardwalk for its authenticity. As a kid, I loved the Bozo Drop, which was owned by family friends. As a teen, I graduated to the Himalaya and the Swiss Bob. Today, my family loves any game of chance, but especially the Sawmill, at the southern end of the boards.

A few years ago, my wife and I decided it was time to build our own home in Lavallette. It was the best move we ever made. The Lavallette boardwalk is where our daughter Olivia, now 8, learned how to ride her bike, and where my wife jogs every summer morning. There’s no better way to absorb the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. 

For breakfast, we love Meg’s Grill; for cappuccino and espresso, we head to Lava Java House. And, of course, everyone in the area knows the Crab’s Claw Inn. The food is great, and the crowd is the best. Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to be there on the last day that 89-year-old Frank “Frankie Fingers” Staknys, a Toms River resident and Korean War veteran, performed on the piano. He’s been a mainstay at the Crab’s Claw for decades, creating the best party atmosphere I have ever experienced—outside of the Surf Club back in the day.

My Shore memories are endless. We’d like to hear about yours. Share them with me at [email protected]. 

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The 20 Best Beaches in New Jersey

Photo by Michael Kaucher/Pixabay

Best: Family Fun Beaches?

Point Pleasant Beach?
Exit N-90/S-98
Fun House isn’t just an attraction on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk; it’s an appropriate metaphor for this seaside playground with its world-class aquarium, live entertainment, amusement rides, wide beaches and array of dining options. A recent boardwalk addition: Jenkinson’s Adventure Lookout Ropes Course. Also on the boardwalk, Jenkinson’s South Amusement Park features more than 20 rides for kids of all ages. Want to get the kids out of the sun? At Jenkinson’s Aquarium, they can view sharks, penguins, alligators and seals—even sea stars and stingrays in the touch tank. For dinner, head over to Frankie’s Bar & Grill on Richmond Avenue to feast on 10-ounce sirloin hamburgers, a perennial winner of New Jersey Monthly‘s Jersey Choice restaurant poll. End a great day at Hoffman’s, where you can indulge in delicious homemade ice cream—from strawberry bon-bon to peanut butter nugget.
Read More: Destination: Point Pleasant Beach

Beach Haven (Long Beach Island)
?Exit 63
Most of the towns on LBI are quiet retreats; Beach Haven, on the other hand, is hopping, with plenty of fun attractions for the whole family. LBI’s only amusement park, Fantasy Island, bustles with arcade games and kid-friendly rides. A short walk away, waterslides and mini-golf await at Thundering Surf Waterpark.  For shoppers, there are plenty of browsing opportunities (and dining, too) at Schooner’s Wharf and Bay Village. For a rainy-day diversion, the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History has two floors of artifacts and underwater finds that are sure to fascinate. Of course, the main attraction is Beach Haven’s mile-square stretch of guarded ocean beach, but families with young ones are happy to discover the calmer waters (and play area) of Taylor Avenue beach on the bay side of LBI.
Read More: Destination: Long Beach Island

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

?Best: Quiet Family Beaches

Stone Harbor?
Exit 10
With its small-town charm, laid-back shopping district and varied restaurants, Stone Harbor offers fun for the whole family—at a slower pace than many of its Shore neighbors. The beaches are never crowded and are within walking distance of all points in the town. Shoppers flock to 96th Street, but the town has plenty to keep the kids entertained as well. Peek through the windows at the Original Fudge Kitchen to see the sweet stuff being prepared; pop into Island Studio to paint your own pottery; rent bikes for a tour of the cycling-friendly island; catch a film at the town’s three-screen theater; or play a rooftop round of mini golf at one of Tee Time’s two locations. For fun on the water, you can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard from Harbor Outfitters for some flat-water paddling on the calm bay. For a better understanding of the bay’s ecosystem, visit the Wetlands Institute, which has an ambitious schedule of tours and nature-oriented festivals. Cap off the day with a trip to Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, a Stone Harbor staple since the 1920s.
Read More: Destination: Stone Harbor

Sea Girt?
Exit 98?
With one mile of uncrowded beaches and an old-fashioned boardwalk, Sea Girt is ideal for a quiet family getaway. The newly rebuilt boardwalk begins at the foot of the Sea Girt Lighthouse and runs to the south end of town. Hungry? Check out Rod’s Olde Irish Tavern, a turn-of-the-century saloon, for some traditional pub fare. For people watching, grab a table for lunch at the Parker House—but be ready for long lines. For indoor fun, try the Lanes at Sea Girt.

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Best: Boardwalk

Ocean City
?Exit N-25/S-30
The sandy beach seems endless here—it’s eight miles long—and so do the activities on the 2.5-mile boardwalk. Ocean City Bicycle Center opens at 7 am. Rent an adult trike, kid’s bike, cruiser or surrey, and scope out the scene at a leisurely pace. You’ll be glad you got a little exercise before caving to the aroma of fresh donuts wafting from Brown’s Restaurant—right on the boardwalk. Come early—the line can be a mile long on summer mornings. For seaside excitement, check out Gillian’s Wonderland Pier with its 28 rides and attractions. For an encore, there’s Playland’s Castaway Cove, which boasts 10 thrill rides, including the GaleForce triple-launch coaster, and plenty of family favorites like the Antique Cars and the Ferris wheel. Grab a slice for lunch at one of Manco & Manco Pizza’s three boardwalk locations. For dinner, Clancy’s by the Sea offers patio seating with great views of the beach. Save room for sweets at Shriver’s, where you’ll be torn between saltwater taffy, creamy fudge and other confections.
Read More: Destination: Ocean City

Best: Amusement Parks

Exit N-4B/S-6
There’s no more exciting place in New Jersey than Morey’s Piers, the three amusements parks clustered in a 12-block span of the Wildwood boardwalk. Combined, the parks boast more than 100 rides and attractions. Mariner’s Pier has the air of a traditional amusement park, with classic rides such as the Teacups and the Giant Wheel. Surfside Pier feels like a seaside carnival, with endless games and the glow of neon lights. Adventure Pier is the spot where thrill seekers kiss the sky on rides like SkyCoaster and SpringShot. But the entertainment isn’t limited to roller coasters and ring tosses. Nostalgia-minded adults can visit the Doo Wop Experience Museum to learn more about the architecture, music and arts that made Wildwood famous in its neon-infused heyday.
Read More: Destination: The Wildwoods

Best: Dining Scene

Cape May
Indian curries from a Scottish chef? As chef/owner Jack Wright will tell you, curries are the most popular food in his native land. They are a menu staple at his Exit Zero Cookhouse. High-end dining options abound in Cape May, from the Washington Inn to the Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel to the Peter Shields Inn. Our fave breakfast spot is George’s Place, but the Mad Batter has a decades-long track record of making people happy. Speaking of happiness, people form lines at Hot Dog Tommy’s, a sidewalk institution just off the beach. Cape May’s most exciting and creative chef, Lucas Manteca, sets up a couple miles down the road in Cape May Point. An NJM Top 30 restaurant, Manteca’s Red Store is worth the drive. Time your reservation to catch the sunset at nearby Sunset Beach just before dinner.
Read More: Destination: Cape May

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Asbury Park
Exit S-102/N-100A

With Asbury Park’s resurgence in real estate, business and tourism, its restaurants have been soaking it all up. One of the city’s hottest spots is The Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, a German-style beer hall featuring over 50 beers on tap and various selections of schnitzel. If you’re looking to grab some breakfast before you hit the beach, Toast has everything from pancakes to crab cakes. Barrio Costero, one of NJM’s Best New Restaurants of 2017, offers a modern take on Mexican food with innovative cocktails. For a fresh slice, Talula’s serves pizza and sandwiches with gourmet toppings like housemade fennel pork sausage, all on their own sourdough bread. Enjoy the Stella Marina, an intimate, upscale Italian restaurant located on the boardwalk. Seafood is the star at the Bonney Read, while French fare reigns at the romantic Pascal & Sabine.

Best: Nightlife

Atlantic City?
Exit 38B
Even if gambling isn’t your thing, there is plenty of nightlife to enjoy in the Garden State’s casino capital. Haven, a 12,000-square-foot nightclub located inside the Golden Nugget Casino, brings the fun with techno lighting, multiple dance floors, two bars, table service and 28 comfy banquettes. At the Tropicana, Ivan Kane’s Kiss a Go-Go is an audio-visual explosion with dazzling images and edge-pushing dancers.  The scene at Premier in the Borgata, is no less frenetic. The 18,000-square-foot club boasts tiered booth seating, a horseshoe-shaped mezzanine and an A-list roster of guest deejays. If you want to stay in the swim after the sun goes down, Harrah’s Pool After Dark is the ideal party spot. The pool, enclosed in a 90-foot-high glass dome, has five Jacuzzis, 12 cabanas and an indoor/outdoor deck, plus a gaming loft. By day, you can relax in this faux tropical oasis; on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, deejays transform the space into an all-out dance party. And did we mention that Atlantic City’s showrooms attract some of the biggest names in music and comedy all year long?
Read More: Destination: Atlantic City

Best: Beach Shopping

Long Branch
Exit 105
If shopping rivals sunning on your list of favorite Shore activities, Pier Village in Long Branch is the destination for you. Just across the street from the boardwalk, the Pier Village shopping plaza is lined with unique boutiques, including Molly & Zoey for trendy clothes; Nirvana for denim creations; Shore Runner for athletic gear; Aloha Grove Surf Shop for surf accessories; and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for sweet treats. This is an upscale see-and-be-seen beach destination—take a dip and hit the stores, then grab a bite at Avenue, one of our perennial favorite oceanfront restaurants.

Best: Upscale Beach

Spring Lake
Exit 98
There’s a case to be made to skip the beach while visiting Spring Lake and just wander the tree-lined streets looking at the classic Victorian homes with their perfectly manicured lawns. But don’t skip the beach—it’s two miles of pristine sand (no food, no drinks) flanked by the longest noncommercial boardwalk in the state—a magnet for astonishingly fit joggers and young couples pushing strollers. There’s plenty to do off the beach: Enjoy a bloody Mary on the porch of the Breakers Hotel and restaurant, stroll past the shops on Third Avenue, feast on modern Italian and European dishes at Larimar, fish along the shores of Spring Lake or grab a slice at the Spring Lake Gourmet Pizzeria. You can also splurge on dinner at the Black Trumpet in the Grand Victorian Hotel or Whispers at the Hewitt Wellington. For overnight stays, there are plenty of B&Bs from which to choose.

Best: Party Scene

Exit 98
The town has made a concerted effort to broaden its appeal and play down its rep as party central. To a large degree it has worked, but the south end of Belmar is still hopping. D’Jais Bar & Grill is still the hottest of the hot spots, with its choice location, across Ocean Avenue from the beach. Away from the waterfront, the Boathouse Bar and Grill on Main Street boasts one of the few outdoor patio set-ups in town. Also, on Main Street, the new tap room at the Beach Haus Brewery is a fun destination for craft-beer fans.

Best: Secluded Beach

Strathmere (Upper Township)?
Exit N-13/S-17
Tucked between bustling Ocean City and Sea Isle City, this cozy 1.5-mile hamlet requires no beach tags and remains under the radar for most beachgoers. Approach the beach from two-lane Commonwealth Avenue (where you can always find free street parking, even in the height of summer) and stake out a sandy spot for the day. Enjoy sunbathing at the shoreline, take a walk to the northern end of the island for views of OC, watch the dolphins commute, or try ocean kayaking, surfing, fishing, even kiteboarding—all without kitschy shops and boardwalk hubbub. For a break from sun and sand, grab an ice cream at the Old Shack or a cold beer or two during happy hour at hole-in-the-wall Twisties or on the outdoor deck at the popular Deauville Inn. Just don’t tell anyone you heard about it from us. The town’s oval car decals even say “Shhh.”

Best: Nude Beach

Gunnison Beach (Sandy Hook)?
Exit 117
You’re in for an eyeful when you venture to Gunnison Beach. Not only do you get some of the best views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but the two-mile stretch of sand is also the largest nude beach on the East Coast and the only legal nude beach in New Jersey. Past the signs that read “Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sunbathers,” anything goes, so expect to see a whole new kind of beach bum. The crowd is super friendly and nonjudgmental, but the amenities are minimal—a small snack shack and volleyball net. Beach badges are not required (where in the world would you pin one?), but parking is $15. Apply sunscreen liberally—and don’t gawk at your neighbors.

Best: Gay-Friendly Beaches

Asbury Park
Exit S-102/N-100A
Diversity is one of the elements that make the revitalized Asbury Park a standout destination. Here, buff and bronzed Speedo-clad men roam comfortably on the beach and boardwalk alongside preppy young couples equipped with diaper bags and beach pails. The lively boardwalk starts at Convention Hall on the north end and runs to landmark Casino Pier at the south end. In between there’s a bit of everything—even a miniature water park and putt-putt course for the kids. Mostly, though, it’s about food and drink and music: Try the tapas at Langosta Lounge, cocktails at the Asbury Park Yacht Club, or a well-dressed hot dog at Mayfair Boardwalk Grill. At each stop, the people watching is fabulous. Paradise, in the Empress Hotel, is the late-night hangout—equal parts gay revue and nightclub.
Read More: Destination: Asbury Park

Ocean Grove
Exit N-102/S-103
This quaint community is literally adjacent to Asbury Park but figuratively miles away. A long-time religious retreat, Ocean Grove is known for its Victorian homes, the Great Auditorium, B&Bs, summertime churchgoers—and more recently, a growing gay community. The pristine boardwalk is lined with benches, street lamps and potted flowers but nary a shop, bar or restaurant. For that (minus the bar), head to Main Avenue, with its boutiques, gift shops, pizzerias and a few fine restaurants. A crowd favorite is Nagle’s Apothecary Cafe for ice cream and outdoor seating. On the beach, generations of families co-exist with the gay population. Restrooms and showers are convenient on the south end of the boardwalk. Parking can be difficult, even with blocks of on-the-street free parking.

Colin Archer & Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey.

Best: Surfing Beaches?

Inlet Beach, Manasquan?
Exit N-90/S-98?
Surfing in New Jersey is generally an exercise in either patience or fearlessness. When the water is warm, you’ll often wait weeks for decent breaks. When the water is cold, the waves are epic but often beyond the skill level (and temperature threshold) of most casual surfers. Enter Inlet Beach, the Garden State’s most consistent year-round surfing spot. The beach’s reliable surf can be attributed to its enormous jetties, which corral approaching waves into long, glorious breaks even in the flat summer doldrums. Things get particularly interesting just before storms and during late-summer swells, when it’s possible to find standup barrels as the inlet breaks at 15 or 20 feet. However, the spot can get crowded on summer weekends. When the surf’s down, pay a visit to Inlet Outlet, Manasquan’s favorite surf shop and a local institution for more than three decades.

Whale Beach, Upper Township
?Exit 17
?Go down to Sea Isle City, turn left at Landis Avenue, and keep going until you pass Taylor Avenue. Once the homes and crowds begin to disappear, you’ve arrived at Whale Beach, one of the Jersey Shore’s best-kept surfing secrets. Frequent sandbars create nice, long, clean breaks all summer, and the lack of crowds allows everyone to have his or her own little slice of wave heaven.

Long Beach Island (southern tip)
?Exit 63?
The most crowded break on LBI can be found at Holyoke Avenue in Beach Haven. But go a little farther south to the island’s southern tip, and you’ll find great waves and far fewer people. An imposing jetty creates an intimate and consistent cove of long, tidy lines. Make sure you bring some bug spray—the greenhead flies can get pretty intense. But the waves are worth it.
Read More: 13 Amazing Shore Surf Schools

Best: Pet-Friendly Beaches

Fisherman’s Cove (Manasquan)
Exit 98
Located on 55 acres of marshland along the Manasquan Inlet, Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area has a designated Dog Beach Park where leashed canines are welcome all year-round. The park includes a sandy beach where dog-owners can rest and relax in-between dips in the cool inlet water. Open from 7 am to dusk, the beach is free and conveniently located less than a quarter-mile from Manasquan’s oceanfront beach and just over a mile from the borough’s downtown district, which includes shops, food and the Algonquin Arts Theatre.

Island Beach State Park (Seaside Park)
Exit 82
Island Beach is for lovers of animals, both wild and domestic. One of the few undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic Coast, it is home to a large osprey colony, as well as red fox, blue herons, peregrine falcons and more than 400 species of plants. Man’s best friend is welcome south of the ocean swimming areas as long as they are on a leash no longer than six feet. Check in with the park office before bringing your furry pal, as there are certain times of the year when birds nest and dogs are prohibited—canines are specifically prohibited on the Spizzle Creek Bird Blind Trail out of respect for the wildlife there. Most visitors with four-legged friends pack picnic lunches when visiting the park, which is open from 7am to dusk on weekends and 8 am to dusk on weekdays.

Stone Harbor Beach (Stone Harbor)
Exit 10
Don’t be misled by the oceanfront signs saying pets aren’t allowed on Stone Harbor’s beach. The borough has opened the northern end of the beach between 80th and 83rd streets for leashed canines before 9 am and from 6 pm until dusk. During the day, the 82nd Street Park is popular for dog-toting families. Your pup can take in the fresh air and green grass while your family enjoys the playground, the baseball and soccer fields as well as the basketball and tennis courts. At night, take your dog for a stroll downtown, where the staff of Paw Prints hands out treats to quadrupeds.

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Exploring Ocean Grove: Where Summer Congregants Maintain a Century-Old Tradition

Colorful awnings, flags and flowers adorn Ocean Grove’s tents each summer. All photos by James J. Connolly

Three images greet visitors to Ocean Grove: the inviting downtown, the narrow streets lined with diminutive Victorians, and the neat rows of tiny tent houses that flank the massive Great Auditorium.

Jenifer Green-Grigg was baptized in the Great Auditorium and has summered in a tent house for 45 years—almost her entire adult life. She lives in nearby Spring Lake but moves to her tent each summer with her husband and 14-year-old son. All three sleep in the same canvas-covered room.

“Sleeping in the tent is magical,” says Green-Grigg. “When it rains, you can hear the rain, and we can hear the ocean.”

Jenifer Green-Grigg inside her Ocean Grove tent house.

Green-Grigg’s extended family also spends summers in the tent city: Her parents are at 1 Mount Zion Way, her grandparents at number 3, and her aunt at number 5. Her brother’s tent house is around the corner. When Green-Grigg was young and relatives came to visit, two families—eight people in all—squeezed into one tent.

Sunset illuminates the sky above the Great Auditorium.

For more than 100 years, generations of families have spent summers relaxing, attending church and Bible studies, and reconnecting with family and friends at Ocean Grove’s tent city, a unique complex of tiny residences clustered into several square blocks of this unincorporated Monmouth County community within Neptune Township. Largely used by seasonal congregants, the tents fan out from three sides of the Great Auditorium—a 6,250-seat gathering place for religious services, speakers and concerts. The building is separated from the Ocean Grove beaches by a three-block swath of lawn that funnels the morning sunlight onto the auditorium’s yellow-shingled facade and striped awnings.

Each of the tent homes is constructed on a wooden platform, the largest being about 13 feet by 18 feet. On the platform, a permanent wooden structure called a cabin houses the kitchen and bathroom. A canvas section pops out during the summer to create a living room or bedroom. In front of the canvas section juts a narrow porch, often covered by an awning. During the summer, ferns, petunias, and impatiens adorn the front porches. American flags are a common sight. Come Labor Day, the residents take down the plants and close the tents for the season, leaving just a platform, the wooden cabin (used as an off-season storage shed) and a couple of wooden poles out front.

The tents are just one of the unique features that draw people to Ocean Grove. The inclusive community’s 19th-century charm is a magnet for a diverse colony of artists and other creative types, who in recent decades have been gobbling up Ocean Grove’s cozy, gingerbread-trimmed homes. Their decidedly 21st-century influence has not changed the town’s religious character. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist group, still owns the land and grants homebuyers 99-year renewable leases on their property. Tent inhabitants do not have to be Methodist, but they do have to support the association’s spiritual mission.

A group of Methodists in search of a seaside location for worship founded the town shortly after the Civil War. They appreciated that their new community was relatively free of mosquitoes, a concern because of outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever at the time. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was formed in 1869; the Great Auditorium was completed in 1894. Over the years, dignitaries such as Ulysses S. Grant visited the Great Auditorium; other presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Richard Nixon, have spoken there. It also serves as a music venue, hosting acts as eclectic as Peter, Paul and Mary; a Queen tribute band; and contemporary Christian star Matthew West.

“It was built to help people heal after the Civil War,” says Green-Grigg’s father, Jack Green, a local developer, Great Auditorium usher for 50 years and a Camp Meeting Association trustee. He has fond memories of childhood here. “There were no cars anywhere,” he recalls. “You couldn’t even see a car. But that all changed in the 1970s, when the town was forced to open its gates to cars and join the 20th century.”

Homes along Pilgrim Pathway.

Contrasts abound. Church bells play inspirational music, and ushers dress in blue blazers and white pants for Sunday services at the Great Auditorium. Three blocks away, sunbathers lounge on the beach. For the Fourth of July parade, the Ladies Auxiliary, a church group, marches in red shirts and white shorts with flags and banners promoting their plant sale and ice cream social. Not far behind, a car draped in a rainbow flag carries members of Ocean Grove United, a local LGBT group.

Yet Ocean Grove remains a quiet oasis. Neighboring Asbury Park draws crowds with its bars, restaurants and music venues. Ocean Grove is a dry town; day-trippers tend to be families with children.

New Yorkers Kim Collan and Jason Beer enjoy breakfast at the Starving Artist.

Arnold Teixeira, a longtime resident and owner of the Starving Artist (47 Olin Street), a popular breakfast and lunch spot, says those who go to Asbury Park tend to stay there—although they might take a quick peek across Lake Wesley at Ocean Grove.

“They walk over the bridge,” says Teixeira, “and they say, ‘Ooh, how cute,’ and then they go back to Asbury Park.” Other local business owners thank Asbury Park for bringing more people to the area. “Our weekends were busy both years,” says Barbara Eisel, who for the past two summers has owned the 19-room Bath Avenue Guest House (37 Bath Avenue), a B&B two blocks from the Ocean Grove beach. “Now,” she says, “I’m seeing business during the week. It’s just nonstop.” She says many guests stay for a night to see a show at the Stone Pony or the Convention Center in Asbury Park.

Others come for the gentle delights of Ocean Grove. “You feel like you’re in Mayberry,” says Eisel. “Everybody is so friendly. It just cracks me up.”

Eisel’s partner, Sandra Carioti, who worked in institutional bond sales on Wall Street before buying the bed and breakfast with Eisel, says she appreciates the proximity of Asbury’s nightlife. “And then,” she says, “you can leave it behind, sit quietly on this porch, look at the ocean and get the breeze.”

Laura Massaro, co-owner and co-manager of the Laingdon Hotel (8 Ocean Avenue) just across from the beach, says visitors like the quiet and noncommercial boardwalk. She notes that the town’s beach was listed among the world’s 15 Best Beaches in Fodor’s guide for 2014, along with locations like Cartagena, Corfu, Corsica and Belize.

“We have definitely benefited from Asbury’s popularity,” says Massaro, who is also a Realtor for Re/Max Gateway. She refers to the two towns as “innocence and decadence.” No explanation required.

Asbury Park’s vibrant restaurant scene leaves its neighbor in the dust, but Ocean Grove is not without its downtown options, however quaint. Pear trees, wrought-iron lampposts and a clock tower punctuate the commercial district, a two-block stretch of Main Avenue. Here you can get seafood, steaks and chops at SeaGrass (68 Main Avenue), or pizza at Osteria Procaccini (50 Main Avenue). For something sweet, there’s the Ocean Grove Bake Shoppe (55 Main Avenue) and Ocean Freeze Shaved Ice (56 Main Avenue); for a pick-me-up, there’s Odyssey Coffee (50 Main Avenue). If you’re heading to the beach, you can pick up a baguette, cheese and olives at Cheese on Main (53 Main Avenue), or stop by Ocean Grove Hardware (51 Main Avenue) to rent a bike or buy a pail, shovel and flippers.

But while Ocean Grove is a hive of activity in the summer, it’s all but dead in the winter—so much so that Teixeira now shuts his restaurant for the month of January.

“There’s no one here in the winter time,” he says. “No one.”

It wasn’t always this way. Lately, he says, escalating property taxes have pushed people out in waves. On one block of 10 homes, four full-time residents sold in the last three years to New Yorkers who wanted second homes. Some longtime residents fear an ongoing tax assessment will result in another tax hike.

“I have a feeling,” says Teixeira, “that any of the people who have been here very long, that held on—this will be what pushes them out.”

Co-owners Barbara Eisel, left, and Sandra Carioti serve home-baked goods to patrons at the Bath Avenue Guest House.

That’s unlikely to be the case among the tent dwellers, although their seasonal fees have gone up too. The tents used to rent for $75-$100 for the season. These days, they run $4,000-$7,000, including water. Utilities are additional.

Change is noticeable inside the tents, too. Green-Grigg’s tent has a TV and air conditioner, and even Wi-Fi. A few years ago, her husband and she renovated the kitchen, replacing the old stove with a Jenn Air grill, toaster oven and microwave, and adding IKEA cabinets and a breakfast bar. They also put in insulation, giving them a modicum of privacy.

“With a lot of the original tents,” she says, “you could really hear everything.”

Consuming alcohol is still prohibited, but not unheard of. Now, she says, “it’s definitely loosened.”

Even Ocean Grove likes to party sometimes.


Bath Avenue Guest House: Compact Victorian with 19 rooms, most with shared baths. The hosts serve a full country breakfast and offer home-baked goods in the afternoon. High-season rates up to $185. 37 Bath Avenue. 732-775-5833.

Laingdon Hotel: Four-story Victorian hotel with 17 rooms, some with terraces and gas fireplaces. High-season rates up to $315 for a suite. 8 Ocean Avenue. 732-774-7974

The Ocean Plaza Hotel: Modernized Victorian with 16 guest rooms and three suites, some with outdoor decks and ocean views. High-season rates up to $525 for a suite. 18 Ocean Pathway. 732-774-6552.

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Exploring Sea Isle City: The Fishing Village That Reels in Summer Crowds

An aerial view of Townsends Inlet Waterfront Park, a popular surfing beach on Sea Isle City’s south end. All photos by James J. Connolly

For most Jersey Shore towns, the biggest attraction is the beach or the boardwalk. In Sea Isle City, the beating heart of town is on the bay in Fish Alley, a cluster of old-time dockside seafood markets and restaurants.

Crowds begin to gather outside Carmen’s Seafood (343 43rd Place) around dinnertime, a line of people—some wearing signature “Carmen has crabs” T-shirts—waiting to feast on the restaurant’s specialty: king, snow, Dungeness, soft, blue claw and stone crabs. Or perhaps they’re pondering Carmen’s plump and juicy fried scallops. Much of the restaurant remains unchanged since it opened in 1981, including its charming nautical décor and hanging planters.

Down the block, Mike’s Seafood (4222 Park Road) is filled with jubilant diners peeling shrimp, slurping clams and mussels, and breaking down whole lobster specials at picnic tables. The family of third-generation owner Mike Monichetti traces its fishing origins in Sea Isle back to 1911.

Fish Alley

Across the street, Marie’s Lobster House (4304 Park Road), a take-out seafood market, also boasts a full menu in a rustic, waterfront setting. On the other side of the canal is the often less crowded Oar House Pub (318 42nd Place), formerly known as the Lobster Loft.

Fish Alley’s rich fishing community dates to 1908, when dredge work on the canals opened the area to commercial fishing. Throughout the 20th century, Sea Isle fishermen supplied Pennsylvania, North Jersey and elsewhere with fresh, local seafood. Back then, Fish Alley was filled with fish houses. Now, most of the 43rd Place Canal is occupied by condos, though a modest fleet of commercial fishing boats and seafood restaurants have survived.

“This is still an active fishing community,” says Katherine Custer, Sea Isle’s director of community services. “Not every seaside town can boast that.”

Just as central to Sea Isle’s identity is its nightlife. The bar scene attracts a lively, all-ages crowd—including thirsty folk from nearby, dry Ocean City. Most bars are anchored downtown on or around Landis Avenue—named for Charles Kline Landis, who founded the town in 1882.

Chalkboards display specials at Mike’s Seafood.

Dead Dog Saloon (3815 Landis Avenue) offers live acoustic music and a strict dress code: Gentlemen must wear a collared shirt and remove their hats. Next door, Shenanigans (3815 Landis Avenue), a boisterous bar and nightclub that lives up to its name, hosts popular Reggae Tuesdays and “What the Buck” Thursdays. Ocean Drive (3915 Landis Avenue) has a large, rectangular, outdoor bar. Play a few rounds of cornhole at LaCosta Lounge and Deck Bar (4000 Landis Avenue). The Springfield Inn’s no-frills outdoor Carousel Beach Bar (4100 Boardwalk) attracts a steady crowd all day, and an even bigger one at night. For a more subdued experience, try O’Donnell’s Pour House (3907 Landis Avenue), a classic Irish pub.

Hop on the jitney and head farther south to Kix-McNutley’s (120 63rd Street), where you’ll find five different bars under one roof. The jitney runs up and down Landis Avenue until 4 am every night from June 21-September 1. From May 17-June 16 and September 6-28, it runs only on weekends. Rides range from $2-$4, depending on the time of night.

That’s not to say the town isn’t lively when the sun’s out. By day, Sea Isle’s beaches and beachfront paths are crowded with families. Walk, bike or rollerblade along the Promenade—a paved path, not a boardwalk—that runs beside the sand. Here you’ll find arcades, a bookstore and shops. You can rent bikes at Tuckahoe Bike Shop (4010 Pleasure Avenue). When you return them, grab an ice cream cone from Yum Yums (31 John F. Kennedy Boulevard), where waffle cones are made fresh to order. Then do a little souvenir shopping around the corner at Anchored in Sea Isle City (4000 Pleasure Avenue), or at the women’s boutiques Kiwi Boutique (4000 Pleasure Avenue) and Birdcage (3914 Pleasure Avenue).

For a brief respite from the sun, walk a block off the beach to Quincy’s Original Lobster Rolls (4215 Landis Avenue) for a lunch of the classic lobster sandwich. One block south, Maryanne Pastry Shoppe (108 44th Street) serves a host of baked goods.

The farther south you head, the quieter it gets. Townsends Inlet, at Sea Isle’s south end, is mainly residential, with a few restaurants and shops around 86th Street. Stroll along the sand and watch the tide come in at Townsends Inlet Waterfront Park (94th Street), where you’ll also catch beautiful sunsets on the bayside.

For the adventurous, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available to rent at Harbor Outfitters (3500 Boardwalk), which also offers guided tours, including a $49 dolphin-watching tour and $40 sunset tour.

For all its classic attractions, it’s hard not to feel like an era is passing in Sea Isle. In recent years, the town has been in transition, largely the result of Sea Isle City switching from a commission-style form of government to the mayor-council format in 2007. This has helped promote economic growth, and has been a factor in many old staples giving way to new developments.

This will be the last summer for LaCosta Lounge, a sprawling nightclub from the 1960s located on a prime downtown corner. Last year, it was purchased for $7.3 million and will be torn down and replaced with an upscale hotel, two bars and a restaurant. It could also be the last season for the beachfront Springfield Inn, whose prospective new owners are planning a major redevelopment project for the property.

With so much attention on what’s new and on the horizon in Sea Isle, it’s easy to forget where it came from. Delve into the town’s history at the Sea Isle City Historical Museum (4800 Central Avenue), or wander back to Fish Alley to appreciate what remains of the past. From there, you can almost make out the writing on the town’s water tower: “Smile, you’re in Sea Isle.”

The seafood market at Carmen’s Seafood in Fish Alley.


Modo Mio: A crowd favorite, this casual, modern trattoria specializes in refined Italian classics. 5900 Landis Avenue. 609-486-5455.

Dock Mike’s Pancake House: Bright and sunny spot serving breakfast all day. 4615 Landis Avenue. 609-263-3625.

La Finestra: Upscale Italian BYO with ocean views in the heart of Sea Isle’s main strip. 25 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. 609-486-5033.

Mako’s American Grille: Popular BYO with rustic décor and a seafood-forward menu featuring fresh ingredients. 4914 Landis Avenue. 609-263-3287.

Fish Alley Restaurants:
Carmen’s: 343 43rd Place; 609-263-1634
Marie’s Lobster House: 4304 Park Road; 609-263-8812.
Mike’s Seafood: 4222 Park Road; 609-263-3458.


The Colonnade Inn: Built in 1883, this four-story Victorian is the last surviving hotel from that era. Its 18 units range from one room to three-bedroom suites; each is decorated with a different theme. High-season rates: $155 to $485. 4600 Landis Avenue. 609-263-8868.

Sea Isle Inn: A classic, retro-chic Shore motel with a pool and free parking. The 50 units are a mix of deluxe motel rooms, efficiencies and suites. High-season rates: $115 to $250. 6400 Landis Avenue. 609-263-4371.

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13 of the Jersey Shore’s Best Raw Bars

Avenue features outdoor seating, huge oyster platters and the seafood towers known in France as plateaus. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Long Branch

In opening Avenue on the boardwalk in Long Branch in 2006, general manager Thierry Carrier, a French native, recalls, “Before we thought about anything else, we wanted a separate raw bar with seats where you could watch the guys shucking and could look out at the ocean.” Over the years, and especially in summer, Carrier says, about 40 percent of tables in the tall-windowed restaurant order something from the raw bar. There is much to choose from: Jersey clams and oysters, plus oysters from Maine and the West Coast. Happy hour prices and selections are generous. “In France,” says Carrier, “from the south to Bordeaux to Paris, you see raw bar plateaus in all the brasseries.” These are the towers that are the ne plus ultra of slurping. At Avenue, the petite plateau is $55, the grand is $85 and the royale, which serves six to eight people, is $135. It includes 12 oysters, 12 clams, 24 Prince Edward Island mussels, 8 jumbo shrimp, a whole chilled 1.5-pound lobster, four snow crab claws, an octopus salad, a conch salad and raw razor clams. Avenue also sells a lot of caviar, including Russian osetra at $135 an ounce. “It’s hard to come by,” Carrier says. “Somehow, people know we do. I’m always amazed, but it’s great.” —Eric Levin

23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900


Sunsets on the large outdoor deck are the main draw at this lively, attractive spot on the bay side of Wildwood. The dinner menu is on the pricey side, but the raw bar offers good value. The oyster sampler provides tastes of six different oysters; at our visit there were four from New Jersey, one from Prince Edward Island and one from Wellfleet, Massachusetts. We judged Jersey’s own Delaware Bay and Rose Cove selections to be the best. Also from the raw bar: Prussian Pearls (raw oysters with chilled vodka, sour cream, red onion and caviar); jumbo, lump crab cocktail; and oyster or shrimp shooters. There’s a long list of other tempting appetizers. On the specials list, we were thrilled to discover pacu ribs, a hard-to-find, easy-to-eat Brazilian fish dish slathered in a tangy mango sauce. —Ken Schlager

500 West Hand Avenue, 609-522-1062

Monmouth Beach

Overlooking the Shrewsbury River in the Channel Club Marina, Beach Tavern provides a nautical setting for oyster slurping. “It’s a good time here, especially at happy hour, when it’s packed,” says Beach Tavern’s Ken Mansfield. (Happy hours are extensive and run year-round, weekdays and weekends.) “It’s not a high-end thing; people are just excited to eat oysters and pair them with beer or prosecco.” Beach Tavern gets its oysters from Jersey’s Barnegat Oyster Collective. Its varieties include large, briny Wildling Bastards from Great Bay, north of Atlantic City, and BamBaLam Salts from Barnegat Light. The Tavern also serves oysters from Maryland, Connecticut and the West Coast, as well as clams from Virginia. Located on a back street, Beach Tavern has the feel of a hidden gem, because it’s not visible from the main drag, Ocean Avenue. Want max wow? Order the Yacht: The biggest seafood tower includes 12 oysters, 12 shrimp, 12 clams, king crab, a whole lobster and a bottle of 2014 Argyle prosecco for $150. —Emily Drew

33 West Street, 732-870-8999

Clockwise from left: Bonney Read’s kitchen; a shucker does his thing; Cajun-spiced boiled shrimp. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Asbury Park

When Chef James Avery created the Bonney Read, his seafood restaurant, he placed the raw bar so it would be visible from the street and the first thing the customer passes when entering. “It’s like a stage,” he says. “There’s a little bit of theatrics, the professionals working there, carefully making sure not to spill a drop of the liquor when opening the oyster.” One may also see oystermen in muddy boots hauling in buckets of fresh product packed in ice from the coves of Barnegat Bay. “The oysters are tumbled in ice before shucking,” he says. “It wakes them up, and they stay plump.” The daily oyster stock will always include one West Coast (“a little creamier and silkier”); two East Coast (“more briny and minerally”); one wild, from New England or farther north; and one cultivated, from Barnegat Bay. Jersey clams are featured as well. “Our clams are wild, from Sandy Hook Bay,” Avery says. “They’re called Special Necks, a cross between top necks and middle necks. Some clams give you a copper-penny taste. Ours go through a triple purge process. They lose the copper taste but retain their brininess.” Bonney Read makes its own house mignonette and cocktail sauces. For its crab claws, it makes a yuzu-mustard sauce; for its chilled lobster and shrimp, a curry aioli. There is always a crudo, marinated in a bit of olive oil, citrus or acid, and some salt. Avery serves raw local scallops with an olive gremolata and Meyer lemon juice and raw albacore tuna with a squeeze of fresh grapefruit and some olive oil. Then there are shooters: an oyster in a shot glass with a hit of spiked gazpacho. Happy as a Clam Happy Hour is every night during summer. Sundays in the restaurant, it’s Bubbles & Pearls: a dozen oysters and a bottle of Champagne, from $35 to $85, depending on the bubbly. —EL

525 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3352

Three tiers of raw and cooked seafood at Dock’s epitomize the dizzying luxury raw bars can deliver. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Atlantic City

Housed in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, this modern, upscale seafood restaurant offers sweeping seaside views and fresh local catches. Opened last year, it features a raw bar menu with steamed or chilled king crab, blue crab and Maine lobster; chilled shrimp; raw clams; and tableside caviar service with Bulgarian “Russian” osetra or California white sturgeon. Raw oyster options include Cape May Salts, Long Island Bluepoints, Pemaquids from Maine, Wellfleets, and Sweet Jesus oysters from Maryland. Just as popular are the light and aromatic New England clam chowder, a 2-pound Maine lobster cooked over a wood-fired grill, and the four shellfish pots, especially the one with Maine lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, Andouille sausage, corn and potatoes for $49. With more than 2,700 bottles on the wine list, you have plenty of pairing options. —Shelby Vittek

1000 Boardwalk, 609-449-1000

Barnegat Light

A year-round hangout on Long Beach Island, Daymark has a lively bar scene, an upstairs room for weddings, and a particularly good raw bar focused on local product. “It helps that we get High Bar oysters literally from across the street,” says Brian Sabarese, who owns Daymark as well as the Arlington in Ship Bottom. “We get Viking Village scallops every day.” Opened in 2016 in the building that formerly housed Rick’s American Café, Daymark is bright and airy, with a tiled floor, a long stone bar, wooden booths and nautically themed wallpaper. It’s a full restaurant, but raw bar aficionados lean toward the daily selection of oysters from the Delaware and Barnegat bays. The staff will happily guide you. “Local [Barnegat] oysters are actually best for beginners,” says Sabarese, “because they’re smaller than Delaware Bay oysters. They’re nice and fresh and briny, and easier to swallow.” Local clams and bluefin tuna from Massachusetts also sell well at the bar. —ED

404 Broadway, 609-494-2100

Atlantic City

Opened in 1897, Dock’s has been sustained by four generations of the Dougherty family through world wars, the Great Depression, and the declines and rebirths of Atlantic City. Dock’s closed in 2015 for a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion. What didn’t change with the 2016 reopening was the family’s commitment to fresh seafood. Behind the bar, chilled lobsters, oysters, clams and shrimp sparkle on ice below the chalkboard list of daily offerings. Oyster enthusiasts can count on about a dozen rotating selections that include Cape May Salts, Brigantine Salts, plump Chesapeake Bay oysters from Maryland, briny Wellfleets from Cape Cod, and Bluepoints and Barren Island oysters from New York State. You also can get littleneck or top neck clams on the half shell. During happy hour (4-6 pm, daily), select oysters are just $1 each. For a taste of everything, order the shellfish sampler, a tower of oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, shrimp ceviche, crabmeat and chilled lobster ($34.50 for two people, $66 for four). —SV

2405 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-0092

Atlantic City

The Dougherty family, who also own nearby Dock’s Oyster House, have combined the feel of a sports bar and a seafood shack right off the Boardwalk in Bally’s. The 20-foot raw bar cranks out multitiered samplers ($32 or $64). Oysters by the piece come from the Garden State’s Delaware and Great bays, as well as from the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island, and Virginia’s James and Rappahannock rivers. Other options include raw littleneck, top neck and cherrystone clams, shrimp ceviche, and tuna tartare in a lemon-soy dressing with blue and red corn tortilla chips in a wide cocktail glass. Bloody Mary oyster shooters are three for $12. Fish-of-the-day specials can be ordered grilled, pan roasted, fried or blackened. Grab an outdoor table on the patio, where at night there’s recorded music and lawn games like cornhole and giant Jenga. —SV

1900 Pacific Avenue, 609-431-0092

Cape May

Don’t be scared by the typical hour-long waits for a summertime table here. That’s for the indoor restaurant. The open-air raw bar, on the other hand, is self-service, and tables turn quickly. I counted more than 80 along the dockside deck, which stretches the length of a football field into Cape May Harbor. The fishing boats and the 130-foot Schooner American tied up alongside add to the ambience. You can request one of 10 indoor, dockside tables with waitress service. Raw oysters from Shell Rock in the Delaware Bay and local clams are plump and fresh. (Cape May Salts are served only in the indoor restaurant.) Other offerings include barbecued clams (topped with bacon and sharp cheddar), u-peel shrimp, steamed mussels, and stone crab claws. Steamed lobsters are popular, and the dense, creamy crab soup is a specialty. —KS

Fisherman’s Wharf, 906 Schellengers Landing Road, 609-884-8296

Choices at Triton include, from bottom left: a beer flight from a large chalkboard list; a platter of clams, oysters and shrimp; a lobster roll. Photo by Paul S. Bartholomew

Beach Haven

The clatter of shells, the clink of glasses and the chatter of a young crowd fill Triton, a happy-hour hot spot on LBI. Long pine tables with stools encourage conviviality among the young patrons, who tend to linger, partly because choices abound. Beer, for example. There are about 24 taps of craft beer and a good wine list to go with an on-site wine shop. But the main draws are local oysters and clams. On the chalkboard you’ll find the daily offering, which includes selections from far (Prince Edward Island mussels) as well as near. The house special is the Seafood Tower: 12 clams, 12 oysters, six shrimp and a 1-pound steamed lobster. Staff will help you pick a wine befitting your choice of oysters, perhaps a Muscadet or a sauvignon blanc. “We want to make the oyster-bar experience special, so you’re not just ordering a chardonnay out of habit,” says Tracey Battista, who owns Triton with her husband, Michael. “We love to turn people on to things they don’t know about.” —ED

308 Centre Street, 609-492-7308

Beach Haven

In its third summer, this ambitious BYO’s commitment to fresh oysters now includes an oyster-farming co-op with the LBI-based Barnegat Oyster Collective. Their Oyster Saloon serves a locally farmed signature oyster, Parker’s Pearl—as well as various East Coast and West Coast oysters. Local middle neck clams are offered raw on the half shell. Hungry parties can go overboard with a Single Prop or Twin Screw mixed seafood tower. The Tuna Cracker combines raw yellowfin with citrus mayo and housemade crackers. Shareables include kettle shrimp, lobster corn dog, and disco fries with short-rib gravy. The lengthy menu features a fish house stew and other seafood classics, plus a selection of whole fish, lobster and meat dishes. Reservations are essential—especially if you want to catch the perfect sunset over Barnegat Bay. —KS

116 Northwest Avenue, 609-492-1066

Long Branch

Much has changed since this oceanfront landmark opened in 1995. “I’ve definitely noticed that a raw bar menu is like a wine list now,” says manager Darrell Wordelmann, noting increased sophistication and curiosity among his customers. “It has to be detailed, because people like to pick out what’s hot.” Barnegat oysters sell well, as do bluepoints from New York and littleneck and top neck clams from Jersey. “What’s faded away is the fancy stuff,” Wordelmann says. “Razor clams have fallen off the map. King crabs have priced themselves off the market.” Fun is still on the menu, like the Bloody Mary with a Barnegat oyster pickle, celery and dehydrated olive. Look for more shooter options this summer. —ED

100 Ocean Avenue North, 732-870-1200


Three brothers opened Urie’s Fish Fry in 1956 as a paper-plate restaurant. Forty years later, the family sold it to a local restaurant group that renamed it Urie’s Waterfront. It faces the intracoastal waterway, so for sunset views and live music, grab a seat on the outdoor deck. Order a tray of clams or oysters on the half shell and a shrimp cocktail. Then move on to broiled stuffed shrimp or Maryland blue crabs, steamed and seasoned with Old Bay, and priced per crab. —SV

588 Rio Grande Avenue, 609-522-4189

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Exploring Seaside Heights: The Boardwalk Town with Something for Everyone

Seaside Heights is proud to have it both ways. Its amusement rides and boardwalk games make for family fun. Its nightlife and many nicely priced motels attract young couples and singles.

Mayor Anthony Vaz sees a common denominator. The town, he says, “is a unique enjoyment for Shore lovers.”

And it keeps getting better. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy crashed into Seaside Heights, damaging many boardwalk businesses and devastating the Casino Pier. The storm tumbled the Jet Star roller coaster into the surf, where it became a much-photographed symbol of Sandy’s wrath.

Today, the businesses are back and the Casino Pier has been rebuilt. Last year, the Hydrus roller coaster replaced the ill-fated Jet Star. “[We’re] continually improving and innovating in every aspect of the experience, particularly value, fun and comfort,” says Vaz.

The Ocean County town has also had to recover from the poor image MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show left behind. It has done that by building up its family-friendly attractions. What’s more, in 2013, one year after Sandy, a boardwalk fire destroyed Funtown Pier in neighboring Seaside Park. The pier has not been rebuilt, but boardwalk storefronts from Stockton Avenue in Seaside Park to Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights have been restored.

Even the Seaside beaches have a new look. A federal beach-replenishment effort widened the beaches and added taller, wider sand dunes, providing better storm protection and more space to spread out. New ramps over the dunes provide improved beach access.

On the boards during peak season, couples hop on the Sky Ride for an aerial cruise above the boardwalk and the beach. Families fastened into the Hydrus roller coaster scream as they plummet 72 feet at 45 miles per hour. Twenty-somethings fill their stomachs with Mexican food and margaritas at Spicy Cantina (500 Ocean Terrace).

New this year on Casino Pier, thrill seekers will find the Centrifuge, an indoor, spinning scrambler with strobe lights similar to the one Sandy destroyed. There are also three new kiddie rides. Beyond Casino Pier’s more than two dozen attractions, vacationers can try their skills at Smuggler’s Quay Adventure Golf Course or cool off at Breakwater Beach’s 10 water amusements. Arcades abound on the Seaside boardwalk. Among the favorites: Lucky Leo’s, Coin Castle, Sonny’s & Rickey’s and Casino Arcade.

Several retailers go beyond the normal beach provisions. Island Soul (1309 Ocean Terrace) carries swimwear, jewelry and even ukuleles. Le Petit Garage (1020 Ocean Terrace) offers everything from home décor to cocktail napkins. At Vintage Anchor (617 Boardwalk), you’ll find beach-chic clothing and accessories.

Craving saltwater taffy or homemade fudge? Stop by Berkeley Candy (1205 Boardwalk), a fixture on the boardwalk for more than 60 years. Van Holten’s Sweet Shop (802 Ocean Terrace) sells popcorn, brittles, gummies and—believe it or not—chocolate-covered pork roll. Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop (217 Boardwalk), which opened in 2017, allows customers to peek through a window to watch the kitchen crew create concoctions like CBD-infused chocolates.

Left photo: Sharon Beam, left, takes a surrey ride with daughter Jennifer Gardner, right, and grandkids Mason, Ella and Ava Tietze—all vacationers from Middletown, New York. Right photo: Daniel Sikorski, a 6-year-old from Toms River, knows there’s nothing finer than a slice on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

On summer nights, the barhopping is easy. Drink up at the 1950s-themed Jimbo’s Bar & Grill (715 Boardwalk). Play billiards and darts or dance at Hemingway’s Café (612 Boulevard). Or jam out with live cover bands every weekend at Beachcomber Bar & Grill (100 Ocean Terrace).

For lovers of more sophisticated fare, Broadway Meets the Beach is a free summer performance series with cast members from the Great White Way at the Franklin Avenue Stage.

Live music emanates from the Franklin Avenue Stage on Monday nights, and tribute-band concerts fill the air at Blaine Avenue Beach on Thursday nights. Monday nights also mean movies at Carteret Avenue Beach. Miss the days of drive-in movies? Head to the Sumner Avenue Parking Lot on Friday nights.

Ever wish you could sleep on the beach? On one June night and one in August, oudoorsy types pitch tents on the sand and sleep under the stars. You’ll wake up refreshed for another fun day in Seaside Heights.


Lazy River Rental: Beach homes and suites on Sherman Avenue, Bay Boulevard and Dupont Avenue, sleeping up to 16 guests. Some have pools. Five additional rental locations in Seaside Park.

Hershey Motel: Blockwide motel with more than 100 rooms, an outdoor pool with lounge chairs, kiddie pool, sundeck and Chop Shop restaurant. High-season rates: $145-$199. 1415 Boulevard. 732-793-5000.

Sea Palace Inn & Motel: Two adjacent properties with 44 rooms total. High-season rates: $150-$249. 126-136 Sumner Avenue. 732-830-6300.


Maruca’s Tomato Pies: Serving Trenton-style pizza—topped with a swirl of sauce—on the boardwalk since 1950. 601 Boardwalk. 732-793-0707.

Free Range: Locally sourced breakfast, lunch and dinner served in a bright space. 701 Boulevard. 732-250-8788

Klee’s: An Irish pub offering wraps, reubens and burgers. Klee’s Next Door Café serves breakfast. 101 Boulevard. 732-830-1996.

Genevieve’s: Italian and American food, including pasta, seafood and steak. 113 Boulevard. 732-930-3520.

The Chop Shop: This casual barbecue joint connected to the Hershey Motel serves wings, pulled pork, brisket, ribs and draft beer. 1415 Boulevard. 732-375-3066.

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