TASTY EATS ON THE SHORE
Before the height of summer hits, coastal New Jersey is a worthy destination for Philadelphians who crave a beach environment without the crowds.
Once upon a time in June, Philadelphians emptied out of the city like water from a bathtub. But that is no longer the case. Though Philly’s urban environment can get a bit sticky in the summer, it’s very much a year-round town with great activities happening straight through August.
That said, it’s still nice to decamp to the Jersey Shore—merely an hour to the east—especially in the month before the crowds invade the beaches after schools let out.
From Atlantic City, the closest Shore point down to Philly, down to the tip of Cape May, there are many wonderful places to eat—and we’re not about talking boardwalk food.
While you’re on the road head toward the wave-lapped coast and have the urge to curb hunger pangs, make a pit stop at a stellar Shore restaurant, and while there are many, these are our somewhat subjective top four selections:
HOOKED UP SEAFOOD
With its strawberry-red roof adorned with a cutout of a giant crab and sign advertising, “We kill it, we grill it,” this seasonal seafood market/no-frills pop-up restaurant isn’t exactly aiming for obscurity, but the place still feels like a delightful under-the-radar discovery. A dry-erase board lists what’s available: mahi, tuna, swordfish, fluke, once in a while John Dory. Choose grilled or blackened, plus two sides, like sugar-bomb corn on the cob, sautéed summer squash or garlicky Caesar salad, all served on paper plates. It’s simple stuff.
Any sense of time or place fades as you wander from the parking lot of the Tropicana in Atlantic City, into the Quarter, the hotel’s Cuban-themed entertainment complex. But when you round a bend into this new Jose Garces restaurant, there’s no mistaking where you are—which is to say about a hundred feet from the Atlantic Ocean. An uninterrupted spread of floor-to-ceiling windows frames the dining room. It’s a startling mo- ment, actually. Garces reprises lots of his hits from Chifa, the Peruvian restaurant he closed in Philly years ago—starting with the pandebono, cheesy Colombian yucca-flour rolls, served with sticky, hot-and-sweet guava butter.
THE DIVING HORSE
The blue bloods of Seven Mile Island, the barrier atoll that comprises Avalon and Stone Harbor, turn out in print-and-pastel droves to this beachy-chic bistro with a outdoor patio and citified seafood menu. Summer 2017 chef is Steve Eckerd, a veteran of Daniel in New York. His menu revolves around Jersey’s finest: corn, scallops, peaches, tomatoes, oysters and clams.
Opened last summer in a former gelato shop in Ventnor, this is the work of young chef Michael Brennan and his father, Thomas Brennan, a casino food-and-beverage veteran. This BYOB has a menu steeped in fine- dining ambition, with dishes changing week to week and involving ingredients like roasted hare and salsify foam.
The catch of the day is simple yet fresh at Hooked Up Seafood
For more information wheretraveler.com Olon’s bar
Roasted carrots at Cardinal Bistro