If your visions of the Jersey Shore are indelibly connected to that show, it might be high time for a visit to Sandy Hook. Not only is it the closest portion of the coast to New York City (less than an hour by car or even less on the Seastreak ferry, which conveniently departs from E. 35th or Wall Streets), it has very little to do with the hard partying, fist pumping, Bacardi-fueled bacchanalia, popularly depicted on MTV.
In fact, even though it’s home to miles of pristine beaches (where, bonus, you can actually bring your dog!), Sandy Hook is very much a quiet fishing village, with lobster boats and wooden dinghys, bobbing against the docks, as opposed to pontoons, pleasure crafts and boozy cruise ships. So after a relaxing afternoon spent sunning or swimming, or perhaps taking a brisk, rejuvenating hike through secluded Hartshorne Woods Park, take your pick of fresh-from-the-water seafood shacks or low-key, local restaurants, peddling fried soft shell crabs, hefty pub burgers, organic ice cream and more!
Bahr’s Landing: It’s hard to miss this multi-level, 1917-era restaurant and marina, towering over the Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge. On a clear day, you can actually view the NYC skyline from tables pushed against the water, while you feast on Jersey Corn and Crab Chowder, Maine Steamers, Fried Belly Clams, and whole Lobster Dinners, accompanied by creamy coleslaw and freshly baked buttermilk biscuits.
Moby’s: Located right next door to Bahr’s, this elevated, alfresco shellfish spot shares the very same spectacular views; but is even more casual. Order a dozen giant raw Bluepoint Oysters and a blended-to-order Margarita from one stand, a mess of fried seafood (like Shrimp, Clams, Scallops, Fish, or our favorite, Soft Shell Crabs) from the other, and take them to a spacious, umbrella-topped picnic table, overlooking the Atlantic.
On the Deck: If you’re worried about getting drunk on daiquiris and missing the final ferry out of town, have dinner at On the Deck, which is located right next to the Seastreak. There are shellfish options to spare, but it’s hard to ignore decadent pub grub, like Black and Tan Onion Rings (coated in beer batter), a Horseradish-Encrusted Burger (topped with panko-horseradish-gorgonzola crust), and gooey slices of Caramel and Toffee Apple Pie.
Navesink Fishery: A combination market/restaurant, a visit to Navesink Fishery is a must, whether you’re only staying in Sandy Hook for dinner, or have a summer home (with kitchen) nearby. Try a bowl of Oyster Stew, simmered with broth and finished with cream, a plate of Smoked Whiting with red onions and capers, and broiled or fried seafood sold by the pound, including Flounder, Scallops and Shrimp.
Memphis Pig Out: This 21-year-old restaurant was the first to bring authentic, slow-smoked barbecue to the Jersey Shore. Start with a visit to the 40-item Salad Bar, pick your way through a sticky pile of saucy Ribs, and conclude your meal with a slice of Tennessee Hot Fudge Cake or housemade Strawberry Pie, the recipe for which was previously published in Gourmet magazine.
Gracie and the Dudes: After years spent running artificial frozen dessert franchises, the husband-and-wife team behind Gracie and the Dudes figured they owed it to their kids — and the ice cream eating world — to go entirely organic. Meaning that they manufacture everything they sell, without the use of artificial flavors, colors or corn syrup. And their super premium, high butterfat, egg-free flavors are proprietary, meaning that you won’t be able to taste their Blueberry, Honey Granola or Cotton Candy scoops anywhere else but in Jersey.