Spring may be just around the corner, but how about getting a jumpstart on summer with a trip to the Jersey Shore? I know, the Jersey Shore gets a bad rap for a many reasons, but when it comes to food, it’s pretty legit. (Lest we forget just how good Jersey tomatoes and blueberries are!)
So instead of waiting for bawdy crowds to descend for day-long tanning sessions, romps in the surf and cotton candy along the boardwalk, check out what the dynamic, waterfront town has to offer in the off-season during their Local Restaurant Month, taking place now through March 31st. Because once you get wise to their surprisingly diverse roster of eateries — from dockside oyster bars to gourmet Chinese establishments — you might never associate the area with that MTV reality show again.
The Belmonte: Steps away from the breathtaking Navesink River, The Belmonte is located in a beautiful 1800’s-era building, modernized with sleek banquettes, candlelit sconces, and exposed brick. A Craftbar and La Esquina vet is behind the sexy, shareable tapas menu, which includes a $25 Restaurant Month prix fixe featuring options like bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with marcona almonds and blue cheese, Wild Mushroom and Chickpea Taquitos with guajillo salsa, and a trio of Sorbets or Gelato for dessert.
3 Broad St., (732) 741-3232
Fresh: Committed to supporting the local food community and area farms, this Highlands-located restaurant is offering a $35 per person prix fixe beginning with a chef’s amuse and fig jam-slathered Flatbread, followed by options like Roasted Beet Carpaccio with spiced walnuts and lemon-thyme vinaigrette, Tamari Glazed Salmon with tempura green beans, and a Chocolate Tatin draped with raspberry coulis and eggy vanilla anglaise.
144 Bay Avenue, (732) 708-0328
Molly Pitcher Inn: A historic hotel established in 1928 and overlooking the scenic, secluded Navesink waterfront, you can stay for a weekend or just stop in for dinner at the sweeping Molly Pitcher Inn. If you do the latter, you can take advantage of a $45 prix fixe for the rest of the month, featuring elegant options like Atlantic Chowder with Maine lobster, caramelized corn and sherry, a fresh, local “Catch of the Day,” and Apple Cobbler or Seasonal Sorbet for dessert.
88 Riverside Ave., (732) 747-2500
Temple Gourmet Chinese: NYC is enjoying a refined Chinese food renaissance, and it looks like New Jersey is making some equally admirable strides in that direction with spots, like Temple Gourmet Chinese, which proffers creations like Chung King Beef — filet mignon on a bed of market spinach — as well as Day Boat Scallops with garlic sauce, Peking Duck with hand-rolled crepes and Crispy Long Island Duck L’Orange.
91 Broad Street, (732) 212-8858
Oyster Creek Inn: Situated on the Great Bay just outside of the Towne of Historic Smithville, you can actually steer your boat straight to this waterfront destination, which has been supplying the Jersey Shore with fresh shellfish since 1938. And for only $32.10 during Restaurant Month, you can eat your weight in under-the-sea delights, from Grilled Octopus with smoked tomatoes to Cajun spice-rubbed Yellowfin Tuna and Maryland-style Crab Cakes, followed by Chocolate Cappuccino Mousse Creme Brulee or Carrot Cake Cups.
41 Oyster Creek Rd., (609) 652-8565
Waypoint 622: Boasting a prime view of the Manasquan River, the restaurant’s name refers to the GPS coordinates of its location on Union Landing; once a bustling commercial port in the 1700’s. That being said, the New American menus (including entirely separate selections for gluten free diners and vegetarians) are decidedly more contemporary, including IPA and honey-glazed Bacon, Ahi Tina Basil Rolls with sriracha and flying fish caviar, and Pork Chops with saffron cilantro jus, andouille sausage and littleneck clams.
622 Greene Ave., (732) 528-6665
For more information, visit Jersey Shore in Motion