ICE CREAM (NEWCOMER) In its debut at 40th Street last summer, Aunt Betty’s Ice Cream (a spin-off of the famed Uncle Bill’s Pancake House chain) earned rookie-of-the-year honors in the Shore ice-cream wars. Why? An army of bustling college girls who keep even the longest hot-summer-night lines moving, and delicious, generously portioned servings that make up in creamy taste what they lack in imagination. (No wild flavors here.) Next! 21st Street and Asbury Avenue, and 40th Street and West Avenue; 609-398-4001.
CHEAP EATS If the beach day gets rained out, if the kids’ whining lurches into overdrive, if the sunburn stings or the jellyfish do, a tidy burger, crinkly fries, and a ridiculously thick 22-ounce milkshake (made with Breyers ice cream) from Kessel’s Korner can make it all better. Much, much better. 2760 Asbury Avenue, 609-398-1170.
BEACH The 50th Street Beach represents all that we love about the Jersey Shore: friendly folks (the vast majority of whom do not yak on their cell phones—yes, Margate people, we’re talking to you), lifeguards who aren’t whistle-crazy, postcard-worthy toddlers discovering the wonders of waves, clean sand, and mercifully clockwork appearances at the entrance by the fudgie-wudgie guy. Colorful umbrellas, fat ladies in beach chairs submerging seaside, lopsided sand castles, horseshoes, bocce, paddleball, Wiffle Ball, volleyball: We just want to put it all in a snow globe and keep it on our desk to get us through the winter. Ocnj.us.
MEAT ’N’ POTATOES Because if Marie Gledhill, Philly Mag receptionist for 22 years and Shore aficionado for more than that, says Mildred’s is her favorite spot for classic American steak and mashed with gravy — “They have good seafood, too”—we’re not gonna disagree. And neither are you. 901 Ocean Drive, 609-263-8209.
VINTAGE BAR We wrestled mightily with recognizing Twisties, which is just completing a massive renovation. Not because it doesn’t deserve it; recognition is long overdue for its cool throwback vibe, including an old-school bar and a lip-smacking array of pub fare. (Our regular order: a cold draft and a burger.) Our hesitation comes from alerting the general public to what we’ve long considered our secret, off-the-beaten-Shore-path go-to spot. Sigh. Now we’ll never get a table. 236 Bayview Drive, 609-263-2200, twistiestavern.com.
Sea Isle City
SHORE BAND You’ve got to give it up to the guys of Secret Service: Yes, they’ve been playing since before the kids who now stand and sing along to “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” were even born. (Probably before the Beastie Boys were born, for that matter.) But even as they hurtle toward a date with Social Security, every Sunday and Wednesday, Craig Phillips and Dom Albanese rock out “The O.D.” (that’s the Ocean Drive, a club that’s also as old as dirt) as hard as any other cover band at the beach. 40th Street and Landis Avenue, 609-263-1000, theod.com and secretserviceonline.com.
KIDS’ STUFF When the old Fun City kiddie amusement park on Landis Avenue was sold in 1999 to make way for — how novel! — even more condos (ah, remember the Aughts?), longtime Sea Islers moaned at another piece of their collective identity being dragged out to sea. Its erstwhile reinvention, Gillian’s Funland, brought to you by the folks who created Ocean City’s Wonderland Pier, may lack the easy off-the-Promenade locale, but it still delivers tyke-size giggles and smiles that will live in your camera phone forever. 304 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, 609-263-1363, gillians.com.