BURGERS AND WINE It’s not Rouge, but nautically upscale Dogtooth Bar & Grill has customizable burgers, an extensive wine list, and yummy sammies (yellowfin tuna, Cubano, avocado BLT) that are as close as you’ll get in Wildwood—and very worth the wait at the crowded bar. 100 East Taylor Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-8383, dogtoothbar.com.
COOL SOUVENIRS On a Boardwalk full of stuff you’d rather your fourth-grader not know about quite yet (thong bikinis, beer-theme t-shirts, sex-ty booty shorts), been-there-forever Cookie’s Fun Shop offers sundries that are both clean and cool, like Beatles tees and surfing posters. 3912 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-523-1255.
SURF CAMP We thought we’d never pop up. But we did, thanks to Ocean Outfitters’ patient instructors (we especially love sisters Colleen McCoy and Denise Carusi), who teach from breaks off the Crest and the north end. 6101 New Jersey Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 609-729-7400, newjerseysurfcamps.com.
HOTEL The StarLux, for its contemporary, Standard-esque vibe, for the family-friendly suites, and for the simple reason that it makes us hope that one day soon, the remaining Doo-Wop motels will, at long last, follow its updated-retro example. Book early—like last year—if you want the big room in the high season. 305 East Rio Grande Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-7412, thestarlux.com.
Cloudy-Day Trip Let sassy-salty captains Ginny and Ed take you on a two-hour Salt Marsh Safari, and you’ll never cross another toll bridge without peering out the window to look for a snowy egret or an oyster catcher. Their 40-foot Skimmer pontoon leaves daily from an almost-hidden dock between Cape May and Wildwood Crest. Go when it’s cloudy or rainy, and you won’t have to worry about motor-boaters scaring away the terns, fiddler crabs, loons, cormorants, laughing gull chicks, black skimmers … Around $27 for adults and $15 for kids. Ocean Drive between Fish Dock Road and the toll bridge, Wildwood Crest, 609-884-3100, skimmer.com.
DINER The Star Diner has everything you want in the genre: a big parking lot, a bigger menu, comfy booths, perky waitresses, and a space-age atmosphere fit for the Jetsons. 325 West Spruce Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-729-4900, stardinercafe.com.
BOARDWALK Say what you want about it: It’s too crowded. It’s too low-rent. (Yes, we went there.) It’s too price-gougy. (Yes, we went there, too.) And we’ll never get over the razing of the Golden Nugget Mine Ride. (Never.) But there is nowhere else along the entire Shore that delivers more dizzying, whirling, crazy, amusing, devilish fun than Wildwood’s electric, people-watching-worthy, trash-tastic Boardwalk. Wildwoodsnj.com.
BISTRO Claude’s is a little French restaurant run by adorable marrieds Claude and Mary Pottier (he’s the French chef, she’s the American front-of-the-house) that’s a truly hidden gem, a teeny dose of Edith Piaf glamour formerly of Stone Harbor, now of North Wildwood. Who knew? 100 Olde New Jersey Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-522-0400, claudesrestaurant.com.
IRISH PUB The Irish have been flocking to North Wildwood for decades (and still are, as the town’s annual jam-packed, rowdy “Irish Weekend” the last weekend of September proves). And there may be no better display of Celtic hospitality than Peggy and Art West’s expansive Westy’s Irish Pub, built on the site of the late Cozy Morley’s legendary dive, Club Avalon. (There’s a wonderful statue of Cozy out front.) The comfort food and beer selections are standard issue, but the warm “We’re thrilled to see you” atmosphere delivers a taste of Dublin that’ll leave you “dyin’ of the thirst” for just one more. 101 East Walnut Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-522-4991, westysirishpub.com.