The North Shore
Our first-ever guide to the north-of-LBI beach scene-along with a surprising defense (yes, defense!) of The Situation, Snooki, and the televised Jersey Shore.
PEOPLE-WATCHING It’s a pain to get to Gunnison Beach, and that’s on purpose: As the state’s only legally nude beach, the, ahem, intimate parcel boasts more people who really should be wearing bathing suits than not (typical of most nudie locales), but it’s a lark, it’s crowded, and you never have to worry about shaking the sand out of your suit. Gunnisonbeach.org.
WEEKEND STAY Strolling the lovely Pier Village, you’ll find an expansive promenade anchored by trendy shops and restaurants that will have you muttering, “Toto, we’re not in Sea Isle anymore.” Its anchor is the just-opened Bungalow Hotel, an oasis of European chic that—coupled with its adjacent private beach club, Le Club—will have you believing you’re closer to Monte Carlo than Montclair. C’est si bon! Pier Village, 1 Chelsea Avenue, 732-923-0100, piervillage.com; Bungalow Hotel, 50 Laird Street, 732-229-3700, bungalowhotel.net; Le Club, 23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900, leclubavenue.com.
FINE DINING “Latin-infused Spanish Portuguese”? At the Shore? Though the combo sounds more suitable for New York’s East Village, it’s alive and, well, cooking at Bistro Olé, part of the remarkable (and long overdue) renaissance that’s finally come to Asbury Park. Owner Rico Rivera and Venezuelan-born chef Wil Vivas have created a clean, elegant corner space (with outdoor sidewalk seating) featuring food that most definitely is not Boardwalk fare. Among the marquee dishes: two addictive paellas; sea bass topped with Spanish pesto and bread crumbs and served over avocado salsa; and the Olé Olé chicken, juicy breasts stuffed with manchego cheese and spinach. The downside: No reservations accepted. The upside: Worth the wait. 230 Main Street, 732-897-0048, bistroole.com.
OLD-TIME SHORE FEELING Yes, parts of Asbury still need rehab. (Okay, a lot of rehab.) But faded or not, there’s no resort along the whole Shore with more grand signage and architecture telegraphing the seaside allure—and timeless pull—of the Shore. Cityofasburypark.com.
GIFT SHOP Mike Buess’s visually arresting Bodega Shoppe evokes the feel of a 1920s Parisian apothecary. Inside, you can find the best of all possible purchases: great gifts you’ll eventually decide to keep for yourself. Amid the fab jewelry, scented soaps and quixotic kids’ stuff, we adored the Asbury Lanes cuff links ($32) and the mermaid bottle opener ($18). Bought both. Kept both. 800 Ocean Avenue, No. 105, 732-775-4005, bodegashoppe.com.
BEACH For years, the immaculate strip of sand here (why do the North beaches seem so much cleaner?) was best known for partying college kids and the adults who love to leer at them (we know, gross), but lately Belmar has done a great job of dialing down the frat-house vibe. The result is a beach with a little bit of everybody, from toddlers tumbling into the surf to hipsters strumming guitars to grandmas reading trashy novels. (Bonus: Great foot showers for washing off the sand when you exit. Hint, hint, Jersey Cape.) Every September, the town hosts an awesome beach party for kids with autism (last year’s drew more than 3,000 people); this year, it will also present “Sunday Night Movies” on the beach, a kid-friendly lineup screening at the 8th Street entrance that kicks off June 27th with Monsters vs. Aliens. BYOP (bring your own popcorn)—and a blanket. 732-681-3700, belmar.com.
MINI-GOLF Boomers nostalgic for the carnival of their youth lament the demise of the old Belmar Playland, but at least there’s still Belmar Playland and Roof-Top Golf, a kitschy maze of 18 holes filled with suitably silly obstacles perfect for entertaining (and frustrating) the biggest and smallest would-be Arnold Palmers. 1400 Ocean Avenue, 732-681-5115.
DINER Who’s On Third boasts a baseball theme, but it’s the Flintstonian “Mile High” sandwiches that are the home run. The place is a mecca for breakfast, but skip the long waits then and drag your brood off the beach for a midday meal instead—with the caveat that you might not still fit in your bathing suits when it’s over. 1300 Third Avenue, 732-449-4233.
SHOPPING The prospect of a retail stroll down Americana-infused Third Avenue will have you almost hoping for a cloudy day. Among its dozens of shops, find classic menswear at Village Tweed and equally classic threads for her at Camel’s Eye; the Third Avenue Surf Shop offers suitably gnarly surfwear to keep any Shore teen feeling stylish. (Owner Curran Fallon also offers private surfing lessons.) Our favorite retail spot? Soothing home-and-garden oasis Nest, which serves up a treasure trove of truly lovely accoutrements for both (and sure smells nice, too). Stroll, browse, and bring the charge card. Village Tweed, 1213 Third Avenue, 732-449-2723; Camel’s Eye, 1223 Third Avenue, 732-449-3636; Third Avenue Surf Shop, 1200 Third Avenue, 732-359-6886, 3rdavesurf.com; Nest, 1317 Third Avenue, 732-974-8900.
VINTAGE RESORT All that’s missing from the fabulous oceanfront Breakers is ladies twirling parasols. (Paging Jane Seymour in Somewhere in Time!) Our fave: Eating breakfast on the veranda, facing the beach. More tea, please. 1507 Ocean Avenue, 732-449-7700, breakershotel.com.
BREAKFAST The thing you’ll wonder about Mariner’s Cove more than anything is: Where do they store all this food? The cozy coffee shop has a breakfast menu that can only be called behemoth, with offerings that range from your traditional eggs and pancakes to authentic Irish bangers and mash, banana cinnamon sugar waffles, and more than 200 renditions of the omelet. (Caviar, anyone?) The wait can be a bit long, and the service is polite but slightly brusque (this is not the place to linger over a meal), but man, is it delicious. 712 Union Avenue, 732-528-6023.
RAINY-DAY ACTIVITY Along with your pro forma slippery life-forms circling around in tanks (tropical fish, sharks, rays), Jenkinson’s Aquarium also houses surprisingly amusing African penguins, parrots, and an authentic rainforest habitat where you can see pygmy marmosets, the world’s smallest monkeys. And as anyone with a kid under 10 can tell you, when the clouds roll in, such diversions can be sanity-savers. 300 Ocean Avenue, 732-899-1212, jenkinsons.com.
PARTY SPOT The drinks are big, the bikinis are small, the beers are cold, the live music is hot, the boys are wild, and the girls are … wilder, on the boozy, zany, cheek-by-cheeks deck that is Martell’s Tiki Bar. Wildwood circa 1975 lives! Boardwalk at Central Avenue, 732-892-0131, tikibar.com.
COUNTRY CLUB Thurston, Lovey and the rest of the swells of the North Shore gather at the exquisite Bay Head Yacht Club for lazy games of tennis, lazier spins around the harbor, and—of course—evening cocktails amid the iconic boathouse splendor. You can’t access it without knowing a member, which is why everyone desperately wants to know a member. Start dialing around. 111 Metcalfe Street, 732-899-2000, bayheadyachtclub.org.
SOUVENIRS If it’s kitsch and you need it, want it, or used to have it and are now wistful for it, chances are it’s for sale inside the Ben Franklin Five and Dime. 1205 Grand Central Avenue, 732-830-3790.
ICE CREAM Looking for a cheap cone? Salty’s Ice Cream Parlour isn’t for you. A small will run you $3.27, but the servings are generous, the flavors are unique (vanilla peanut butter caramel cookie dough, birthday cake) and yummy, and the college kids who scoop have, mercifully, been taught that most neglected of arts: pleasant customer service. There’s a reason there’s always a line out the door. 1901 Route 35 North, 732-793-4308.
WATER PARK While Jenkinson’s Breakwater Beach does, indeed, have a birthday-party tent, a lagoon, and a whole area devoted to tykes, it’s the heart–pounding snaky slides, plunges and waterfalls for the over-42-inch set that make this a must-do—including the Perfect Storm, a crayon-colored real-life version of the board game Mousetrap that periodically sends 800 gallons of water tipping over and down upon the shrieking throng. 732-793-6488, casinopiernj.com.
BOARDWALK If you’re nostalgic for the Wildwood of yesteryear—Hunt’s Pier, Stanley Sportland, Skyline Golf, that big King Kong that used to tower over Morey’s Pier—you’ll adore the current-day Seaside Heights Boardwalk. From the quixotic Howdy Doody-like mural to the old-school skyride to the games of chance you can actually win, it’s crazy and carnival-y and yes, cheesy. And also fantastic. 800-SEA-SHORE, seasideheightstourism.com.
PIZZA Gooey, cheesy, thick, drippy, greasy, saucy and, most of all, massive are what the slabs of pizza at the legendary Sawmill are all about. Plan on cutting your intake by half (if you’re normally a four-slice eater, you’ll be lucky to polish off two), wolfed down with some cheap beer amid the raucous crowd and occasionally decent local bands. (Give it up for … the Amish Outlaws!) Biggest plus: The owners wouldn’t sign a waiver allowing Snooki, The Situation & Co. to come in and film last year. Who said the Joisey Shore doesn’t have class? 1807 Boardwalk, 732-793-1990, sawmillcafe.com.
This summer, the tony 18-mile isle promises more reasons to love LBI: local food, dope surf, quiet playtime – and cocktail parties galore.
FISH MARKET Straight off the fleet, just off your grill, Cassidy’s cherrystones, scallops, tilefish, shrimp, tuna and flounder taste like summer itself. 18th Street and Bayview Avenue (in Viking Village), 609-494-8140.
SOUVENIRS If creaky and wonderful and sea-salty Andy’s at the Light has changed its inventory in the past few decades, well, we haven’t noticed. Those shell–encrusted jewelry boxes still make us believe in mermaids and pirate treasure. 202 Broadway, 609-494-3111.
CLOUDY-DAY ACTIVITY LBI doesn’t have a Boardwalk. But it does have Viking Village, a charming inlet of historic cedar-shake fishing shacks made over into tiny shops, where there are by–reservation-only Friday–morning dock tours—and more seaside memories than at all those amusement parks to the north or south. 19th Street and the Bay, 609-494-7211, visitlbiregion.com.
TAKEOUT SEAFOOD When there’s two feet of snow on the ground, when we’ve been stranded inside for what feels like eternity, we dream of the dockside picnic tables outside Off the Hook, and of one massive, two-hand-assisted bite of fresh flounder sandwich, followed by a fistful of fresh-from-the-fryer fries. A little farther into the summer, we’re just as happy to call in an order for quick pickup, and dine at home in our bathing suits. Get extra onion rings for the ride home. 1905 Bayview Avenue (in Viking Village), 609-361-8900, vikingoffthehook.com.
GROCER Little, summer-only White’s Barnegat Light Market packs in a mind-blowing array of vacation must-haves (prime rib, bagels, olive oil, SPF 50) along its narrow aisles, making this our first stop once we get to the island’s north end. Insiders know to request the triple-smoked bacon at the deli counter —- heaven. 1507 Central Avenue, 609-494-2752.
DINER Now that Debbie and Bill Smith have their James Beard “America’s Classic” award, we’re more hopeful than ever that they’ll never, ever leave Mustache Bill’s Diner. We’re glad to know our kids will be ordering Bill’s famous animal-shaped pancakes—and we can count on the coleslaw, roast beef, mac-and-cheese and eggs over light—for years to come. West 8th Street at Broadway, 609-494-0155.
SOCIAL SCENE A tennis club, day camp, art gallery, yoga studio, indie cinema and art workshop rolled into one, the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences (LBIF) is an end-all be-all that’s the see-and-be-seen scene for the island’s upper half. 120 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-1241, lbifoundation.org.
CATERER Years after she left the Four Seasons Nevis to open Foodies in, of all places, South Jersey, outrageous Peggy Feudi is still working the over-the-top spreads. Her gourmet-to-go shop packs in endless options for four-star picnics and her catered feasts remain absolutely de rigueur among the lagoon-manse set. 8010 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-4212.
SURF COMPETITION This August, the East Coast’s shreddingest wahines will compete in Jetty Coquina Jam, the “sister” event to LBI’s all-male, later-in-the-fall, super-hyped Jetty Clam Jam. Named for the tiny, vibrantly colored bivalves that wash up along the waterline each summer, the Jam starts with some super-hot heats and concludes with the awarding of a -surfboard-shaped, shell-inlaid, super-coveted trophy by local artist Joel -Dramis—and the summer’s best beach top-clam-and-beer party. August 11th, Hudson Avenue Beach, 800-900-6435, jettylife.com.
CLAMS Backing up to the Barnegat Bay watershed, just across the bridge from LBI, the squall-and-salt-air-worn shack that’s home to Blacky’s Clams has wholesaled three, and only three, takeout items for as long as anyone can remember. Fresh and local littlenecks, topnecks and chowders represent five generations of the clamming Paul family’s trade. The only thing they sell but don’t harvest: lemons. 1128 East Bay Avenue, 609-597-4260.
SURF SHOP Cutest owners. Cutest board shorts. Three locations. Zero attitude. For 40 years, Farias owners Vince and Michele have maintained a distinctly LBI brand of classic-casual, treating beach-bike renters and longboard pros with gentle care that makes summer residents feel just as cool as the locals. 506 Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City, 609-494-8616, 2804 Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom, 609-494-7368, and 823 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven, 609-492-0200; fariassurf.com.
BYOB There are the obvious do’s and don’ts about dining at tiny Yellowfin: Do: Reserve at least two weeks in advance. Do: Bring an extra bottle of rosé. Don’t: Bring an extra guest. Do: Order the fried Jersey tomato special. Do: Expect to splurge. Don’t: Skip the Key lime pie. But here’s one, less obvious Don’t: Gossip. The place is so small, and the tables are so close together, that anything you say after that fourth glass of rosé will definitely be overheard and recalled by your fellow diners. In other words, Do: Remember: It’s a long island, but a small one. 104 24th Street, 609-494-7001, yellowfinlbi.com.
BREAKFAST SANDWICHES An institution for carnivores—the ribs, the hot dogs, the chicken cutlets, the filets!—is also a best-kept secret for quick and yummy just-got-to-the-island (or just-got-back-from-tennis) egg sammies. Oh, and they cater, too. Okie’s, is there anything you can’t do? 2107 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-5577, okiesbutchershop.com.
ONE-HALF OF A DI BRUNO’S FIX Homemade chicken parm, a well-stocked olive bar, sopressata-layered hoagies, and a billion varieties of EVOO make Mario’s our go-to spot for Italian to-go. 1905 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-361-2500.
OTHER HALF OF A DI BRUNO’S FIX LBI’s very own house of cheese, Cheese Shoppe is known among summer residents as both the savior of and inspiration for impromptu cocktail parties. 1800 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-4630.
BAGELS, PHILLY-STYLE Bagels & Beyond’s are doughy in and out. Like Hot Bagels. 1616 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-4848; also at 4008 Long Beach Boulevard, Beach Haven, 609-494-4400.
BAGELS, NEW YORK-STYLE
Bageleddi’s are crunchy outside, doughy in. Like H&H. 1714 East 18th Street, 609-494-4761.
FRESH FRUITS AND VEGGIES No worries if you missed the Red Top on your way into town. Country Corner has you covered, not just for Jersey corn and tomatoes and blueberries, but also for windowbox plants and peach pies. If you’re on either end of the island, the traffic to get here can be maddening—but really, it’s the best produce in town. 275 West 9th Street, 609-494-0667.
SCIENCE LESSON Championing cleaner waters around the island since the ’80s, the not-for-profit, environmentally minded Alliance for a Living Ocean has recently enjoyed a resurgence, with new staff, new initiatives and new events, making its longtime family programs better than ever. Weekdays, kids who join the bay-beach Sea Critter Round-Up get to pull seining nets through the water to see and touch blowfish, blue claws, killies and more crawly-swimmy creatures from Barnegat Bay. 202 West 27th Street, 609-494-7800, livingocean.org.
CRABCAKE For more than 20 years, jumbo lump crabmeat in its purest form—plus a delicious variety of fresh local fish, crab chowder, raw bar items, creative sauces, and a fish market that somehow doesn’t even smell like fish—has made Ship Bottom Shellfish our must-stop, even if we’re in town for just the weekend. 721 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-0088, shipbottomshellfish.com.
Long Beach Township
HIDDEN DIVE Hard to find, easy to love, the Hudson House dates back to Prohibition and has had past lives as a B&B and a boardinghouse. Today, tucked into a residential neighborhood, the pub features darts, a jukebox, Blue Moon on tap, and salty locals. 19 East 13th Street, 609-492-9616.
WATER SPORTS OUTFITTER Ocean, wind and weather conditions are ever-changing on this 18-mile sandbar, and full-service Island Surf & Sail can hook you up no matter if the bay is glassy or the waves are choppy. Talk to owner Terry Deakyne to know if you oughta borrow a wakeboard and shred some bay, rent kayaks for self-powered bay exploration, take a lesson in kite- or wind-surfing when the breeze picks up, or practice your balance on a stand-up paddleboard when the air dies down. 3304 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-5553, islandsurf-sail.com.
BURGERS + FRIES Those of us who grew up summering in LBI return year after year to the porch of Dom’s Drive In for the juicy burgers and skin-on fries—and to feel like we’re 10 again. 3705 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-494-3333.
PARTY With Wyndecrest Home store owner and Historical Association trustee David Allieri taking the helm of the charity’s annual restaurant-festival-style fund-raiser, you know Porch Party is going to be the soiree of this summer. (Now if we could just get on the list for him and Mark Eggleston to redo our beach cottage …) June 27th; $25. 609-492-0700, lbimuseum.org.
BOUTIQUE An off-season expansion has doubled the splurge-worthy inventory of Elizabeth and James, William Rast, GentleFawn, A.G., L.C., etc., at girly Tula the Boutique, thereby doubling the my-sundress-is-cuter-than-yours competition at the Black Whale. 806 North Bay Avenue, 609-492-2099, tulatheboutique.com.
BEACH BAR Note to the rest of you Shore towns: Please spend an afternoon at the Tiki Bar at the Sea Shell, with its friendly delivery of boat drinks and fish tacos, its reliable repertoire of sing-along-worthy cover bands, and its essential-for-Jersey retractable roof. Then, copy it. We promise not to tell. Are you listening, Stone Harbor? 10 South Atlantic Avenue, 609-492-4611, seashelllbi.com.
FAMILY DINNER The aptly named BYOB Beach House offers the exact kind of meals you’d make in your own beach house, if you didn’t need to spend every last minute affixed to your beach chair: filler-less crabcakes, garden salads to share, chicken fingers, homemade brownie sundaes — and your favorite chardonnay (since you’ve brought it yourself). 13015 Long Beach Boulevard, 609-492-1997.
POST-JOE POP’S REFUELING If you haven’t dug into a six-egg “ultimate” omelet between the hours of two and five a.m. at the Chegg, then you really haven’t partied on LBI. (And if you haven’t gotten help polishing off your omelet from that cute Bud-drinker you met at the bar a few hours earlier, then you probably haven’t gotten lucky on LBI, either.) The Chicken or the Egg, 207 North Bay Avenue, 609-492-3695, 492fowl.com.
SUMMER SEND-OFF Chowderfest, a bustling, bittersweet tribute to a summer gone by and cooler weather to come — and a fierce competition among the island’s chefs—is the biggest and best last hurrah around. (Just don’t refer to the star of the show as “soup.”) October 2nd-3rd. Taylor Avenue Ball Field, 609-494-7211, visitlbiregion.com.
The Jersey Cape
From Avalon style to Wildwood thrills, A.C. debauchery to O.C. delights—the best of this season from Jersey’s south seaside
SURF FISHING When the tide isn’t too high, and the blues are running, and you’ve secured a permit to drive your SUV onto the beach, you won’t find a better, more relaxing place along the whole coastline to cast out your small rod and snag a couple of those deliciously oceanic one-to-two-pound bluefish than the southernmost jetty facing Atlantic City. For a permit, go to 1417 West Brigantine Avenue, 609-266-7600, brigantinebeachnj.com.
SPOT TO SPOT A KARDASHIAN Now that Harrah’s Pool is part of Perez Hilton et al.’s socializing-for-hire calendars, surely the paparazzi-addled, amply outrageous, inexplicably celebrated set will be making much-ado’ed appearances at the Loft, its newer mezzanine lounge. 777 Harrah’s Boulevard, 609-441-5000, harrahsresort.com.
BUFFET In a casino where bling-arific excess reigns, the Borgata’s smorgasbord—just $28.95 a person at dinner—strikes us as the property’s best bargain. Spot-on sushi, rich pulled pork, endless seafood, a generous smattering of low-cal spa fare, and unlimited trips to the homemade gelato bar make us feel fine about taking a place in the cafeteria line. 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000, theborgata.com.
RAINY DAY WITH KIDS So what if the whole place is approximately the size of Adventure’s hippo tank? The Atlantic City Aquarium, helming the legitimately adorable lagoon village of Gardner’s Basin, derives its lure and charm from a touch-pool of friendly, smiling baby rays, an extremely patient and enthused staff, and the simple fact that the seahorses swimming behind glass come from bay waters a few yards away. 800 North New Hampshire Avenue, 609-348-2880, oceanlifecenter.com.
FREE SHOW Eardrum-poppingly loud, neck-crickingly fast, and more head–turningly death-defying than pretty much any other spectacle you might encounter out-of-doors in this metropolis by the sea (and, trust us, there’s a lot to turn heads in A.C.), the all-day Atlantic City Airshow features some of the coolest, trickiest flying machines the U.S. military puts up into the ether. Last year, nearly a million people came to watch jets blast by the
Boardwalk at hundreds of miles per hour, sometimes just 50 feet above the water, oftentimes spiraling in feats typically reserved for action movies. Go early to score parking. Better yet, park the car in Ventnor, ride bikes in, and make a day of it. Just remember to pack the earplugs. August 25th, Atlantic City Boardwalk.
SPA DAY Nothing tops the service from a chaise lounge on the Water Club’s 32nd floor. Nothing. Except the view from the chaise after a quick dip in Immersion’s sky-high lap pool. Or the view while you wait for an Egyptian milk-and-honey cocoon float treatment. And eat cold grapes. 1 Renaissance Way, the Water Club at Borgata, 800-800-8817, thewaterclubhotel.com.
SIMPLE CARB FIX We’ll never turn down a taffy spree at James’s or Fralinger’s, but for the sheer penny-candy-gone-wild, Technicolor buzz of it, the Pier-anchoring It’Sugar sweet shop is easily the highlight of any trip to A.C.’s boards. Promise your kid a make-your-own candy bar or a you-mix-it bag of M&Ms, and Junior will behave like an angel as you shop Gucci, the Apple store, Janie & Jack, Scoop NYC. … The Pier Shops at Caesars, 1 Atlantic Ocean, 609-289-4200, itsugar.com.
SALAD A few reasons why Seablue’s super-fresh, now-classic DIY concoctions taste so summer: 1. With options like Asian pears, 24-month parmesan, sultanas and crispy sunchokes, this is a control freak’s fresh dream—with a wine list to match. 2. When restaurants are in charge of the mix, you always resort to plucking out one ingredient. 3. It’s bikini season, and salad is all you eat anyway. The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000, theborgata.com.
SUSHI Fast, fresh, fairly economical and thoroughly unfancy, BYOB Yama is a rare find for raw fish basics (spicy tuna, salmon maki). 5305 Atlantic Avenue, Ventnor, 609-822-8007.
WORKOUT The only way we’ll be wearing that tiny Missoni string number to the Greenhouse this summer: multiple hour-long sessions on Breathe Studio’s reformer with Pilates babe Marlena Baylinson, whose sunny demeanor makes that dastardly 100 feel like half that. 8005 Atlantic Avenue, Margate, 609-822-8088.
TEEN BOUTIQUE Let’s face it: In these days of downsized summer vacations, you’re not buying her any more beach -cover-ups from Knit Wit. Stocking up on super-easy sundresses at Heavenly Couture will set you back about $20 a pop, which leaves just enough allowance for her billionth pair of Havaianas. 9600 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-822-4634, and 1356 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 609-399-0034.
BAGELS Your traditional plain, egg, pumpernickel and onion varieties, along with a cornucopia of oddball others (a trail mix bagel?), are all served fresh, warm and chewy at the appropriately named Hot Bagels & More. And don’t forget to take home a tub of schmear. There’s a reason every Jew from Atlantic City to Longport is here every morning, people. Follow the leaders. 7807 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-823-4144.
SHORE GOSSIP The local Starbucks serves up a lot more dish than just baked goods, darling. Chances are if it’s juicy and you heard it, you heard it here. 8005 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-487-9989, starbucks.com.
FARMERS’ MARKET After a hard-fought battle with a local grocer who shall not be named, the good folks at Steve & Cookie’s are finally exercising their right to bring Downbeach its very own alfresco fair of local food and produce. Margate Community Farmer’s Market, being in Margate, surpasses other beach towns’ versions, with vendors offering everything from Jersey honey to organic raspberries, made-to-order basil lemonade, classic Formica Brothers rolls and sushi-grade Barnegat scallops. 9700 Amherst Avenue (in Steve & Cookie’s parking lot), Margate, steveandcookies.com/misc/farmers.html. Thursdays from late June through August, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
ICE CREAM (OLD FAVORITE) The only thing missing from the 1950s–evoking Dairy Bar is Joan Blondell’s grizzled waitress wryly remarking to Frenchy, “There’s no use crying over spilt milkshake.” Order me a peanut butter sundae and get me Danny Zuko! 9510 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-822-9559.
BUFFALO WINGS Coupled with an ice-cold beer, the meaty bones at Charlie’s may be the best just-off-the-beach appetizer you can eat. Do yourself a favor and order them done sloppy (that means lotsa sauce) and “tail gun” (mild, though they still pack plenty of snap); the “top gun” come with the warning “Hell Fire! No kidding!” We’ve had ’em, and believe us: They’re not kidding. 800 Shore Road, 609-927-3663, charliesbar.com.
OFF-THE-ISLAND WATERING HOLE Inside the 130-year-old Anchorage Tavern (nicely remodeled after a fire, but still retaining its charm), it’s all about the bar, the game du jour on the TVs, and friendly chats over a beer with the regulars. Outside, looking out at the bobbing boats in the harbor from the front porch, you might actually think you’re in Cape Cod. A noisy, Jersey Cape Cod where there can be a lengthy wait for a table, but still … 823 Bay Avenue, 609-926-1776.
BEACH FOR DOG-WALKING
Shifting sands have created a narrow strip of walkable beach just north of the Ocean City-Longport Bridge. The bay side is favored by fishermen. The dunes are reserved for terns, herons and loons. But the stretch of sand itself is perfect for a rare walk with your beach-loving golden, Lab, ’doodle, etc. It’ll be hard to keep Bailey on her leash, but try. Those birds will thank you.
LUNCH AMONG LADIES Relocated from Ventnor, cheery Ma France Crêperie has become the simply chic afternoon refuge for women-who-nibble and co-eds who’ve semestered in Lyon. Recommended eating: the crepe with mushrooms and gruyère or red-wine-braised duck; signature vegetarian onion soup; the dessert crepes with Nutella, of course. 506 9th Street, 609-399-9955, mafrancecreperie.com.
(CARIBBEAN) ISLAND FARE We know what you’re thinking. We thought the same thing: Authentic Caribbean food in Wonder Bread Ocean City? Deeply earthy, spicy, dark-meat Jamaican jerk chicken? Exotic, irresistible, crispy-sweet plantains? Fragrant shrimp curry? We know. But trust us: 701 Mosaic is the real deal. You might not even mind that, this being a dry town and all, there’s no dark rum to turn the homemade ginger beer into a dark ’n’ stormy. 701 4th Street, 609-398-2700.
COFFEE SHOP When Who’s On First opened a couple of years ago, it immediately drew a line of locals craving La Colombe Americanos and the warm, crunchy mocha-chip or oatmeal-raspberry or peach-ginger diet-spoiling scones that have become as essential to any Ocean City stay as Kohr’s soft serve, Shriver’s saltwater taffy and Voltaco’s lasagna. 100 Asbury Avenue, 609-399-0764, whosonfirststreet.com.
PIZZA Behold a bold move: Prep’s Pizzeria & Dairy Bar, a family-run place that feels as classic as the preppy ’80s, is the place we prefer for a sit-down pie—and, if we still have room left, homemade Belgian waffles with ice cream. (Sorry, Mack & Manco’s. You know we’ll be back this year, too. After all, you’re Mack & Manco’s; patronage is practically mandatory.) 1004 Boardwalk, 609-398-0636.
HAUTE CRAFT SHOP For every boat tote, a needlepoint project from Scrim Discovery. 924 Haven Avenue, 609-398-6659, scrimdiscovery.com.
HEALTHFUL BOARDWALK FARE Hawaiian chicken, salmon teriyaki, sticky rice, grilled ahi tuna steaks, strawberry-and-goat-cheese salads, and, if the kids throw a fit, grilled burgers and waffle fries are the deliciously mostly-good-for-you reasons the picnic tables outside Hula Grill are always crowded. 940 Boardwalk, 609-399-2400, hulasauces.com.
OLD-FASHIONED SWEET SHOP Not everything is as homemade as it once was—you’ll find no gummy-bear-making machines in back. Customers seem pickier than they used to be. (Requests for gummy bear mix without green bears aren’t uncommon.) The ladies behind the counter can get prickly. (You could, too, if someone ordered three pounds of gummy bears, no green.) Still, the nonpareils, peanut butter fudge and chocolate-covered blueberries can’t be beat—and that sweet smell wafting onto the avenue makes old-school (closed Sundays!) Rauhauser’s Candies one avenue shop that’s impossible to resist. 721 Asbury Avenue, 609-399-1465.
DOUGHNUTS The only thing that makes us okay with summer’s end: Oves cinnamon-powdered apple cider doughnuts, still warm from the fryer. This double-decker beachside restaurant is also a breakfast classic, with shorter lines than Brown’s and better views than the Varsity Inn. 4th Street and the Boardwalk, 609-398-3712, ovesrestaurant.com.
BOARDWALK SNACK Instead of going on about the wonder that is the caramel corn at Johnson’s Popcorn, we’ll let a 1968 bubblegum AM radio hit by a group called Ohio Express do the explaining for us: “Yummy yummy yummy/I’ve got love in my tummy.” Yeah, that about covers it. 1368 Boardwalk, 609-398-5404, johnsonspopcorn.com.
THROW BLANKETS Whether your taste runs to young and colorful or stately and Nantucket chic, add a splash of beachy feel to a sofa or chair with one of the durable, stylish and well-priced (between $50 and $65) cotton creations sold out of Holly Buck’s charming Old Salt Gift Shop. 1312 Boardwalk, 609-399-1063.
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.
LARK At La Costa’s rollicking Sunday happy hours with beloved musical fossil Jerry Blavat (a.k.a. the Geator), never have so many doughy, sunburned middle-aged (and beyond) people had so much fun with so many cocktails in so few hours. Crash the party. 4000 Landis Avenue, 609-263-3756, lacosta-seaisle.com.
OLD-TIME SHORE DINING George Phillips’s grandfather opened Busch’s Seafood in 1912. And years ago, you would go to a sprawling place like Busch’s (or the late Zaberer’s, in North Wildwood), with its booths and patterned carpet and polished wood, to settle in for a “fancy dinner” by Shore standards. Today there are far fancier places than this basic seafoodery—but none that will take you back so effortlessly. Drink in the history—and make sure to order the she-crab soup. 8700 Landis Avenue, 609-263-8626, buschsseafood.com.
MINI GOLF Shipwrecks, caves, heckling robotic pirates, cascading waterfalls … Pat Croce’s Pirate Island Golf is Pirates of the Caribbean meets extreme putt-putt. Head to Sea Isle for 18 holes of Cap’n Jack Sparrow-esque action, or jump ship to Croce and co-owner/golf lover Mark Benevento’s equally aaaargh-y locations in Ocean City and Avalon. It’s wacky. It’s kinda tacky. And Johnny Depp is not included. 33rd Street and Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-8344, pirateislandgolf.com.
HOT DOGS Joining in the nearly block-long queue for an all-beef frank from Bubba Dog’s beachside cart has become a Sea Isle tradition with near-religious significance. This summer, owner Tim McNamara debuts a second stand in Avalon. The new place is open until 2:30 a.m. and has a prime address across the street from the Princeton—and, therefore, our prediction for longer lines than ever. 59th Street and the beach, Sea Isle City, and 21st Street and Dune Drive, Avalon; ilovebubbadogs.com.
NEW HAIR STUDIO From her best-kept-secret satellite studio, sought-after Main Line stylist Melissa LaLiberté, of Salon 31 fame, will be wielding shears and blow dryers to turn tresses from salt-air-sticky to shampoo-ad-surreal. Get in her book ASAP; it’s filling up. 300 79th Street, 267-664-7753.
CREAM DOUGHNUTS Expect a line out the door when you show up on any given day at 8 a.m. at Kohler’s. A single whiff of these just-fried doughy delicacies, dusted with powdered sugar and oozing homemade buttercream (Mr. Kohler’s secret recipe), and you’ll remember why you, your parents and their parents have been braving the wait for more than 60 summers. Another sweet summer tradition that’s rough on the waistline but great for the soul. 2709 Dune Drive, 609-967-3694, kohlersbakery.com.
NEW DINING PROSPECT From Sandy Hook to the tip of Cape May, the new eating-out option that excites us most is the Diving Horse, a rustic-chic dinner-only BYOB by the guys who brought Rittenhouse the justly popular, thoroughly fun, deliciously outfitted Pub & Kitchen. Get on the reservation list now, or hope for clear weather for seats at one of the first-come, first-served community tables on the deck. However you get in, order the fried oysters. 2109 Dune Drive, 609-368-5000, thedivinghorseavalon.com.
PICNIC FOOD With the beach a few blocks away and no onion rings or cheese-steaks in sight, Isabel’s is a sub shop gone Avalon. This cafe-cum-BYO shuns pedestrian sammies for fancy-delicious panini. Our favorite: crabcake with garlic mayo on a ciabatta. Add a chocolate-chipper from the bake shop—and be sure to keep the gulls far, far away. 2285 Dune Drive, 609-967-5776, isabelsinavalon.com.
SUMMER SALE The once-clandestine, now cult-followed house sale by Kathy Cochet and Anne Flynn has gone big-time. For three days, Nine will sell modern furniture, sailcloth beach bags, Thomas Paul whale pareos, snatch-’em-up hostess gifts (ask what they discovered at Liberty of London), plus their own-design skinny summer tees and custom subway-style signs (the most perfect gift for those on-the-beach baby showers) from the Avalon Yacht Club. July 1st, 6 to 10 p.m.; July 2nd, noon to 6 p.m.; August 19th, 6 to 10 p.m. 704 7th Street, 856-428-9991, 9avalon.com.
GIFT SHOP Surfer-artists make most of the merch filling Dunehouse, where proceeds from certain items go to the Brendan Borek High Tides Memorial Fund. 2170 Dune Drive, 609-967-4242; brendansfund.org.
SHOPPING Add to the above list of shops and sales: the Preppy Palm for Lilly home goods and Melly M separates; Tiger Lily for Trina Turk and Tibi; Closet Boutique for Vince and Three Dots; and She Be Surfin’ and the Avalon Surf Shop for classic surf wear—and be amazed at what formerly retail-lite Avalon can do to your gold card. The Preppy Palm, 2533 Dune Drive, 609-368-7300, thepreppypalm.com; Tiger Lily, 271 21st Street, 609-967-4300, shoptigerlily.com; Closet Boutique, 2509 Dune Drive, 609-368-7400, closetboutiqueavalon.com; She Be Surfin’, 2516 Dune Drive, 609-967-3100; Avalon Surf Shop, 2249 Dune Drive, 609-967-7115, avalonsurfshop.com.
SEAFOOD BYOB Known for its full complement of fresh catch to-go, casual, side-street picnic-style-BYO-meets-fish-market Sylvester’s is justly famous for its crabcake (20,000 sold per season—holy crab), best enjoyed when the tide is high and the breeze is ocean—and the Jersey corn is sweet. 503 21st Street, 609-967-7553, sylvesters-avalon.com.
PREPPY PUB Terry White—formerly a partner in Union Trust, and an apprentice, way back when, of Georges Perrier—is bringing his culinary acumen to the kitchen at the Princeton Bar this summer, adding even more Waspy luster to the polished watering hole where the unofficial customer uniform is Lacoste (and, of course, Docksiders, no socks). There’s a reason the word “Princeton” is in the name. 2008 Dune Drive, 609-967-3456, princetonbar.com.
SEAFOOD The perfect blend of rustic boathouse and convivial restaurant (try for outdoor seating in the quaint back garden area), Quahog’s Seafood Shack offers some of the freshest—and most expertly prepared—seafaring fare at the Shore. The buttery lobster roll is a must. 206 97th Street, 609-368-6300, quahogsshack.com.
CRABCAKE Aficionados say Back Bay Seafood’s are the freshest. Regulars say call from the beach to get them by seven o’clock. We say: Bobby Chez, you got competition. 8305 3rd Avenue, 609-368-2022, backbayseafood.net.
NEW SHOP Who would have thought? Boutique owner, former Manhattan fashionista and current Main Line style darling Maureen Doron is a beach girl, too. Her just-opened chic and casual, instantly essential second Skirt is where we’d love to spend all day, but look too cute to, dressed in the summery Nanette, Tory and Diane we’ve stocked up on. And by the way, her first-come, first-served SATC 2 party, the one for which she’s renting out the Stone Harbor movie theater and doing a fashion show in the aisles (Saturday, May 29th at 7 p.m.)? We are so there. 272 96th Street, 609-948-4912, shop-skirt.com.
BOAT RIDE Catering to tourists’ need for speed, husband and wife Bill and Diane Henfey offer their custom-built Silver Bullet, a 70-foot, 770-horsepower speedboat that’s the wildest ride in Wildwood. Taking off from the Marina, the captain, crew and up to 149 guests race for an hour and a half along the Inner Coastal to Cape May, where they slow down to drift in the company of dolphins and the occasional seal or pelican. The captain will never tell exactly how fast you’re going, but bring a towel, and prepare to get sprayed—or drenched. $15-$28. Wildwood Marina, Wildwood, 609-522-6060, silverbullettours.com.
TONY LUKE’S FIX During her first summer as the owner of old-school sub shop Nana’s Deli, Andrea Merendino couldn’t hold back the Italian in her. So she borrowed a family friend’s recipe for roast pork and began serving up the island’s favorite hot sandwich: $6.50 buys a long roll loaded with roasted reds, sharp provolone and garlicky pig. Extra napkins required. 5803 New Jersey Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 609-729-6200.
BIKE/WALKING PATHS Even though they don’t connect, Wildwood’s two stretches of pedal/pedestrian pavement earn props for their kid-friendliness (whereas the Boardwalk, well … ). North Wildwood’s path stretches between the sea wall by the -Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, past 11th Street’s big wooden climbing toys, to the 16th Street lifeguard station. Wildwood Crest’s path goes from Cresse to Rambler, with two playgrounds, a park, and plenty of open-air hotel luncheonettes in between.
BOAT DRINKS On the deck. With a dozen raw oysters. At sunset. Beach Creek. Heaven. 500 West Hand Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-1062, beachcreek.net.
BREW PUB When the sun’s out, there’s an afternoon game, and your better half doesn’t show up to the beach, chances are the missing spouse can be reclaimed at Goodnight Irene’s, where your MIA partner will surely be glued to the tube and “sampling” the taps of Dogfish Head, Chimay, Victory, Dale’s … 2708 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood, 609-729-3861, goodnightirenes.com.
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.
ROLLER COASTER The Morey family, which runs basically every thrill ride in Wildwood, has been touting its new “mystery” attraction for months (it’s scheduled for a grand unveiling this Memorial Day weekend), and given their track record, we’re sure it’ll be fab. But for us, it’ll be tough to ever top the heart-pounding rush that is a ride on the Great White, the 110-foot-high wooden coaster that scares the bejesus out of us each and every summer. Is it the plunging drops and hairpin turns that make you feel you’re going to be thrown from the car? Or is it the deafening clack-clack-clack of the tracks as that same car whips you around at 50 miles an hour, which makes it seem like the entire structure is about to collapse? Uh, both. Adventure Pier, Spencer Avenue and the Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-522-3900, moreyspiers.com.
BAKERY Three generations of Brittons run rightfully crowded Brittons Gourmet Bakery, led by chatty matriarch Marie, who’s always on hand to share a story and a smile. The place can be a zoo from opening at 6:30 a.m. till about 10, but then again, it’s worth braving the din for one of Marie’s legendary apple fritters fresh from the fryer (they sell hundreds of boxes a day), treats elevated to Hall of Fame status after then-President Ronald Reagan sent a handwritten thank-you note after snarfing down a few back in 1983. And if you can’t trust the Gipper, whom can you trust? 5600 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 609-522-5600.