Where to Eat at the Jersey Shore: The Ultimate Guide
From LBI to Cape May, we've got you covered with this list of all the best Shore eats, from breakfast and brunch to pizza and ice cream.
Everyone has their Shore town. Everyone has their favorite places, their secret loves, those summer-after-summer memories of ice cream or crabs or pizza that keep them going through the longest night or the coldest winter.
We eat down the Shore differently than we do at home. And it’s not just what we eat, but how. At home, it is about newness and fresh experiences. Down the Shore, it’s about comfort and continuity. In Philly, we keep our eyes open for the hottest opening, the newest concept. In our Shore towns, we just check to make sure our favorites — the places we’ve been going for years (and sometimes generations) — are still there, still operating, still offering all those things we’ve come to love.
And yet still, the Shore does change. Slower, maybe, but it does. There are new things there, new adventures to have, new flavors to try. And there are always those moments when you need something (ice cream, a steak, burgers for everyone on the way between here and there) that doesn’t fall within the boundaries of your traditions. And that’s where we come in.
We’ve got a little bit of everything here. Some new stuff and some old stuff, some classics and some staples. No matter where you are or what you’re looking for, we’re here to help with a list of everything that’s great at the Jersey Shore.
Welcome to Shore Season, folks. Here’s where to find whatever it is your summery heart desires.
Best Breakfast and Brunch Down the Shore
Varsity Inn, Ocean City
You know those summer movies? The ones where the scrappy out-of-towners come for vacation in the beach town and then have to beat the snooty locals in a regatta or whatever? Yeah, the Varsity Inn is where everyone meets before the big boat race for coffee, pancakes and bacon. It’s a perfect Shore breakfast spot — big, loud, busy, simple and the best at what it does.
Bagels & Beyond, Long Beach Island
Looking for breakfast without the wait? You can get a quality bagel and egg sandwich or bagels with cream cheese at any of these locations. Bonus: They do an awesome crumb cake here (which is very much an LBI thing) that’s heavy on the crumb.
Hannah G’s, Ventnor
Hannah G’s is a quaint eatery that’s still got some snark (a sign directs complainers to the exit), plus a menu of lighter fare (like whole wheat and chia seed pancakes), as well as the decadent stuff, like a hefty crabcake benedict that’s a steal at $10.
Downbeach Deli and Restaurant, Margate
This isn’t your typical cutesy Shore breakfast joint. Downbeach serves Jewish deli-style dishes like corned beef and eggs and challah French toast. Get the lox on (or in) anything and you won’t regret it.
Mustache Bill’s Diner, Long Beach Island
Mustache Bill’s has scored a weird kind of cultural two-fer. It has both a James Beard Award AND has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. And seriously, if that’s not enough to convince you that you have to check out this place’s fantastic American diner food, then nothing will.
Hot Bagels & More, Margate, Somers Point and Atlantic City
Another spot for a quick bagel sandwich. Pro tip: All of these locations tend to sell out quick, so go early and get more than you think you’ll need.
OC Surf Cafe, Ocean City
Ocean City doesn’t lack for breakfast shops, but the vibe at OC Surf Cafe leans toward tropical and sunny. The omelets are unique, the waffles are fluffy and topped with candied nuts, and the French toast is double-thick Texas toast-style. (Also, the lines here tend to be shorter, FWIW.)
Sunset Pier, Sea Isle
This one is all about the location. Your eggs and bacon come with views of bobbing boats and swooping seagulls.
George’s Place, Cape May
George’s has been around since the ’60’s, doing cut-above diner food with a Greek spin. It’s BYO and cash-only, but the herbed brie omelets, tiramisu waffles, limoncello french toast and simple “Roma bagel” with cream cheese, fresh tomato, oregano and olive oil are absolutely worth checking out.
Fishin’ Pier Grille, Avalon
You will absolutely have to wait for a table here, both because the location is unparalleled and the heirloom tomato omelets are just fantastic. But hey, at least they give you free coffee.
Chill, Stone Harbor
Chill is unique. It’s a rooftop restaurant with a slightly upscaled menu full of avocado toast, smoothies, breakfast burritos and several omelets.
Mako’s Grille, Sea Isle
Mako’s isn’t just another slide-it-across-the-counter Shore spot; there’s a calm, upscale vibe, top-notch service, and memorable touches like a cannoli-stuffed blueberry pancake and fresh-squeezed OJ.
Surfside West Diner, Wildwood
The Surfside is one of those places that have been serving up quality eats since the ’60s. It continues to lure the crowds with some surprises, like lemon folded into the ricotta pancake batter, amazing potato cakes with horseradish sauce and fried potatoes topped with American cheese, creamy chipped beef and an egg.
Mad Batter, Cape May
One of the most famous restaurants in Cape May has a breakfast that is both scene-y and delicious. We’re talking house-cured salmon on a bagel, award-winning pancakes, orange and almond french toast, housemade corned beef hash and crab benedicts, just to name a few options. Worth it even if you’ll probably have to wait.
Best Pizza Down the Shore
Panzone’s, Long Beach Island
With two locations on LBI, you’ve got double the chance to score one of these perfect pies with their tangy sauce, ample cheese and slices that aren’t too thick or too floppy.
Louie’s Pizza, Cape May
Hand-tossed crusts, dough made fresh every morning, and a list of toppings that makes the six-topping “Louie’s Super Special” a steal at just over twenty bucks for a large.
Big, floppy slices, served right on the Wildwood boardwalk. This is what summer is supposed to taste like. And the one in Stone Harbor might even be better.
Circle Pizza, Avalon
There are a lot of pizzas in Avalon. Many of them are quite fancy. Circle’s pizza is not. And thank god for that.
Uncle Oogie’s Pizzeria, Sea Isle City
You guys like the Uncle Oogie’s pies down in South Philly, right? Yeah, well the one in Sea Isle? That’s the original. Serious South Philly-style grandma pies down the Shore.
Manco & Manco, Ocean City
Manco’s has been serving pizza at the Shore, in one place or another, since the 1950’s. Today, they’re in the former Strand movie theater, right on the OC Boardwalk where they belong, still throwing the dough and spinning the pies for the amusement of their customers.
South End Pizza, Margate
While the cheesesteaks here have some fans, the buffalo chicken pizza is the go-to here, with people swearing by it for years.
Tony’s Baltimore Grille, Atlantic City
Retro decor and late-night hours are the draws at this A.C. institution. Plus, the pies are pretty good, too — even when you’re not rolling in from the casino at 3am.
Mario’s, Cape May
By the slice or by the whole pie, Mario’s has been serving the Cape May locals for years. They’re known for their homemade dough, sauce and garlic knots.
Piccini, Ocean City
Wood-fired, brick-oven pizzas since 1995. Piccini uses imported ingredients and hand-made dough in their dozens of specialty pies.
Best Ice Cream Shops Down the Shore
Barry’s Do Me a Flavor, Long Beach Island
Barry’s is mostly a (really good) casual cafe. But in the back, they scoop out baseball-size rounds of extra-rich ice cream that hails all the way from Trenton-based purveyor Arctic Ice Cream — a brand that’s beloved all over the Garden State.
Skipper Dipper, Long Beach Island
The crew here will whip you up a milkshake from any of the dozens of homemade flavors on the menu, but if you stick to the uncomplicated classics (black-and-white, maybe) you’ll see just how special they are.
Richman’s Ice Cream & Burger Bar, Brigantine
The people behind this big red barn-like shop also own Philadelphia Water Ice Factory, meaning they know a thing or two about making a respected hometown treat. Bring your appetite: The portions are huge, and the toppings are generous.
Margate Dairy Bar & Burger, Margate
From extra-thick shakes to mega sundaes, you can’t go wrong with any order here — though the soft-serve cones, twisted high and dipped in chocolate are a particular favorite. But it’s the owner, Chris Clayton, with his fun-time aura and dedication to his customers, who makes this a perennial destination.
Custard Hut, Somers Point
The late-night hours at the Hut (’til 11pm on the weekends) mean you’ll never be left wanting for one of its signature treats: custards topped with candy (Jolly Ranchers!), or those same custards turned into milkshakes. Hit it up on your way in and out of Ocean City.
The Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor, Ocean City
The carousel theme of this shop is draw enough for the kids; the summer-in-a-bowl flavors like sticky bun and Maine blueberry (and the millions of toppings) are what make this an adult favorite, too.
Nana & Poppy’s Ice Cream Parlor, Sea Isle
What with the special flavors (like blueberry pancake) and artisanal touches (fresh-baked Belgian waffles), you’d never guess the offerings at this shop are possibly the best value at the Shore. Plus, any place with a breakfast sundae on the menu wins high marks here.
Yum Yums Ice Cream, Sea Isle
Gather your crew, slide into a booth, and dig into “The Pig”: 15 scoops of ice cream and 10 toppings. Complete the challenge and you’ll get your photo on Yum Yum’s wall (literal and Facebook).
Avalon Freeze, Avalon
If you’re feeling a little jazzier than the never-fail swirl, go for the Freezer, which is a vast improvement on the Blizzard. With extra M&Ms, of course.
Sundae Best, Avalon
It’s hard to choose from homemade options like grilled pineapple or Kohler’s Cream Donut (mixed with actual chunks of the bakery’s doughnuts), so you should order the Just Shovel It: five scoops of ice cream and just about every topping you can imagine, all served in a beach bucket with a shovel for a spoon. We can appreciate this both for its volume and its social commentary.
Springer’s, Stone Harbor
The most famous ice-cream parlor on the island offers upwards of 50 house-made flavors. The line always (no, always) winds around the block, but it moves fast. And in any case, the ice cream really is that good — particularly the fruity flavors like peach and black cherry.
Cool Scoops, Wildwood
This place is a basically a doo-wop museum, with ’50s kitsch around every turn and booths made to look like old Chevys. That the ice cream is so good (try the banana split) is almost secondary.
The homemade options here lean heavily toward the nutty and chocolaty, with some sticky bun and marbled caramel thrown in. And we don’t hear anyone complaining.
Kohr Bros., Multiple locations
There’s a reason Kohr Bros. is many people’s fondest Shore food memory: The simple but generously portioned swirled cones are the pinnacle of custard-dom, childhood and summer.
Best Donuts Down the Shore
Shore Good Donuts, Long Beach Island
Wacky flavor combinations and choose-your-own toppings have earned this place an evangelical following since its opening in 2011. But don’t let the Instagram-worthiness fool you: These showstoppers would be delish even if they weren’t all dressed up.
Junior’s Donuts & Dogs, Margate
There’s a new owner at Junior’s, but (thankfully) the recipes are the same — so you’ll still want to sit at one of the outdoor picnic tables and scarf down a doughnut before you have to bring the rest home to the group.
Oves Restaurant, Ocean City
It’s nearly impossible to choose between Browns and Oves, both of which get serious props for sticking with traditional flavors through the generations. But the apple cider rounds from Oves are the ones we see in our dreams.
Frog Hollow Bakery, Greenfield
This inconspicuous bakery (which is tucked between a farm and the woods on Route 50) is just outside Sea Isle proper, but these doughnuts are way worth the drive. Never dry and perfectly fried, they’re everything a cake doughnut should be. And that makes sense, since the Patterson family has been making them, in just six simple flavors, since 1971.
Kohler’s Bakery, Avalon
Since 1949, no true Avalonian has considered the day properly started without a bite of something sweet from this iconic bakery. Just avoid 45 minutes after every hour on Sundays, when the hordes let out of Mass and head over to grab a spot in line.
Donna’s Place, Stone Harbor
This no-frills family spot serves sit-down meals — but it’s the sticky bun that draws the in-the-know locals. It’s one of Stone Harbor’s only places for fresh doughnuts, so to beat the crowds, go before 9 a.m.
Britton’s Gourmet Bakery, Wildwood Crest
People beg the owners to start shipping their treats across the country — Britton’s stuff is just that good. While the line moves faster than you think it will, go early, because they can sell out by mid-morning.
RSK Doughnuts, Cape May
After nine years of selling mini doughnuts at farmers’ markets, RSK has opened a brick-and-mortar shop. Head inside to see the cakey goodies being freshly fried.
Fractured Prune, Wildwood
Cherry glazed donuts covered with mini chocolate chips. A margarita donut with Key Lime glaze and sea salt. Or maybe just the O.C. Sand with honey and cinnamon sugar. Whatever your poison, the Fractured Prune’s new Wildwood boardwalk location will have it. (Plus, there’s a new Ocean City location coming soon.)
Best Delivery Takeout Down the Shore
Pearl Street Market, Long Beach Island
If you need to feed your family and friends (and friends-of-friends) in a flash, Pearl Street Market is a one-stop shop that has a large selection of prepared sandwiches and salads, plus a giant catering menu with all sorts of dips, appetizers and dinners. (Not to mention you can get meats and seafood for the grill, too.)
Viking Fresh Off The Hook, Long Beach Island
When the seafood craving hits, you can watch the fish being pulled out of the water here in Viking Village. Pick up a few buckets (they serve four to six) of fried shrimp or fish fingers.
Okie’s Butcher Shop, Long Beach Island
Platters of thin-cut Boar’s Head deli meats, trays of pulled pork and the ideal cook-at-home grill kit (burgers, ribs, chicken dogs) make dinner a breeze.
Aversa’s Bakery, Brigantine
Everyone knows that Aversa’s makes killer sticky buns. But the locals all flock there for Italian hoagies on house-baked rolls and cheese-rich stromboli.
Brigantine Seafood, Brigantine
The place might be a little bare-bones on the inside, but they’ve got a bunch of family-size combo packages of shrimp, clams, flounder and more, plus sides. And delivery is free if you’re looking to make things even easier.
No. 7311, Ventnor
The owners of Steve & Cookie’s recently opened this bakery and cafe which offers boxes and trays of breakfast breads, desserts and New Jersey blueberry pie.
Dino’s Subs and Pizza, Margate
Sure, it’s a little weird to just be throwing a sandwich shop on this list. But there are three reasons: The subs are insanely large, insanely good, and they’ll deliver them right to the beach.
Hula Restaurant and Sauce Co., Ocean City
When you get sick of pizza and crab legs, switch things up with chicken satay and pulled pork from this island-style restaurant and catering operation.
Mike’s Seafood, Sea Isle City
Mike’s has been the go-to spot for seafood here for years. Unsurprisingly, the waits for a table can be crazy. So why not just skip all that and order something to-go? Because most people don’t even realize this is an option.
Avalon Seafood, Avalon
Stop by for to-go meals of scallops, stuffed flounder, trays of crab claws, lobster rolls or dozens of fried platters.
Via Mare, Avalon
Sure, it’s a good Italian BYO. But there’s also an entire menu for take-out that includes some of the restuarants best dishes, plus party trays, desserts and pizza.
Lee’s Hoagie House, Stone Harbor
Same great hoagies as in the city, but here they’ll deliver it to you at the beach.
Back Bay Seafood, Stone Harbor
The best, meatiest crabcakes you’re going to find, all ready to take home and cook up on your own.
Hot Dog Tommy’s, Cape May
Order at the window, walk away with an epic chili-cheese dog. Simple as that.
H&H Seafood, Cape May
Locals and return visitors know that H&H is the place to go to score giant paper bags full of steamed crabs, claws, clams and more. Plus, they’ve got a few dockside picnic tables and a whole bunch of all-you-can-eat deals.