The Best Waterside Restaurants on the Jersey Shore

When you live on the Jersey Shore, summer doesn’t start on June 21, when the sand gets hot, or even when the local pools open up. Beachrats can barely wait for an 80-degree thermometer to tinker on over to the beach (which is why you can spot them surfing in the dead of winter), but instead, you’ll find these dirty combers scouring the sands as soon as the calendar swings over May.

Why? They don’t care if they have to wear jeans to do it – these people want to be on their boats, in the kayaks, hovered over the side with fishing poles, and trotting down the boardwalk with their sloppy puppies – and they don’t want to wait. However, even the dirtiest beachrat needs a nice meal once in a while that didn’t come from a truck, which is why you should check out the below Jersey Shore restaurants in between the spouts of living in your car this summer, especially before all those bennies get down there in mid June.

1. The Lobster House at Cape May Harbor

The Lobster House is a staple of a weekend well spent in the southern shores. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with your people, and head over to the respective bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder, and oysters on the half shell and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls. The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. Learn more at thelobsterhouse.com

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Photo Courtesy of Ed Morlock

2. Boathouse Restaurant at Wildwood

At Boathouse, choose indoor or outdoor seating for stunning panoramic views of the harbor while enjoying top-of-the-line fresh clams casino, steamed mussels, stuffed flounder, or twin lobster tails. A classier establishment than other harborside seafood restaurants, Boathouse is a great end note when you’re feeling like you deserve to spend a few bucks. Learn more at boathouseonline.net.  

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

3. Rooney’s Ocean Crab House at Long Branch

Rooney’s is a top-of-the-line restaurant and raw bar that sits just far enough from the hub of Pier Village while facing the Atlantic in a completely glass-screened seating area. Offering a raw bar, conveniently placed circular bar, private parties, and a truly stellar $30 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch until Memorial Day that is never crowded, Rooney’s is a great spot for birthdays and anniversaries while also being a go-to for nursing your Sunday morning hangover with a Mimosa and some crab legs. Learn more at rooneysocean.com.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

4. Moonstruck at Asbury Park

With an ambiance that doesn’t mimic pinkies in the air or bored businessmen, Moonstruck is reminiscient of an old-school cocktail lounge and restaurant tucked away at the corner of town in a romantic old building. Travel up the hiking steps, grab a bottle of wine, and listen to the insanity of Asbury Park from nearby… in the quiet corner of Moonstruck, equipped with a variation of classic Italian dishes. Learn more at moonstrucknj.com.

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Photo Courtesy of oldbridgemusiccenter.wordpress.com

5. Stella Marina at Asbury Park

Stella Marina boasts an extensive Italian menu in a classy, white tablecloth environment overlooking one of the most notorious boardwalks in the United States. With outstanding views of the Asbury beaches below, visitors enjoy some classic Italian accompanied by plenty of wines fit for events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Learn more at stellamarinarestaurant.com

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Photo Courtesy of restaurantpassion.com

 

The City by the Bay.

After rendezvousing through Chinatown, we hiked down Market Street once again to the corner of Powell street, where the cable car, the only National Historic Center icon that is mobile, picks up its passengers to take them up the famous hills and to the Bay, where Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf lie. Apparently, the reason San Fran loves cable cars is because back in the day when horses would pull people up the hills, some of those poor ponies toppled down the hill with the carts and people attached. Ever since, cable cars have been the go-to mode of transportation around here.

San Franciscans seem to treat the cable cars like their own cheap taxis, and to them, it’s no big deal to hold on and hang off the side as the cable car winds up the hill like a teetering roller coaster for only six bucks a pop. For the rest of us tourists, we were left sliding back on the benches, holding on to our cameras for dear life.

When the cable car stopped, we got off at Lombard Street, known as the crookedest street in the world. So crooked that it has to zigzag across the hill, which is dressed up with pretty mansions and manicured flowers. After trying to navigate down the street hillside, we wandered down past the old Victorians and followed the Bay in the distance to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Lombard Street

Fisherman’s Wharf is like a more old-school and genuine version of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, minus the dumb carnival games and unenthusiastic teenagers selling air brush tattoos. The beginning of the Wharf is lined with seafood shops, where you can get fresh shrimp sandwiches for five bucks from a stand and you can walk along the water and by the five-or-so piers that dot the water. At the edge, you can see Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, lit up when night comes along.

Alcatraz Island

We also stopped at Musee Mechanique, a classic game arcade with games as old as from the 1800’s. The games feature machines where you put in a quarter and see puppets dance or carnivals light up and move and “x-rated movies,” where a man puts his arm around a woman. Ah, the days.

Down Pier 39, we spotted the sea lions all laying about like sleepy dogs, barking at each other and enjoying the warm weather as they sunbathed on the rocks. Wandering into the middle of the pier, you can ride the carousel, see puppet shows, and literally eat the best salt water taffy of your life.

Pier 39

Unlike many other “famous” cities, this place doesn’t reek of tourism in the slightest. Instead, to me, it has the scent of locals making their living selling freshly caught fish and people kissing in front of the Golden Gate before strolling to Pier 39 for candy. Not a bad life.

Look, it’s the Golden Gate!

….oh wait. JK.

So before we were all positive that we saw the Golden Gate Bridge, we joined together as our group of 13 and hiked down Market Street, the main hub street of San Fran, to the Ferry Building and the Ferry Building Marketplace, which lies at the foot of the bay. This is probably one of my favorite parts about San Fran– you have this bustling city, joined together with only a few blocks in between to a laid-back and salty water.

In the Ferry Building Marketplace, there are tons of little shops filled with wines, gourmet cheeses, ice cream, and obviously… seafood. Most of these humble seafood stands have lines running out the door, with people already crowding the bar and loading up on happy hour oysters and Anchor Steam beers. Most of them still have their suits out, fresh out of their 9-5 jobs, never bothering to waste their time staying late than so many of us force ourselves to over in the tri-state area. When you walk through the Marketplace and stand out on the boardwalk next to the water, the salty winds kind of getcha for a moment before you spot the Bay Bridge hidden behind the countless ferries and people that are loading up for Oakland across the water.

The Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge looks kind of similar to the Golden Gate Bridge from afar (well, as far as I can tell as of now) and lights up at night with lights made to look like waves, lighthouses, and gulls flying across. From our sketchy Asian seafood joint on the water, this was a welcome surprise as I enjoyed my red snapper dinner.

Red Snapper

Nobody was lying to you when they said that the weather in this city literally changes at the drop of a hat. During the day, as you walk around, you’re wishing you brought flip-flops but as soon as you walk a few feet closer to the water you’re wondering why you didn’t bring your North Face jacket.

I don’t know what it is about this city that makes it so uniquely American; whether it’s the salty sea air, the happy little ferries, or the fact that it’s the birthplace of many important American moments. It’s also distinctly different from the warped land we live in back near New York City— here, it’s like time has stopped, where people still enjoy their boardwalks and their families and having a nice run down the water, where the only thing anyone is every in a rush to do to get some of that fresh seafood that floods the place. Whatever it is, it easily gives you a new appreciation for the country you live in. The East Coast doesn’t have a damn thing on this place.