Square meals for buoys and gulls.
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(Cape May) A no-frills breakfast joint across from the boardwalk is now a cozy café right through dinner. George’s makes masterful triple-decker French toast with sautéed bananas and doesn’t skimp on cheese in its omelettes. Owner John Karapanagiotis has added Greek delights such as spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves, and lamb chops with orzo and creamy tzatziki sauce. With only 40 seats, the restaurant fills quickly, so arrive early on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Cash only. The nearest ATM is several blocks away at Carpenter’s Square Mall. —Ashley V. Neglia
301 Beach Dr, 609-884-6088
The Lobster House
(Cape May) Located on Fisherman’s Wharf in Cape May Harbor, the Lobster House serves seafood caught by its own fleet of boats. From the dockside dining room or a table on the deck of the schooner American, you can dine while watching the boats unload. One-, two-, and three-pound lobsters are available steamed, broiled, or stuffed with crabmeat. Beef and poultry also available. The Raw Bar offers a more casual menu. —Christine Donga
906 Schellenger’s Landing Rd,
(Ocean City) Lines form early for the delicious homemade donuts churned out by this institution on the boardwalk at St. Charles Place. Half the fun is watching the batter hit the sizzling oil and float to the surface as a donut. Selection is limited—plain, cinnamon, powdered sugar, vanilla, chocolate, or honey glazed—but when they’re this good, you don’t need variety for the sake of variety.
—Jill P. Capuzzo
110 Boardwalk, 609-391-0677
(Somers Point) Last summer, Martin Grims, owner of Philadelphia’s Moshulu, added this stylish bayside beauty (formerly Sails) to his portfolio. The formerly stark interior has been softened with gauzy fabric, whitewashed wood, cork, and seashells. An all-new menu will be out when you read this. For now we can only salute retired faves such as baby crab cakes, lobster rolls perfumed with basil, and buttery short rib-and-creamed-kale sliders.—Adam Erace
998 Bay Ave, 609-926-9611, inletrestaurantnj.com
(Margate) Margate has shed its image as a zooey after-dark playground. Condos squeezed out the beloved pub Maloney’s and the stylish Mojo. When the rowdy disco Zoom succumbed in 2005, you could feel the gloom from the Shore to the Philadelphia Main Line. Now a charming Greek restaurant has risen from Zoom’s ashes. Sofia, a bungalow of fieldstone, terracotta, carved wood, and wrought iron serves upscale meze (small plates), grilled whole fish, steaks, and chops. Some choices are very Greek (keftethes flavored with garlic and mint; ouzo-flamed saganaki), while others aren’t at all (balsamic-glazed lamb chops with mango salsa and port wine syrup). Everything tastes as stunning as the look of blue sea-glass dishes on which the food is served.—A.E.
9314 Amherst Ave, 609- 822-9111, sofiaofmargate.com
Atlantic City Bar & Grill
(Atlantic City) Phillies on the flat screens, celeb photos on the walls. If you don’t order a drink, water costs $1. Bread and butter but no entrée? That’ll cost ya, too. No substitutions (during peak hours). No free refills. Nothing to go. The totalitarian measures don’t deter the crowd of off-duty bartenders, off-duty cops, and clued-in tourists. They come in waves for sticky, falling-apart ribs, chunky Manhattan chowder, shrimp in fiery tomato gravy, and the signature crab pies, served by gregarious waitresses who look like they could drink you under the table.—A.E.
1219 Pacific Ave
(corner of South Carolina), 609-348-8080, acbarandgrill.com
Back Bay Ale House
(Atlantic City) This unpretentious pub in Gardener’s Basin on A.C.’s northwest tip—where abandoned tenements give way to pastel cottages with plantation shutters and an air of renewal—is old school, great for cold beer and tasty, affordable food, steamed, grilled, or fried, served in plastic ballpark baskets lined with wax paper. Choose from shrimp, steamers, wings, crab cakes, cod, and well-marbled ribeye steaks. Grab a seat on the second-story deck and admire the view of the marina as live music wafts up from the patio. The Borgata feels so close you can almost touch its coppery shell, but at Back Bay, the encroachments of what is becoming known as North Beach still feel far away.—A.E.
800 North New Hampshire Ave, 609-449-0006, backbayalehouse.com
(Atlantic City) In the shadow of the Trop, this bastion of Vietnamese cooking has drawn restaurateurs, Southeast Asian immigrants, and enlightened shoobees since it opened in 1990. It’s snug and sparse, but the fiery noodle soups, green-lipped New Zealand mussels in black bean sauce, sugarcane shrimp, and much more, are exceptionally fresh and vividly flavored. Specials are marked on an inconspicuous board. Look for fried softshell crabs tossed with chilies and Thai basil. Potent French-press coffee is served the Vietnamese way, with sweetened condensed milk.—A.E.
2801 Arctic Ave, 609-347-9119
(Atlantic City) In June, the venerable Neapolitan restaurant on West 56th Street in Manhattan will open its first branch, in the Hilton Casino Resort. Patsy’s, founded in 1944 by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo, is known for its lobster fra diavolo, steak pizzaiola, linguine puttanesca, penne alla vodka, and celebrity sightings, including Frank Sinatra back in the day. Executive chef and co-owner Sal Scognamillo learned from his father, Joe, who learned from Patsy. The New York staff will train the A.C. staff, carried over from the Hilton’s previous occupant, Caruso’s.
Boston Ave and Boardwalk, 609-347-7111, patsys.com
(Seaside Park) This old-fashioned bakery prides itself on its sticky buns, donuts, and stromboli. The trays of warm buns, oozing brown sugar and studded with nuts, bring out the locals, who line up outside the door in the morning.—J.P.C.
408 S Central Ave, 732-793-4090
Bay Point Market
(Point Pleasant) If you’re taking in an outdoor concert or movie in Ocean County, stock up on picnic fixings at this gourmet shop. The panini, wraps, and salad platters are fresh and varied, and the delicious daily soups can be brought home for the next day’s lunch.—J.P.C.
219 Bridge Ave, 732-701-1110, baypointmarket.com
Spike’s Fish Market and Restaurant
(Point Pleasant Beach) The lobster bisque—pink, creamy, and chunky with lobster—is reason enough to visit this reliable seafood shack. People wait more than an hour to feast on locally caught fish and shellfish. The bisque and many of the fresh fish can be bought at the adjoining takeout counter.—J.P.C.
415 Broadway, 732-295-9400
Boathouse Bar & Grill
(Belmar) All-you-can-eat pasta for $8.95 on Tuesday nights attracts a crowd. The selection of toothsome pasta specials change weekly. This popular sports bar is also known for its beers on tap, wings, and 30 (yup, 30) big-screen TVs.—J.P.C.
1309 Main St, 732-681-5221, boathousebarandgrill.com
(Long Branch) Pier Village includes the trifecta of Avenue brasserie, Avenue Nuit nightclub, and Le Club beach club—in all, a 25,000-square-foot oceanfront complex that exudes the casual elegance of the French Riviera.
Avenue’s executive chef, Antonio Mora, formerly of Daniel in Manhattan, holds a degree in fine arts and prepares sumptuous entrées that look as good as they taste. Mora’s signature potato-crusted halibut over New England clam chowder is an instant classic. You can rely on his traditional brasserie fare, such as steak frites and fresh-shucked oysters.
In the evening, the rooftop pool deck and third-floor lounge become Avenue Nuit, a nightclub attracting world-class deejays. Indoor and outdoor fireplaces warm the ocean breezes.
The members-only Le Club offers beachside cabanas with shower, mini-bar, WiFi, phone, flat-screen TV, and other amenities, including a childrens’ activity center open on weekends.—A.E.
23 Ocean Avenue, 732-759-2900, leclubavenue.com