Whether your reference is Springsteen or the grinning face of Tillie the Clown, the words “Asbury Park” have a resonance perhaps no other Shore town can match. But nostalgia plays no role in Asbury’s current revival. Over the last decade, the restaurant scene has become one of the most dynamic in the state. The vibe is youthful, the choice of cuisines and interior designs wide-ranging. The boardwalk combined with Bangs and Cookman avenues amount to three bona fide restaurant rows, plus scattered spots also worth a visit.
Here are our 16 top picks for the best restaurants in Asbury Park, in alphabetical order.
Ethiopian and Dominican food under one roof might not sound like it would work, but it’s a beautiful combination at Ada’s Gojjo. Chef Adanesh Ashghedom first learned to cook Dominican food while working at Ada’s Latin Flavor in Long Branch, even though her native cuisine was Ethiopian. At the end of 2018, she moved into a bright, beautiful space in Asbury Park, renaming the restaurant Ada’s Gojjo. Her cooking style has also evolved, with the menu now split between Ethiopian dishes like doro wot and classic Dominican dishes like mofongo and empanadas. BYO.
1301 Memorial Drive, 732-222-5005
In summer there is no better perch than the rooftop garden, but wherever you settle in this atmospheric evocation of an early 20th century Austro-Hungarian beer garden, you will revel in the roster of draft beers, wursts, schnitzels, potato pancakes, smoked trout, sauerbraten and strudel.
527 Lake Avenue, 732-997-8767
A hit since it opened in 2016, Barrio Costero modernizes Mexican food in a way that is hip, colorful and, most of all, bursting with bold, harmonious flavors. The cocktails take this theme to heights of their own. The menu ranges from beef cheek tacos with grilled pineapple to a plate of scallops with black quinoa, golden raisins and chimichurri.
610 Bangs Avenue, 732-455-5544
The big raw bar is right by the front door, and the shuckers at the Bonney Read are always busy. But there is much more to this contemporary seafood house. Chef James Avery does a “Jersey Green” clam chowder with green pepper, fennel and sausage as well as a classic New England one. There’s Cajun shrimp, clams casino, a grilled catch of the day—and, yes, a hefty burger should you want one.
525 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3352
Spring Lake natives Laura Brahn and Grace Crossman met while working at nearby Porta. They later worked at other restaurants before starting a catering company together. In 2016, they opened the charming and rustic Cardinal Provisions. At first, they served just breakfast and lunch. In November 2018, they began offering dinner Friday and Saturday nights, with a new dinner theme each weekend. During weekend brunch, the restaurant is usually packed, with crowds waiting outside for a table. Favorites include cacio e pepe scrambled eggs, rosewater-scented ricotta toast, a fried chicken “Sammy,” and the breakfast Pasta, a classic carbonara with bacon, egg, fresh spaghetti a la chitarra, peas, black pepper and Parmesan. BYO.
513 Bangs Avenue, 732-898-7194
In an effort to “echo the ambitions of mid-19th century Manhattan,” this gastropub uses American-made ingredients, from food to cocktail garnishes. You’ll find all the great hits here—burgers, buttermilk fried chicken, pork belly, fried Brussels sprouts, mac n’ cheese—and a creative cocktail menu featuring small-batch spirits.
508 Cookman Avenue, 732-361-5502
Located on Asbury Park’s boardwalk, Cubacán offers a wide-ranging modern Cuban menu, from traditional (Arroz con Pollo, chicken with yellow rice and peas) to fusion (a beef-chorizo slider), plus wine, beer, tropical cocktails and a long list of tequilas and mezcals.
800 Ocean Avenue, 732-774-3007
Since 2008, this vibrant, beachfront restaurant has offered a crowd-pleasing menu featuring local ingredients that touches all bases, from panini to pizza, a burger, edamame, sushi and a kale Caesar. Plus beer, wine, cocktails and Sunday brunch.
1000 Ocean Ave, 732-455-3275
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Jalisco, where Tapatia owner German Garcia was born and raised, includes the city of Tequila, and you will have many of those agave liquors to choose from at your table or the bar. Jalisco’s signature dish, birria, a rich beef stew, is a monthly special. The menu, mostly Pueblan, includes excellent tamales; chunky guacamole; and carnitas and lengue tacos. Garcia began in 1998 with a small grocery, which he later turned into La Tapatia restaurant—one of the best Mexican restaurants in the state. Now the family’s domain covers half a block, encompassing a large grocery, bakery, liquor store, taqueria, and the showplace, Plaza Tapatia.
707 Main Street, 732-776-7826
All the cooking is done in the 1,700-pound, Mugnaini wood-burning oven that chef-owners Lauren Castellini and Aimay McElroy installed in the corner of what was once a garage. Castellini starts most days roasting tomatoes and slow cooking pork, while McElroy nurses into being the sumptuous dough for bread and pizza. There are a couple salads and sandwiches, but crisp blistered, delicious pizzas are the main event. No reservations. BYO.
711 4th Avenue, 732-361-3061
Smith, the company that almost single-handedly rebooted the restaurant scene in AP with the earthy Brickwall Tavern and Porta, went upscale French with Pascal & Sabine. And they pulled it off. Not only is it their most elegant and comfortable restaurant, it just might be Asbury Park’s, too. The bar is great for hanging out, feeling suave, the huge circular booths are something to experience, and the brasserie-style food is persuasive.
601 Bangs Avenue, 732-774-3395
Yes, this was where the Boss first met Clarence Clemons, back when this cavernous space was the Student Prince. In 2011, Smith (the name keeps coming up, doesn’t it?) redesigned and reinvented it as an homage to Neapolitan pizza. But the menu offers more than that, including arancini, salads, roasted vegetables, pastas and branzino and rack of lamb.
911 Kingsley Street, 732-776-7661
The team that modernized Mexican at Barrio Costero launched Reyla in 2018 to do the same for Middle Eastern cooking. By the end of the year they had broadened the culinary concept and created a new menu of small but shareable plates—18 of them, ranging from lamb burgers with tzatziki, to octopus with green coconut chutney to three types of hummus. Cocktails, tailored to the concept, are lively.
603 Mattison Avenue, 732-455-8333
In the same building as Cubacán, Stella Marina (“the star of the sea”) has a modern yet rustic Italian menu of pizza, pasta, upscale entrées and a raw bar.
800 Ocean Avenue, 732-775-7776
In a city with so many restaurants and kinds of restaurants, it’s surprising that there is just one that is Japanese. Taka is the real thing, in food, drink and atmosphere, with modern touches. Its chef and founder, Takahiro Hirai, 50, was born in Japan and earned a degree in economics there. After working in sushi restaurants in Miami Beach and Nantucket, he opened Taka in 2000. It offers both sushi and cooked menus, as well as one of the largest selections of Japanese whisky and sake in the area, including one sake made just for the restaurant near Hirai’s hometown.
660 Cookman Avenue, 732-775-1020
Husband and wife Steve and Shanti Mignogna’s sourdough crust has pizza lovers in ferment. Their pies, baked in a gas-fired stone hearth, are thin yet hearty, with puffy, charred crusts—and some of the best in the state. The New Yorker pie distinctively combines fresh and aged mozzarella with aged provolone. The Dolorian, a witty brunch pie, is topped with smoked salmon, hash browns, crema, capers, scallions and dill. Whatever the topping, the foundation raises Talula’s to the heights. And sandwiches on their sourdough bread, list of natural wines and hip cocktails, and fresh-baked pastries make for lines out the door.
550 Cookman Avenue, 732-455-3003