Dining in the Covid era has taken on a slightly different look—first it was curbside pick-up and takeout only. Then by June 15, outdoor dining was allowed to return. Meanwhile, restaurants have been improvising, doing car-hop style service with parking lot dinner shows.
One thing we’re happy to say fits right in to these sometimes challenging 2020 dining restrictions: the old school, ultra-relaxed “dock and dine” tradition on the Jersey Shore. The idea is exactly what it sounds like—boaters can bring their craft to the dock of a waterside restaurant, dock, and either clamber out to dine happily on a nearby deck or patio, or order and dine right there in the boat.
We rounded up just a few of the many spots down the Shore, where dock and dine restaurants are still very much a thing.
Channel Marker Café, Lavallette
At the Channel Marker Café in Ocean Beach Marina you can actually dine right in your boat. Not that you aren’t (also) welcome to take out or dine on the dock, but if you’re looking for the ultimate in low-key dock and dine, this might be it. Think: views of Barnegat Bay at sunset and a menu that includes a breakfast “Hangover” sandwich, Portuguese Branzino, “Angry” (chili-flecked) Lobster, and classic Linguine with Clams, plus maybe a couple beers or a bottle of white wine to split and it’s summer on the water. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and close twice for extra Covid cleaning. Call for dinner reservations.
Channel Marker Café, 3245 Route 35, Lavallette; 732-793-7559
Eventide Grille, Sea Bright
You can hit the Eventide Grille in Sea Bright from noon to 9pm any day of the week, but they absolutely recommend getting a reservation well in advance—space is limited and the landlocked and boating alike all want a spot on the lovely waterfront, where the sunset views get pretty incredible. Then there’s the menu, with everything from Fried Clam Strips and a Soft Pretzel to NY Strip, Mahi Mahi, and garlicky Shrimp Scampi serving up summer nostalgia; add a responsibly prepared Rum Bucket delivered by a masked waitress and you have summer vacation in a single dinner outing.
Eventide Grille, 1400 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright; 732-530-1414
The Lobster House, Cape May
The Lobster House in Cape May is iconic, and multi-faceted: restaurant and bar, raw bar, fish market, even coffee. The main restaurant is still closed due to Covid-19, but the fish market’s been open since late May and the Raw Bar is open for takeout and dockside eating. And don’t worry if you’re not a fan of raw seafood; the Raw Bar menu has plenty of cooked options, including classic Steamers, Softshell Crab Sandwich, Stone Crab Claws, Fried Veggie Platter, Harbor Burger, even Baby Back Spare Ribs. Think of it like maritime pub-grub at its most salt-air authentic, and get there early (and masked) as they don’t take reservations.
The Lobster House, Fisherman’s Wharf, Cape May; 609-884-8296
Pearl Restaurant at the Oyster Point Hotel, Red Bank
There’s plenty of room—and a fairly stunning view of the Navesink—to come dock and dine at Pearl Restaurant at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank. Space is limited but they take reservations. A recent menu did classic Shore with a bit of flare and bold flavor, e.g. Shrimp and Cheddar Grits with Crispy Okra, Chipotle Free Range Chicken Breast with Coconut Street Corn, and a New England-style Lobster Roll (done classic, with butter).
The Pearl Restaurant at The Oyster Point Hotel, 146 Bodman Place, Red Bank; 732-702-3132
Proving Ground, Highlands
The docking isn’t super ample at Proving Ground, but it’s worth calling ahead to make the reservation. Proving Ground opened in 2018, and their menu is sophisticated and fun, with options like simple Peel and Eat Shrimp, Tuna Poke Bowl, Burrata Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Prosciutto, even a Pan-seared Salmon BLT with Red Onion and Lemon Aioli. They’re also doing a “Recovery Brunch” menu on Sundays from 10am to 1pm.
Proving Ground, 56 Shrewsbury Avenue, Highlands; 732-872-2266
River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar, Brick
River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar in Brick prides itself on maintaining a lively atmosphere—and Covid-19 isn’t going to stop them from (safely) keeping the boating public well-fed, especially considering their ample dock space and wide stretch of water-facing outdoor dining. They’re open every day from 11:30am to 8pm, and if you’re not inclined to dock and dine you can still order online for pick-up. Go for the Drunken Clams, their Jersey Burger topped with Pork Roll, or Hot Rock’n Shrimp, which is Yuengling-battered and tossed in something called “boom-boom sauce.”
River Rock Restaurant and Marina Bar, 1600 Route 70, Brick; 732-840-1110