As I’ve made regular summer visits to Sea Isle City over the past several years, I’ve come to know and love the seaside town and its bustling bar and restaurant scene. I’m especially fond of the cluster of seafood restaurants like Mike’s Seafood and Carmen’s in Fish Alley. But they can get pretty crowded around dinnertime, and don’t have liquor licenses. Plus, not even a seafood lover like myself wants to eat lobsters, u-peel shrimp and steamers every night.
Last month, on my regular trip to Sea Isle, we set out to discover a new place to eat at that wasn’t a BYO restaurant. It was a beautiful, breezy evening and we wanted to enjoy a casual dinner at a bar that served good food. I originally had my eyes set on Beachwood at the Dunes, the buzzy new restaurant that took the place of Doc Magrogan’s in Townsends Inlet earlier this summer. But it was a Tuesday, unfortunately the only day of the week the restaurant is closed.
So we headed over to Henri’s Bar, located a block from the beach. The outdoor patio bar is owned by the same family who owns Braca Café, the longstanding Italian restaurant located off the Promenade and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Henri’s was named after Henrietta Braca Gibson, owner Kim Gibson’s mother. Opened in 2012, Henri’s expanded into a neighboring lot four years later.
We were lucky enough to snag a couple seats at the bar, which stayed full throughout the night, starting with a younger crowd sipping frozen drinks, to families sitting at tables for dinner, and then later, an older crowd coming out to enjoy a few after dinner drinks outdoors.
To start, we ordered half a dozen fresh raw oysters and the housemade meatballs, made with beef, veal and pork. We also split the Steak House Wedge salad, which the bartender pointed out didn’t actually contain any protein. (“You wouldn’t believe how many people get upset when it comes out without steak on it!”) Other appetizers include calamari with hot cherry peppers and kalamata olives; spinach and artichoke dip; crispy shrimp tossed in a Thai chili glaze; and tomato bruschetta.
The entrée selections aren’t extensive, though there’s enough variety that all types of eaters should be able to find something they like. The Sandwich section includes a burger, shrimp and lobster roll, and pesto chicken sandwiches that come with chips. I enjoyed the fresh and crispy fried cod sandwich. There’s also seven different pizza options, including a classic Margherita that was a crowd pleaser.
While the food at Henri’s Bar isn’t striving for invention, the space itself is one of the nicer outdoor bars in town, and offers a brief respite from Sea Isle’s predominantly BYO restaurant scene.
Henri’s Bar, 4113 Pleasure Ave, Sea Isle City. Open daily; check in advance for seasonal hours.