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Sep 23, 2006 10:11 PM

Steve in Philly's Report on North Jersey Shore dining

Okay, I promised a report on our trip this week so here it is. We planned on 5 days and 4 nights but the weather report was for rain today (Saturday) so we headed home last night.

First off, you folks are so lucky to have that North Jersey shore area – still a secret to those in Philadelphia. Before mid-June and after Labor Day it’s virtually empty and the great noncommercial boardwalks are great to walk (and stop and nibble too!). Anyway, on to the report.

On the drive down Tuesday we had a certificate for the Windmill in Belmar and found it right away. Boy is that place busy! (I see a new one opened in Ocean Grove on Main St.). The hot dog is probably it’s biggest seller but we were trying to eat “healthy” – a little anyway - so had the salad topped with grilled chicken. It was okay, but was iceberg lettuce with not much flavor. I saw the Fried Mushrooms and had those. They tasted commercial to me. It just looks like we ordered wrong. The staff, however, couldn’t have been nicer.

Then it was off to the Beach – we like to park and set in Avon – and after 20 minutes it rained! So it was off do shopping and then check into our hotel in Tinton Falls. We decided that since Bistro Ole was on the top of our list (it was great last year) and we thought it would be less busy on a Tuesday (closed Mondays), we’d do that. They open at 5pm and we arrived at 6pm. Only 2 other tables were occupied then. (BUT by 7:30 it was FULL!). Again, you folks are REALLY lucky as you can go there off-season and mid week. This place is FABULOUS! We actually decided then that we’d go back on Thursday – doing seafood one night and meat the next. For appetizer (called Tapas) on the menu we had the Portobella Mushroom topped with Machengo Cheese and lots of Fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic. As an Appetizer this could serve FOUR, but we downed it. (At $8.00, a steal!). Next was the Salmon for my partner – served over shredded zuchinni as Spinich was off the menu due to the e coli scare – and rice. Another huge portion at $22.00. (She took half with us to have for lunch the next day but we never got to eat it.). I went with the Mariscada in green sauce ($22.00). I asked for clams instead if the mussels – which I don’t eat – and there had to be 25 or 30 clams (plus 12 shrimp and 12 scallops AND a lobster claw!) in it. PLUS FABULOUS rice with some beans. Service was great! Too full for dessert! Then back to the hotel.

Breakfast Wednesday was Perkins on Rt 66 in Neptune (?). We love their weekday breakfasts and we don’t have Perkins in Philly. Not gourmet but good and filling and the rests are always CLEAN!. Hit the Beach until 2pm and then it was time for ICE CREAM. We drove up 10th Ave to Cool Creme and they were open (they just open at 2pm). But it’s the end of season and the Gelato did not look very fresh. Despite all the raves here, we decided to head to Hoffman’s in Spring Lake which we’ve always loved. It was – as always GREAT and a bargain too! Again, you folks are lucky to have Hoffman’s. (I’d weigh a ton if we lived closer.). Then back to the Beach.

Diaz was second on our list and so we decided we’d do that for Wednesday (the day I’m discussing now <g>). Not knowing how busy it would be we headed there to be there around 6pm. I got lost (not knowing where Memorial Dr. was and stopped at Bistro Ole to ask Rico. He told me and said he’s loves Diaz’ pork chop. So we got there and it was open but only Diaz (his last name, you folks would know his first) and the waiter were there. I introduced myself and mentioned the CH folks. He went through the menu line by line and suggested the Puerto Rican Lasagna (plantains, tomato sauce and beef) ($8.00) as appetizer. We wanted Pork so my partner had the “pork Chops with Garlic” and black beans and rice and I went for the long cooked shredded pork with Red Beans and Rice. (Both $12.95). The “lasagna” was very tasty and interesting. The entrees were not – in our opinion – great. The two pork chops were huge but had been cooked in the liquid garlic sauce and tasted more “boiled” than fried or sauteed. Herr rice was quite good but nothing special. My shredded pork was better tasting but very underseasoned and I’m sensitive to seasoning. There was certainly plenty of food and some was still on the plate when we finished. As of 7:30pm there was only one other table of two women that arrived. As I said, Diaz was more than accommodating and the place was clean and the PR music was great. It just didn’t overwhelm us.

Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that we checked out Thompson’s Fish & Chips when we went to Cool Creme. But they are closed on Wednesdays for lunch.

Thursday morn was breakfast in our room (we had a fridge and picked up dry cereal) and then a stop at Costco for a Rotisserie Chicken. (We don’t have Costcos in downtown Philly so we always get their HUGE $4.99 chickens). This would be our lunch on the beach (actually TWO lunches as we ate the other half on Friday. After beach time – great cool weather and bright sunshine, we went back to hotel and headed back to Bistro Ole – this time a little later – 6:30 for our second dinner. It was nearly full. We knew the portion size and there were items on the Tapas menu which we wanted to try but we learned that they have a rule. AT LEAST one Entree must be ordered. We started with the Portebello again and it was super. My partner ordered the Latin dish of shredded beef and sweet plantains ($22.00) and I saw the crab cake on the Tapas menu ($12.) and was told it’s their “most popular”. It’s called “Just Crab” and was the ONLY disappointing dish we had on 3 visits. It was described as “lump crab cakes on spinach and rice topped with a cream sauce”. We knew that the spinach would be replaced by shred zucchini. What arrived was a HUGE plate topped with fresh fried – and delicious – potato sticks fully covering two “deviled crab cakes” which were thickly breaded and contained lots of filler and not a lot of crab taste. I finished most of it but it was a disappointment. (We wanted to share a salad as well but the “entree required” rule nixed that.). Again, no room for dessert. We’ll definitely be back to B.O. and will just order something different. It seems to work best for parties of four as you can share and spit items and get a better taste of the menu.

Friday was our last day and it was back to Perkins for breakfast, the rest of the Costco chicken for lunch and at 4pm as we headed back home – another stop at Hoffman’s for our last “taste of the shore”.

Had bistro Ole not been so great Tuesday we were set to try the Far East Taste that was recommended. Maybe next time. We also enjoyed the spot on the beach at Avon so much we never got up to see the new development in Long Branch. We’ll be back next Spring and I’m sure I’ll be back to ask for more CH suggestions.

Thanks to all of you who helped. It was greatly appreciated!

Steve in Philly (the OTHER Steve R)

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  1. Steve, Glad you had a good time at our Shore...Next time, I can give you some alternatives to Perkins and Hoffmans. Also, there are some new interesting restaurants in Asbury Park for when you come back.

    4 Replies
    1. re: SusieQQ

      Hi Susie Q. Why not post them as others can use them and we may get down for a day. Hard to top Hoffman's for quality, service and price IMHO. The Purple Cow didn't do it for me either. Perkins is a "guilty pleasure" for my partner. But I'm open to ideas!

      Steve in Philly

      1. re: SteveR

        IMHO the only thing good about Hoffman's ice cream is that they give large portions and it is cheap. The best ice cream in that area is The Blarney Cone on Morris Ave. in Spring Lake (they will be closing soon for the season). This is a gem of a place with wonderful Thomas Sweet ice cream and the nicest young people serving. A Breakfast place I would choose would be Nagles in Ocean Grove. Market in the Middle on Cookman Ave. in Asbury Park is an example of one of the recently opened there. Also IMHO the best restaurant in our area is The Shipwreck Grill in Brielle unless you want to spend big bucks and go to Nicholas in Middletown.

        1. re: SusieQQ

          Thanks Suzie. I've only been to Nagle's for ice cream which I found sort of weak. My opinion). Not familiar with Blarney Cone in SL. Is it new? We always walk spring lake's main street - except this time. I used to like the SL Pizza place. Last time at at the BYOB restaurant which went to Tropical theme last year and the Deli (which was okay but not great). Will give Blarney Cone a shot next time.

          I think I remember seeing Market In The middle last year but looked like just coffee and pastries to me. But I could be wrong.
          No one mentioned Shipwreck Grill in reply to my orig post.
          Thanks for your comments thought. MUCH appreciated.

          1. re: SteveR

            By the way, an excellent source for restaurant recommendations is:

    2. Steve - I have heard the Hoffman's had good ice cream. After reading your very interesting report I am assuming that the ice cream is very good. How is their food?

      1 Reply
      1. re: nizza

        Hoffman's ONY serves their home made ice cream. Yes, portions are HUGE. (Order a single and you get two BIG scoops. Dieters - order a Kiddie cone!). We all have different ideas of what makes good ice cream. I like High butterfat that doesn't melt quickly so Hoffman's is my favorite.