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Is there great local seafood to be had on the Jersey Shore?

Just back from a terrific weekend in Cape May and Wildwood - lovely beaches and nice people - but had one of the more abysmal (and expensive) meals of the last few months at Urie's in Wildwood.

I can't for the life of me understand the draw of a seafood place sitting smack on the Atlantic ocean that serves nothing but frozen imported Alaskan King crab legs, Mahi Mahi, frozen this, frozen that, and all of it boiled, broiled and oiled to death (and beyond) by a kitchen staff that clearly is working this summer to earn money for next semester's school supplies. They cut every possible corner and botched every possible detail, from the nickel-sized lukewarm clams on the half-shell to the golfball-sized baked potato, to the Hunt's ketchup (always a bad sign when Heinz is empirically superior but costs a bit more), to the greasy plastic awning/window thing that totally obscured the view of the harbor - why put your restaurant on the waterfront and then block out the waterfront? It was so bad it was kind of funny.

But Urie's was the rec I got from locals I asked on the street, and the place was completely packed.

So NEXT TIME we head down there, we want to be armed with better recommendations. There have to be places in the area where you can get locally caught, fresh fish and shellfish (right?).

Any ideas?

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  1. too bad u didnt try Lobster House, they sell fresh and cooked local fish. good too.

    1. I buy most of my seafood, local and not, from the Lobster House in CM. I just don't let them cook it, but I don't have to since I'm not a tourist. I also buy local crabs and fresh whole fish from a fish purveyor in the Villas to cook at home. Lobster House is not my cup of tea but is OK to go if you are specifically looking for a decent variety of seafood, particularly local seafood, and are willing to pay high prices for it and forgo the BYO. You'll typically find local lobster, clams, oysters, crab, striper bass and bluefish on the menu. If you want to pay less eat out back on the deck rather than in the inside dining room (it's ambience is reminiscent of the Old Bookbinders in Philly). The deck is not bad when it's not too hot out, but at night the mosquitos can kill you. The Crab House at 2 mile landing was the other possibility for local seafood but the floor just caved in so they won't be serving anything any time soon. Virtually all of the better restaurants in the area serve a variety of excellent fish dishes but it's hard to know in advance if they're going to have local fish on the menu. Mostly it's salmon, halibut or sea bass, lobster tail (spiny) and crab (could be from anywhere), good quality but usually flown in. It's unfortunate but that's the case. Heck, it drives me nuts when Im in the Carribean and most of the fish the restaurants serve is flown in. Go figure.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Ellen

        Can you give us the name of the fish purveyor in the Villas?

        Thanks!

        1. re: ishkabibble

          Budd's Bait and Tackle for crabs and farmed clams. Fish and Fancy for prepared take away fish dishes and some fresh fish. It's impossible to get a whole fresh fish for grilling unless you order it in advance. If you ask BB&T to get you something locally caught, they'll call you when it's in. Lobster House won't do that and doesn't sell whole fish either, which also drives me nuts.

        2. re: Ellen

          Thanks, Ellen (and nyebaby) - I'll check out the Lobster House next time, if I don't blow all my cash on frozen custard.

          I also noticed that there were a number of little take-out places selling fresh fish and crabs (for taking home and cooking) - do any of them sell any prepared dishes? I don't really need to have a restaurant experience - if there was a place that sold great takeout crab or fish dishes I'd be happy to buy a soda and eat on the street....

          1. re: GDSwamp

            Good thing you don't need the "restaurant experience" if you have Lobster House in mind.On several other threads, there's enough backup to my bad experience with the Lobster House restaurant to confirm it. From blah to unacceptable inside.

            However the fishmarket and outside casual seafood operation is excellent there. Stick with staying outside at Lobster House.

            1. re: fpatrick

              agreed. inside is stuffy and "mildewy".

        3. Down a bit farther, on Long Beach Island at Barnegat Light, is Viking Village, where a large percentage of the fish and shellfish for the whole Eastern Seaboard comes in.

          There's a LOT of wonderfully fresh fish there... in the most informal of settings. A beautiful place to spend a Saturday!

          1. Try Allen's Clam Bar in New Gretna - it's a little hole in the wall, but you can wait up to an hour on a weekend, so what does that tell you? Concrete floors, BYOB, with a menu that's pretty much confined to broiled and fried versions of the classics - their fried scallops are the best, freshest scallops around - ditto for the shrimp. They also do a mean oyster stew. There's a liquor store across the street, and they'll ice down your beer for you.

            A bit further south, in Leeds Point, directly on the water, is the Oyster Creek Inn, the best place on the shore for real pick'em and eat'em crabs. Don't eat inside, but stay in the screened in porch, called "Bill's Crab Room" - you'll eat off of lunch trays like the ones you used in high school - menu is confined to lobster ($12.00 for a perfectly cooked 1-pounder), crabs of varying sizes, shrimp, clams, oysters, corn on the cob, and hot dogs in case you have a kid or non-seafood eater. They have a full bar, really cold beer, and really friendly servers (family owned). You can sit there for hours, picking crabs (since you never get full) and watching the boats come in.

            1 Reply
            1. re: newfie29

              Now you're talking. These recs sound great, newfie. I'm excited for my next chance to head to the shore and check these out.

            2. Hey there, A!

              I feel your pain. And I can't be of much help except to say that newfie's tip about the Oyster Creek Inn in Leeds Point sounds right up my alley.

              A little further north in Tuckerton Seaport there is a place called Skeeter's Crazy Water Cafe. The name gives me something of a chill, but friends ate there recently and liked it a lot. In particular they said that the fish was utterly fresh and wonderful (and he is a fisherman). They also gave high marks to a grilled portobello, zucchini and red pepper sandwich. Only so-so fries though.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Deb Van D

                Hey Deb! This reminds me I should send you a picture of my new baby boy.

                Skeeter's (name aside - and it's a real stinker, I admit) sounds like a winner. Now that I've been to the beach in Jerse I'm kind of dying to get back. Now, hopefully, I'll be able to add the one element my last visit missed - good food.

                Speaking of places with dubious names - has anyone tried Sharkey's Feeding Frenzy on the road between Cape May and Wildwood? We passed it and noticed some outdoor grills that looked promising, but we were intent on getting to Wildwood for the barbecue festival (which we missed).

                1. re: GDSwamp

                  Hoo boy, am I relieved to hear that Sharkey's Feeding Frenzy is still there! We are heading down to Wildwood in August, and I have been dreaming about Sharkey's all winter. Last summer I had the freshest,sweetest piece of local flounder I've ever had on the Shore, cooked gently in foil on top of the grill. Oh my. This was while my husband was having the best ribs of his life. At the next table, a group appeared to be diving head first into a pile of crabs.

                  Sharkey's made us break our longstanding rule of not eating twice in the same place during a vacation. The first night we were there the wind nearly blew the canvas roof off, and the staff struggled to set up a windbreak to keep the grill from going out. Nobody left, even though the struggle took 45 minutes!. The next night the weather was better and the food continued to amaze.

                  I learned about Sharkey's last year from a Chowhound post. I am happy to pass on the good word.

                  1. re: VFresser

                    Man, now I really feel bad about not stopping.... Ok, so that's on our agenda as well. Thanks, VF! So many good recommendations!

                  2. re: GDSwamp

                    A boy! I am delighted to hear it--I was wondering if that little Eagle had Landed. Congratulations times 10, A! Please send that picture.

                    The names of places like Skeeter's and Sharkey's Feeding Frenzy do not exactly inspire confidence. It's nice to hear some good reports.

                    Get thee back to the shore and get some sand in those diapers.