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Jul 17, 2007 02:27 PM

Salt Water Beach Cafe - Asbury Park

Has anyone been to this restaurant in the old Ho Jo's on the boardwalk? Its been open for a few months now but I read nothing about the place. Thanks.

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  1. Friends of mine told me that they had dinner there and the food was good. I cannot remember what they ordered though!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Barbarella

      Thanks Barb. I may give it a try this weekend.

      1. re: bgut1

        If you do let us all know how it was. I do want to go there sometime soon too.

      2. re: Barbarella

        I went to this place on 8/1 with my father who was visiting from Arizona. My daughter and two sisters went as well. The food was below average, the boardwalk seating was nice and the inside was clean. However, I would never go again. We had the WORST service EVER. I once was a waitress, my family owns a restaurant and my sister is a bartender. So we know something about customer service. The waiter, hostess and manager were the rudest I have ever encountered. I have never in my life "stiffed" a waiter for a tip, this was a first for me. This was also my first trip to Ausbury Park, one I long awaited. It was unpleasant. We all left with a bad taste in our mouths.

        1. re: cassie723

          I have to agree. I gave this place two chance this summer, the most recent this past weekend. I heard the chef was from the Four Seasons (in Philly? not completely sure). And I must say that I had the best scallops I ever had in my life - that was the ONLY highlight of the experience. This was the WORST service I have EVER experienced in my life! They just haven't gotten it together yet. A bunch of airy hostesses who let you stand there for like 15 minutes before getting seated when there are tons of tables open. I was there for dinner early - like around 5:30, so it wasn't overly crowded. No one can seem to take any action and just "do".

          We asked for bread to go with our salad, and 10 minutes later like 3 buy boys came out with bread plates and delivered to every table except ours. We finally asked again for bread, and we didn't get butter. And finally when we asked for a dessert menu (mind you...the waitress had one in her hand), she rushed away and didn't come back for like 30 minutes.....finally she came back and joked about how she forgot and how dessert would be on her, but she was only joking.

          The bill came to $75 for two appetizers, one half entree and two glasses of wine. I also left the worst tip I ever left (and I'm always a generous tipper). They need a strong operations manager...the food has potential, but both experiences were soooo stressful, I just can't give them another chance.

          But must hand it to Asbury Park for jazzing up the boardwalk - this has been the best summer ever!

      3. My sons and I went there the first week it opened and had a good meal, not outstanding but certainly above average. I had a roasted chicken and my sons had steak. I'll go back after the summer crowds thin out.

        12 Replies
        1. re: SusieQQ

          Thanks Susie. Does anyone know if they have a website? I can't find anything online :(

          1. re: bgut1

            Googling yields no website, but I did find this:

            Hmmm... Outdoor seating, bgut1....

            1. re: RGR

              Thank RGR. I found that one myself and also did some research on Gabe Marabella and his past restaurants to get an idea of the place. It seems his chef Kevin O'Kane cooked at the Moshulu and the Four Seasons in Philly. I may have to give the outdoor seating a try. BTW, isn't it standard business practice to have a website before a restaurant opens. I hate when they don't do that. I have to see the menu before I go!!!

              1. re: bgut1


                I totally agree a new restaurant should have a website up and running when it opens. I've often found that new restaurants will have a website address, but when you go there, all you see is a homepage with the message, "Under construction." In some cases, it takes *months* for the site to be "built." But SWBC doesn't even have that!! Like you, I am loathe to try a new place without seeing a menu. Not that that means the food's going to be any good....

                What we could use is a NJ version of Menupages!

                1. re: RGR

                  Good idea RGR ..... I nominate you to start one ... :)

                  1. re: bgut1

                    Hey, if there's money to be made I'll do it. Hell, I'd do just about anything to get out of the godforesaken practice of law (having a bad day....)

                2. re: bgut1

                  I ate there about two weeks ago and the food and the service were great. The scallops were an appetizer and they were cooked perfectly. The salmon was to die for. My son got a hamburger and he was just as pleased. Eating outside watching the ocean and listening to whatever band is playing at the Paramount just adds to a great evening.....

                3. re: RGR


                  I am unable to get onto the website. Anychance you might have the phone for the resto?

                  1. re: Barbarella

                    A website? Salt Water Beach does not appear to have one (yet?).

                    1. re: Barbarella

                      Salt Water Beach Cafe, 1200 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park (732-774-1400)

                      1. re: bgut1

                        Thanks, plan to go Saturday night if I can get a reservation. Did you ever make it to that resto?

                        1. re: Barbarella

                          No I didn't. Still on my list however.

              2. Food is great but SERVICE IS THE WORST EVER!!!! Waited 15 minutes just for a glass of water while the wait staff stood around socializing. Waited even longer for the food because the waitress was too slow to put in the order. Yet, there were more employees than there were customers. The only explanation I can come up with is this place is Very Poorly Managed.
                I ordered the rack of ribs - Delicious! It came with an apple slaw to die for. There fries are from fresh cut potatoes. So good!
                I didn't finish my meal and asked my waitress to wrap it up for me. 20 minutes later I asked where my leftovers were and she informed that she THREW IT OUT by mistake. I then ordered a pear grey goose and received a blueberry stoli. Not even close.

                2 Replies
                1. re: speshpresh

                  Two comments, Spesh:

                  1) Don't ever, ever let a server wrap leftovers for you. Always ask for the to-go container and wrap it yourself. Why? Because disgusting things happen to your leftovers once they leave your sight--all the time--even if your server is wrapping in good faith and the disgusting things are a result of inadvertent circumstances. Here is but one common example: Server returns to kitchen with four dirty plates, two with leftovers to be wrapped. Server stops at dishwasher's area to dump the dirty plates before heading to the to-go station. Server puts the two leftover plates down on rail of dishwasher station to scrape dirty plates into garbage. While leftover plates sit there, backwash drips from dirty glasses in the glass rack above the rail are dripping down like rain all around and on the leftovers. As other servers walk by and rack dirty glasses, the exposed leftovers are subject to spew flailing out of glasses that are lazily tossed in the racks. Anyone in the business for a respectable amount of time can share countless stories of getting splashed in the eyes with a filthy potion of such spew that sprays out of the always-clogged drip trough when a new rack is put up too quickly. If you think that is bad, how about the spew of dirty silverware enzyme soaking solution that sprays everywhere as servers make foul shots of dirty silverware into the soaking rack, the edge of which is situated about 6 inches from the resting leftovers. It can get worse. Like what if she didn't tell you that she through it out and just picked it out of the garbage instead?

                  2. Based on chatter in the Asbury restaurateur scene, I have the opinion that the SWBC is mismanaged (this is not a fact; this is my opinion) and has little chance of making it through the winter under current management as a profitable enterprise (again, opinion).

                  1. re: speshpresh

                    If a waitress who had provided me the horrible service you describe here told me she had thrown out my leftovers by mistake, I would have told her she just threw out her tip as well.

                  2. Went to Salt Water Cafe in October 2007 on a Saturday night. Very light crowd. Was hoping that the service issues I read about during the summer had ended but not so. The food was not bad but the food took too long to arrive for a slow night. Had the grilled scallops which was good as was the calamari appetizer. Salads were good as well. Don't expect a big plate of food. The guy who appeared to be the manager seemed more interested sitting at the bar with friends then keeping an eye on what was going on in the restaurant. Would give it another shot for lunch on a warm day. Not terrible by any means but I was hoping for more.

                    1. The original comment has been removed
                      1. I've been wanting to try Salt Water Beach Cafe, but have been reluctant to do so due to the limited number of reviews on this and other sites. Having seen Chef Gruel on Endless Feast (New Hampshire episode) I had some higher than usual expectations about the food. Instead, I took one for the team. Let me save you all the trouble. Go elsewhere!!

                        We arrived at 7:30PM to find the place completely empty save for a couple sitting at the bar. The dining room was deserted. At that point we should have just turned around a left. Instead we sat at a table looking onto the boardwalk. We ordered a few drinks and began to peruse the menu. To be honest with you, the menu looked really good with a heavy emphasis on comfort food. We ordered the following: Kobe slider burgers, tuna tempura appetizer, truffle lobster mac and cheese and the all American meatloaf. Things started out well. We were presented with a fresh loaf of bread with some nice olive tempanade. The apps arrived pretty quickly thereafter and they too were good. The Kobe sliders were the best item of the night. Three juicy burgers with brioche buns, cheese (I believe cheddar) and a nice aioli. The tuna appetizer consisted of five slices of properly cooked (rare) tuna encircled with a nice crispy breading. While good, the tuna app was a bit skimpy for the $16 (?) price.

                        The mains on the other hand were downright bad. The lobster mac was delivered in a iron skillet. That's were the excitement ended. Where do I start with this horrible dish? The noodles were overcooked. There where no traces of truffle or truffle oil. The lobster was practically non-existent. There was very little cheese in the dish. It was a watery mess. I wanted to send it back but my wife refused not wanting to create a scene. Absolutely no redeeming qualities to this purported house specialty. One of the single worst items I have ever eaten at a restaurant. My meatloaf (another touted dish in this thread) was far from the best I've ever had. The dish looked nice and was very sizeable consisting of a softball size round of meatloaf atop shitake mushrooms and green beans and accompanied by three crunchy mashed potato balls. The meatloaf was okay but contained a bit too much filler for my liking. Also, the glaze that topped the meatloaf was too sweet for me.

                        We decided to push our luck after noticing that they had bread pudding with bourbon sauce on the menu. We knew we had ordered wrong when the bread pudding was delivered swimming in a pool of oily/separated sauce. The bread pudding wasn’t horrible but was way too mushy to be enjoyed. Total cost for this meal was $79 exclusive of tip (they charged for refills - boo). While the burgers were good, I can’t in good conscious recommend this restaurant. We will more than likely never return.

                        BTW, we noticed when our drinks were delivered that the cocktail napkins proclaimed it a McLoone’s Restaurant. Our waitress advised that McLoone took over the restaurant a week ago and intended to make changes to the interior to make it cozier. We did notice a number of workmen walking through the restaurant. Good Luck.

                        1. re: bgut1

                          Excellent review, as usual, bgut. :-) Did you actually finish those poorly-prepared dishes, or did you and Mrs. bgut just take a few bites? (I hate wastiing calories on horrible food!) And, btw, is the chef's name really "Gruel"? lol

                          1. re: RGR

                            Thanks RGR. Its funny you bring up the point of the wasted calories. Yes we did eat most of our meals as we were famished. While driving home, I did comment to Mrs, Bgut that I did regret wasting precious calories on the meal. And yes his name is Gruel. :)
                            Here's a link to a photo and bio from his prior restaurant:

                            1. re: bgut1

                              Thanks for the link, bgut. After reading the bio, I felt really sad and totally stumped as to how it was possible for a chef with that solid resume to serve food which was as inferior as you described it. :-(

                              1. re: RGR

                                I agree RGR. I had no intention to go to the restaurant until I learned that he took over for the prior chef, Kevin O'Kane. To say I left disappointed is an understatement.

                                1. re: bgut1


                                  I guess I shouldn't beat the proverbial dead horse, but there's something about this that really bothers me. Looked again at your review. You don't say what day you were there, so I presume it was mid-week? Maybe the chef was off? Not that that should be any excuse....

                                  You did praise the sliders and the tuna. While I have often had the experience where the appetizers outshined the mains, usually, the mains were not seriously bad, just not quite as good. So, I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that a chef with that background could produce such a horribly executed "house specialy" like the lobster mac and cheese you described.

                                  Oh, well... Time to head to the kitchen to roast a chicken. :-)

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    RGR - Let me answer a few of your questions. First, I dined there last night which was a Thursday. Second, the chef was present as I saw him walk the floor with the workmen/contractors. Third, while the sliders were excellent and the tuna was decent, they did nothing to temper the disappointment of the mains and the dessert. Last, no need to worry about beating the proverbial dead horse as that's what this board is all about.

                            2. re: RGR

                              First I must state who I am. My name is Andrew Gruel and I am the Executive Chef at The Salt Water Beach Cafe. I write for two reasons. Firstly to express that I still find my name to be appropriate given my chosen career field. I have yet to find or perfect the essential gruel recipe, but somewhere between farina and stew I know it is out there. Also, if you are not pleased with your food anywhere, it should surely be sent back. Any restaurant that would not remove these empty calories off the bill would be foolish. Lastly, just to correct the above statements, the Tuna appetizer is Wasabi Crusted, not tempura......and the price of the appetizer is $12 not $16. It is nice to see however, some real foodies are checking out the boardwalk in Asbury.


                              1. re: agruel

                                Chef, there was a lot of talk of McLoone's taking over. Is that happening? Are you staying on? Is the restaurant changing? I had lunch there in December and it was really good. Is the menu going to change?
                                Also.... cheerio? really?

                                1. re: hotfoodhot

                                  Hot Food Hot......Yes McLoone's has taken over. No the restaurant is not changing, it will remain the Salt Water Beach Cafe. The menu will change monthly (or more) according to what the farmers markets bring!! Also I hear there is going to be a farmers market in the old casino at the end of the boardwalk, so that helps.


                                  1. re: agruel

                                    I haven't been to your restaurant yet and while I have been vocal about my negative opinions of the latest McLoone's entries to the shore dining scene, I applaud you for not only reading the postings here, but for stepping out, standing behind your work and making it clear that you (and many other culinary pros) are listening.
                                    Thanks and regardless of the reviews above, I know plan on paying a visit to Salt Water Beach Cafe sooner than later ... provided you are staying on after this reported ownership change.

                                    1. re: aklein

                                      Chowhound is great for chefs!! Every chef should have the opportunity to read about not just their own food, but that of others(you'd be surprised at how many chefs are obsessed with chowhound). I have gotton ideas here from some of the reviews that I otherwise would not have considered. I am amazed at the knowledge that so many people have of the food scene here in NJ. Those people who specifically have critiqued my food have forced me to make positive changges and I applaud their pallette.

                                      As for the NJ shore dining scene, it is a picture that seems to change daily. Asbury is a Gem and I can't wait to see what the summer brings!!!!