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Ria Mar in South River

My parents who live in the Central Jersey OFF (Old F**** Farms, e.g., Concordia) love this place. It is very low-key, not dressy, a neighborhood kind of place. It is Portuguese seafood and fish. The quality is good. My problem is that most of the preps are fried, and I don't eat fried food. Especially not fried fish. Other than driving all the way up to the Ironbound (which they won't do anymore), is there someplace anyone can recommend that has high quality fish/seafood and perhaps more modern, lighter preps alongside the traditional fried and/or gloppy sauce kind of thing? I've read enough about Doris & Ed's to think that while the menu certainly qualifies (I checked the website), it is overpriced and the food is good but not great (I guess that's part of being overpriced). Also, I tend not to like the kitschy lobster-trap-and-plastic-swordfish hanging on the wall kind of place, but what matters most is the food, so I can overlook decor if the food is really good. Think w/in a 35-40 mile radius of Exit 8A.


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  1. El Bodegon in Rahway. No comparison! The food, service, and atmosphere are much better than Ria Mar.

    1. have they tried Portuguese Fisherman down the road?

      I can't stomach Ria Mar anymore, Maybe because I live close and it's my family of non-foodies defacto place to ALWAYS go...

      3 Replies
      1. re: RPMcMurphy

        Portugese Fisherman used to be great, but went way downhill the last few times we were there, which was a few years ago. Has it improved since then? I used to love that place...

        1. re: njchowgal

          I go back and forth every year with my new "go to" place in town....between the two of them. Better than most, but not as good as the best I guess is a good way to describe both restaurants.

      2. Decent seafood at Shrimp King in Robbinsville on Rte 130 , northbound lane just south of where 33 branches off . Not fancy by any means but reliable .

        1. If you are willing to travel to Princeton, Blue Point Grill is the best for fresh fish. Also in the Marketfair Mall which is closer to Concordia is Big Fish--more of a chain type but fairly reliable fish. I would skip Shrimp King.

          1. Just order the Green (verde) mariscada. Its a big pot full of different seafood and lobster in a salty green delicious sauce served with a big plate of yellow rice. Ymmmm Ymmm Ymmm

            7 Replies
            1. re: FoodDude2

              After many many years at Ria De Mar (in the 80's free peel your own shrimp at the bar, 90's free pel your own fava beans.), we too used to go back and forth between Ria and Fisherman. My Uncle who lives in SR took us to Costa Verde on Rt 9 S in Sayreville; now we all congregate there. All said, we still had mom's funeral luncheon at Ria. She loved it there.
              I really like Ria's bacalao.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Deja vu - Passadumkeg. The wife and I spent the eighties and early nineties bouncing between the Fisherman and Ria in SR and Costa in Sayerville which were all very good. There was also a place in Highland Park on Rt 27, but can't recall the name, that was very good as well. They were my favorite for spanish potatoes and also the best porkchops.

                  1. re: MoxieBoy

                    Yes - we loved it as well. Complete with waiters in black suite, white shirt and black tie. Don't see that anymore...

                  2. re: JerzeyShore

                    There is one more Portugeuse place in lower Sayreville on Main St, next to an Italian Deli, roughly catty cornered from the Day Glo Bakery, can't remember it's name, but w/in walking distance of mom's. Good steaks & seafood. I wore my Reynaldo Brazilian soccer jersey and got a free pitcher of sangria from the bar maid.

                      1. re: FoodDude2

                        No, on what we called lower Main St., I ahven't been since Oct., perhaps it is gone.

              2. Another visit to Ria Mar. It has been re-decorated. Food is the same. Nothing to write home about. Crusty but flavorless bread, a family-style bowl of salad consisting of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and onions drowning in oil and vinegar. A gin-and-tonic so unbalanced (way too much gin) it was undrinkable. The twin lobsters were OK. The paella valenciana was supposed to be for one. Good thing we decided to split it. It was too much food even for two people. Lobster was ok, mussels were great, shrimp tasted like it was right out a bag from the freezer (no flavor). Two scallops, a number of chunks of good chorizo. Overall, the dish lacked flavor and there was a massive amount of rice. The dish was far too soupy. The cheesecake was a total waste. Flavorless. Took one bite and left the rest.

                Service was lackadaisical. No one to greet you at the host stand. We were there early and the staff seemed consumed with cleaning up from a recent party and getting ready for the next. A few of them glanced at us but no one greeted us. Eventually someone came over to seat us. Throughout dinner, I noticed that this seemed to be their standard operating procedure. People stood at the host stand waiting for someone to notice them and walk over. Not a nice greeting at all. The waiter was very nice but distracted. No one ever checked the water glasses, one side dish was forgotten, no one asked if we needed anything. The fairly empty dining room was incredibly noisy, what with the setting up in the banquet room and the constant crashing of dishes in the kitchen. One waiter sat at a table in the dining room, polishing the silverware in a large bin.

                Not going to return.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Just Visiting

                  Maybe your parents would enjoy Peter's Fishery in Matawan? BYOB, not glam-y at all, but for all the times we had to take older family members..they LOVE it! I actually have always enjoyed the broiled halibut. Like I said, it is nothing special, and don't go here thinking you are going to have seafood the Eric Ripert way, but maybe your parents might like it? Just a thought and hope it helps!


                  Maybe you might like Blue Water Seafood in Red Bank. I have only been there two times, and both times I was very pleased and glad we went there over the numerous "waste of time" places in Red Bank!



                  1. re: Angelina

                    We haven't been to Peter's Fishery in ages but used to go every so often. We'd always order the same thing: Manhattan clam chowder to start for each of us followed by fried shrimp and fries for me, and seafood over linguini for Mr. R. Portions were very generous. He would finish his, but I always had enough shrimp and fries left over for lunch the next day. As you said, decent for what it is.

                    The one time we tried Blue Water Seafood, in East Brunswick, the food was horrible! So, despite your being pleased with the Red Bank location, Angelina, there is no way we would ever eat there.


                    1. re: Angelina

                      Thanks, Angelina. I don't expect every seafood restaurant to have the creative approach of an Eric Ripert but it would be nice to eat food that tastes like the chef took pride in the food he sends out. Like thinking about seasoning, proportions, quality over quantity. We were given enough bread for nine people. Most of it goes to waste. I'd rather have one nice, delicious roll per person than a basket of flavorless bread. The salad was pathetic. In this day and age, no excuse for flavorless, limp iceberg lettuce, sliced onions and tomatoes drowning in oil and vinegar. And it would be nice to feel that someone cared that we walked into their establishment and hoped that we would return.

                      I should mention that the place isn't very comfortable. When you walk in, you go up a ramp that passes by the bar. Yet they've also shoved another bar into the already small main dining room. Overall the place feels cramped and all the hard surfaces just amplify the noise.

                      We'll try the other two places you suggest.