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dinner recommendations Asbury Park or Long Branch

s
sharpfried May 23, 2008 04:41 PM

Any suggestions for dinner Rec's in either Asbury Park or Long Branch ( pier area). We love Taka but have been there, want to try any other places.

  1. Barbarella Oct 28, 2008 06:35 AM

    So many good things about Taka. Is that a Japanese resto?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Barbarella
      bgut1 Oct 28, 2008 07:40 AM

      Yes - http://takaapnj.com/index.html

      1. re: bgut1
        h
        HappyHourFan Jan 18, 2009 01:40 PM

        So, the name Taka is used more often in these posts than a set of beads at Mardi Gras. Apparently, I have to go there. Any recs on what I should try. I just checked out the menu online, and it all looks appealing, I just want to make sure I don't miss out on anything

        1. re: HappyHourFan
          o
          OGguy Jan 19, 2009 11:44 AM

          The chicken thighs, the griled fish of the day and the seafood combo are all wonderful. My wife can never resist the short ribs special when they have it. I don't think I've ever had anything that wasn't very good. Haven't tried the sushi, however.

    2. JerzeyShore May 24, 2008 09:44 AM

      Here are a few places that I've been to in Asbury Park:
      Moonstruck
      Carmines
      The Harrison
      Plan B
      Brick Wall
      Taka
      Bistro O'le

      16 Replies
      1. re: JerzeyShore
        bgut1 May 24, 2008 10:00 AM

        I'm sorry to say that after dining in most of the restaurants in AP the only one I can wholeheartedly recommend is Taka. As far as Long Branch is concerned there isn't much better available. I would definitely stay away from the Pier Village. Instead, I would shoot for any of the following: Thyme Square or Dish in Red Bank, Table in Little Silver, Casa Solar or Vivas in Belmar. Good Luck and please let us know about your meal.

        1. re: bgut1
          JerzeyShore May 24, 2008 10:16 AM

          Have to agree with you on Taka as we have been there dozens of times over the past few years. And you already know that I still like Moonstruck but it may be aging a bit and I will give you that. Have you been to the chowhounder Andy Gruel's place the Salt Water Beach Cafe? I have not but plan to try it. Because of poor weather on the weekends over the past month wwe have not been down to the Atlantic Bar and Grill which you recommended. I plan to do this soon I hope, before the summer crowd. There are several new restaurants in this area just opening...

          1. re: bgut1
            CatLadyJan May 24, 2008 11:22 AM

            sorry to say that Casa Solar is off our list; we went there bout two months ago and it must have changed hands, Juan (owner) was gone, tableclothes were gone, and, unfortunately, the food was "gone" too. Meal was terrible. Will not go back. Have not been to Thyme Square, but have been to Dish, Table, and of course Vivas. Like them all.

            1. re: CatLadyJan
              bgut1 May 24, 2008 05:27 PM

              Jersey - Yes I have been to Chef Gruel's restaurant and sorry to say the meal was pretty bad and I doubt I will ever return. See my post on the Salt Water Beach Cafe thread for my detailed review.

              Cat - Please try Thyme Square as its excellent. I haven't been back to Casa Solar in sometime so I do not doubt your assessment. Can anyone else confirm either its sale or a drop off in food?

              1. re: bgut1
                seal May 25, 2008 07:18 AM

                My family and I had a very nice meal and interesting drinks at Market in the Middle in AP a few weeks ago and I would definately go back.

                I also like Thyme Square in Red Bank a lot and am looking forward to my next meal there.

                A wholehearted agree on the STAY AWAY FROM PIER VILLAGE comment. If you want to go there for the nice atmosphere(and it is) then eat elsewhere and just snack on the wonderful gourmet caramel apples at Rocky Mountain Chocolates. Get one of the more expensive ones as the plain ones are not as good. If you simply must eat nearby, Jack's Rib and Ale house is close and although it has zero atmosphere, the ribs and wings are good.

                1. re: bgut1
                  CatLadyJan May 25, 2008 09:49 AM

                  bgut1, definitely I will try Thyme Sqr. We were a Drew's Bistro last weekend and loved it; plan on hitting Atlantic Bar and Grill possibly next weekend. Yea, I was really disappointed about casa solar, we really liked it. Did not mention another observation, probably most important, that Casa used to get packed by 6 p.m.....well no one was there except us and another couple. And I did hear from an acquaintance who lives in the town and previously owned an italian deli (Tuscany) that Juan "bailed out".

                  1. re: CatLadyJan
                    stack_c Jun 5, 2008 02:34 PM

                    I am sorry to report that although I have homes in both Long Branch and Asbury Park...the dinner choices are few & far between. I concur that Taka is the strongest contender for dinner in AP with Moonstruck coming in as a second option. Stay FAR away from Salt Water Cafe. Absolutely horrific meal! Bistro Ole has seen better days. Mattison Park does good brick ovens style pizzas and martinis and thats about it. Used to be a big fan of Market but as of lately the food has been going down hill there too....its very unfortunate. I hope that things will brighten up on the dinner front in AP. Don't waste your time with Plan B, Brickwall, Synaxis, Isabelles, Carmines or The Harrison. At least as far is dinner is concerned.
                    Unfortunately, Long Branch is not much better. Cask 591 or Tavolo would probably be my only recommendations for dinner in Long Branch. And neither one is Stellar. I hace recently ahd some suprisingly good meals at Mr. C's at the Allenhurst Beach Club. Everyplace else in LB...have a drink and leave!

            2. re: JerzeyShore
              f
              fvc496 Oct 28, 2008 02:21 AM

              I can't say any place in Asbury is great, but some of the restaurants are quite good--most of which depends on what you order:

              Taka--pretty good across the board; reasonable cost (BYOB); good service.

              Carmine's--personally I love this place. Maybe I've been lucky in my ordering, but it's been great every time I've been there (which is about once a month). Pastas are all quite good and I'm a fool for the veal chop parm. Skip every other dessert and order the chocolate souffle (in advance). The house wine is decent enough, and don't make the mistake of over ordering. Portions are ridiculously large. The service here is probably the best in AP (I don't know why but most service in AP restaurants is fair to poor; Carmine's is truly professional). The decor is wonderfully adult, perfect for a dirty martini or a sidecar; it also sports a true raw bar (with those fascinating pan roast contraptions that they have at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station).

              Bistro Ole--yes, I think the quality has gone downhill in the past year, but there are still some things on the menu that are quite tasty (the empanada for example). Value-wise, the portions are huge here as well, and it is BYOB. The service, atmosphere, and the owner's enthusiasm makes up for most or the quality loss.

              Market in the Middle--I want to love this place and I'm always a little disappointed when I don't. That's not to say it isn't good; it just always seems that it's a touch of the mark. The mac & cheese special (which changes daily) can one day be oozing and perfect and the next day be oily and separated. The live music which is nice in theory is too loud for dining. The chairs are high enough to make you feel like a fourth grader. On the other hand, it has nice indoor and outdoor space, innovative and mainly successful dishes, and has a great vibe.

              Brickwall Tavern--The food is better than it should be for what is mainly a bar (again, depending on what you order and what your expectations are). For example, my GF ordered the mini-burgers which were dry and plain and generally terrible, and I ordered the regular burger which was dressed well and juicy and quite good--this was in the same order! The meatloaf and pork chop were good, though I wouldn't feed the mozzarella sticks to my dog. But all in all, it's better than average bar food. It can be very loud and noisy, especially on the weekends.

              Salt Water Beach Cafe--The service, which was AWFUL last year, has graduated to being spotty. Having dinner there back in August (08), my table's service was very good while table next to us were served their entire order late and wrong! The place is just down the street from me so I'd like to see them do well, but honestly, it's been a year and a half already. The food has improved however; it has gone from ho-hum trendy to being pretty good (again, depending on what you order--notice a theme here?). The fish--I can't remember if it was cod or black cod--was perfect. It is pricier than I'd like, but I'll still support it as a local business.

              Laila's--cute little place with a limited menu (Latin, whatever that means?), which has more women running it than it has customers. They try so hard which makes you want it to succeed. The food overall is saltier than I'd like it to be (and I like salt on my food). The steak is probably the best thing on the menu. Also BYOB.

              Chat & Nibble--Decent diner-type food and reasonably priced; more for breakfast/lunch than for dinner. It beats Franks by a landslide.

              El Monterey & La Tapatia--I have to give these another shot since I either went on an off-night or I misordered (see caveat above). Given the Mexican population in the immediate vicinity and the lack of gringos, these two should be good. Mine was mediocre.

              D&L BBQ--I am very picky about my BBQ--N. Carolina is the one and only--and this ain't it. I'm being harsh; the pulled pork is decent but I wouldn't go out of way for it. I'm not a ribs guy so I can't comment on that.

              Beach Bar--All I have to say on this place is that if it weren't right on the ocean, NO ONE would go there. Stick with drinks. I went for lunch in June (08) around 1:30 expecting the old Tiki Bar, and was handed a menu which listed exactly 5 wraps. That's it. The three of us ordered 3 different ones; the waitress ran off, came back what seemed like 2 hours later only to tell us they only had 1 of the 3 wraps we ordered. So we ordered 2 of one type and the 4th one listed on the menu. The waitress runs off again, comes back way too much later to tell us that the 4th one is also not available. So out of FIVE items on the menu, they only have TWO! I mean, give me a break...

              Isabella's--Some locals love this place; I was not impressed. It's not bad, but I'd rather go to Carmine's. Isabella's is not that much cheaper (though it is BYOB), but the menu is more limited, and the place looks like it belongs in a cheap strip mall on the outskirts of Cincinnati.

              Mattison Park--Pizzas are rumoured to be good, though I'm usually too busy drinking the martinis here to waste my time (and food calories) with eating. It's really more of a bar/lounge/club than a restaurant. I do appreciate them doing something, and the dishes coming out of the kitchen do look good. But I can't really comment past that.

              Biggie's Clam Bar--Good clam strips if you like them bready, which I do. Stay away from the chili dog, though.

              Ketchup (in the Empress Motel)--An overpriced, me-too restaurant. Service is bad even for Asbury's standards. Walk the 4 blocks to Market in the Middle or Brick Wall.

              Synaxis--I think it's supposed to be Greek cuisine, though it seemed awfully Mideastern to me. The appetizer platter (the usual stuffed grape leaves, hummus, spanikopita) was OK, but no better than a mid-level caterer might serve. Not that bad if you're drinking heavily, which I think is the way to go here. Watching the clientle is the real fun at this place. Let's just say Maybelline will never go out of business with this crowd. Service is spotty (as usual).

              1. re: fvc496
                bgut1 Oct 28, 2008 05:25 AM

                An excellent recap of most of the restaurants in AP. Add Sister Sues, Old Man Rafferty's and Jimmy's and I believe you would have them all.

                1. re: bgut1
                  f
                  fvc496 Oct 29, 2008 10:44 AM

                  I did not put in the restaurants I have not been to: Sister Sue's, The Harrison, Plan B, Old Man Rafferty's, Moonstruck, Jimmy's, Posillipo, The Adriatic. There are a couple of places opening on the Boardwalk as well: Langosta Lounge and Stella Mare (not sure if this is the right name).

                  A postscript is that although I think the restaurant scene in AP is not where I think it should be (and that's subjective as hell), I do believe the only way for it to get there is for us to support the local businesses. My advice is to keep your standards high and your expectations low, and you'll have a good time!

                  1. re: fvc496
                    bgut1 Oct 29, 2008 11:21 AM

                    fvc496 - I think I may have to disagree with you on your last point. While I have no problem with maintaining at least reasonable standards, I can not keep my expectations low. My expectations must at least equal my standards. If they aren't met, I feel I am wasting my money and will not wish to return to the establishment irrespective of my desire to see a local buisness prosper. IMHO, if a business wants to succeed and in turn earn my business, they better put out a decent product and offer satisfactory customer service.

                    1. re: bgut1
                      f
                      fvc496 Oct 30, 2008 01:09 PM

                      bgut1 -- I understand and agree with your point in general. I did not mean to imply we should blindly support mediocrity or incompetence (which is why I end up at Carmines and Taka 80% of the time). By keeping standards high, I mean that we should let our dissatisfactions be known to give proprietors a chance to improve; and by keeping standards low, I mean that we should keep them reasonable and within the scope and scale of the establishment. You'll note that my posting does not blindly accept and/or excuse most of the places in AP. Let's just keep it in context.

                      Speaking of which, bgut1, I believe you started an excellent post of why there is such mediocrity in NJ restaurants. My two cents is that I couldn't agree more. It seems as if most of the people in this state are more concerned with how big the portions are than whether they are any good. They unfortunately, are no different from the rest of these United States.

                      1. re: fvc496
                        bgut1 Oct 30, 2008 04:02 PM

                        Thanks for the clarfication.

                2. re: fvc496
                  MGZ Oct 29, 2008 04:22 PM

                  The last time we were at the Beach Bar, we kept trying to figure out how we could sneak in fried clams from Biggie's or a Cuban sandwich from the boardwalk. The food they offer there is shameful, but the setting is fantastic.

                  1. re: MGZ
                    f
                    fvc496 Oct 30, 2008 01:14 PM

                    No kidding!!! (not mention other goodies in AP; Mex food on Main Street, subs from 4-Js, hot dogs from Windmill. Christ, those guys at the Beach Bar could serve hors d'oeurves from Costco and it would be better than the crap, oops I mean wrap, they serve.

                    1. re: fvc496
                      MGZ Oct 30, 2008 01:29 PM

                      Perhaps, the Beach Bar should become a BYOC - Bring Your Own Chow!

              2. Angelina May 24, 2008 07:40 AM

                What about Charlie's in Long Branch?

                http://www.charleysoceangrill.com/

                I have not been since the remodel, but I always liked the place.

                Have fun!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: Angelina
                  s
                  sharpfried Jun 4, 2008 07:11 PM

                  thank you very much for recommending Charlie's... We went for Saturday night dinner for 4. We all loved it, from the drinks to the seafood apps to the fabulously fresh and well prepared seafood entree's. I hadn't been in years and the remodeled version was great for what we were looking for. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Pleasantly surprised.

                  1. re: sharpfried
                    Angelina Jun 5, 2008 05:53 AM

                    That is so great to hear, sharpfried! I still have not been, but definately on my top list. They always had great, fresh fish I recall.

                    Thanks again for the review!

                    1. re: sharpfried
                      Bob Martinez Jun 5, 2008 08:52 AM

                      I reviewed the new place last month.
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/517455

                      We've since been back. There were service issues the first time around but things went more smoothly on our second visit. As I had hoped the maitre 'd from the restaurant's earlier incarnation is back and this should really help the level of professionalism for the front of the house.

                      On my 2nd visit I had the stuffed pork chops. While these were fine I preferred the balsamic chicken I had on my previous visit. Our quesadilla starter, which we split, was quite good and at $8 was a bargain. This time we went on a Saturday night instead of a Thursday and martini prices were still attractively priced at $7.00.

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