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Casual, waterfront dining between Long Branch and Belmar?

My family and I are heading to Long Branch for a day on the beach on Wednesday & planning on stopping somewhere for dinner on the way home. Any recs for casual waterfront dining in the area between Long Branch and Belmar? (We'll be heading up Rt. 195 to go home so we'd like to avoid driving too far north of Long Branch or too far south of 195.) We're not expecting spectacular food - tasty and reasonably priced seafood would be awesome. Thanks!

(Has anyone been to Union Landing in Brielle - we've been there but it's been a long time and we're hazy about how the food was...how about the Sand Bar? Never been there, but I think it's telling that I can't find anything about either place here on CH...this is also a little further south then we were hoping to drive, but it's still doable...)

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  1. If you want a place with a spectacular setting but IMHO just average food try Matisse in Belmar. Here is a link with menu and details.

    http://matissecatering.com/home.htm

    I'm assuming the setting is most important to you. Enjoy!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: tom246

      I checked out the link - yes, the setting looks awesome, but the menu doesn't include prices. Do you happen to have any idea what kind of prices we're talking here?

      1. re: flourgirl

        I looked at the reviews portion of the website and cut and pasted the following from August 2005, about 3 years ago. You may want to give them a call just so there are no major surprises.

        Appetizer, salad and soup prices range from $4.95-$11.00, with the Trio of Appetizers priced at $21.95 but is good for two people. Entrees range from $21.95-$27.95. BYOB.

        Dress is smart casual. Reservations are accepted. All credit cards. Breakfast and lunch are served during the summer. Sunday Brunch year-round.

    2. Skip Union landing and Sand Bar, unless you like really bad food.....

      Why don't you try Harpoon Willy's on the Manasquan River in Manasquan? I think the food is quite good. Right off of Route 70. Right before Brielle.

      http://www.harpoonwillys.com/

      Another thought, in Monmouth Beach, Sallie Tee's. On the marina. I know everyone is going to blast me about this place, but since you said casual and not spectacular, I thought of Sallie Tee's.

      http://www.salleeteesgrille.com/

      -----------------

      Let us know where you go! Have fun!

      1. for average preparation of excellent, fresh seafood, Klein's in Belmar as waterside dining on the Shark River... not my favorite restaurant, but fits the bill

        in Avon, the Avon Pavilion is on the boardwalk, relatively decent and casual to a degree (I don't think you'd get away with a bathing suit)... hard to get in on weekend nights (isn't everything?) and you might bark at the prices, but not too bad, depending on the budget

        Mr. C's in Allenhurst might not be really casual, but it's not dressy and it's on the
        beach in the old Allenhurst Beach Club bldg... heard they had outdoor seating, but I can't confirm that

        guess the Salt Water Cafe (or whatever it's called) ... is relatively casual and on the water in Asbury Park, but the prices are not what I'd call casual

        1 Reply
        1. re: aklein

          use to love Mr. C's when they were in Deal - many years ago, then the food prep feel way off. went there several months ago, different menu - but must be same bad chef. and I really want to like it - cause I've known the owners Chick & Karen since the early 90's.

        2. I think I made a mistake in my original post - should have known better. Sorry. When I say "dine" I just mean "eat". What I'm looking for could even qualify as a shack if the food is prepared decently and has a great view. :)

          5 Replies
          1. re: flourgirl

            flourgirl - Yours is the most difficult food related question asked by friends, family and other posters: "Where can I find good food (preferably seafood) along with a water view." I am sorry to advise that such an establishment doesn't exist in this part of New Jersey. It would seem that the quality of food is inversely related to a restaurants proximity to the water. I guess it must be some state permit requirement. :)

            I can not in good conscious agree with my fellow posters recommendations. I strongly suggest that you stay away from the Salt Water Beach Cafe and Matisse. Both meals at these establishments were poor. I have also had at best, passable meals at Sallie T's and Mister C's.

            I know I may regret this but if I had to make a choice (i.e. if someone was forcing me to do so), I would probably recommend Rooney's for its ocean view and maybe a drink with some raw bar items.

            Although it’s well past your southerly limit of Belmar, Atlantic Bar and Grill in Seaside Park does buck the trend by offering very good food with a beautiful ocean view. It might be worth the drive. Lastly, if you are willing to forgo the water view, my standby for fresh fish prepared simply is Spike's in Point Pleasant Beach. Good Luck.

            1. re: bgut1

              it was once written that "having a restaurant on the water is a license to print money."

              i dont know if i agree completely, but most of the time, bgut is 100% correct. a shame really

              1. re: chefMD

                Chef - Only "most of the time"? :) Thanks for the compliment.

                1. re: bgut1

                  ok, maybe 99%........ i have had a few meals in san diego on the water, wouldnt go so far as to say the best meals..well, santa barbara, thats another thread. the meals i've had here on or even near the water...easily forgettable, nothing memorable.

                  you're most welcome

                  edit. just had a sandwich from island beach cafe? last week. it was good, personable service, clean, nice people. not a oyster po-boy from domalises tho...oh, the agony.....

              2. re: bgut1

                "It would seem that the quality of food is inversely related to a restaurants proximity to the water."

                *sigh* I pretty much figured that was going to be the answer, based both on past experience and posts I've read here on CH. But I figured I'd give it a try and see if somebody came up with something.

                We just may have to consider driving to Seaside Park...

            2. flourgirl

              Take a hint from an old man who's been dining out since 1947 - ignore ALL negative opinions!
              "It would seem that the quality of food is inversely related to a restaurant's proximity to water" is about the most negative bit of babble ever enunciated.

              Anyone with that mind set is setting themselves up for disappointment a la Groucho Marx ("I wouldn't join a club that would accept me as a member!") How could anyone possible have a positive dining experience when going in you've convinced yourself it must be aweful because it's near water!

              With that attitude you're set up to do whatever is necessary to cinvince yourself that, indeed, you were right - it was aweful - that way you're NOT disappointed!

              Remember, that attitude is bogus - there's absolutely no scientific evidence that the proximity to water makes the food terrible!

              I have enjoyed numerous excellent dining experiences all along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Sint Maartin's. Of course, some were no better than so-so which is about the same ratio as I had dining in places in the Moab Desert in Utah. In fact, being in Utah, my expectations were not high but I did have some tasty near-beer at the local brewpubs and an excellent gravlox.

              Just go, find a nice water view and enjoy yourself and your company - what's a bigger waste of time and money: going to a place and NOT liking it? or NOT GOING to a place that you might like because someone else didn't like it?

              4 Replies
              1. re: CompareFranco

                for no one's benefit but my own, i am on the fence here... I think CompareFrank is right, the mantra is unproven and probably bogus... YET, in the case of many waterside eating establishments, most of them have to pay insanely high lease/rent prices and, unfortunately, a good number of them choose to cut corners on the food first, instead of cutting out things like gaudy decor, too much help, fancy menus and table settings... Wish they'd just make the best food they can, limit the wine/liquor list, or better yet go BYO, and just make the place a pleasure to vist. I have been to too many waterside establishments that serve lousy food but basically brag that they're on the water. I love the water and I love eating by the water. Best bets are usually things like steamers/roasted clams, burgers and fries.. you get the idea. Matisse is a perfect example: they likely pay through the nose for their space on the Belmar Boardwalk and, while boasting an interesting (if overdone) menu, can't deliver because they've aimed too high and have to charge too much for food that doesn't match the hype. Cutting the menu by a third, dropping the lengthy specials list -- -specials are supposed to be SPECIAL, not leftovers --- and maybe they can live up to what should be a great dining spot. I don't mean to single out Matisse, there are plenty of other guilty parties.

                I think flourgirl was looking for a stripped down, bare bones spot where tank tops and flip flops are the norm and the food/drink is excellent. I have been a regular at the Half Shell Raw Bar in Key West every year and they don't try too hard to be anything more than that: you walk in, grab a stool or a table, eat oysters and shrimp, have mahi sandwiches, drink cold pitchers of beer (they float ice in a plastic cup to keep you cold)... and that's it. Kind of like Moby's in Highlands used to be, except now you can't afford a lousy bucket of steamers and an ear of corn.

                1. re: CompareFranco

                  I really appreciate your words of encouragement but as far as the whole "proximity to water" thing, (and I may be wrong here) I think bgut1 was mostly referring to NJ, and in particular, the stretch of beachtowns I was asking about. I too have eaten at places on the water in other areas that were very good, but this particular stretch seems to be woefully lacking, especially seafood "shacks" with properly prepared food AND good views. I've had the unfortunate experience of eating at more than a few such places that were discussed here and on similar threads and they ain't good. :( I was mostly asking with the very faint hope that there might be some secret little place somewhere that we had previously missed but it appears not. Rats.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    flourgirl/bgut/et al. ... couldn't agree more... oceanside/riverside real estate is at such a premium, someone would build a prison or a refinery in Belmar if it brought in enough cabbage, and most eating establishments are destined to fail

                  2. I would add that part of the problem stems from inconsistency. During the summer, inconsistency is much more common as restaurants, particularly those blessed with a great location, know that short of poisoning customers they will still be crowded. Those crowds then in turn tax the kitchen and staff and contribute to the cycle.

                    That being said. I remember one early June afternoon when my wife and I sat on the deck at Klien's, shared a perfectly cooked 2 pound lobster, drank beer, and had a flat out wonderful time. Another time, I had a post-beach soft shell crab sandwich at the Union Landing that was outstanding.

                    I suppose I point this out by way of advice. If you seek a casual, afforable experience in which food plays a part, there are several options in the area. None of them are dining "experiences" -- but many of them can provide you with a pleasant place to sit, relax, and be served.

                    Some ideas that might help: Weekdays are safer than weekends. The kitchen is less taxed at 4 than at 7. Servers get frustrated and overworked - be gentle. Simple dishes are less likely to get screwed up. etc.

                    There is no secret place the locals go . . . at least none we talk about :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MGZ

                      We ALWAYS hit the beach and restaurants during the week. I can't be bothered fighting with weekend crowds.

                      And you know something - I once had an excellent soft shell crab sandwich at Union Landing too. We actually had decided that was where we were going to go after all, but my little guy was just too pooped from all the sea and sand so next time maybe...

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        Besides, there are a couple of other little treasures. One of our favorite indulgences is taking a pork roll, egg & cheese sandwich from the Seabreeze to eat for breakfast on the Spring Lake boardwalk.

                    2. Look out for Biggies Clam Bar - opening this weekend in Asbury Park, on the boardwalk right next to the Paramont. Opened in Hoboken in 1946, I'll be willing to bet that they will bring some serious good eats to the shore for us to enjoy.

                      Check out their site: http://www.biggiesclambar.com/Welcome...