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Casual girls night out dinner in Ocean/Monmouth co.

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A small group of friends and I are looking for someplace fun and casual (not super casual) to have a little birthday/reunion dinner. We're all from the area, but so help me, I will try my damnedest to steer them away from a chain restaurant. (I'd like to actually ENJOY my meal!) I've done most of my recent dining in the Mercer County area, since the boyf lives there, so I'm out of touch with my local eateries. Throw some yummy suggestions at me! The five of us have diverse interests, so any type of cuisine will do. Some BYO suggestions would be great too. Thanks!

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  1. I've heard very good things about Drew's and El Meson. As for some of the others, I'm not sure if we're going to head over to Red Bank or Long Branch this time, but I'll add them to my list! Any Ocean county recs?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cbean

      The OC is tough. Bistro44, El Familiar, and Basil T's, perhaps, all in Toms River. Our funky favorite is Labrador Lounge in Normandy Beach (BYO).

    2. Here's places me and my girlfriends have had great girls night at:

      Red, Red Bank - good food, great atmosphere, don't stay too late on weekend nights, becomes more of a club atmosphere
      Trinity, Keyport - great food, live music on weekends
      Drew's, Keyport - more great food, byob
      Langosta Lounge, Asbury Park - good to great food, fun atmosphere (plus you can always stop by Asbury Lanes or Watermark for a drink afterwards - depending on your crowd's tastes...)

      1 Reply
      1. re: dani0622

        Just checked out the websites for both Labrador Lounge and Langosta Lounge...they're definitely going to get a visit from me. Langosta Lounge did appeal to me a bit more, though. Great suggestions guys!

      2. My girlfriends and I went to Casa Comida in Freehold and had a great time - great Mexican and great drinks. We've also hit up Melting Pot which is pricey, even though I feel you go there for the experience, not the food. Bamboo Leaf in Bradley is some of the best Thai I've ever had in my life, Sawa in Long Branch or Eatontown is fun for sushi and Hibachi.

        12 Replies
        1. re: cling0017

          Is there also a Bamboo Leaf in Howell on 9? I thought I remeber seeing it there... Also, I recall hearing some discussion about Bamboo Leaf (not sure which location, or perhaps both) changing owners and the food quality heading south a bit. Does anyone know anything about it?

          1. re: cbean

            Not sure about Bamboo Leaf in Howell, but the one in Bradley Beach is good.

          2. re: cling0017

            Casa Comida in Freehold? Where is that?

              1. re: HillJ

                Casa Comida is in Long Branch. However, you would do well to stay far away. My one and only meal there a year back was horrible (think bad Chi Chi's food). Many of the above recommendations are right on. I would only add the following to the list: Stella Marina in AP and Atlantic Bar & Grill in Seaside Park (per your OC request). Good luck with your night out.

                1. re: bgut1

                  I haven't been to Casa Comida in years. I was surprised to learn it was still open.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Casa Comida, many years ago, was the venue for one of my finest restaurant experiences of all time. It was the afternoon of the day we took our SATs and involved a convertible, a bag, pitchers of margaritas, and being the only male in a party of 11. Yep, a good day indeed.

                    Having noted that, however, I would never, in good conscience, recommend dinner there.

                  2. re: bgut1

                    Atlantic Bar & Grill's menu online looks fantastic, can you give me an idea on the average prices? They are not listed on the site. Thanks!

                      1. re: Tapas52

                        I do like Avenue, but I think we're looking for something a little more casual and a bit less exepnsive...we are in a recession after all! :]

                        1. re: cbean

                          Another option is BrickWall in Asbury. Good, cheap eats, very lively on the weekends. Last time I was there, they had live music too.

                      2. re: cbean

                        cbean - I haven't been back to AB&G in a while. However, I don't recall it being offensively expensive (however subjective that can be). That being said, I wouldn't classify it as "cheap eats" either.

              2. Stay far away from the Melting Pot unless you just want drinks and dessert! Pretty much a chain place anyway. The food is horrible!
                Just went to the Lagosta Lounge and it's fun and not too pricey. Looking forward to going back. Bamboo Leaf in Bradley is wonderful-great food.
                Have fun!

                1. Thanks to all for the suggestions :] The little outing was actually tonight, and we let the birthday girl choose. I gave her a few options and she chose El Meson, and we all really enjoyed it.
                  I really never eat Mexican food, it's usually not even a cuisine I include in my thought process when deciding on a restaurant...but I discovered tonight that this is most likely because I had never eaten a decent Mexican meal. El Meson's menu is pretty much the basics when you think of Mexican fare, but those basics were some of the best I've had. That may not be saying much, since my exposure to Mexican dining is quite limited, but I enjoyed my evening thoroughly. I think it was really the meats in all of our dishes that really impressed me the most. Between the 5 of us, I was able to sample some chicken, pork, steak, and lamb, and each bite was incredibly juicy and flavorful. And that guacamole was delicious! I could have made a meal out of just the crispy chips and guac...and our margarita on the rocks :]
                  Overall a great night. Good food, good friends...I'm a happy lady.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cbean

                    Funny that you mention sampling all the meats because my favorite main course there happens to be the shrimp in garlic sauce ("Camarones al Ajilo"), a dish that can be found on many Mexican restaurant menus. El Meson's version is the best of the ones I've tried.

                    1. re: RGR

                      Ya know, I didnt even think about that no shrimp thing going on on our table...and it's especially strange because one of our friends is notorious for always ordering a shrimp dish when we're out! (she was one of our chicken eaters this time). And since I've never really met a garlic sauce that I didnt like, I am certain that the Camarones al Ajilo will be my next meal at El Meson. Thanks RGR!

                  2. There are tons of great places in Red Bank. Labrador Lounge in Normandy Beach is also a fun pick, as well as the Sand Bar in Brielle - good steaks and appetizers, excellent prices. For something more upscale, Clarks Landing in Point Pleasant has fantastic food. Oh, and Sawa Steakhouse in Eatontown is a fantastic choice for sushi and hibachi.