clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Where to Eat Up and Down the Jersey Shore

Beachside classics and new favorites in Ocean City, Margate, Wildwood, Asbury Park, and more

Ocean City, New Jersey
| Shutterstock

Anyone who grew up spending summers at the Jersey Shore has a special place in their heart for cheesy slices of Manco & Manco pizza, cones of swirled Kohr’s custard, and tubs of sticky caramel corn from Johnson’s. But while there’s always a place for the sweet taste of nostalgia, the coastal towns of New Jersey are dotted with dining destinations that don’t require a stroll up the boardwalk.

Whether Ocean City is your go-to beach or it’s just not summer without a turn on the Ferris wheel at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, these are the classic spots and new favorites to put on your must-try list.

Cape May

Beachside classic: At Hot Dog Tommy’s, the dogs are basically a blank canvas for customers to pile on topping combos like buffalo sauce and blue cheese or Russian dressing and coleslaw. Don’t sleep on the loaded mashed potato bowls, a.k.a. Potato Tornados. 319 Beach Avenue, Cape May, 609-884-8388

Modern favorite: Prawn by Mia Mia is a newcomer to the Cape May seafood scene that has been satisfying the beachside town’s cravings for steamed lobster tails, crab legs and fried fish combos since last summer. The full menu is available to take out and enjoy at seasonal rentals, or on the sunny, sizable patio of this BYO situated just a few blocks from the beach. 409 Elmira Street, Cape May, 609-408-7070

Cape May, New Jersey
Shutterstock

Wildwood

Beachside classic: A day of taking in Wildwood’s period-perfect Googie motels wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Doo Wop Diner. Decked out in neon, glass bricks, and a black-and-white–tiled floor, this throwback diner on the boards offers a monster two-pound burger topped with three cheeses, sauteed and fried onions, and chipotle mayo. There’s no sharing allowed, but if you slay the burger beast you’ll get to walk away with a commemorative T-shirt. 4010 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-522-7880

Modern favorite: The menu at Hooked Up might read like any other seaside seafood specialist, but it’s owner Bill Bright’s commitment to sustainable sourcing that sets it apart from the salty masses. From mahi mahi, swordfish, and tuna to littleneck clams and steamed blue crabs, everything on offer is caught in Jersey and Delaware waters, much of it by Bright himself. 1044 W. Rio Grande Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-2722

Doo Wop Diner in Wildwood, New Jersey
Doo Wop Diner [official photo]

Stone Harbor

Beachside classic: With an iconic awning and vintage brick facade, Marabella’s Family Restaurant has been hosting Stone Harbor summer visitors since 1972. Red sauce classics like baked rigatoni and veal marsala sit alongside seaside-inspired plates of flounder marinara and crab manicotti. 9426 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor, 609-368-5037

Modern favorite: Quahog Seafood Shack is nowhere near as shabby as its name might imply. Instead of baskets of fried flounder and slaw, the fare here is Latin American leaning with crab empanadas, cornmeal-crusted calamari with tamarind barbecue sauce, and a seafood stew with achiote and chorizo. 206 97th Street, Stone Harbor, 609-368-6300

Avalon

Beachside classic: Even early in the morning, beach cruiser parking is at a premium at Fishin’ Pier Grille, a favorite for pre-beach breakfasts. Muffins and glazed cinnamon buns are a must here, as is the Jersey omelet, gently browned and stuffed with slices of ripe local tomatoes. 32 Boardwalk, Avalon, 609-967-8144

Modern favorite: Every summer the Pub & Kitchen crew refreshes the menu at their elegant outpost by the sea, The Diving Horse. This year’s lineup includes lemon-soy tuna crudo, Jersey fluke with English peas, and Cape May scallops with sunchokes. There’s no liquor license, but the wine selection at neighboring Fred’s Avalon Liquor Store is ideal for BYO-ing. 2109 Dune Drive, Avalon, 609-368-5000

Modern favorite: Summer Salt is a seasonal pop-up that takes over Isabel’s Bakery every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. Book a table online and look forward to all things locally sourced — think Jersey-grown tomatoes on house-baked sourdough, seared Cape May scallops, and a simple catch of the day finished with summertime vegetables and steamed clams. 2285 Shore Drive, Avalon, 609-796-2096

Ocean City

Beachside classic: After almost 40 years in the business, Spadafora’s Restaurant & Clam Bar is an Ocean City institution. Local clams come on the half shell or casino style. Cape May scallops are fried crispy and broiled. The fried combo platters are there to please the indecisive. 843 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean City, 609-398-6154

Modern Favorite: Up and down the Jersey Shore, most folks think of boardwalk fries and soft serve as beach eats, but 701 Mosaic brings a different style of seaside dining to the table. Dig into their menu and you’ll find a section of Caribbean plates lovingly crafted by the restaurant’s Jamaican chef. A catch of the day served escovitch-style with chayote and peppers is a particular standout. 710 4th Street, Ocean City, 609-398-2700

Margate and Ventnor

Beachside classic: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, reservations at Steve & Cookie’s are as hard to come by as beachfront property in Margate. The menu ranges from chophouse cuts and seafood to updated additions like cauliflower steak and burrata brought in from Claudio’s in Philly’s Italian Market. 9700 Amherst Avenue, Margate, 609-823-1163

Modern favorite: Enlightened Cafe is a sunny breakfast, lunch, and light bites spot with a mission. All of the profits from the cafe’s cold pressed juices, avocado toast, and responsibly sourced burgers go to the Hansen Foundation, a non-profit that provides recovery resources and scholarships for those in need. 6414 Ventnor Avenue, 609-594-5283

Modern favorite: Water Dog Smoke House brings both smoked fish and barbecue to Atlantic City’s neighbors to the south. Their in-house smoker is responsible for bagel toppers like whitefish salad and pastrami nova in the morning, and brisket and burnt ends later in the day. Lighter fare includes Water Dog plates of seared tuna or Kona chicken served over brown or cauliflower rice. 7319 Ventnor Avenue, Ventnor, 609-727-0603

Atlantic City

Beachside classic: If you’re looking to teleport back to Atlantic City’s glamorous days of yore, there’s no better place to indulge than Chef Vola’s. This semi-secret supper club serves well executed (and well portioned) Italian-American fare. Bring along a bottle of Chianti, don’t miss the bone-in veal parm, and attempt to save room for a slice of ricotta cheesecake. 111 S. Albion Place, Atlantic City, 609-345-2022

Modern favorite: From a bean-to-bar chocolate shop to a chic minimalist cafe, things on Atlantic City’s newly rehabbed Tennessee Avenue are looking up. The Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall is one of the bigger draws with an impressive draft list, shareable cocktails, and a pub fare menu complete with loaded hot dogs. 133 S. Tennessee Avenue, 609-541-4099

Modern favorite: The newest addition to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s dining scene is Council Oaks, a steakhouse built for high rollers. Cash in those chips and kick off a meal with a seafood plateau, caviar service, or broiled king crab legs followed by a selection of dry aged or Wagyu options complete with lux add-ons like whole Maine lobsters, crab Oscar, or grilled shrimp. The lengthy wine list offers some splashy by-the-glass pours including Opus One for $229. 1000 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, (609) 449-1000

Black Eyed Susans on Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Black Eyed Susans [official photo]

Long Beach Island

Beachside classic: Gleaming chrome, a spot-on diner menu, and the “Triple D” seal of approval makes Mustache Bill’s a morning must when summering on LBI. The young and young at heart will appreciate the kitchen’s pancake artistry — the batter masters griddle up everything from butterflies to Minions. 704 Broadway, Barnegat Light, 609-494-0155

Modern Favorite: Transitioning to a more casual concept this season, The Tavern at Black-Eyed Susans has embraced a laid back, crowd-pleasing lineup of Italian-inspired small plates and pizzas. Those in the market for seafood will find clam-topped pizzas, crab cake sandwiches, and cioppino made with fresh fish sourced from Barnegat Light’s Viking Village. 7908 Long Beach Boulevard, Harvey Cedars, (609) 494-4990

Asbury Park

Beachside classic: Whether you call it pork roll or Taylor ham, in Asbury Park the place to get it is Frank’s Deli & Restaurant. At this quintessential New Jersey diner, locals pack in for breakfast served all day and overstuffed sandwiches. 1406 Main Street, Asbury Park, 732-775-6682

Modern favorite: Pancake houses have their place at the shore but — happily — updated breakfast options can be found at Cardinal Provisions. This creative breakfast and lunch spot offers morning meals along the lines of scrambled eggs cacio-e-pepe-style and a market veggie and sausage dish dubbed the Weird Hash. 513 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, 732-898-7194

Modern favorite: Pascal & Sabine is a little taste of France just blocks from the Asbury Park’s boardwalk. The brasserie’s kitchen puts out classics like pâté de campagne, escargot and moules frites, while the bar mixes up some serious cocktails. With foie gras breakfast sandwiches and croque madames made with imported ham, weekend brunch here doesn’t disappoint. 601 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park, (732) 774-3395

Eater Travel | From Eater.com

The Bahamas Fish Fry Is the Ultimate Caribbean Feast

Eater Travel | From Eater.com

The Definitive Guide to Classic British Foods

Eater Travel | From Eater.com

Singapore Street Food Guide: What and Where to Eat

View all stories in Eater Travel

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Philadelphia newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world