We Jersey Shore natives call this time of year “Locals Summer.” The weather is gorgeous and the beaches are empty (and free.) After a long day of sun and sand (sans the tourists), we head to our favorite local seafood spot for fresh fare and no lines. For out-of-towners picking a spot for a fresh seafood feast may make you feel like a fish out of water. There are so many places that look like the real deal making it difficult to tell the “tourist traps” from the true pearls. To make your search a little easier, the Jerseybites team has put together a list of our favorite local seafood joints that will be “shore” to please. If you’ve got a local favorite, please leave the info in a comment. We’re always looking for new places to try.
The Crab Shack– 74 Mantoloking Road, Brick, NJ (732) 477-1115
Blink and you may miss this roadside seafood gem. Though this aptly named place really is a quaint little shack/ fish market with about 4 tables, but it puts out some big flavor! Having the ability to catch and eat my own seafood in the same day, I have become a bit of a “seafood snob” and The Crab Shack certainly goes above and beyond my standards. My go to dish is the beer battered fish and chips, tasty golden pieces of a lesser known Jersey fish called Ling. You get two huge pieces of flaky deliciousness that melts in your mouth and a big ‘ol side of fries. They also have variety and homemade soups and seafood cakes that are chocked full of fresh seafood. On the market side you can get fresh caught crabs, lobsters, black fish, blue fish, red fish, and just about every other kind of fish that Dr. Seuss could think of (except old fish, the seafood is fresh everyday). This is one place you won’t to miss, even fish are dying to get in!
Pisces Seafood Market– 400 New Jersey 37 Toms River, NJ 08753 (732) 270-3300
If you’re looking for fresh seafood with a twist then you’ve come to the right place. It has a right off the docks and out of the box menu. While their standard menu features traditional seafood shack fare such as crab cakes and broiled fish, the specials are unique seasonal dishes from the chef. Yes it may be a little pricey, but it is well worth it. There are not many places that combine culinary genius and fresh off the boat seafood with dishes like Buffalo Calamari and Pan-Seared Diver Scallops with a Balsamic Glaze and Roasted Asparagus. Did I mention that the sweet succulent scallops come in fresh every morning.
You can also take your seafood home, they also have a market with the same fresh seafood they serve in the restaurant. You can pick up a piece of fresh fish and create your own culinary masterpiece from the comfort of your own home. Dine in or pick up, either way you can’t lose.
You get the best of both worlds!
Mike’s Seafood – 228 43rd Street, Sea Isle City, NJ 609-263-3458
Mike’s is the place to go for fresh seafood in Sea Isle when you want to roll off the beach at 5pm,
grab your cooler full of beer or wine, and enjoy some dock style dinner.
Mike’s has the usual fried seafood platter with deviled clams, French fries, crab cakes, and fried scallops. But they also surprise with some great raw bar options. I suggest the oysters and ceviche! Don’t be put off by the name and please try the crab balls. Resembling hush puppies these bite sized crab cakes are a great app for the table.
Head over on Mondays for their Mussels Mondays deal – a free bowl of white wine and butter mussels per table with your order. Remember to ask for extra bread to sop up the extra sauce.
Kids under 12 eat free on Tuesdays and Thursdays with an adult entree.
Spadafora’s Seafood Market 932 Haven Avenue, Ocean City, NJ 609-398-6703.
While homeowners in Ocean City, we would often head to the beach late in the day. After a few hours of sunning and swimming we’d arrive back at the house, famished. Not bothering to change out of our beachwear, we would frequently call in our order to Spadafora’s then bike a few blocks to the seafood market for delicious take-out cooked seafood we could enjoy back at home on the porch or at a picnic table in one of our favorite bayside parks.
Spadafora’s is a classic beach town take-out seafood market with a huge menu of deep-fried, broiled or steamed shrimp, clams, crab and lobster dishes – exactly what lots of folks are craving while down the shore. They offer a slew of classic homemade sides including coleslaw, and potato or macaroni salad and corn on the cob. The two styles of clam chowder, Manhattan and New England, and the lobster bisque are also homemade. Specialty fish like mahi mahi or catch of the day is prepared to order in your choice of five flavor profiles: lemon butter, garlic butter, cajun, teriyaki or dijon. Shrimp is available cooked in Old Bay seasoning then cooled for you to peel and eat.
Next time you visit Ocean City, eat like a local. Spadafora’s Seafood Market is located
at 932 Haven Avenue. Call in your order to 609-398-6703. If you prefer to dine-in, Spadafora’s has another Ocean City location that’s a casual sit-down eatery. Spadafora’s Restaurant and Clam Bar is located at 843 Atlantic Avenue. (609) 398-6154. Check www.spadaforaseafood.com for off-season dates and hours.
Smitty’s Clam Bar – 910 Bay Avenue, Somers Point
I know I am in Atlantic County, but even Atlantic County residents have to admit to this. Smitty’s Clam Bar is just one of those local places that you always return to after all the great seafood at the casinos and other places. This place has been around since I was a teenager and maybe even before that, I am not sure. We used to go by boat and pull up dressed in bathing suits, and eat the freshest raw littlenecks with a squeeze of lemon and cocktail sauce and then order a dozen or so steamers and add a side of New England Clam Chowder and you were in seafood heaven! The Manhattan Clam Chowder is great too.They have lots of other fresh seafood and landlubber choices as well. You have to get there early, because they get super busy at dinner. Try a late lunch and maybe that will work. They are open from May (on weekends till the colleges get out) to September. Very casual dress required. Kids are welcome. 609-927-8783.
Shore Fresh Seafood Market, 57 Channel Drive, Point Pleasant Beach
Since I happen to live in one of our major commercial fishing ports, it’s just a quick trip to my local fish store for the catch of the day. Chef/Owner Richard Brecka of Shore Fresh Seafood Market in Point Pleasant Beach is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Although to look at him, you might think that he spends his hours on one of the day boats moored behind his store. Rubber boots and gloves are the uniform of choice when your walk-in refrigerator opens out to the Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative, one of two active fishing cooperatives in New Jersey. You don’t get any fresher fish than this, folks. Try the amazing New England Clam Chowder, Buffalo Calimari and any number of the wonderful daily specials. BYOB, extremely casual. Inside and outside dining.
Christine Van Arsdalen is a born and raised Jersey Girl; native to central and Costal NJ. As the author of the blog the Dexterous Diner, Christine chronicles her efforts as she indulges her foodie side on her very small budget which she likes to call “champagne dining on a beer budget”. She grew up being yelled at by an old Italian woman in the kitchen who was surprisingly not her mother. Her love of food grew from a combination of cooking in a restaurant and fond memories of creating scrumptious meals from scratch with her father. Today she travels around the state of New Jersey and beyond searching for new twists on her old favorites; foods that bring you back to your childhood in a modern and sophisticated way. She loves unexpected and creative combinations, both in the food she eats and cooks. Though her palate has become more refined, she is still excited by a grilled cheese sandwich; that, and a great cup of coffee.