Where I Was
Beach Tavern, Monmouth Beach, NJ
Tuesday, April 10, 1:22 p.m.
Where I Sat
One seat in from the corner, facing the dining room and back toward the entry to the open kitchen and raw bar.
Who Served Me
Linda. Her face lit up as she approached and I asked how long she’s been working at Beach Tavern, “Oh, since the beginning!” “What was the date?” I asked. “Oh my God, I can’t remember, November 2014 maybe? It’s on the wall over there.” I remembered her. She was the one who served me the first time I sat at the bar, just a year earlier. Read on for more on that.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
“I love, love the pizza. The crust is amazing—it’s the flavor, especially the margarita, with the fresh mozzarella, fresh ingredients, that’s it.”
The Vibe & My Vantage Point
Breath of fresh air. Serene. Crisp and bright. Beachy but not overdone. Gray grass, fabric walls with blue accents. The colors are never tiresome, but rather soothing, attractive. White wood beams and shingle patterns and aged, light wood lobster traps atop a platform adjacent to the open-air kitchen add beauty to the space. The way the liquor bottles are held by metal bars on shelves above bartenders’ heads, combined with the way the sun shines through the wide, large, windows that surround the space only reinforce the feeling that you are sitting out on the water. Depending on your vantage point, you stare out to the captivating river and marina where boats bounce happily about in their slips, beckoning the warmer weather and long days of summer.
While I won’t lament about how I deeply loathe television screens in the sacred spaces where I eat and drink, I realize that’s a battle long lost. I’ve officially given up hope of finding a restaurant bar without at least, oh, five screens. That said, I’ve decided to embrace my reality and highlight the positive, so here at Beach Tavern it took me some time to notice how very many screens there are. Because they artfully placed them above the sight lines, every sight line, above the bar, above the highboy tables in the lounge and the restaurant seating on the platform a few steps up, above the gorgeous views. You had to seek them out, and for someone with wide peripheral vision, I had no issue avoiding all 10+ screens. Extra points for this strategic placement.
What Quenched My Thirst
Gin & Chronic (available, but not on the menu, see below for backstory), $12
Hendriks gin, muddled mint and cucumber, touch of mint simple syrup, squeeze of fresh lemon and topped with club soda
A year ago this May, the “A Lady Walks…” column was born out of a casual lunch with a dear friend where we sat at the bar at Beach Tavern. I ordered the above drink and fell in love. It met so very many qualities I love in a cocktail on a warm spring day.
So with the swagger of a regular, I don’t even look at the specialty drink men. Instead I say, “I’ll have the Gin & Chronic!”
To which Linda replies, “Oh, that’s no longer on the menu.”
To which I respond, “Do you want me to tell you what’s in it?”
She replies, “Nope, I gotcha!” Yay for me.
What Fed My Soul
Note: v = vegetarian; gf = gluten free
Tempura broccoli, $13 v and gf
Korean BBQ, sesame, and coconut cream
Just the description has my mouth watering with excitement. If it’s fried, it’s typically delicious in my book. In my new role as a roving food and drink reporter, however, I’ve decided I must approach the deep fryer with a little less delight and a modicum more discernment. So I do. Crunchy, nutty, creamy, warm, wait—no, spicy, tangy. smoky. At first, the coconut cream was almost indecipherable yet ultimately, it added a nice coolness to the BBQ’s heat. This tempura was far crispier than any others; in fact, I am convinced that perhaps they snuck some cornmeal into the batter to give it that grainy goodness I so enjoyed. The sesame seeds added a subtle essence that complemented the complexity of flavors. But what did I really love most? The stickiness of the Korean BBQ with its sultry heat at the very end. And the way it clung awkwardly and unevenly across the top of each broccoli crown was divine. It wasn’t saucy—each bite was perfectly balanced. I truly marvel and delight at how, for once in my life, I didn’t crave more condiment (my sauce equivalent to “more cowbell”). The broccoli was perfectly cooked, crisp, fresh and absolutely, mouth-wateringly amazing. In fact, it was so good, I went back the next night with a friend to have it again!
Warm burrata, $15 v
Crispy sage, hazelnuts, honey, toast
I started with an honest question: where did burrata come from? When did it become a “thing?” As a mostly Italian girl from Jersey I was used to the fresh mozzarella my grandfather would have on Saturday mornings with fresh bread. And as I watched him take it out of the plastic tub (which I’m sure my grandmother had done laundry in sometime earlier that week), I can recall the amazing flavor of that mozz, the soft saltiness against the bread with such a crispy crust it could slice open your upper palate—a risk worth taking. Frankly, I had never had burrata until about five years ago and that’s sort of unreal considering that in the late ’80s I lived in Italy for about seven months! Turns out burrata has been around since the early 1900s and comes from the Altopiano delle Murge region of Italy.
This amazing rendition of burrata was scrumptious, sumptuous, and surprising, actually. It was mounted on top of a charred bread that was left soft beneath the smoky singe that made the bread nice and crispy against the softness of the smooth cheese. When cut, it oozed as expected and the first bite was nothing short of sensational. I loved how the crispy sage gave the bite a strong flavor, with a touch of honey and micro parsley to brighten and sweeten it ever so slightly—a fine complement to the crushed hazelnuts. I couldn’t get enough of this savory-sweet combo. And I really loved with the way they used an open flame to toast up the bread. Brilliant!
Caesar salad, $12, v
Anchovy, lemon, grana padano, breadcrumbs
It’s hard to impress with a caesar salad when long-gone are the days where the waiter comes to the table with a rolling cart to crack a raw egg and crush the anchovies into a paste before your very eyes. So I ordered it expecting the expected and for the most part, it was. The part I loved? The smushed-up anchovies allowed for the flavor of the anchovies to exist without their yucky little furry fish bodies interrupting the beautiful color of the romaine. The breadcrumbs were homemade and a really nice replacement to the typically store-bought croutons. The radish was a nice touch but since I don’t love them, I avoided the little round discs at all costs.
Tomato pizza, $15, v
Fresh mozzarella, basil, extra-virgin olive oil
Of all the dishes, this was my least favorite, likely due to the fact that I let the pizza sit too long before enjoying. I must say the crust was delicious and I did note how much I liked the little bit of heat the tomato sauce gave off. The crust was charred, like the bread, which can only can be achieved with a wood-fired oven. All ingredients were fresh and I am sure that when it’s not competing against so many other delicious dishes, it will stand up nicely.
Beyond the Bar
Available for private events and daily Happy Hour (holidays excluded)
Sunday, Happy Hour All Day (bar or lounge)
Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays, 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (bar or lounge)
$1 East Coast Virginia Oysters, half-price drafts, $2 off house wines, $2 off speciality cocktails
When to Show
Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (brunch runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m)
Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menu items are subject to change. Please check Beach Tavern’s website for the latest information available.
33 West Street
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.