Where I Was
Bahrs Landing, Highlands, NJ
Tuesday, June 5, 1:16 p.m.
Where I Sat
At first, I was tempted to head straight back beyond the parking lot to the tiki bar along the marina. Instead I wandered through the front door and hung the left into the bar, only to stop in my tracks, for just about every seat was filled. What were they giving away on this fine Tuesday afternoon? The place was packed but lucky for me, there was a spot right toward the middle of the bar where I squeezed in, ready to take it all in. The door behind us leads to the little patio next to the parking lot. It was cracked open, allowing the beautiful breeze to blow into the woody bar space.
Who Served Me
Nina. And she’s been there for some time now.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
“Oh, the zuppa di clams.” I ask what makes it special and she goes on to say, “It’s the marinara sauce, I think, that does the trick. It’s homemade.”
Immediately I knew this place was special, as I was in a tale of two worlds: a daily, local hang and a fan-favorite for out-of-towners. Bahrs reminds me of other fabulous seafood joints all over our great country. Whether an authentic crab house in Maryland, a lobster spot in Portland, ME, or seafood shack in San Francisco, each location carries with it a decor and feel for the locale: unique ship wheels, a wooden fisherman, stuffed fish, and other seashore spectacles that always delight. Bahrs features historic photos, gorgeous water views, and plenty of great spots to sip, eat, and enjoy a fantastic meal. Guests can hang at the tiki bar, in the restaurant proper, or at the front bar (the only spot without a water view). From where I sat, facing the bar, my view was the bar-back, Nina’s smiling face, and the locals bantering about—laughing, eating and one, wondering aloud, what she may ask the chef to make her today (clearly off the menu).
What Quenched My Thirst
Nina’s Brazilian Cachaça Caipirinha, $8.25
Leblon natural cane Cachaça, muddled lime wedges, cane sugar, and a slash of club soda, served on the rocks
Newbies don’t get drinks named after them, so I knew I was in the presence of a true pro with this bartender. It only took about three seconds before my eye settled on an old friend. A friend I had made back in my days living in NYC when I was young, knew no limits, and spent toooooo many hours hanging out the then “new” Coffee Shop in Union Square where I learned all about evil-hangover-inducing cachaças. Yet the joy of this drink, combined with years of wisdom and the safety-net of reality that I needed to make the ferry to NYC for a meeting that evening, I ordered it without hesitation. And the price? I believe this is the most affordable cocktail I’ve yet to review.
Now, onto the experience. One sip and I felt, TONIGHT I WILL PARTY!— the mouth feel of the liquor’s fiery heat muddled so well with the fresh lime, sugar, and effervescence of the soda. It made for an ideal combo. The memories flooded back as I deeply enjoyed this fantastic cocktail so many years later. It was no less exquisite.
What Fed My Soul
Stuffed Clams, $5.99
Stuffed cherrystone clams with chorizo, pepper, onion, and panko bread crumbs
The dish arrived without a whiff of fanfare. Clams. Lemon wedge. Over and out. And again, I was reminded not to judge a book by its cover. I was ready to dive into experience the typical bread-filled, scarcely clammy baked clam only to be blown away by the fact that there was not a single bite that didn’t include a generous chunk of cherrystone. These stuffed clams were fantastic—spicy with the chorizo and black pepper with just the right balance of pepper and onion. The star of this dish was as it should be—the clams. Thank you, Chef!
Mixed Grill, $16
Chef selection topped with citrus vinaigrette, served over salad and rice
It was my lucky day, as the day’s selection included about three ounces of grilled mahi-mahi with over a pound of grilled lobster, on a small bed of rice. The portion was simple, clean, and light. The fish was beyond fresh; the mahi-mahi sweet and so deliciously tender, not a trace of dryness, despite this petite portion, simple perfection! The rice was tasty, with the typical dots of carrots and peas and a lovely accompaniment to the freshly fished seafood.
Twinlight Salad, $13.00 (small plate, $9.99)
Arugula, radicchio, endive, with tossed walnuts, apples, cherry tomatoes, and blue cheese. Served with champagne vinaigrette
(Salads can include shrimp or scallops add $7; calamari add $5; chicken add $4.)
Listen, I don’t often bother with salads at meals, as I often feel like I can eat salad at home. This on, however, was a special choice. It was the blend of spicy greens with the grilled chicken I added to mine, and the crunch of walnuts with very light honey essence the vinaigrette offered. I liked the mix of greens with the small chunks of apple and walnuts which were roasted and not candied for a change.
Beyond the Bar
More than 100 years old, Bahrs boasts an incredible history, which started in Newark, NJ. You can read all about it here. The most important aspect of this wonderfully authentic seashore eatery is the heart and soul you feel throughout every detail. A great, reasonably-priced-yet-expansive menu and amazing views.
When to Show
Please note Bahrs employs seasonal hours so be sure to check back for changes.
Monday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m to midnight
Saturday: 11:30 a.m to 11:30 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m to 9 p.m.
Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menus are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.
2 Bay Avenue
Highlands, NJ 07732
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.