Where I Was
Beach House, Long Branch, NJ
Tuesday, July 3, 1:11 p.m.
Where I Sat
Facing Ocean Avenue, two seats in from the corner. I had a full view of some restaurant seating to my right and guests seated at highboys to the left.
The bar was empty but there seemed to be a special group just in, devouring a buffet of the most aromatic foods. I didn’t even waste time looking at their food—I just wanted to get set up for mine!
Who Served Me
Vito (or so I thought). His name tag said so, and as he approached I gleefully said “Hi, Vito!”
He sort of smiled strangely and said, “Well actually, it’s Gilbert. But today we all switched names so I have Vito’s name tag on. That’s Gilbert today.” He pointed to a young woman waving to us, wearing an identical black t-shirt and name tag. The real Gilbert, whom the bar manager, Joanne, referred to as “Rico Suave” has been at Beach House since the beginning, around September 2017.
Bartender’s Favorite Bite
He asks me if I like tacos, and the question seems to be rhetorical. He offers, “The tuna tacos are incredible!” When I ask him why, he simply replies, “They just are,” and walks off. Had my thought bubble burst you would have heard me muse aloud, “A man of few words.”
The Vibe & My Vantage Point
Beach House had me at hello, to borrow a famous movie line. Chic, open, friendly, stylish. Unpretentious and classy. Honestly? My expectation was l-o-w as I sauntered from my parking spot, expecting mayhem in Pier Village. What was I thinking?!, kept running through my head as I approached this hot touristy location during this July 4 holiday week. It was prime lunch hour. The weather was stunning, if not a bit toasty, and I expected the worst. An at-best mediocre experience where I had to dig to find a nice word about a dish or my cocktail. I expected an overcrowded, overpriced, never-to-return tourist-trap experience. I could not have been more off base.
Glee is the word I’d use to describe my feeling as I whisked past the host station to find a wide open, empty bar. WHAT? Yay! I grabbed a seat facing out toward the ocean, taking in the gorgeous black and white stripes. And I was thrilled to find my all-time favorite feature at a bar thus far: not only was there a bag hook for my overloaded, already heavy leather bag, but there was a dual power outlet that included a USB port! Jackpot!
What Quenched My Thirst
Frozen Coconut Mojito $12
Malibu rum, Coco Lopez, pineapple juice & mint (can be served on rocks)
Best. Drink. Ever.
Some may think I’m easy to please given my chosen line of work, but this is not always the case. I like to think I take a critical, taste-driven examination of each and every concoction I order up, and rarely do I anticipate that I won’t find something to be pleased about.
When this gorgeous visual treat arrived, I was taken away. I already felt like I was on a tropical island—the way that only a frozen drink can make you feel, right? I haven’t really enjoyed frozen drinks since my 20s but alas, it was about 96 degrees outside and it seemed the best possible way to go on this eve of July 4!
What Fed My Soul
Mahi Fingers, $14
Lightly battered, secret beach sauce
Aside from my opinion that the dish was served on a plate a bit too large, the presentation was whimsical and fun. I was thrilled to see an architectural creation, with creatively stacked Mahi fingers at just the right crispness. Normally, I would steer clear of “fish sticks” on any menu but I’m sooooo glad I took on this dish. WOWOWOWOW was my first thought as I cut into the first finger with the side of my fork to reveal the mahi—flaky and moist without a trace of grease remaining from the delicately coated fish. Not tempura, not beer battered, but some magical dusting and fried so carefully that I can imagine the chef tossing out any fingers that didn’t meet a clearly strict criteria.
The homemade tartar (beach sauce) and spicy schmear of aioli were ideal components if, like me, you love condiments! I had to use great restraint to keep from eating every single fish finger on the plate—a generous portion of five or six pieces of what I’m guessing were at least two ounces each.
Heirloom Beet Salad, $15
Roasted farm-to-table beets, natural goat cheese, chopped red onions, micro greens, fig balsamic reduction
Next came a gorgeous, colorful plate with a glorious looking, fresh, mouth-watering beet salad.
I was aware of each and every thoughtful detail that Chef Ray Tutela clearly puts into his dishes. Balanced restraint came to mind, from the scant use of the hearty fig reduction to the cracked black pepper and nary six perfectly cut shards of red onion, precisely, sparingly placed into the fold of greens, beets and the delectable fresh goat cheese crumbles.
The woody, earthy leaves of the red and green lettuces and a touch of bitterness mixed beautifully with the soft, sweetness of the red and yellow beets. They were cut into generous chunks and laid at the outskirts of the leafy salad center of the plate.
As I mentioned to someone at the bar (little did I know it was Chef Ray’s wife!), it’s often hard to say anything significant about a salad, or so I used to think. Now I’m two for two on restaurant visits where the salad has blown my mind. So much to say, words flooding my brain until I slowed my pace, took a breath and dove into another stunningly delicious bite.
Tacos, Steak $14
All tacos are served in corn tortillas (GF) with an asian style slaw. Prices vary by protein and include chicken, tuna tartar, mahi mahi and summer veggies.
When the lovely tacos arrived in their glorious stainless steel contraption, I was overwhelmed by the amazing aromas steaming up from the gorgeous, colorful tacos before me. Small, glistening chunks of tender steak sat bountifully inside the fresh corn tortilla. I spotted purple cabbage, sesame seeds, deep greens, bright orange—a cornucopia of colors making the slaw a visual delight. Little did I know that I would come to taste every single color! The first bite was dizzying: spicy, tender, crunchy, nutty, warm, cool, tart, sweet.
The Asian twist on the taco was awesome and Vito/Gilbert’s fave bite made much more sense after I ate them myself and realized that the uniqueness of the tuna tartare taco would bring pure joy!
Beyond the Bar
Located in the heart of Pier Village, this delightful spot is a true find. Owned by OHM Group, a company best known for its airport vending, Beach House is a spectacular example of a local eatery. You would never know it’s part a corporate entity with businesses in multiple states.
The menu features a nice variety and a special kids’ menu, too!
When to Show
Hours are seasonal. Check back after summer for changes.
11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week
Know Before You Go!
Prices, hours, and menus are subject to change. Please check the restaurant’s website for the latest information available.
Beach House @ Pier Village
68 Ocean Avenue
Long Branch, NJ 07740
This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.