A Lady Walks into a Bar…Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe

Klein's, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey BitesWhere I Was

Klein’s Fish Market, Belmar, NJ

When, Exactly

Wednesday, September 12, 2:27 p.m.

Where I Sat

The past several days had been dreary, rainy, and misty. (I can already feel my daylight disorder kicking in and my mental anguish at the rapid oncoming of a fall-to-winter shift: the outerwear, the slush. Yuck!) As I drove to Klein’s, though, I needed sunglasses for the first time in days. I was tickled even more as I gravitated toward the tiki bar. The sun’s bright light beckoned me to the outdoor seating option to watch the water and drink from a plastic cup one more time before the outdoor dining spots with views are left behind in exchange for cozy spots with dark furniture and fireplaces.

Klein's, Jersey Bites, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo

Who Served Me

Sean—spelled the Irish way, as he quickly reminded me. When I asked how long he’s been with Klein’s, he said, “Just about a month now, I guess. I’ve been bartending all over the country for the past 10 years or so.” I dug deeper to find out his true calling: to learn he’s a writer with scripts floating around Hollywood. For now, however, Sean embodied the best of what a bartender should be: friendly, approachable, and quick to serve.

Bartender’s Favorite Bite

As Sean grabbed a menu to remind himself of the options (after all, it’s only been a month!), he mused, “I do like the fried combo and the Cowboy Burger is a good one.”

The Vibe and My Vantage Point

At first, it felt a little deserted. The weather had been damp and dank but when I walked up, with no original intention to sit outside, I saw Sean standing behind the bar—almost willing me to approach. But soon a woman joined me, then another gentleman, and a few more during my hour or so there. It was another local spot for regulars looking for a momentary reprieve or to perhaps take advantage of the happy hour offerings, which start at 3 p.m. on weekdays.

I took a seat toward the left corner of the bar with a view of the river and metal bridges jacked up in a rusted position of permanence.

Klein's, Jersey Bites, Gabrielle Garofalo, A Lady Walks into a Bar

What Quenched My Thirst

Belmar Breeze, Klein's, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Belmar Breeze

Belmar Breeze, $10
Brinley coconut rum, pineapple juice, with Brinley Shipwreck spiced rum floater
Given the whimsy I felt with the slightest spot of sun, I went for it, trying to conjure the memory of sitting on a beach club lounge and sipping frothy, fruity, icy concoctions with friends. No surprises here—other than the omission of promised spiced rum floater. The drink was enjoyable and a welcome treat in the middle of a workweek with deadlines looming, including this one!

What Fed My Soul

Crab cake sliders, Klein's, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Crab cake sliders

Crab Cake Sliders, $14
Three mini crab cake sliders with rémoulade
Tasty, but not memorable. Simple. On a plate. No frills. Honestly? The presentation was not entirely inviting and I think a paper plate would have suited the item more authentically than the square glass dinner plate but alas, I will not get stuck on the nuance of my plating obsessions. The crust on the outside of the crab cake was a dredging of some sort, not like the panko-dusted version I pan fry at home. These were deep fried for sure—and the crunch beneath the softness of the slider bun was really satisfying.

Lobster mac and cheese, Klein's, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Lobster mac and cheese
Lobster Mac and Cheese, $18
Elbow pasta enveloped in a creamy blend of cheeses with sweet chunks of lobster, topped with panko 
The deeply golden crisps of panko that held in the warm, creamy depths of the dish were seductive. As I cracked through it with my fork (wishing for a spoon), I delighted in both the sounds and visuals as the steamy, creamy roux burst to the surface. Tastes like heaven to me, I thought, as I scooped up the first delicious bite, still wishing for a spoon. I was short on time, though, so I made it work! The creaminess of the cheese combined with what was presented as bisque was lovely, albeit a bit too light for my liking. (I prefer a creamier base.) Lobster chunks were plentiful and hand cut—I could identify a chunk of tail or piece of claw. Great dish all around.
Mixed greens salad, Klein's, A Lady Walks into a Bar, Gabrielle Garofalo, Jersey Bites
Mixed Green Salad
Mixed Green Salad, $12
With spiced walnuts, dried cranberries, crumbled feta cheese and cucumbers served with herb vinaigrette
it was as if this salad was made just for me; it had so many of my favorite things. However, it’s more like a twisted-mixed salad, and good but a little overdressed. The dressing was divine but I wasn’t so much a fan of what seemed like a balsamic glaze over the top. The soft, mixed greens were lovely but sat wilted beneath the heft of the ingredients and creamy dressing. While I rarely order dressing on the side, this may have been the time. Nevertheless, the salad was yummy!

Beyond the Bar

Klein’s Fish sits along the Shark River and offers something for everyone: a proper dining area inside the grill room and a small but lovely inside bar, as well as a tiki bar and entire outdoor patio seating area with another bar. In addition, the open-daily retail fish market remains a staple of the business. It has been running since the restaurant’s opening some 90 years ago.

When to Show

Weekdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (lunch til 4)
Weekends, 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday brunch, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Fish Market
Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday through Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Know Before You Go!
Klein’s is open year-round. Please check the website for more information on specials, happy hours, tiki bar closing times, and more. Hours, prices, and menus are subject to change.

Klein’s Fish Market & Waterside Cafe
708 River Road
Belmar, NJ

This article was not paid for, nor influenced by, the restaurant/bar featured in this column.

A Lady Walks into a Bar™ is owned and trademarked by Gabrielle Garofalo.