What’s New in Ocean City Food Places This Summer
Platter Up: Here's the lineup of new eateries in town for 2011.
The summer of 2011 has been a busy one for new food establishments. Five have opened on the Boardwalk and seven have opened in town. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in food in Ocean City.
Bryn and Dane’s, Sixth Street and Boardwalk, 609-848-BRYN
Smack in the center of Wonderland’s Boardwalk-facing entrance is newcomer Bryn and Dane’s, as eye-catching for its lime-green facade as it is for its healthy fare. A miniature version of the original Bryn and Dane’s in Horsham, PA, this location offers a pared-down menu of the wraps and smoothies that made it an instant hit when it opened last year in owner Bryn Davis’ hometown. He’s the Bryn and his youngest brother, Dane, are the faces behind the name.
Healthy eating all the time is the business plan, accomplished by serving beverages with no added sugar or syrups, and keeping fried foods off the menu. The wraps boast free-range chicken among the ingredients, and the nutritional profile of the smoothies can be boosted by the addition of a scoop of protein, guarana, oatmeal, flax or chia.
Locals Coffee and Smoothies, 7th Street Beach Arcade, 609-391-8880
One of two new spots with an emphasis on good coffee, Locals has been carved into the northeast corner of an arcade in the 700 block of the Boardwalk. You can sit on one of the handful of bar stools grouped around the counter and get jazzed on certified organic and fair-trade joe brewed in a Synesso espresso machine. This means something to people who take their coffee seriously, because Synesso is the American descendant of La Marzocco, which is the Florence, Italy-based manufacturer of the espresso machine at Three Fish on the 1300 block of the Boardwalk.
Synesso came on the scene in 2004 in Seattle, founded by a former La Marzocco engineer. La Marzocco started in 1927.
OC Sports Grille, 822 Boardwalk, 609-707-1269
Burgers and sandwiches, chicken and seafood dishes, and family feasts priced from $9.95 for one to $59.95 for six are the mainstays of the menu at OC Sports Grille. The former CJ’s Grille has a few unusual selections: hush puppies, fried pickles and pig wings (ribs). Mondays and Wednesdays are all-you-can-eat regular wings for $12.95.
Chickie’s & Pete’s, Ninth Street and Boardwalk, 609-545-8720
French fries are a major food category on the Boardwalk. This year, crab fries join the fray with the opening of Chickie’s & Pete’s in the heart of the ’walk. The lemonade stand that stood on this spot has been transformed into a black-and-orange-hued French fry factory, serving up crab fries by the bucket.
“We are not your average French fry place,” general manager Todd Dwyer says of why C&P’s, which started in 1977 and, according to its website, has grown to include 30 locations in Pennsylvania and four in New Jersey, invaded both Ocean City’s and Wildwood’s boardwalks this year. “What better place for crab fries than the beach?”
In addition to crab fries, you can sample C&P’s signature Crabby Sweets (sweet potato fries served with a creamy sweet cheese for dipping), wings, fried shrimp and clam strips.
Three Fish, 1322 Boardwalk, no phone
Three Fish, named for the three fish heads that owner Jay Ferrari found in his garage and nailed to the board that hangs over the window of this closet-sized establishment, owes its existence to Ferrari’s insistence on top-notch coffee. A former coffee commodities trader in New York who enjoyed espresso-sipping his way through Italy during visits there, Ferrari decided to bring his strict standards to the Jersey Shore this April when, in town to go fishing, he noticed the “For Rent” sign on the former Boba Bros & Mom’s Nuts. The location, he said, had always appealed to him.
“I’m not trying to revolutionize anything,” Ferrari said as he demonstrated the proper way to pull a double shot of espresso and steam the milk so it is “thick, creamy and sweet.” “I’m just trying to do it right.”
He uses three different blends of Vista Clara brand coffee, and says in addition to training, equipment—maintaining the correct temperature and keeping the machine clean—is as key to a great cup as the quality of the beans he buys.
La Buona Vita Restaurant, 755 Asbury Ave., 609-391-8600
So far, partners Josh Cruz and Irena Kamal are waiting for “the good life” that their restaurant’s name, La Buona Vita, means in Italian. Evenings on Asbury Avenue can be lonely as most of the businesses in the downtown shopping district close around dinnertime.
The partners, who opened their Italian restaurant in May, serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays and lunch and dinner daily. Lunch choices include pizza, sandwiches, salads and hoagies. Dinner choices include pasta dishes, poultry and seafood. Prices are very reasonable.
Gibbs Chicken-n-Ribs, 621 E. Eighth St., 609-391-6462
Robert Gibbs, a chiropractor and pharmacist by trade, is using his chemistry expertise this summer to bring out the best in barbecue at Gibbs Chicken-n-Ribs, an unpretentious storefront at the corner of Eighth and Ocean.
Gibbs, whose previous restaurant foray was with Spanky & Our Gang for two years in the late 1990s in Sea Isle City, opened Gibbs on Mother’s Day as a way “to have some fun for the summer.”
The father of six children, all of whom are working with him, said, “We really wanted to do something as a family, and everybody likes to eat.”
In addition to chicken and ribs (of course), Gibbs offers Monster Belly Busters and a killer breakfast sandwich, which he calls the O.C. Carnivore Classic (two eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, pork roll, scrapple and a beef patty on a roll, $10). The Really Big Boy Burger ($10) uses two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun, with two burger patties in the middle with more cheese. You can thank Gibbs and his son Robbie’s addiction to TV food programs for inspiring these beasts.
Sandcastle Cupcakes, 910 Asbury Ave., 609-391-1000
The beauty of a cupcake, Sandcastle Cupcakes owner Katie Wiegand says, is that it can be any dessert you want it to be. “You can have a cupcake, any flavor, any time of the day,” says Wiegand, a Galloway Township resident and graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing. “If your favorite dessert is apple pie, I can make you an apple pie cupcake. If it’s tiramisu, I can make you a tiramisu cupcake.”
Weigand starts baking every day at 5 a.m., opens the massive front door to Sandcastle Cupcakes at 10 a.m. and closes when she runs out of that day’s offerings. She works in small batches, and says that is the only way she can maintain her high standards. “My biggest motivation is to show people what a quality product is,” she says, adding that her fruit-based cupcakes contain fresh fruit, not imitation flavors, among the ingredients.
Sandcastle Cupcakes lists 31 flavors among its standard flavors, the same number among its specialty flavors, 15 among its cocktail-inspired flavors (made with actual alcohol! and recommended for adult consumption), 14 among its vegan flavors (one week’s notice required) and 12 among its gluten-free flavors (one week’s notice required). Special orders require 48 hours notice and at least one dozen per flavor must be ordered.
Bongo Café & Grille, 1050 Bay Ave., 609-938-0680
After years of vacancy and fleeting tenants, the corner of Bay Avenue and 11th Street is anchored once again by a restaurant. Bongo Café & Grille, owned by Patty Davis and Walter “Buddy” Hungerford, is producing some interesting-sounding meals and some vegan ones (tofu scramble, anyone?) and gluten-free bread and rolls, courtesy of Davis’s master’s degree in holistic nutrition.
Among the more original breakfast offerings is Patty’s Pierogi Omelet, stuffed with potatoes, onions and cheddar cheese, and topped with caramelized onions and sour cream. Polish food not your thing in the morning? Maybe you’d prefer a breakfast cannoli (thin buttermilk pancakes filled with sweet cream ricotta and mini chocolate chips, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce).
Another taste from the vegan menu: Hawaiian tacos made with grilled pineapple, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo, drizzled with sesame-ginger dressing and served with refried beans and avocado.
If you’re traveling with pets, Bongo will provide water for your pooch while you dine outside.
Salads & More at the Shore, 1123 Asbury Ave., 609-399-0410
Tired of traditional Boardwalk fare, sisters Christine Camp and Sandra Foresta, along with their mother, Deborah Foresta, decided the time was right for a place with more of an emphasis on healthy eating. They opened Salads & More at the Shore on June 1.
“We dice all our vegetables fresh every morning,” says Camp, who handles front-of-the-house duties while her sister, a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, runs the kitchen.
They consider their Shore Special (romaine, iceberg, spring mix, grilled chicken, apples, celery, grapes, chives and walnuts) among their signature items. Other unique offerings are their seafood salad sandwich and their shrimp Caesar wrap.
JD’s Club House, 12th and Asbury Ave., 609-938-0972
Formerly F&M’s, the restaurant at the corner of 12th and Asbury has been transformed into the red-and-white JD’s Club House, where, it advertises, “Every meal is a home run.”
Delayed in opening until the middle of summer, JD’s opened July 16 with a breakfast-only menu, and added lunch on July 20. Justin Prosser, the J in the name, and Denise Garling, the D in the name, had a meeting of the minds when it came to the clubhouse part of their enterprise: He is a Phillies fan (witness all the photos hanging on the red-painted walls) and baseball teams have clubhouses. She always wanted to have a restaurant, though she thought her clubhouse would be on a golf course. “I never, ever wanted to be a chef,” says the Florida Culinary Institute graduate who has cooked for five presidents and various celebrities. “I just wanted to own a restaurant.”
Chair seats are embroidered with baseballs, courtesy of Cathy Greene, a longtime friend of Garling’s and a third partner in the business. Greene, the mother of seven, brings a ready-made wait staff to JD’s, along with Ocean City business savvy (she previously owned the tea room inside the Enchanted Garden, a gift shop that occupied the bank building at Eighth and Asbury in the ’90s). She’s also the decorating influence at JD’s and picked the red-and-white color theme because it works on two levels: They are the Phillies colors and the colors of Ocean City’s sports teams, the Red Raiders.
Expect JD’s to remain open year-round and to add a gourmet takeout facet to the business in the future.
Fractured Prune, 1225 Asbury Ave., 609-399-0482
A franchise that started in 1976 in the other Ocean City (Maryland), the Fractured Prune opened its 12th location this year under the ownership of Joanne Jenkins. You can order your made-on-the-premises cake doughnuts in such flavors as Banana Nut Bread and Strawberry Shortcake, or create your own from the ingredients available.
16th Street Seafood, 1555 Haven Ave., 609-399-0016
After 20 years running Ocean Drive Seafood in Avalon, Dan Parsons has ambled up the road to Ocean City with his wife, Donna, and daughter, Danielle, and opened 16th Street Seafood in a former Laundromat.
Customers can pick up fresh seafood to take home and cook, or can order prepared platters to take out. Summer resident and repeat customer Cindy Daurelle says Parson’s clam chowder is “the gold standard” and swears by the meals she and her husband, Larry, have enjoyed this summer: Stuffed grouper, crab imperial, tilapia and stuffed flounder.
Parsons says he always tries to have in stock the most popular fish: sword, tuna, salmon, grouper and flounder, plus Cape May scallops. “Cape May has the best scallops and flounder in the world,” he says. “Those scallops are so sweet you can eat them raw.”
If you prefer yours cooked, you can order them broiled, fried or over pasta.
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