The northern Jersey Shore is known for a lot of things. It’s the birthplace of The Boss, was the setting for some of Tony Soprano’s weirdest moments, and, depending on your age, either MTV Spring Break or Snookie trying on every pair of handcuffs owned by the Seaside Heights P.D. But besides those, this stretch from the Atlantic Highlands to Island Beach State Park is home to some great food, and when you’re here, you should use this guide to find the best places to eat and drink.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t just a list of spots to check out if you happen to find yourself heading somewhere between mile marker 109 and 82 on the Parkway. And it isn’t as if we didn’t want to include more places north of Long Branch, but these are the restaurants, stands, and pit stops that are worth the drive and the traffic. From dockside lobster shacks and sit-down BYOs to our favorite breakfast sandwich spots by the beach, here are the 23 best places to eat along the northern Jersey Shore.
Avenue is the tale of two very different experiences that just happen to be in the same place under the same name. Le Club Avenue is a trendy, nighttime oceanfront club with bottle service and can be skipped, but during the day, Avenue is just a nice spot to hang out at and eat good French food. The bright floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the ocean and the brunch menu, with things like a croque madame, moules frites, and great cocktails, is a solid escape from the one-too-many burgers you’ve already had this weekend.
Don’t let the fact that there are almost as many Rook Coffee outposts along the Shore as there are lighthouses be a turn-off. Just appreciate the fact that the best coffee shop on the coast has found a way to set up about a dozen shops from Holmdel to Point Pleasant. No doubt ensuring there is one close enough to shock your sunburned, barbecued, and beer-fueled body back into normalcy with its New Orleans-style cold brew.
While the Shore features no shortage of seagulls or sweaty beachside dance clubs, it does lack proper places to eat and drink like an adult - especially when you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or just the fact that you were smart enough to hop on route 18 to skip miles of traffic. Pascal & Sabine is a rare exception. This is one of the best restaurants in Asbury Park and makes great cocktails, has a solid wine list, and serves delicious French-inspired food. This is a good place to order lots of things to share, like the excellent pork chop and a variety of local seafood, which will give you plenty to discuss when your bathing suit doesn’t fit poolside the next day.
At some point this summer, you’ll finally find a time to have dinner with your group of friends who go down the Shore every weekend. And then, when you try to pick a place, you’ll remember why these meals never happen. One’s a vegan, another is gluten free, one eats like a five-year-old, and the other just wants to drink. Talula’s in Asbury Park solves all of your problems and solves them well with some of the best pizza on the Jersey Shore. And while everyone is giving the waitstaff an insane level of detail about what they can and can’t eat, you’ll be off in your own world of serenity enjoying the vodka pie with Benton’s bacon.
We may never get a consensus on it being pork roll or Taylor ham (it’s Taylor ham, by the way). But what we can all agree on is that Frank’s Deli is among the best places to get it in New Jersey, which actually means any other place on earth. Part deli and part diner, Frank’s has been an Asbury Park staple since before The Boss and his E-Street Band were rocking the Stone Pony on the other side of town. Go for breakfast and get their thick-cut pork roll with egg and cheese on a housemade roll. While you’re at it, grab a deli sandwich for lunch and take it to the beach. You might not think you’re hungry after all that pork roll, but you’ll thank us later.
People search long and hard for the perfect bar pie and asking anyone in Jersey about which is best will fire up an argument on par with what happened after the screen went black in the final episode of The Sopranos. For us, though, Carmen’s Pizzeria at Pete & Elda’s stands above the rest of what you’ll find down the Shore. Get the XXL, and not because you want the t-shirt you get for finishing it. Get it because it’s damn good. The paper-thin crust is perfectly crisp, and do your best to finish it all onsite because, unlike Carmen’s, leftover thin-crust pizza doesn’t stand the test of time.
Not much makes sense about Grand Tavern, but it’s still one of our favorite spots to take a break from the crowded beachside bars and restaurants - especially once you’ve hit your quota for oysters and lobster rolls. It’s in an odd location just west of Bradley Beach and has an appetizer menu with everything from crab risotto and ratatouille-topped ricotta toast to chicken nuggets. It also has an outdoor area that will remind you of someone’s backyard, except you won’t have to worry about someone’s uncle who claims to be a “grill master” overcooking your burgers, scallops, or dry-aged ribeye.
Maeberrie is our go-to breakfast spot in Avon, with great things like a pastrami, egg, and cheese, poached eggs on top of potatoes with hollandaise, big sandwiches, and chicken and waffles. But all of those can be easy to miss when you walk in here for the first time. We can tell you that “super-cute farmhouse” is not typically a design-choice reserved for Jersey Shore establishments, but here surfboards are ditched for cutting boards, along with stone bowls, copper pots, and peonies, all of which are for sale. Don’t let that, or the fact that their fluffcakes sound like something on a four-year-old’s tea party menu, fool you - this is one of the truly great breakfast and lunch spots in the area.
Maybe New Jersey is called the “Garden State” because most shore-goers consider ice cream to be a vegetable. Or maybe that’s just us. You’ll no doubt see dozens of ice cream shops as you drive town-to-town along Route 35, but Hoffman’s is the one you’ll be thinking about in your office on Monday. We’d like to believe that it’s some cream-to-sugar ratio that they’ve nailed, but scientists are still trying to prove that. It’s been around for more than 60 years and serves more than 40 varieties of rich and dense ice cream, including signature flavors like mint cookie and coffee Oreo. If you’re not heading to Spring Lake anytime soon, Hoffman’s has shops in Long Branch and Point Pleasant too.
This three-floor party fortress has been standing strong for more than 135 years and is the perfect place to go for cheap lobsters, steamers, and sliders as you transition from work to a weekend down the Shore. Walk past the reservation-only front porch and go straight to the outside bar in the back before you hit the basement for live music. Definitely come here on the early side, as the Parker House is known for day drinking, huge crowds, and long lines, and due to a long-standing town ordinance, last call is at 11:30pm.
We can only tell you two certainties about the Jersey Shore: if the winds are blowing from the west, the greenhead flies will make a sunny day feel like the bowels of hell, and if you pull up to Rosie’s after 8 pm, they’re either going to be out of pizza or closed for the night. This place makes the best pizza south of Jersey City, but it’s not uncommon that an oven’s out, a fridge is down, or they’re simply out of dough. We especially like the round pie with pepperoni, the square pie with spinach, and their sausage calzone that makes risking your job and leaving work extra early on a Friday to get there before it closes worthwhile.
Joe Leone’s is far and away our favorite place to stop by the beach in Monmouth or Ocean County to fill our cooler for the day or stock up for a weekend of hanging out poolside. This place serves bread and fresh mozzarella as good as you’ll find in North Jersey, and the whole place is packed with the best specialty items on the coast. It’s impossible to go wrong here, but the sandwiches, eggplant pie, or any of their daily specials from the chef’s case are what you want.
If you roast in the Jersey sun all day, by 6pm you’re either greasy or burnt, which is how we’d describe most of the Shore’s burger options as well. But Frankie’s Bar & Grill is an exception and makes the northern Shore’s best burger. These huge and simple burgers are cooked at the bar and seared with a perfect char. Just know that they usually go one temperature rarer than you order, so if you’re a medium-rare person, we’d suggest you go medium. If you’re a medium-well person, you might actually be in luck and learn what a good burger tastes like.
We’d like to consider the official designation of the Jersey Shore 12-course meal to be a six-pack and half a dozen lobster rolls from Point Lobster Company. They’re served hot with butter, the perfect amount of celery salt, and crispy, seasoned fries so good that they’ll make you forget about your friend peeing on your leg after that jellyfish sting earlier in the day. Since this fish market and seafood spot provides many restaurants in the state with their fresh lobsters, there’s a good chance you’ve had one before, but this is the only place to get their signature roll.
After a day of accidentally swallowing too much salt water, you’ll likely be craving oysters, clams, maybe some lobster for good measure, and a plastic bib. Red’s in Point Pleasant is one of the best places in the area to get all of these things. This super-popular dockside seafood shack has a raw bar outside with fried fish, sandwiches, apps and, of course, lobster. And then inside, there’s a small restaurant where you can get lobster mac and cheese, seafood pastas, and whatever got pulled out of the water that morning. Waits to get inside can get long, so you can settle in outside, get a bunch of appetizers and wait for your table to be called while watching the sunset over the Manasquan Inlet. Red’s is also BYO, so make sure you have a bottle of wine or four in tow.
Although the juice and acai bowl shops try their best, the Jersey Shore breakfast scene hasn’t changed much. There are still plenty of bagel shops to stop at for egg sandwiches, marina-side cafe’s that serve as one-stop shops for fisherman to get omelets and bait and tackle, and of course, tchotchke-filled pancake houses. And along the northern Shore, we’re yet to find any pancakes that beat the ones at John and Elaine’s. Pair those hotcakes with their juicy breakfast sausage, which, if snapped loud enough, can drown out the political opinions blaring from the TV above their counter that you definitely didn’t order with your eggs.
Brick is home to some of the best real estate on the barrier islands and some of the worst restaurants. But five minutes over the Mantoloking bridge, you’ll find Denino’s, which is the best thing Staten Island’s given the Shore since, well, ever. This place makes super-crispy thin-crust pizzas and even if your summer share isn’t anywhere near here, the pizza is completely worth the trip. We especially like the meatball, onion and ricotta pie.
You’re on vacation, and on vacation, you get to eat cake for breakfast. Mueller’s is one of our favorite places to stop by because of their incredible crumb cake. They make other pastries too, and we’re sure they’re good, but you can go ahead and waste your time on those while we pick every sweet, meatball-sized crumb off your piece when you’re not looking.
If you’re spending a couple of days down the Shore, the last thing you want to do is waste precious time running errands. Finding places where you can check two boxes, like getting a meal and some needed weekend groceries, can help you maximize your ability to grab your board and catch those perfect waves between high and low tide. Lovelandtown is one of those spots. Outside, you can get a classic cold lobster roll piled high with lobster meat, fresh herbs, capers, and a squeeze of lemon from a 1955 Chevy truck that’s outfitted with a kitchen. And inside, the small grocery store has a great coffee bar and a deli/butcher that offers fantastic hot and cold sandwiches to go, along with all the essentials to stock your fridge with for the next few days.
At some point, you’ll likely be a part of someone’s first visit to the Jersey Shore. Naturally, they’ll want to experience “the boardwalk” and there’s a chance that boardwalk will be in Seaside Heights. Skip the 64 oz. lemonade and fried Oreos and head to Midway, the center-of-the-boardwalk cheesesteak stand. It’s not fancy, it’s barely scenic, but it is definitely iconic for its colorful exterior, open-air grills with rows of grilling steak, piles of peppers and onions, and massive cups of salty french fries. This far north of Philadelphia, you won’t do better than Midway.
Like the Jets and the Giants or the Statue of Liberty, there’s a long debate as to whether New York or New Jersey can claim Kohr’s Frozen Custard as its own. This place started in Coney Island, but that signature orange and vanilla custard swirl was perfected up and down the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore. With locations in Lavalette, Ortley Beach, Seaside Park, and Seaside Heights, it’s one of the best ways to cool down after a long day in the sun.
You no doubt have a friend that will invite you to their “shore house” this summer and after hours of driving, you’ll find yourself in a beachless neighborhood on the west side of the Barnegat Bay in Toms River. The bad news is that your assumed summer beach adventure has led you to a land of strip malls you could have found 15 minutes over the George Washington Bridge. But the good news is that Brooklyn Square Pizza is nearby. This place specializes in square pies, layered with pecorino on top of slightly sweet sauce and mozzarella on a big cloud of dough dusted with sesame seeds. It’s like taking the subway to Bensonhurst, but without having to deal with the N train delays from midtown.
After a long night out on the Jersey Shore, you’ll be lucky if you reach down and still find $1.35 in your pocket. It’s likely that, aside from all the beer and late-night slices, you spent those last few quarters playing NBA Jam at the old arcade next to your favorite boardwalk bar. Nevertheless, we hope that you can scrape the pot and find that buck and change to cross the bridge to OB-CO’s to grab a ‘sugar raised,’ which is one of the best donuts around. Lines can get long, so be prepared to wait, but the powdered croissants, lemon-filled, and Boston creams will be worth it. And if your bank account is still intact, just grab a dozen and try them all.
At the end of the day, you may find yourself at a Belmar, Manasquan, or Ortley Beach four-bedroom summer share that is home to no less than 16 people. Fear not, there’s bound to be some leftover pizza crust in that box on the stove, half a container of cream cheese in the fridge, and at least four varieties of half-drank light beer on the coffee table. All of which are the perfect antidote to your friend putting on that Lil Nas X song for the 800th time this weekend. Guess it’s time to head back up North. See ya next weekend.