Summer: a time for romance, a time when relationships bloom, a time when most local restaurants are actually open! The Shorebeat crew thought we’d give you a hand planning a night that will impress that special someone without venturing too far away, and without playing into those tired dating stereotypes. Some (we don’t kiss and tell) have been personally tested.
1: Spano’s and Golf
Whether you’re a local or used to service “up north,” or (gasp!) in New York City, you’ll feel at home at Spano’s in Point Pleasant Beach. The local, BYOB Italian institution offers big portions, city-esque seating and high quality to patrons who may have to wait a bit for a table – but are welcome to bring an extra bottle of wine to enjoy while in limbo.
Lighthouse Point Miniature Golf on the southern end of the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk is a natural after-dinner treat. The course offers multi-level architecture, fun obstacles and plenty of opportunities to help your date score. (Mind the pun.)
- Spano’s: 719 Arnold Ave, Point Pleasant Beach.
- Lighthouse Point Miniature Golf: 801 Boardwalk, Point Pleasant Beach.
1: Fella’s and Bills
What screams “renaissance man” more than a fine Italian dinner – then arcade games afterward? One of our favorite restaurants at Shorebeat, Rockafella’s in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River offers an exquisite menu of pasta, chicken and veal dishes served with a blend of ingredients you’ll usually find at some of the best Italian restaurants in the region. Of course, impress her with your choice of fine wine – Rockafella’s is BYOB.
After dinner, just head across the street to Barnacle Bill’s Arcade. There’s miniature golf outside and a full arcade inside, allowing you to follow up dinner with a friendly challenge to start off a night together.
- Rockafellas: 1855 Route 35 North, Ortley Beach.
- Barnacle Bills: 1968 Route 35 North, Ortley Beach.
3: Chef Mike’s and a Fox Hunt
Chef Mike’s ABG can hardly be described in words. A premier chef, a restaurateur, a local legend, Mike Jurusz has cornered the market on what he calls “sexy food.” The restaurant, at the south end of South Seaside Park just outside the gate to Island Beach State Park, offers the rare oceanfront dining experience where you go for the food over the view. Signature dishes include filet mignon medallions in a gorgonzola cream sauce and peppercorn crusted ahi tuna.
After dinner and drinks (which are creative, and numerous in variety) grab a beach blanket out of the car and enjoy an evening under the stars. The tiki bar might be open, but it’s time for some fresh air – and the occasional spotting of a wild fox exploring the sand outside their native habitat in the state park next door. Don’t worry – the fox won’t hurt, they’re there to enjoy the beach just as you and your date are.
- Chef Mike’s ABG: 10 Central Ave, South Seaside Park.
- Island Beach State Park: Southern end of Route 35, South Seaside Park.
4: Savor and Skee Ball
Back in the spring, a host on New Jersey 101.5 insulted Seaside Heights locals by declaring there were no fine restaurants in the summer mecca. Not true! Savor Lounge offers excellent drinks, appetizers to die for, and a menu with inspirations from Italy combined with a modern, American touch. The whipped goat cheese appetizer and any dish including meatballs is a must.
Your after-dinner options are numerous, as they are everywhere in Seaside Heights. You could head next door to Club Karma immediately, or you could wait until later in the evening to experience the local nightlife. A better option after dinner is a friendly game of Skee-Ball (and similar competitions) at Lucky Leo’s arcade, which is just a block-and-a-half up the street. After some hard-fought victories and losses, dance the night away back where you began the night, in Savor’s lounge area.
- Savor Lounge: 411 Boulevard, Seaside Heights.
- Lucky Leo’s: 315 Boardwalk, Seaside Heights.
5: Bums and Bands
At the Jersey Shore during the summer, leave the city dress codes home. Head to Bum Rogers in South Seaside Park to crack open some freshly-caught blue crabs, dunk them in butter and hot sauce, and chomp away. There are no egos here – but there are colorful bibs and plenty of smiles from the staff as you try something new, authentic and absolutely delicious.
After schooling your date on the finer points of crab dissection, head out to the restaurant’s bar area and outdoor back porch to hear from great local bands, and keep the drinks flowing all night long.
- Bum Rogers: 2207 Southwest Central Avenue, South Seaside Park
6: The Olive and The Inlet
The Spanish Olive, a new restaurant on Mantoloking Road in Brick offers the best Cuban food this side of Cuba. No need to fly to Miami. Owned by a local family running their first restaurant, they got it right the first time. Bring your own bottle of wine that the staff will transform into a spectacular red or white sangria, then sit back and enjoy amazing, home cooked ropa vieja, paella, plus a number of shrimp and chicken preparations that are, without a doubt, tops in the state.
After dinner, take the five minute-long trip to the end of Mantoloking Road where you have a few options. First, take in the stars under the mild light of the Mantoloking Bridge over Barnegat Bay. Second, head over the bridge and hang out on the Mantoloking oceanfront or (our favorite) take a short ride north on Route 35 to see the local fishing fleet depart Manasquan Inlet and – if you’re in the mood – grab an after-dinner drink at Jenks Inlet Bar.
- Spanish Olive: 399 Mantoloking Road, Brick.
- Manasquan Inlet: Inlet Drive, Point Pleasant Beach.
7: Ohana and a Hook
Few restaurants keep us coming back in the way that Ohana Grill in Lavallette does. The expansive menu might fool some visitors into thinking that the place focuses on quantity – but, no. All of us at Shorebeat are frequent customers and recommend, well, anything. The pasta is spectacular, the tropic-infused flavors in the seafood dishes are a unique find on the east coast, and the lobster and crab selections are fresh as anywhere.
The Seafood-themed night doesn’t have to end there. A sunset at Bayview Park in the Normandy Beach section of Brick is just nearby. We often go there to check out the sunset, and often cast a line into Barnegat Bay while doing so. Teach your date how to fish, or just try out something new before heading home or out for the rest of the night. Here at the Shore, nothing says romance like casting out into the setting sun over Barnegat Bay. (Bring your spinning rod and use a soft pastic “Fin-S Fish” from a local tackle shop to have the best chance of hooking a keeper.)
- Ohana Grill: 65 Grand Central Avenue, Lavallette.
- Bayview Park: Bay side opposite Brick Beach III and the Ocean Club condominiums, off Route 35 south.