BEYOND THE BOARDWALK

Dining in Point Pleasant

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From left to right: Chef Daniel Picard of Daniel’s Bistro,
Chef Jim Tooey of Shipwreck Point, and Chef Scott Giordano of The Poached Pear.

By Pat Tanner
Photographs by Thomas Robert Clarke

Admit it: There comes a time during a stay at the Jersey Shore when you’ve had your fill of boardwalk pizza, hot dogs, clams, tiki drinks, funnel cake and cotton candy. At that point what’s called for is a sit-down meal produced by a seasoned chef featuring pristine seafood, prime meats and local, in-season produce.

Perhaps with a nice bottle of wine or a sophisticated cocktail. You may even relish the thought of donning a sundress or collared shirt, although shorts, jeans and T-shirts will also do just fine. In Point Pleasant Beach, three choices that fit the bill for refined but unfussy dining include two modern American bistros—each with its own specialties and charms—and an upscale steakhouse that also prides itself on its seafood. (This is the Shore, after all.)

Before opening The Poached Pear Bistro on Arnold Avenue in 2014, chef and co-owner Scott Giordano became a favorite of Shore denizens for his work at Whispers in Spring Lake. The Poached Pear, which he now owns with his brother, Marc, is “a little more casual and family friendly,” he says, with a penchant for presenting familiar dishes in innovative ways. His pear pizzetta starter, a customer favorite, is a prime example, incorporating gorgonzola, walnut, radicchio and port wine reduction. And don’t worry, the menu goes well beyond pears. Jersey-corn bisque, another fan favorite, ups the ante with applewood-smoked bacon, goat cheese crouton, pasilla pepper oil and corn shoots.

Tops among The Poached Pear’s main dishes are the apple cider–brined pork chop (currently with red cabbage marmalade, crispy spaetzle, caramelized apples and bourbon-cider reduction) and potato-crusted halibut (chanterelle fricassee, truffle velouté, pea shoots, truffle oil). While Giordano does some local sourcing of ingredients, he says his priority is “to get the best product from wherever that may be.” Desserts are the province of Teah Evans, who hails from the country of Georgia, and who was a winner on Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2013. Among her creations: cream puffs, “decadent” flourless chocolate cake, and caramel panna cotta with, yes, poached pears.

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Fresh halibut with asparagus, portobello mushroom, and
roasted red pepper on top of risotto, at The Poached Pear.

That last dish is gluten-free, as are an impressive number of items on the menu, among them the previously mentioned corn bisque and pear salad. Other examples include sesame-crusted ahi tuna with quinoa, pan-seared diver scallops with zucchini and cherry tomato risotto, and a starter of beef short rib carpaccio. There’s even a separate menu for the “Little Pears” who accompany their parents and may demand, say, mac and cheese, buttered pasta, or chicken fingers. Those last can be had simply grilled or panko crusted. “That menu comes from having my own daughter, who is 2,” says Giordano, 46. The little girl has been dining out with him and his wife, Beth, since birth.

The restaurant’s sleek modern dining room is kept airy with predominately neutral walls, burnished dark wood floors and furnishings, and discreet artwork. It seats 99, plus another 24 outdoors. While some of his clientele enjoy getting slightly dressed up, Giordano says, “People can feel comfortable, perhaps not coming right from the beach, but at least in a nice pair of shorts and a nice shirt.”

At Daniel’s Bistro on Broadway, customers’ attire ranges from “full business suits to nice shorts and nice tees,” says Karen Picard, whose husband of 14 years is the chef and eponym. As with the Poached Pear, the modern American fare here draws upon an international larder, especially Italian—fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella and burrata are imported from the Boot—and French ingredients and techniques (escargot in white wine, butter, garlic and herbs, anyone?). Mostly, though, Chef Daniel melds these influences to create lush American takes on classics. Hudson Valley foie gras is paired with three fruits. Grilled diver sea scallops can be had as a starter with Tahitian vanilla bean reduction and grilled asparagus, or pan-seared as an entrée, paired with jumbo lump crabmeat risotto and napped with champagne sauce. Various steak options, including a 38-ounce rib eye Fiorentina, are all prime, aged and mostly on-the-bone. Regulars have been known to bring bottles of wine worth $5,000 to this BYOB.

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Diver Sea Scallops in champagne sauce with colossal lump crabmeat risotto
at Daniel’s Bistro.

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Thai marinated shrimp and Korean BBQ flatiron
steak served with pickled vegetables and sticky rice at Shipwreck Point.

Classical tableside preparations and other old-school amenities set Daniel’s apart. Guests who may have left theirs at home are offered reading glasses. Warm rolls are de rigueur, as are an amuse-bouche and a parting sweet. The amuse is almost always a soup, which changes nightly and is hyper-seasonal: she-crab soup giving way to cream of asparagus, then tomato basil bisque, then lobster bisque, and so on. And, says Karen Picard, “Every dinner ends with complimentary triple-chocolate walnut brownies with chocolate sauce.” As for tableside presentation, that fresh imported mozzarella is presented with beefsteak tomatoes, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil, and an optional drizzle of 20-year-old balsamic. Bananas Foster, berries flambé and zabaglione all create excitement as they’re finished, with fanfare, in the 56-seat dining room. The room, with vaulted ceilings, pale walls, plenty of windows, and tables set with white tablecloths, gets a punch of color from large, colorful beach scenes—photographs on canvas—that are the work of Jersey Shore photographer David Turton.

An additional 30 diners can sit in the outside space, which has its own unique draw. “It’s dog friendly,” says Karen Picard, “as long as they’re well behaved.” She tells of one regular canine patron who gets his own entrée (“He likes osso buco”) and drinks only bottled water. Bistro Daniel is a family affair. Besides Daniel and Karen, who is manager, daughter Rachel is a server and son Forrest runs food and buses tables. Daniel and Karen live in Point Pleasant. During Hurricane Sandy they barely saved their flooded home, and lost both of the restaurants they owned there at the time (Daniel’s Bistro and Daniel’s Trattoria). Two months later, they opened a new restaurant, Daniel’s Bistro by the Sea in Avon-by-the Sea, which is still going strong. Then in October 2013 they reopened in Point Pleasant Beach, in the original location and with the original name that they had first established in 2009.

At Shipwreck Point, diners can dig into classic steakhouse fare while enjoying views of the Manasquan Inlet. “The restaurant is all glass in front, so every seat has a nice view,” says Robbie Pascual, the restaurant’s director of operations since March 2014. A veteran of the erstwhile Jersey classic, Pals Cabin in West Orange, he came aboard when his friend Richard McGrory took over the restaurant, which had originally been affiliated with Shipwreck Grille in Brielle. A clubby, elevated pub-like setting of stone-surround fireplaces, gleaming dark wood bar and furnishings, candlelight, and soft music contrast nicely with the sea view. Diners can take it all in while sipping cocktails and craft beers and perusing the diverse six-page wine list.

Overseeing the kitchen since early 2015 is Jim Tooey, a veteran New Jersey chef who for many years was chef and co-owner of Formia Ristorante in Bloomfield. After that he plied his trade at private country clubs, including Due Process in Colts Neck and Shackamaxon in Scotch Plains. “It’s good to be back in the public eye,” says Tooey, 49, who lives 30 minutes away in Island Heights.

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Shipwreck Point’s menu encompasses both old-school and newwave steakhouse trends. Baked clams and shrimp cocktail—colossal- size crustaceans—share billing with Drunken Scallops, a popular starter made with Blue Moon beer, Nueske’s bacon, and orange essence, topped with shallot frites. Traditionalists will like that any of the steaks can be had Oscar style (crab, asparagus, hollandaise) or with foie gras, and there’s a proudly unreconstructed surf and turf of lobster tail and filet mignon. Sides—priced separately, as is the steakhouse custom—include not only the classic creamed spinach, but that green simply sautéed as well.

Both Pascual and Tooey take pride in the sources of their main proteins. Seafood comes from Trinity Seafood of Asbury Park, and steaks and chops from J. Vrola Meats in South Amboy. Among them are 14-ounce prime New York strip, 20-ounce dry-aged cowboy rib eye, and custom-cut lamb chops. The best seller is the eight-ounce boneless filet mignon. “I’m buying the best steaks regardless of cost,” Tooey says. “I’ve been dealing with Joe [Vrola] for a long time and he knows my level of expectation.” Tooey particularly enjoys perusing the fish market for local scallops and lobsters or, he says, “whatever fresh fish jumps out at me.”

Dinners in the 70-seat dining room—there are an additional 20 perches at the bar—start with complimentary popovers. Steaks and chops are garnished with crisp buttermilk onion rings and maître d’hôtel butter and are served with the house steak sauce. Traditional sauces like béarnaise and au poivre are a modest $1 more. Here, the dress code is by default business casual and amenities include free valet parking on weekends.

Pat Tanner is a food writer, restaurant critic and co-founder of Slow Food Central Jersey. See more at dinewithpat.com.

RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS
FROM A POINT PLEASANT LOCAL

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By Kristen Fischer

Many of us step onto the planks at the Point Pleasant boardwalk and instantly feel the need to indulge in a favorite food from our youth, whether it’s a funnel cake, sugary lemonade or slice of pizza. But as irresistible as those goodies may be, there is a wealth of other eating options on and near the beach that are both casual and delicious.

First, let’s get something straight—the boardwalk is in Point Pleasant Beach, also known as “The Beach” or “Point Beach.” There’s a whole other municipality adjacent to The Beach—and it’s called Point Pleasant Borough, also known as “Point Borough” or “The Borough.” Both are small towns with amazing eateries aside from the hot spots along the ocean. There are a few that, as a local, I highly recommend.

Want to stay near the boardwalk and enjoy a sit-down meal? Head north of the Jenkinson’s epicenter on Ocean Avenue to The Offshore. In addition to a nice bar, they have American dining favorites such as sandwiches and burgers, plus fresh seafood.

Nearby is the I’m a Local Cafe. Don’t worry if you’re not a local, the staff there will still treat you like a regular. It’s a good place to grab breakfast or lunch, and it offers dining inside and out. Enjoy eggs and home fries for breakfast—now served all day—or try the Cali Combo wrap with greens, black beans, cheese and guacamole. Here’s a little something extra if you’re into the “local” scene: One of the women who runs the place is a yogi who puts on a fabulous beach yoga program just up the road.

Aside from the boardwalk, there’s another hopping section of Point Pleasant Beach that’s home to several cool restaurants—the downtown area of Bay and Arnold Avenues. Known for its quaint look, fantastic boutiques, and food shops such as The Arctic Market & Butcher, the downtown scene has a few culinary gems.

Start at The Beanery, which, contrary to its name, serves up more than coffee. This cozy café is always busy because the food is delicious. Whether you dine in or pick up, some good items to try include the warm ravioli salad—ravioli in an olive oil, cheese, and herb dressing over a bed of greens with tomato, cucumber, and red onion—or the Point Veggie wrap with romaine lettuce, Swiss cheese, tomato, cucumber, red onion, red pepper, and sprouts with a garlic-herb spread slathered on multigrain bread. A coffee bar in back is the perfect place to sit for a brew. Their best-selling drink is the vanilla chai.

At the corner of Bay and Arnold Avenues is 709, a more upscale restaurant featuring cocktails, an attractive bar, and sushi and other coastal delights, including a full raw bar. They also have plenty of land-loving entrées, such as the seasonal-vegetable cannellini— homemade cannellini packed with ricotta and mascarpone cheeses and served over a sweet pea purée with roasted red pepper coulis and tomato bruschetta.

There are other higher-end restaurants in Point Pleasant Beach that are quite a draw—including Jack Baker’s Wharfside, Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty and Arugula. And then there’s Surf Taco.

TOUR DE TACO

The Surf Taco chain has grown since its inception in Point Beach in 2001. It now has ten locations up and down the Jersey Shore. The menu features coastal-inspired Mexican cuisine, and its fresh ingredients and crisp taste are the allure. There’s never some mystery red sauce packed with preservatives and spices—it’s all fresh. A salsa bar offers many varieties of freshly made salsa that you can pair with their chips, which are also made fresh (never out of a bag!). I highly recommend the taco salad. Huge in size and ideal for splitting, it’s packed with lettuce, rice, black beans, pico de gallo salsa, sour cream, and guacamole—you can also add grilled chicken. The pico de gallo is expertly blended with just the right amount of cilantro and I’m not sure what else—trust me, though, it is perfection.

The Point Beach Surf Taco is located on Route 35. The place is cramped, especially during the summer, and often the music is too loud for my taste. Who cares, though, really—the food is that good. (And you can always order it as takeout, which solves the loud music issue.)

THE LOCALS’ BEST-KEPT SECRETS

In Point Borough, there’s another culinary gem, MonAlyssa Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, nestled in a part of town adjacent to Point Beach and Bay Head. There are no other restaurants near it, and no fancy downtown surrounding it, but I think that’s something the locals enjoy most. It’s a “secret” Italian restaurant that’s not so secret anymore. It’s worth a trip if you can’t get enough of traditional Italian dishes like eggplant parmigiana or frutti di mare misto. The prices are reasonable, and the setting is quaint.

Another great spot for Italian is Joe Leone’s Italian Specialties on Route 35. They’re famous for their Hoboken-style Italian bread and especially for their handmade fresh mozzarella.

And then just down the street is another local favorite named Local Urban Kitchen. Focused on healthy, nutrient-dense ingredients, the restaurant uses many locally sourced items including produce, eggs and meats. Local Urban Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has a great to-go menu that includes healthy juices and smoothies. The good news is that, no matter where you eat in Point Pleasant Beach or Point Pleasant Borough, you’re never far away from the beach. Having lived at the Shore for 28 years, I can assure you that the ocean, river and bay will always be the main attraction here— but the food’s pretty good, too.

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RESTAURANTS & CAFES

709
709 Arnold Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.295.0709
709pointbeach.com

Arugula
1205 Ocean Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.295.2800
thewhitesands.com/pointpleasant-beach-dining/arugula

The Beanery
516 Bay Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.295.9669
thebeanery.net

Daniel’s Bistro
115 Broadway
848.232.2544
danielsbistro.com

I’m a Local Beach House Cafe
300 Broadway, Point Pleasant Beach
732.899.0600
imalocalcafe.com

Jack Baker’s Point Pleasant
Lobster Shanty
83 Channel Dr.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.899.6700
pointpleasantlobstershanty.com

Jack Baker’s Wharfside
101 Channel Dr.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.892.9100
wharfsidenj.com

Jason’s Organic Pizza Café
1314 Richmond Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.899.2900
jasonsorganicpizzacafe.shutterfly.com

Local Urban Kitchen
1805 Rte. 35,
Point Pleasant
848.232.3451
localurbankitchen.com

MonAlyssa Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
1635 Bay Ave.,
Point Pleasant Borough
732.899.1999
monalyssarestaurant.com

The Offshore
225 Ocean Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.882.2848
offshorerestaurant.com

Poached Pear Bistro
816 Arnold Avenue
732.701.1700
poachedpearbistro.com

Prime 13
710 Arnold Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.202.6483
prime-13.com/home

Shipwreck Point
20 Inlet Drive
732.899.3800
shipwreckpointsteakhouse.com

Surf Taco
1300 Richmond Ave.
(Rte. 35 South),
Point Pleasant Beach
732.701.9000
surftaco.com

Tara Lu’s Smoothie & Juice Bar
606 Arnold Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.475.6816
taralus.com

BAKERIES, BUTCHER, ICE CREAM & MORE

The Arctic Market & Butcher
816 Arnold Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.899.6328
arcticbutcher.com

Hoffman’s Ice Cream
8800 Richmond Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.892.0270
hoffmansicecream.net

Joe Leone’s Italian Specialties
510 Rte. 35 South,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.701.0001
joeleones.com

Shore Fresh Seafood Market
703 Bridge Ave. #707,
Point Pleasant Borough
732.899.1300

Sundaes The Ice Cream Place
217 Rte. 88,
Point Pleasant Borough
732.892.6464
sundaesnj.com

Top That! Doughnuts
210 Ocean Ave.,
Point Pleasant Beach
732.899.2552
topthatdonuts.com

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