New Jerseyans know that great food can be found all over the state and, at times, in some of the least likely locations. Walking down an alleyway for great pizza, pulling over at a roadside hot dog joint and stepping into a tin can of a diner all can be destinations that reward those in the know. Sometimes these less fanciful foodie finds are situated right alongside what is arguably New Jersey’s greatest attraction — its 130 miles of coastline.
Here is a list of noteworthy seafood shacks, where some of the Garden State’s best food is often right in reach of where it came from.
Off The Hook
Near Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island is historic Viking Village, founded as a fishing community by Scandanavian immigrants almost 100 years ago. Now a destination dotted with small retail shops, it is still a commercial fishing port, and Off The Hook is its seafood affiliate. The freshest catches do not travel far from the fishing boats to the takeout restaurant. Take your order home or enjoy it while sitting at the covered picnic benches, where customers watch what’s coming and going on land and on the water.
Address: 1905 Bayview Ave., Barnegat Light, N.J. 08006
Pinky Shrimp’s Seafood Co.
Eleven miles down the island in Beach Haven is Pinky Shrimp’s Seafood Co., also offering takeout prepared dishes to bring home or eat at picnic tables. Only open in season, this lively establishment has a sense of humor and an even better sense of how to prepare seafood. It is a favorite of many in the area but was also “voted best by our staff.” We trust them all!
Address: 8211 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, N.J. 08008
Oyster Creek Restaurant and Boat Bar
Oyster Creek Restaurant in Leeds Point features a “boat bar,” but not to worry, it’s also accessible by car. A bit off the beaten path, it is worth seeking out for its remote location. No one would blame you if you came here just for the unmatched views of the ocean and protected marshland surrounding it, but you’ll eat and drink well, too.
Address: 41 Oyster Creek Road, Leeds Point, N.J. 08220
H&H Seafood Market
Cape May is one of the state’s premier restaurant dining towns with excellent choices to fill almost any length visit. If you want no frills but high-quality seafood, H&H Seafood Market should be on your Cape May eating itinerary. Established as an outlet for its commercial boat operation, the menu focuses on the freshest possible seafood.
Address: 956 Ocean Drive, Cape May, N.J. 08204
Quahog’s Seafood Shack and Bar
Quahog’s Seafood Shack and Bar in Stone Harbor is the place to go for more than just simply prepared seafood. Chef Lucas Manteca peppers in South American flair and flavor alongside classic choices at this location, which is one of his four eateries.
Address: 206 97th St., Stone Harbor, N.J. 08247
Mike’s Seafood and Dock Restaurant
Even simply prepared seafood requires experienced handling and cooking. It is safe to say Mike’s Seafood and Dock Restaurant in Sea Isle City, open since 1911, has been getting it right for some time now. Grab a table on the deck overlooking the bay, and enjoy the lively scene or bring your order home.
Address: 4222 Park Road, Sea Isle City, N.J. 08243
Not all the top-notch options for casual seafood preparations are in southern New Jersey. The Keyport Fishery, near the Raritan Bay, has been serving prepared seafood to-go for decades. A local staple that has weathered many a storm, it is a local institution as is the 75-year-old building that houses it.
Address: 150 West Front St., Keyport, N.J. 07735
Bayshore Crab House
A painted bull on a barn is not usually a sign that you are in the right place for seafood, unless you are heading to the Bayshore Crab House in Newport. Tucked away, not near the ocean but on the banks of the Nantuxent Creek, not far from the Delaware Bay, this is a part of the state one needs to explore more of, and this is a good place to stop while doing it.
Address: 100 Back Road, Newport, N.J. 08345
The Bait Box Restaurant
Up the bay a bit on the Cohansey River in historic Greenwich is The Bait Box Restaurant, part of the Hancock Harbor Marina. Cornhole on the lawn, volleyball on the beach, drinks at Liquid Therapy — the old sailboat turned outdoor bar — and really good seafood are all there at this seasonal location.
Address: 30 Hancock Harbor Road, Greenwich, N.J. 08323
Feast on Food Trucks
Not all the choices mentioned here are situated near the ocean, and the following are not firmly anchored in place either. Some options are doing a great job bringing the casual Shore seafood experience to you through food trucks and mobile food tents. And what is a food truck after all but a shack on wheels? Some names to look for on your travels around the state are the Beach Shack Food Truck, All Surf No Turf (soon to be opening a brick-and-mortar place in Clifton, too), Fish Heads and Nettuno.
Check websites and social media for these and other such businesses. Hours and seasons of operation do vary. Some are takeout only, others offer outdoor seating areas, while a couple still are more full service. All provide a great taste of the New Jersey eating experience.
Hank Zona writes regularly about wine, spirits and a range of other topics such as food and culture. He also has been running wine and spirits events of all sorts for over a decade.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.