The Inlet Cafe in Highlands, which turns 40 this year, has evolved from a tavern plus clam bar into a dependably good casual seafood restaurant. It’s not grubby or inexpensive (most entrees are in the $20s), but it’s still informal enough for dinner after a day at the beach, says jsfein. The menu includes grilled, fried and blackened entrees and seafood pastas, among other things. If the weather’s nice, sit on the deck and look out on the Navesink River and Sandy Hook Bay.
Another longtime Bayshore destination, the Keyport Fishery, was closed by a fire earlier this month, but its owners promise to reopen the 70-year-old carryout joint. “Best fried shrimp and scallops in my book, for over 30 years of my patronage,” says fpatrick, plus excellent house-made tartar sauce.
In Point Pleasant Beach, the Shrimp Box has been drawing crowds for half a century with fresh, moderately priced seafood. Some recent daily specials, priced in the mid- to high teens: crab-stuffed tilapia, lobster ravioli, and Prince Edward Island mussels marinara over linguine. Go for the early “Sunset Dinner”–“sooo much food for $15 or less,” advises Angelina, who’s hooked on their broiled crab-stuffed shrimp.
Down toward Cape May, Fish and Fancy in the Villas is a no-frills place for excellent fried or broiled platters, says Ellen. Order to go or sit at a picnic table on the covered patio. Also on the menu: chowders, salads, fried chicken, and rotating specials like shrimp fra diavolo, grilled tuna with seafood-garlic sauce, and clams with linguine and other seafood pastas.
At Cape May’s Lobster House, a Fisherman’s Wharf tourist magnet, avoid the crowds by bypassing the bustling main restaurant. Instead, advises Sethboy, grab the menus for the takeout counter and the raw bar, find a table on the deck out back, and ponder your order. Start with the raw bar (which serves chowders and salads as well as raw shellfish) then move on to the takeout counter for fried or broiled platters. Ellen suggests going the full takeout route and recommends their fish sandwich, lobster salad or bisque, smoked salmon or bluefish, and Key lime pie. “Get some Jersey tomatoes and corn on your way home,” she adds, “and you’ll have quite a feast.”
For a more downscale bite, go to fisherman’s watering hole Mayer’s for perfectly tender fried or sauteed scallops and a heavy dose of “local color,” suggests CapeMayChowhound.
Keyport Fishery [Monmouth County]
150 W. Front St., between Broadway and Beers St., Keyport, NJ
Mayer’s Bar and Restaurant [Cape May County]
894 3rd Ave., near Wilson Dr., Cape May, NJ