Where to eat fish in northeastern Monmouth County. (Thats the top of the Jersey shore -- Garden State Parkway Exits 120 thru 105). Here are some recommendations and caveats
My favorite fish dinners are at Navesink Fishery (Rt 36, Middletown 732-291-8017). Its a family-run fish market, with dining room. I especially like grouper francaise, fried flounder sandwiches, steamer clams, grilled salmon. The manhattan clam chowder is good. I ADORE the crab corn chowder. Both soups are pre-packed at the fish counter. Some of their sauces dijon sauce or cajun rub are not stellar. Better to choose more traditional treatments. My father will make any excuse to visit me so he can order their fried oyster sandwich. Service is slow. BYOB.
Far East Taste, Eatontown (732) 389-9866, looks like your average Chinese take-out dine-in. The owner is a commercial fisherman who fishes in the early morning and is always on premises when the restaurant is open. (I dont know when he sleeps.) This week he is serving sea bass. Recently it was blackfish. Try to get Richards advice before you order. Lots of the menu is standard take-out fare. He makes thai and malaysian style sauces. The food has the comforting quality of take-out Chinese. But the ingredients are much fresher and the sauces carefully done. He is fussy. He makes his own duck sauce. I like the basil sauce for fish or shrimp. The tom yam vegetable soup with bean curd is truly delicious. BYOB.
At Barnacle Bills, Rumson 732-747-8396, is right on the Navesink River. Hypernautical décor. Peanut shells all over the floor. The noisy bar atmosphere is perfect for beer and a bucket of steamer clams. The grilled mahi mahi is always delicious. Sides are nothing special. I do like their chopped salad, icebergy with gloppy dressing that contains sieved eggs.
Whats Your Beef, Rumson (732) 842-6205, is a comfy neighborhood bar with dining room. Order your entrée at the kitchen window. They present your filet mignon for approval before cutting to order. Fish is always fresh. Big salad bar stays fresh because the place is always crowded. (Beware the glowing orange cheese-food hunks stationed at the bar. An irresistible waste of appetite.)
Joe & Maggies Bistro, Long Branch (732) 571-8848, deserves their good guidebook rating. I usually avoid complex creative cooking, but they know how to do it. Everything fresh, interesting, well-balanced. The menu changes constantly. We recently had a delicious lobster medallion appetizer. And seafood bisque. A salad-lover, I appreciate that they offer new salad ideas each time. Our only complaint: we revel in soup, appetizer, salad, and then are too stunned by flavor complexities to enjoy the equally creative entrée. Too much of a good thing. By that time I need a plain grilled fish. I dont think they do pasta particularly well. Better to order meat or fish. The service is very friendly and professional.
Bahrs (Highlands) and Harrys Lobster House (Sea Bright) are recommended by several guidebooks, but I wasnt impressed with either. Bahrs has beautiful water views, but you pay a lot for food that is sometimes good and sometimes mediocre. Harrys is even more expensive. I ate there once. The fish was fresh and delicious. But the sides were mediocre. And the place, on a winter weekend, was mysteriously empty.
Everyone says Doris and Eds (Highlands) has the best seafood. I havent tried it yet. Anyone know if its worth the high prices?