Here are some off-da-boardwalk, less-expensive, more-eclectic choices among the swanky tourist traps, early bird specials ("jello or rice pudding, hon?") and roadside diners from hell in this foodie-blighted area of our beloved Garden State... As painstakingly reseached by my wife and I over the past year...
Main Street in Belmar
Classic cheap Italian joint. Perhaps the best thin-crust pizza in Monmouth/Ocean. Order the "Around the World" (sausage/pepper/mushroom), byo chianti and do not miss the ricotta cheesecake. Genuine retro-50s atmosphere, staffed by sweet, bee-hived old ladies.
three locations; Point Pleasant Beach locale is best
A seafood shack without a deep fryer! Great fresh fish deftly and simply prepared. Try the broiled "dry" scallops (heavenly). Solid chowders and a jambalaya that would please anyone who has lived in New Orleans. Note: one spendy entree here easily and happily serves two.
Bricktown, adjacent to the Barnes & Noble
Sushi at a Brick NJ pizza place? Gag not, intrepid ones. The sushi bar at this ho-hummy family restaurant is your best dinner option in the no-gourmand's land known as Northern Ocean County NJ. Enjoy your Spanish Mackerel sashimi among your Giants-garbed, Bud-guzzling fellow diners.
JOE LEONE'S (take out only)
Rte 35 South near the northern tip of Point Pleasant
Run by a twentysomething whiz kid, Joe Leone's is ground zero for the Italian-American epicurian. Imported cheezes, real Italian bread (brought down fresh daily from Lodi), all your antipasti standards, mouth-watering prepared pastas, homemade cannoli... Make a picnic basket and head for the beach.
CENTER FOOD MARKET (lunch only)
Main Street in Manasquan
The best sit-down deli in the land of Italian delis. Upscale digs, delicious sandwiches (their roast turkey triple decker is the standard-bearer for this sandwich genre) and tasty, healthy from-scratch soups served by the owner-couple's beaming hippie-chick progeny. Yummy fresh baked goods too.
Otherwise? Take two Mylanta and meet me on the boardwalk!