I had the pleasure of trying a new restaurant in Southern Ocean County this week, 217 East Main (that’s the name and the address) in Tuckerton. I’d been looking forward to this for some time because I heard this would be a new venture for the chef from Barnegat’s The Hurricane House, where the excellent food and huge, almost bizarrely eclectic menu had impressed me for some time.
First off, 217 East Main is very different from the H. House in that it’s fine dining rather than casual and the menu is quite small and focused. The restaurant is part of a complex of three beautifully restored Victorian homes along Route 9; the Lizzie Rose tearoom is next door and has the same owner(s). I understand the dining room will be moving and/or expanding into an adjacent space sometime soon; it is currently in a lovely room with polished-wood floors and period windows, some of which are stained glass, and the seating capacity is estimated at 80 (though I think that would be a squeeze).
On the night we visited, the dinner menu comprised about a half-dozen entrees (including the day’s specials), about as many appetizers and two desserts. Price range for entrees was about $22-$28, appetizers $5-$10. In addition to the entrees I detail below, the choices included a filet mignon dish and a Cornish hen, as well as some kind of pork chop or tenderloin (sorry I can’t remember) but no vegetarian options.
We were a party of 3. I had a dish called Ginger Salmon, which was a great piece of fish seasoned with ginger and wasabi; this was accompanied by sliced avocado and a serving of white rice with a sprig of fresh sage. My father had Crab Cakes, which were 2 generous-sized cakes accompanied by rice and mixed grilled vegetables. I can’t remember how the sauce for the crab cakes was described on the menu, but it was reddish and tangy – some cayenne, maybe. Very good. My mother, who never has much of an appetite, made do with an appetizer, Tea-Infused Char-grilled Chicken Satay (4 skewers), which had the most delicious seasoning, something involving persimmon, mandarin orange and pistachios.
We all enjoyed the soup of the day, Cream of Wild Mushroom, which was really outstanding. You can get a bowl of the day’s soup for $6 or pay $4 to add a cup of it to your entrée. All dinner entrees include a house salad whose ingredients probably change according to season; when we visited, it was crisp, fresh greens, toasted almonds, fresh strawberries and a strawberry vinaigrette dressing. I found the strawberry dressing and the fresh strawberries a bit redundant, but the almonds were a nice contrast.
The complimentary bread basket featured crescent-shaped dinner rolls and a lightly seasoned cornbread, both of which were quite fresh.
The dessert offerings were Crème Brulee and a kind of pastry sampler, a plate of 6-8 morsels. We decided to share a single plate, but the restaurant typically charges $7 per person and sizes the plate accordingly. The offerings included a couple of pieces of solid dark chocolate, a chocolate-covered strawberry, and bite-sized pieces of a cranberry cake, a lemon cake or tart and a chocolate cake.
You may BYOB, and the restaurant’s beverages include very good freshly brewed iced tea that seemed to have a hint of apricot, and Gevalia coffee.
I believe the restaurant has not been open very long, and I imagine they will get a lot busier when word spreads about the excellence of the place. We visited on a Thursday night around 6:30 or so, and there was one other party when we arrived. During our stay, one more small party came in. There seemed to be one server for the entire room (and he also seated us); he was young, very polite and attentive but seemed a little new to waiting tables. He told us the menu will change often based on what’s in season.
There is ample parking out back, and the place is open daily for lunch and dinner.
We are already looking forward to our next visit, even though it’s a bit of a drive for us from Beach Island (about 30 min.). I highly recommend it.