A second trip to Federici's in Belmar, a sneaking suspicion that the post-recession, post-Sandy tourist decline may be over, and the realization that I'm not getting shorter - the houses are all just taller now, led me to think that maybe it's time for us to share some observations concerning changes to the food scene in a place where we see nothing wrong with bitching about visitors while begging for their ten bucks every time they want to touch the second largest body of water on Earth.
1. As to Federici's new place in Belmar. We've been quite pleased. I loved the cheese blend at Vesuvio's, but the place had grown pretty tired. The facelift was certainly needed and the family from Freehold did a pretty good job with it - even if the inside looks to have the potential to get brutally crowded at dinnertime on a July weekend.
Basically, it was a good "trade" for the area. As if the Yankees had picked up Ian Desmond at the start of the season to take Jeter's spot in the six hole. Federici's pie is Jersey Shore thin crust. Maybe a millimeter thinner than Vesuvio's was, but that still leaves it three-quarters of a millimeter thicker than Pete & Elda's. Keeping the Jim's Salad on the menu was a cool move.
2. I've noted before that Remington's has chef d'Ennery running the kitchen now. Another positive development.
3. Another place I've noted before is the new Top That Donuts in Point Pleasant. It's hard to explain how much I'm looking forward to that first early morning, late summer swim I get to gild with warm donuts and coffee while sitting in the sand.
4. Speaking of sweet things, the Scone Pony in Spring Lake is still amazing, but, if the crowds on Memorial Day weekend are any indication, that cat is so far out of the bag, he's going to need help finding his way home. I haven't seen a line like that since Jack's Music in Red Bank was preparing to sell ticket's to Springsteen's first Born in the USA tour.
5. The Buttered Biscuit in Bradley Beach expanded recently. It still gets crowded, but the food quality doesn't seem to have suffered. Weekdays are still the best bet.
6. The Asbury Park addition of a food truck "rodeo" at the north end of the Boardwalk is a wonderful idea. We haven't been yet, but I have had a chance to speak to two of the vendors and am excited for the project. Besides, a choice between having food trucks or luxury, high rise condos along that stretch is a no brainer - like choosing between Mary Poppins and Josh Duggar to babysit your daughters.
7. Long-time, under the radar gem, the Seabreeze on 71 in Spring Lake Heights has new owners and is now the Capsized Cafe. The menu has changed, but the pork roll sandwiches seem pretty much the same.
8. Speaking of pork roll, egg & cheese, Manasquan also has a new place to get the Shore's sandwich staple. The old Pharo's General Store is now the Sandy Seagull (I know, it's like they had a contest for Eighth Graders to pick the name and chose one at random from scraps of paper in a fishbowl). The place sure looks a lot better inside now and it's possible to sit and linger with a cup of good coffee - something anyone who's ever surfed the Seawatch beach knows hasn't been possible since Hillary publicly eschewed baking cookies.
Sandy Seagull's addition now brings the unofficial count of places in town offering the PR, E & C to thirteen or fourteen. The best, however, is still Max Devro's on Main Street. If you go - and are REALLY hungry - upgrade to the Philly chesesteak and egg sandwich, but tell the waitress that you want 'em to add some pork roll. Trust me on this one . . . .
Anyway, that's enough of a start. My consciousness stream is down to a trickle. I'm looking forward to others adding to this list. After all, lots has changed and we've all gotta eat. I suppose we should try and keep it to places east of 35 in Monmouth and on the barrier islands in the OC - just to keep it manageable.
Oh, and if you're in these parts and see a devilishly handsome, middle-aged guy wearing a slightly dirty, Taylor pork roll t-shirt, wandering aimlessly down Main Street, feel free to say "Hello." But, be cool, I'm thinking about running for mayor . . . .