10 Hottest Restaurants on the Jersey Shore

By Danya Henninger
May 12, 2014
By Danya Henninger  |  May 12, 2014

Above: Umbrellas and lounge chairs surround the fire pit at The Rusty Nail in Cape May

The Jersey Shore has the distinction of being the most accessible oceanfront in America - within a day’s drive for more than a quarter of the population. That doesn’t keep those of us who are the closest from feeling like it’s our special place. From Atlantic City hot spots to hidden beach shacks and BYO gems, here are 10 tables you’ll want to book when you’re down the shore this summer.

  • Luke Palladino Seasonal Italian Cooking

    Chef Luke Palladino will soon open his first Philadelphia restaurant on East Passyunk Avenue, but since he already runs four shore restaurants and a catering company, there’s no reason to suspect his Italian BYO will lose any of its culinary charm. Just inland from Margate on Linwood’s main drag (as it is), the sophisticated dining room serves lunch and dinner, and also sells house breads, pastas and salumi at a retail counter.

    199 New Rd., Linwood, NJ; 609-926-3030

  • Dining on the Fifth

    After starting out as luxe steakhouse Chelsea Prime, the restaurant on the top floor of Atlantic City’s only noncasino high-end resort got a rebranding last year (Stephen Starr was an opening partner but pulled out after a year). Instead of a special-occasion splurge, the dining room at The Chelsea now caters to a younger crowd with a menu of affordable small plates ($7-$12) and lots of seafood to go along with Angus steaks, which top out at $29. What hasn’t changed: the fun 1920s decor and the gorgeous beach view. (Sunday dinner service begins May 25.)

    111 S. Chelsea Ave., Atlantic City, NJ; 609-428-4556

  • The Red Store

    In 2012, James Beard-nominated chef Lucas Manteca and wife Deanna Ebner (formerly of Hoof & Fin off South Street) took over the Cape May General Store at the very tip of New Jersey and evolved it into a market/cafe reminiscent of Talula’s Table. Farm-fresh breakfast and lunch are served daily, and house-baked bread, cheeses, housemade jams and gourmet goods are available retail. On Friday and Saturday evenings, a reservation-only dinner is served - choose two courses for $32, three for $45 or four for $55.

    500 Cape May Point, Cape May, NJ; 609-884-5757

  • The Diving Horse

    The seafood-centric Avalon BYO from the team behind Fitler Dining Room and Pub & Kitchen reopens for the season on May 24 (reservations begin May 17). Chef de cuisine Palmer Marinelli will be running the line, back after a winter apprenticing in high-end kitchens around the world, from Australia to San Francisco. The atmosphere is as refined as you’d ever want at a beachfront spot, with a menu that’s worth the price (expect entrees around $30, in line with area standards).

    2109 Dune Dr., Avalon, NJ; 609-368-5000

  • The Rusty Nail

    In 2009, Curtis Bashaw of Cape Resorts revamped The Beach Shack from a has-been seaside shanty into one of Cape May’s hottest waterfront hotels, and along with it revitalized this iconic surfer bar. Hit up happy hour at the sand bar, stay for a better-than-boardwalk seafood dinner in the casual dining room (think oysters, fish tacos and lobster hoagies; $12-$22) and catch after-dinner drinks around the fire pit outside. Bring the whole family, Fido included.

    205 Beach Ave., Cape May, NJ; 609-884-0017

  • The Iron Room at Atlantic City Bottle Company

    Tucked behind Atlantic City’s first liquor store specializing in craft beer (along with a great selection of wines) is this speakeasy-style room serving an American small-plate menu. Since opening last year on the edge of Bader Field, the tasting room has gained a following for chef Kevin Cronin’s handmade pastas and charcuterie plates as much as its whiskey selection and growlers of brew. A chef’s table with tasting menu is also available for reservation.

    648 N. Albany Ave., Atlantic City, NJ; 609-348-6400

  • Amada

    Jose Garces’ first restaurant has been faithfully replicated at the Revel resort and casino, except outside the doors of this version of the Spanish tapas house, you get waves and sand instead of cobblestone and brick. It’s much more spacious than the original, with seating for more than 300. All your favorites are on the menu, from lamb meatballs to patatas bravas to boquerones, at the same prices you’ll find in the city.

    500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ; 609-225-9900

  • Chef Vola’s

    Though the phone number to this Italian-American gem hidden among the side streets of Atlantic City is no longer a secret, it’s not any easier to score one of the coveted tables at this decades-old institution (Frank Sinatra was a regular patron). Now in their 32nd year running the cash-only BYO, the Esposito family won an “America’s Classics” James Beard award in 2011. If you get in, don’t miss the veal chop, done Parmesan-style on the bone, and housemade pie for dessert.

    111 S. Albion Pl., Atlantic City, NJ; 609-345-2022

  • Twisties Tavern

    A tiny strip of barrier island situated between Ocean City and Sea Isle, Strathmere is often overlooked by shore tourists, and the couple hundred locals who live there like it like that. Find your way there for a night of steamers, chowder and crab cakes at this historic bayside pub - once one of Al Capone’s hangouts - where you can wiggle your flip-flop-clad toes freely as you toss back the cheap brew and gaze out over the sunset.

    263 Bayview Ave., Strathmere, NJ; 609-263-2200

  • Azure

    Making a bright splash along the waterfront windows at Revel casino is this upscale Mediterranean from Alain Allegretti, a Provence-born, French-trained chef who also runs La Promenade in NYC. The menu is not cheap ($27-$43 for entrees), but the food is consistently well executed. It’s as close to the Riviera as you can get on the Atlantic City shore, and if you squint just a bit - or indulge in the extensive wine list - you might be able to imagine it’s the Mediterranean you see lapping at the sandy shore.

    500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ; 609-225-9870


Places Mentioned

Chef Vola's

Italian • Atlantic City

Food26 Decor11 Service24 Cost$57
Diving Horse

Seafood • Avalon

Food25 Decor22 Service23 Cost$54
Fitler Dining Room

American • Fitler Square

Food24 Decor20 Service23 Cost$59
Talula's Table

Kennett Square

Food26 Decor22 Service25 Cost$78
Pub & Kitchen

American • Rittenhouse Square

Food23 Decor22 Service21 Cost$39
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