When you live at the beach, fresh seafood is a given. Everyone has their favorite restaurant, their favorite dish, their favorite local hangout. You may keep yours a secret, but we’re letting our secrets out. Our list of the ultimate local’s guide to Jersey Shore seafood dishes includes some of the freshest, most unique, and basically, out-of-this-world concoctions that we can’t help but keep ordering. (Just a note, there aren’t too many lobster dishes on here because we have an entire other list for that – our Jersey Shore Lobster Lover’s Guide – that will give you dozens of ways to enjoy your favorite crustacean).
The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Jersey Shore Seafood Dishes
Blackened Mississippi Catfish, Drew’s Bayshore Bistro
Leave it to Chef Drew of Drew’s Bayshore Bistro (25 Church Street, Keyport 732-739-9219) to spice up your dinner. His take on blackened catfish will impress any Southerner. Served with bacon braised greens (of course), fried mac n’ cheese (we told you this was good), and a remoulade sauce (that just pulls the whole dish together), it’s Southern comfort food done right.
Encrusted Chilean Sea Bass, Marlins Café
Imagine this: a seat outdoors on a brand-new patio, the wind blowing in your hair, and then the waiter delivers one of the most extraordinary seafood dishes to your table. The pan seared Chilean Sea Bass at Marlins Café (1901 Ocean Avenue, Pt. Pleasant Beach 732-714-8035) is encrusted with a fresh horseradish crust and then sits pretty on a bed of roasted eggplant and artichokes, then topped with crispy angel hair onions and a roasted tomato sauce. Really, should there be more than that?
Pan-Seared Octopus, Graze Restaurant
Octopus is having a moment, and it should! A complete leap from its days as strictly calamari with red sauce, octopus now has its rightful place at your dinner table. At Graze Restaurant (151 Markham Place, Little Silver 732-747-9988), Chef Junior cooks it just right then serves it with a sweet red pepper puree, fingerling potatoes, and crème fraiche.
Summer Seafood Linguini, Porcini
Well known for their daily fish dish, which changes every day depending on what Chef Chris finds at the local fish market, as well as their crab cakes, which are packed with jumbo lump crab meat, it’s Porcini’s (168 Bay Avenue, Highlands 732-291-3080) Summer Seafood Linguini that has caught our stomach’s attention. Fresh homemade pasta with perfectly cooked shrimp and scallops that practically sing in their lemon basil sauce.
Grilled Octopus, Mister C’s Beach Bistro
We weren’t joking when we said that octopus is reclaiming the spotlight at the dinner table. At Mister C’s Beach Bistro (Allen Avenue on the Ocean, Allenhurst 732-531-3665), Chef Jimmy Vena makes sure the seafood he serves is fresh (especially since he tends to get up by 3:15am to meet the local fishmonger and then serve that same fresh catch for dinner that evening!) This dish in particular features fingerling potatoes and string beans tossed in a blueberry vinaigrette – the perfect highlight to this seafood treat.
Fried Calamari, Old Glory Kitchen & Spirits
Leave it to Old Glory Kitchen & Spirits (84 Broad Street, Keyport 732-497-5555) to put their spin on an old classic. Their version of Fried Calamari is absolute perfection, with spicy cherry tomatoes that goes very well with a dip in their fresh marinara sauce or Cajun remoulade. Cheers to the masters for making an old (and sometimes blah) appetizer make its way back into its glory!
Grilled Mako, McIntyre’s Pub
Have you had Mako before? It’s a species of shark and when we took a bite out of the Grilled Mako with Margarita Butter at McIntyre’s Pub (1747 Hooper Avenue, Toms River 732-349-0420), we couldn’t believe that an Irish bar would get seafood so right! Yes, you can still get a Guinness here, but it’s so much more than that!
Tuna Ceviche, Molly Pitcher Inn
One look at the tuna ceviche from the Molly Pitcher Inn (88 Riverside Avenue, Red Bank 732-747-2500) and you may think it’s just too pretty to eat. If you catch it on special, you’ll get to taste a combination of eclectic flavors: tuna, avocado, corn, tomato, fresno peppers, and prickly pear aquachile – it’s basically summer on a plate.
Crispy Calamari, Remington’s
When you notice amazing calamari, you just have to say something. At Remington’s (142 E. Main Street, Manasquan 732-292-1300), they’re doing it right and it’s a fan favorite. Pair it with one of their specialty cocktails and you’ve got a night out to remember.
Shrimp and Crab Avocado Salad, Little Silver Fish Company
When it’s 100 degrees out, you tend to want something light and refreshing for lunch or dinner. The Shrimp and Crab Avocado Salad from Little Silver Fish Company (123 Markham Place, Little Silver 732-530-1123) delivers. Full of freshly cooked shrimp and huge chunks of crab meat, it has all the makings of a quick (and easy) summer lunch.
Scallop Appetizer, Mister C’s Beach Bistro
We have a thing for jumbo sea scallops, we admit it. So when we’re on the hunt for a delicious Jersey Shore seafood appetizer, this dish from Mister C’s Beach Bistro (Allen Avenue On the Ocean, Allenhurst 732-531-3665) makes the cut. Pan seared over grilled pineapple, avocado, and mango salsa with a blood orange gatrique, it’s summer at its finest.
Paella, Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant
What combines all of your favorite seafood items in one oh, so delicious dish? Paella! At Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant (100 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch 732-870-1200) you can rest assured that any Spaniard would approve. Served over Spanish style rice, a mixture of mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, and chorizo (for a kick) are sauteed to perfection.
Grilled Jumbo Shrimp Salad, Siam Garden
Otherwise known as the Kung Garden at Siam Garden, this mixed salad served with grilled jumbo shrimp is topped with a creamy avocado sauce. Yes, you can pair it with one of their curries or pad thai dishes, but it can also stand on its own. (2 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank 732-224-1233)
Raw Bar, Latitudes On The River
When you’re eating raw fish, you only want the best. When you’re thinking of fresh seafood, it’s hard not to think of Latitudes On the River (361 E. Lacey Road, Forked River 609-242-2648) where you may even see your dinner come up on the boat. You can’t get fresher than that!
Lobster Cob Salad, Toast
We’ve said it before in our Jersey Shore Lobster Lover’s Guide and we’ll say it again here, this Lobster Cob Salad from Toast (516 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park 732-776-5900) is a home run. Fresh lobster on a bed of crisp greens and served with all the makings of the traditional cobb salad (think avocado, bacon, tomato, and blue cheese), just amped up a bit with lobster.
Squid Ink Pasta, Beach Tavern
Served over a bed of al dente fettuccini, this Beach Tavern (33 West Street, Monmouth Beach 732-870-8999) original is a plate that looks as pretty as it tastes. Think dark squid ink, luscious blue crab, rich n’djua sausage, fresh tomato, and uplifting mint. It’s a dish that is very difficult to pass up once you’ve had it (even multiple times over).
Mussels, Trama’s Trattoria
When someone tells you that a dish is a life changing experience, you have to try it. The Mussels Appetizer at Trama’s Trattoria (115 Brighton Avenue, Long Branch 732-222-1121) is one of those dishes. Tomato gravy, roasted garlic, and basil leaves accompany a bed of mussels that are begging to be eaten. You may never order mussels at another restaurant again, because it may just not live up to this dish. Cross our hearts.
Shrimp Cocktail, Joe Amiel’s Bay Point Inn
Simplicity is difficult to master. It takes exceptional ingredients and culinary expertise to make a dish like shrimp cocktail shine. Yet, Joe Amiel’s Bay Point Inn (1 Willow Street, Highlands 732-629-8000) is able to do it. We don’t know their secrets, but for some reason, this shrimp cocktail is one of the best we’ve ever had. Maybe it’s the view, but we’re pretty certain it’s the mastery of Chef Joe Amiel.
Crab Feast, Klein’s On Main
Every Wednesday, stop by the “little” sister of Klein’s Waterfront – Klein’s On Main (501 Mian Street, Belmar 732-556-6571) for a crab feast. For just $7 you’ll get three crabs, garlic or old bay style, or go big with $9.50 per ½ dozen or $18 per dozen. There’s even snow crabs and King crabs to choose from!
Marina Salad with Lemon-Pepper Shrimp, The Marina at Oceanport
Simple, refreshing, and oh so delicious. The namesake Marina Salad at The Marina at Oceanport (10 Riverside Avenue, Oceanport 848-456-4396) with lemon-pepper grilled shrimp is packed full of flavor with freshly grilled shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, craisons, and a lemon emulsion is everything your summer diet wants you to eat.
Clams and Hot Italian Sausage, Panini Bay
Calling all seafood and meat lovers, Panini Bay (101 Parker Rd., Tuckerton 609-294-4281) has the menu item that will satisfy your land and sea-loving tastes. A white wine, garlic, and tomato sauce envelop a large helping of hot Italian sausage and Parsons clams. Have them serve it over linguini, or our personal choice, garlic mashed potatoes. Add in a a side of breathtaking bay views and you’ve got the best of what Jersey has to offer.
Crabs Oreganata, Bum Roger’s Crabhouse
When you’re at Bum Roger’s Crabhouse (2207 SW Central Ave, Seaside Park 732-830-2770), you must order crab. And even though you’ll love anything off of their menu, if you’re looking for suggestions, try the Crabs Oreganata. Trust us on this.
New England Lobster Roll, Parker House
For 139 years and counting, the Parker House (290 1st Avenue, Sea Girt 732-449-0442) has been serving up great food and good times. Their Lobster Roll is no exception. Chef James T. Adams creates a chunky, chilled lobster salad that’s artfully placed on a hot butter toasted roll.
Fish Tacos, The Columns
For those in the know, The Columns (601 Ocean Avenue, Avon-by-the-Sea 732-988-3213) is a must visit, especially in the summer, not only for the killer views on their wraparound porch overlooking the Altantic, but also for their huge portions. For a Jersey Shore seafood dish like no other, order the Fish Tacos. No fried mess here. You’ll get three belly filling grilled fish tacos that have just the right amount of spice and crunch thanks to some chipolte aioli. Pair it with a ‘Frose’ for a very fun day!