If you were missing the Goodfish Grill's amazing seafood all summer in Wildwood, you're probably happy to hear that the Pacific Avenue restaurant is back open, joining John Sheppard's other nearby restaurant, Cattle 'n' Clover, as must-try Wildwood dining destinations.
"We finally go back open from the storm," says Sheppard, who reopened Goodfish on Aug. 1. "We had quite a bit of damage from Hurricane Sandy, but the fish was stronger than the storm. Thanks to everyone's overwhelming support, we are really kicking butt. We had 10 straight five-star reviews on TripAdvisor."
Located on Pacific Avenue, just a few storefronts north of Cattle 'n' Clover, Goodfish Grill is just 44 seats inside with another 20 outside, offering diners a rare, boutique seafood experience at the Jersey shore.
"It's is a very boutique experience, and because of that, we can make everything to order and use as much local, sustainable seafood that's possible," Sheppard says. "We change our fish and seafood offerings almost daily. And everything is made to order. Even if you order something fried, we bread it and fry it to order."
Don't let the "boutique" label scare you. Most of the menu, designed and overseen by Executive Chef Jeffrey Fairman, doesn't break the bank, and the menu is heavy on appetizers, allowing diners to sample, share and eat everything from a small snack to a major, gourmet meal.
Aside from its raw bar, which features the usual assortment of fresh, cold seafood, popular appetizers include clams casino ($12), firecracker shrimp ($13), Spanish calamari ($14) and lobster popcorn ($18).
While sandwiches are offered for those looking for a quicker, even more inexpensive bite to eat, a wide range of seafood entrees include fresh-caught fish prepared broiled, fried or blackened ranging in price from $19 to $26; pan-roasted Alaskan halibut ($29) with saffron asparagus risotto; and seared Day Boat scallops ($27) served over Jersey corn and tomato risotto.
Those who may not want seafood, can try the steaks or pan-roasted chicken ($17) with roasted fingerling hash.
New additions this summer include a 1½-pound lobster dinner for 20 bucks, grilled oysters ($14), inspired by a recent trip to New Orleans, and quinoa salad ($5) to add another healthy, non-gluten choice.
"We opened three years ago and we already had people come back in here for the third straight year because it's one of their favorite parts of their vacation or they are locals who just know and love what we do," Sheppard says. "Everything is super fresh. It's not institutional seafood. We run out of things sometimes, which is a good thing.
Cattle 'n' Clover
Since opening last year, the Cattle 'n' Clover has become a Wildwood institution. Open year-round with entertainment offered six nights a week, the combination Irish pub and steakhouse has been extraordinarily popular.
There are two new reasons to check out Cattle 'n' Clover this summer. Fairman's buffalo chicken meatballs are offered as an appetizer ($5.99) or sandwich ($7.99).
"They are chicken meatballs stuffed with blue cheese, garlic and some other ingredients, topped with a spicy marinara sauce, blue cheese dressing and blue cheese crumbles as an appetizer, or on a blue cheese garlic toasted roll as a sandwich," Sheppard says. "They are going crazy for them. I would say one out of every three tables has either the appetizer or the sandwich on their table. The funny thing is that the roll happened as a mistake. We described the dish as the meatball served on garlic bread and the baker made the roll with garlic and blue cheese, and it's been a big hit."
Perhaps the No. 1 reason is to try the new, in-house dry-aged steaks (market price) that Fairman personally oversees and cuts to order. They are aged for at least a month, and the current New York strip steaks have been aged for more than that.
"I think they have been in there for more than 35 days," Sheppard says. "If you never had a dry-aged steak, you are missing out. You can cut it with a butter knife, and the flavor is almost nutty, and the texture is perfect."
Cattle 'n Clover is such a perfect fit for Wildwood, you wonder why no one thought of it before. The modern-day steakhouse and traditional Irish restaurant are melded together to create a fun, casual dining experience that redefines the ordinary Irish pub.
With fine details including a Celtic dragon inlaid into the foyer floor, a lectern imported from an old church in New York as its hostess stand, dark woods throughout the restaurant accented by 17,000 red bricks recycled from demolished row homes in Philadelphia, a huge bar from 150-year-old black walnut, a door on the walk-in cooler from the 1920s and authentic Irish imports including stained-glass windows make this place special.
But the food is the reason to visit, including favorites such as Irish nachos ($10.99) with homemade potato crisps topped with cheddar cheese, tomato, onions, hot peppers, Irish bacon and sour cream; homemade mozzarella sticks ($8.99) are the best you may ever taste; corned beef and cabbage spring rolls ($8.99) feature mashed potatoes inside and are served with a spicy Jameson mustard sauce; fried olives ($9.99) are stuffed with blue cheese; the tater tots ($9.99) are a reason to go to the restaurant, homemade and topped with a blue cheese cream sauce and Irish bacon; sandwiches including the corned beef ($12.99) and blackened prime rib ($14.99); Irish Surf 'n Turf ($17.99) with beer-battered fish and chips plus a side of shepherd's pie.
The standout steak is the C'n C Strip ($28.99), a 12-ounce New York strip dry-rubbed with cocoa, cinnamon and coffee, topped with tobacco and Bailey's demi reduction.
There are 16 beers on tap, specialty drinks, and you can even celebrate St. Patrick's day on the 17th of every month with $3 Guinness, Smithwick's and Harp drafts, half-priced corned beef items, live Irish music and giveaways.