1. It's no wonder it's popular. Despite the fact that Absecon Island is surrounded by water, there are fewer than a handful of restaurants that are actually on the water, much less with docks for boat travelers. Wonder Bar, located just off Albany Avenue and on the Intracoastal Waterway, features all that year-round, with indoor dining and an outside tiki bar open seasonally. With one visit, you'll wonder why it's so rare. "It's amazing how we're situated on an island and we're one of the few places where you can eat on the water and take your boat to," said co-owner Michael Zagebaylo.
2. It's a neighborhood bar with mass appeal. When the current owners took over Wonder Bar in 1999, it was less than wonderful, to put it kindly. With a new bulkhead, deck, dock and restored interior, it's a completely different place today. "We were a very small bar serving cold sandwiches, and we evolved to a bar with food, and then to a restaurant with a bar," Zagebaylo said. Now, it attracts locals from throughout the region all the time, but its audience grows as the weather improves to a mix of more distant locals and visitors.
3. The outside deck is simply wunderbar. The main attraction here for most people is the ability to sit outside by the bay, relaxing as the boats go by and the sun goes down. While the beach bars on the oceanfront tend to become mad houses in the summer, this place stays pretty laid back and comfortable. The bar is stocked and staffed from May through September, but the space is open year-round, so on those unseasonably warm days in the fall and spring you can still order a drink inside and take it outdoors.
4. Getting there's better down where it's wetter. Wonder Bar has two parking areas – one on land, one in the water where there is 300 feet of dock space where anyone is welcome to come, tie up and visit. Spots at the dock are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and they don't take reservations for room. Keep that in mind if it's a beautiful day and you're planning to travel by sea.
5. The seasons change, but the view doesn't. Wonder Bar is open every day, all year, and it's still a picturesque spot during the colder months because of its Sunset Room. As you would expect, that area of the dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the water and the western sky where the sun sets. "We're a 365 operation," Zagebaylo said. "We're open all year year with waterfront dining."