If your goal for the last weeks of summer is to take in every bit of the salt air, fresh seafood, waterfront sunsets and good times associated with the Jersey Shore, then Brine by the Bay needs to be added to your bucket list.
Now in its third season, Brine is owned by Mark and Kathy Platzer — previously of the C-View Inn in Cape May — and managed by their daughter Brianna, who went to school for hospitality and tourism management.
“Both of my parents and my uncle have had other establishments. … it’s in my blood,” Brianna Platzer says.
That may explain her knack for both nailing a theme — Brine, like the name suggests, is nautically inspired — and offering a mouth-watering variety of simple dishes.
Brine looks like summer. Specifically, summer on or near a boat.
It’s all crisp white, both inside and out, with a liberal use of nautical flags, bright red Adirondack chairs and bar stools, and long biergarten-esque wooden tables. Brine by the Bay certainly complements its bayside location. Add to that two large roll-up garage-style-door windows that make customers feel like they’re outside, and the fact that patrons can catch a view of the bay from any seat in the house, and you might feel like you’re about to set sail as you dine.
“The design was driven by location. It would be crazy to stray from the beachy nautical thing,” Platzer says of Brine’s location. “It’s very bright, and very open, and the views really can’t be beat.”
In addition to the large restaurant, which seats about 250 patrons, Brine makes good use of its bayside deck. Sprinkled with a few tables for pet-friendly dining and lots of tall, red barstools along the railing, the deck offers a view of the sunset so close you’ll feel like you can reach out and touch it.
It’s perfectly summer, as evidenced by the number of guests who walk or ride bikes to get there, meeting family and friends and planning to enjoy a long, relaxing evening.
“People love the atmosphere and that we’re able to accommodate larger parties,” Brianna says. “It’s a space where you can really pass a couple of hours.”
The menu at Brine isn’t extravagant or overwhelming. Instead, it’s full of fresh dishes that utilize local and seasonal ingredients as well as locally sourced seafood.
“It’s simple but great food,” Brianna says. “The menu is pretty consistent, but (Chef Matthew Crist) likes to play around. Lately he’s been creating pork specials, and the fish also changes daily.”
Starters include tried-and-true options such as chicken wings and calamari, but also some more eclectic selections such as prosciutto and pickles on grilled ciabatta with roasted nuts and barbecue-rubbed fries with Blue Moon beer-cheese sauce, chorizo and scallions, and turkey meatballs with green tomato sauce and fresh cheese.
With fish purchased from Doc’s Seafood, you can’t go wrong with the daily local catch, served with roasted potatoes, arugula and grilled lemon vinaigrette ($26); the sea scallops with jalapeno-creamed corn and bacon vinaigrette ($24); the Mahi Mahi tacos with cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and avocado sauce ($17); or anything from the raw bar.
Other favorites include the Brine Burger, topped with bacon-onion jam, pickled mushrooms and Grafton cheddar ($15) and the lobster roll with lettuce, tomato, and cocktail sauce (market price).
Desserts are simple childhood favorites such as ice cream sandwiches, marinated strawberries in whipped cream with an almond crumble, and a warm fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce.
If sipping is more your speed, there are a bunch of nautically named cocktails with all the flavors and lightness of our favorite season. Try the Know the Ropes with vodka, cucumber, basil and lime; the Loose Cannon with rum, orange juice, pineapple and coconut; or the Full to the Gunwales with bourbon, grapefruit and honey.
If beer is your thing, Brine’s also your place, with a 10-tap system with several lines dedicated to local breweries such as Cape May Brewing Co., 7 Mile Brewery and Tuckahoe Brewing Co. as well as Delaware-based Dogfish Head and Philadelphia’s Evil Genius Beer Co.
While you’re sipping, head outside to the deck for a view of the sunset, or face your chair toward the stage to catch some live music.
Brine closes for the season in mid-September. If you want to enjoy your summer with a night on their deck, get there soon.