Welcome to my new column, Shackin’ Up For the Summer.
With the dawn of the unofficial start to summer upon us, the appetites of both locals and tourists here at the Jersey Shore turn toward fresh seafood. While there are many posh high-end seafood spots around, this summer I am on a quest to find the best of those downhome, rustic, come-as-you-are seafood shacks that dot our coastline. And though I admit they have their place, I’m not looking for fancy-pants fish dishes. No pan-seared swordfish with fennel and capers. No potato-crusted flounder in a beurre blanc sauce. Instead, each week I’m hitting up the spots that specialize in classic seafood with no fuss — things like crabs, clams, mussels, fried shimp, oysters, chowders and bisques. Mostly stuff that can be dipped in butter or dunked in tartar sauce. I want to find out who makes the best lobster roll, whose crabcake is to die for and where to find the shore’s greatest hush puppies. And I want to be able to walk in to each place rocking flip flops, shorts and a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt and not get a second look. Sound good? Good. Let’s go.
We just spent an incredible Saturday at Golden Nugget for our sister publication Atlantic Ci…
Week 1: Allen’s Clam Bar
5650 Route 9, New Gretna
The first thing you’ll notice at Allen’s is the giant shark bursting through its roof. An intimidating yet appropriate sight for a seafood joint, the shark, along with an old ship wheel, perfectly set the tone for what was to come. While the ocean may be miles away and the din of cars on Route 9 makes for a rather poor substitute, the spot nails the casual, rustic look of a downhome clam shack.
Inside is a sparsely decorated dining room with just enough theming to let you know you are in a seafood restaurant without beating you over the head with cornball kitsch. Extra points go to the subtle touches, such as the weathered roping and porthole shaped windows on the front doors and to the giant squeeze bottles of tartar and cocktail sauce on each table, which means you don’t have to bug the wait staff for extra. Outside, wooden picnic tables provide the perfect spot to dine casually. No bar is on site, so cocktails were not an option, although you can bring your own beer and wine if you choose.
Crab au gratin ($9): creamy and cheesy with bread for dunking
Clams casino ($8): smoky and flavorful, finished with a crumbly piece of bacon
Crabby mac ‘n cheese ($15): Perfect al dente pasta spirals and big chunks of crabmeat swimming in a moat of cheese. A decadent, beutifully balanced dish
Fried seafood combo ($18): a nice mix of classic fried seafood, with the standout being the amazing whole belly fried clams
Throw it back:
Lobster bisque ($6): OK at best. Major points lost for having virtually zero pieces of lobster in the entire cup.
Deviled clam ($14): A disappointing version of the dish. Mostly breading and spices, hard to find any clam.
With a day off from work and sunny events being held up and down the coast, it’s no wonder M…
Crabby mac and cheese