One of my favorite things to do when the weather warms up is to grab drinks in the middle of the afternoon. I’m not quite sure why this is a seasonal thing for me, but for some reason every summer I often find myself in the mood for a cold beer before the sun goes down. Such was the case last week, so I headed in for a few drinks at Surf City Hotel on Long Beach Island.

Surf City Hotel is made up of several spaces. The Surf City Bistro is the main space where folks can come in and sit at the rectangular bar or opt for a full meal at one of the tables that fill out the room. On one end is a tiny hole in the wall known as The Clam Bar, which is generally where the locals hang out, and on the other side is The Beach Club, a large space where live bands perform on the weekends.

Surf City bistro

The bricks featuring legendary customers at Surf City Hotel remain, far left, despite a massive renovation. Ryan enjoyed a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, center left, at the 140 year-old structure.

All three venues, plus the actual hotel itself, are housed in the same building, which was built in the 1870s and still manages to stand today. I grabbed a spot at the bar in the bistro. I was pleased to find Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA on tap, a personal favorite of mine, a beer that I find pairs particularly well with a plate of seafood. I ordered up a half dozen steamed clams and took in the atmosphere.

For a 140-year-old building, the place is in great shape. That is likely due to the extensive renovations that were done by current owner Greg Gewirtz. Gerwirtz spent the last year fixing up everything that needed fixing, from the bathrooms to the flooring, adding reclaimed wood walls and faux wood tile, giving the place a proper beachy vibe. He also reconfigured the entire Beach Club, expanding the dance floor and moving the stage to create a better experience for customers.

Of course, folks would not have been happy if the history of the space was not preserved, so careful consideration was taken to keep certain things intact, such as a section of brick flooring that features the names of legendary customers and performers who made Surf City Hotel their official stomping grounds over the years.

The bar here has a way of making strangers become friends, and I soon found myself chatting up a trio of gentlemen who had been coming to the bar since the 1970s. Fond memories and stories of mischief were shared among a parade of beers, and by the end of it all I understood fully why this place has remained an institution since the time of covered wagons. The beer was great, as were the clams, the staff and the company. Whether you come for the Clam Bar, the Bistro or a crazy night at the Beach Club, I suggest you give Surf City Hotel a try.

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