A variety of new restaurants have opened in the seaside town while the BYOB debate continues.
OCEAN CITY, N.J. — In a town currently finding itself facing a culinary crossroads, Ocean City’s food and restaurant market has seen the opening of a quartet of new businesses since last summer.
This growth occurs simultaneous with a petition drive from the town’s restauranteurs to allow a fairly restrictive BYOB measure to appear on the ballot this coming November.
It’s an issue that already sparked much controversy. One original member of the committee advocating a public vote has resigned, in part thanks to harassment he received at his family’s church. Ouch.
This flash-point issue serves to demonstrate a growing political divide between old-time Ocean City residents and those more recently arriving.
The only certainty? This matter will not be going away soon, even if a referendum fails to gain enough support this year.
The first eatery to open recently, Cinco De Mayo (1039 West Ave., 399-0199) offers unapologetically simple, authentic Mexican fare. In a town with a growing Latino population, largely made up of service-industry staffers, this kind of food resonates deeply.
During visits earlier this year, we sampled big, overflowing burritos, tostadas — crispy flat corn tortillas with refried beans, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, avocado and meat — plus less common fare like tortas, the traditional Mexican sandwich. Think of a cross between a panini and Kaiser and you’ll get the idea. Thick, puffy rolls, filled with lettuce, tomato, avocado, beans, cheese, peppers and vinegar. Protein choices include breaded steak or chicken, chorizo with eggs or the classic Cuban combo of pork, ham and Swiss.
Tacos, priced at three for seven bucks are a real bargain. The real dilemma is settling on a meat from the list of 10 options, five of them pork-oriented. Ethnic specialties tripe and beef tongue reiterate Cinco de Mayo’s determination to offer cuisine true to their Latino roots.
Around the corner, Bongo Cafe and Grill has opened at a long-neglected corner restaurant location, 1050 Bay Ave. This quirky little enterprise is the brainchild of husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Walter “Buddy” Hungerford and Patti Davis. Their bill of fare and ambiance paint a pleasantly nostalgic image. But don’t let that distract you from the seriously creative food emerging from this kitchen: stuff like indulgent breakfast cannolis, thin crepe-like cakes filled with sweet ricotta crowned by mini chocolate chips. Or a breakfast “zep” — fried egg, Genoa salami, roasted red pepper, proscuitto and provolone on a Kaiser.
French toast fans will revel in five different varieties, including crunchy orange; dipped in an orange juice-egg batter, grilled with a coating of walnuts, corn flakes and wheat germ and banana bread, with orange-honey butter and raspberry syrup.
Throw in unusual omelets, like Patty’s pirogi — potato, onion and cheddar topped with sour cream and green onion — and you’ll get some idea of what to expect. Lunch and dinner selections cover the standards — crab patties, fish and chips, reubens and burgers — while at the same time offering specialties like panko-crusted prawns, a “crawdaddy popcorn”app (crisply fried crawfish) and traditional Po’Boys filled with either shrimp, oysters or those same “mudbugs.”
Moving a bit south, Fractured Prune, an upscale donut business based in Ocean City, Maryland, has arrived at 1225 Asbury Ave. This is the antithesis of mass-produced donut making. Instead, Fractured Prune offers made-to-order quality and freshness. And wild varieties you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Flavors like creamsickle, an orange/powdered sugar blend, Morning Buzz, a mocha glaze and Oreo bits, Black Forest, dipped in raspberry, mini chocolate chips and coconut or Ms. Prunella, with mixed berries and cinnamon. Making these a bit healthier are the sizes of their donuts, about two-thirds of those to be found in most national chains.
The final stop on our Ocean City excursion may well prove to be the most significant: J.D’s Clubhouse at 1200 Asbury Ave., will soon open in the space that previously housed F&M Deli. Proprietors are Denise Garling and Justin Prosser. Garling was instrumental in the founding of an extremely successful south Florida deli franchise called Too Jays. She opened their initial, flagship location in Miami’s posh suburbs during the ‘80’s.
In later years, Garling stepped away from the business — which has now grown to include more than two dozen locations — to find employment as a personal chef. Running the kitchen at J.D.’s will be local chef T.J. Allegretto, a veteran of years at 17th Street’s gone-but-not-forgotten Green Grill. He promises a menu with “some things Ocean City doesn’t do too much.” These include items like a crab-and-asparagus Benedict, another “Bennie” of filet and crab, plus parfaits and “tons of fruit pancakes.”
This summer, a major impending change that could break more than 100 years of tradition is facing Ocean City, New Jersey.
Whenever you think of Ocean City, your mind usually calls up images of warm tropical breezes and an island archipelago covered in rain forest. No? Then maybe you haven’t heard, but Ocean City New Jersey has a sister city out there, namely San Jose Occidental Mindoro of the Philippines. And that relationship has resulted in an annual tribute to the Philippines each year in the southern New Jersey beach town. And what a tribute it is. This year’s celebration is this weekend, July 23-24, and will be centered at the city’s Music Pier, Boardwalk and Moorlyn Terrace, as most city celebrations are. Included are a craft...
How do we let the voice of the people be heard and not just the ones who shout the loudest?