Ryan: Last year I headed out to do a dining review at the Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club’s seasonal seafood buffet. I had no idea what I was walking into, but it turned out to be an incredible dining experience, one of the best, if not THE best I had all year.

So, when it came to our attention that this same buffet would be returning this summer, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity for our next Fat Boy Munch Club outing. Full disclosure — I am a seafood junkie, so the concept of a meal like this is paradise for me. For weeks leading up to our trip I couldn’t help but daydream about the piles of fresh seafood I would heap onto plate after plate — shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, crab legs and more (most drowned in clarified butter). This was going to be a night to remember. And indeed it was.

Scott: The reason for the return is basically that I was super jealous of the fact that my fellow fat boy indulged in a buffet without me. It was like my food fiancé cheating on me. So Ryan had to make amends by taking me there this year … and we also brought my real life fiancée to prevent any further jealousy.(tncms-asset)d77eaabc-4f3c-11e7-b0ac-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Ryan: I arrived to meet Scott at the historic hotel and was greeted immediately by a friendly valet who incredibly managed to remember me from last year. That right there is the mark of great customer service, making me feel appreciated and important. If only all members of the service industry were this astute. Scott was running a bit late, which only served to build anticipation for the smorgasbord that was to follow. It allowed me some time to wander around and take in the place.

The building itself bursts with old-school class and history, like something out of an old black and white movie. You can almost visualize elegant, doe-eyed 1930s-esque women seated at the bar, each in cocktail dresses, daintily clutching fancy cigarette holders, just waiting to be lit by the flames of the Humphrey Bogart lookalikes sipping Manhattans next to them. In fact, if you ask them, the management can tell you stories of celebrities over the years that have wined and dined in these very rooms.(tncms-asset)400ca5ad-5076-57ed-8943-8a20cc0e1c41(/tncms-asset)

Scott: When I arrived late, I was surprised Ryan’s fat boy instincts didn’t overpower him to the point that he couldn’t wait any longer. And with the smell of seafood — lots of it — in the air, I wouldn’t blame him. If a place could smell delicious, it’s Stockton Seaview on Thursday nights.

Ryan: The great thing about any buffet is the immediate access to the meal. No messing around with menus, no hemming and hawing over what to order, just a direct beeline to the good stuff. Ignoring the bountiful salad selections — like any proper fat boy would and should do — I quickly grabbed a plate and loaded it up with mussels, clams and a towering portion of Alaskan king crab legs so large it bordered on offensive. In the blur of excitement, I somehow overlooked the lobster bisque. Scott quickly informed me that I had made a grave mistake.

Scott: It’s pure amateur hour the way Ryan tackled this buffet. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than my fellow fat boy, so it was time to take him to buffet school. The lobster bisque was nothing short of a masterpiece. With perfect, creamy consistency — not too thick, not too thin — and flavored with the perfect amount of Armagnac (a distinct type of brandy), this was the lobster bisque of my dreams. And what could make that dream even better? How about some fresh-baked cheddar-pepper biscuits that were served piping hot with Creekside Farm honey butter? I swear just the biscuits were worth going for.

Ryan also made the major mistake of not hitting the raw bar hard. Larissa and I did not let Ryan’s rookie mistakes sway us, diving right into the Cape May Salts oysters, which were shucked, briny and amazing. The crab claws, also nicely cut so you can easily remove the tender meat, were equally good, but we skipped the jumbo u-peel shrimp because we don’t like to work that hard for our food. It would be nice if it was shrimp cocktail, but the price for this buffet would have to increase past its $59.95 price tag for that to happen. By the way, kudos to the raw bar display, which was placed in an old wooden boat. Nice presentation.

Larissa and I also enjoyed little samples of the full salad bar that included three different types of lettuce with all of the trimmings, including homemade dressings such as stellar blue cheese. There are also a bunch of composed salads. We particularly enjoyed the seafood salad and another with quinoa, blueberry, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro and grilled corn with lemon vinaigrette.

Ryan: I must admit, although everything on the plate looked great, I dove right in on the crab legs. Alaskan king crab legs are almost unheard of at a buffet, generally the best you can hope for are the less meaty snow crab legs, but at Stockton Seaview they come through with the big boys. And best of all, they are pre-cracked, so not much work is needed to get those monster-sized chunks of succulent crab meat out. A quick dunk in butter and I was in heaven.(tncms-asset)74ec204a-a474-5321-9553-1e3283bef8f9(/tncms-asset)

Scott: I was kind of shocked to see the king crab legs for the price. And the fact that they were pre-cut was even more shocking. Needless to say, there were piles of king crab legs brought to our table. I think if we consumed any more, management may have politely asked us to leave. I also like that they literally have a stainless steel tub of clarified butter. Our table probably went through half a tub.

Ryan: Eventually, I got around to sampling some of the other items on my plate. The clams were fresh and flavorful, with a touch of butter and garlic complementing them perfectly. The mussels hit the spot, as well. There was a pasta scampi dish that I thought had a really nice garlicky taste to it, but ultimately the noodles were a bit overcooked. Pasta that is not al dente is always a disappointment.(tncms-asset)2ebeea7c-4fa0-11e7-8884-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)

Scott: No doubt the strength of this buffet is when it lets the seafood speak for itself. But there were moments when the chefs elevated it, as well, including the mussels’ coconut curry broth, which was the mussels’ salvation because my serving was a little dried out for being left out on the buffet line just a little too long. The same happened for the Great Bay clams, where a spicy chorizo and tomato broth saved the day.

Ryan: After the scolding from Scott, I quickly headed back to the buffet tables to grab myself a bowl of the lobster bisque. He didn’t steer me wrong. It was a particularly good version of this indulgent creamy soup. I also grabbed a few crab cakes, which were, some of the best I have had, but I must admit to slightly preferring the ones they had last time, which were cooked to order at their own chef-manned station. On this visit that station was serving scallops, which is pretty much the only kind of seafood I don’t eat. My loss.

Scott: Ryan was the only fan of the crab cakes at the table. But I think crab cakes are a matter of preference. I thought they were a bit dry and bland. I don’t eat scallops, but Larissa really enjoyed them. The fact that a chef is cooking as many dayboat scallops from River Road Clam House to order as you want is pretty amazing. They were served with Kennett Square mushroom and parmesan ragout, but it wasn’t needed. You can just pop these seared scallops in your mouth like popcorn. One of the only non-seafood items can also be found at the chefs’ station, where herb-crusted prime rib is sliced to your preference. Mine was cut thick, served perfectly mid-rare and I poured some flavorful au jus on top. Combined with those crab legs, I had surf and turf, baby! It went perfectly with some killer garlic mashed potatoes from the buffet.

Ryan: After several rounds at the buffet our server stopped by to ask when we would like our lobsters to be served. That’s right, this buffet serves each guest a lobster in addition to their meal. That is just about unheard of and one of the things that make this experience truly worth the $60 price tag. The lobster can be had steamed or broiled, I went with steamed, and not 10 minutes later I was living in a crustacean-flavored paradise.

Scott: I am not a lobster fan, preferring crab. But since it was included in the price — another shocker to me — why not try it? As far as lobsters go, it was a good one. Perfectly cooked and tender, it was great. But I gave most of it to my fellow fat boy, who gladly indulged. One thing they changed from last year was that diners could buy additional lobsters for $10 each. That deal is gone. So if you want more than one lobster, bring someone like me who prefers crab. People like Ryan will certainly appreciate it.

Ryan: With just a smidge of room left in my stomach, I mustered up both the emotional and physical strength to take on the dessert bar. Boasting a variety of options, from cookies to mini cheesecakes and cobblers, I had a tough time choosing what to go with. I ended up sampling their whoopee pie, which was great — moist chocolate cakes sandwiching a delicious cream filling … sorta like an Oreo cookie on steroids. The cupcake was a bit of a letdown though, as the frosting packed little flavor and the cake was somewhat dry.

Scott: I think the dessert bar was the weak point of the buffet. Other than the whoopee pie, the desserts were not worth the extra calories. Have a few extra crab legs instead. In the end, though, it’s not that big of a deal because you probably won’t have room for dessert anyway.

Ryan: At this point I was just straight-up stuffed. Sadly, I didn’t get to sample everything they offer. Overall, it was a truly great experience, and again, I can’t recommend this place enough. Not only is the meal excellent, but the atmosphere and value that you get cannot be beat. Most places not half this fancy would charge twice this price for a fraction of the amount of food. Plus, the staff treats you like an honored guest — no matter who you are. For me anyway, the Stockton Seaview’s seafood buffet is an absolute home run. Get your reservations now, before they are booked solid.

Scott: I couldn’t agree more. The value alone is just insane. The price went up $5 from the end of last year, but there is no restaurant in South Jersey that will give you this much seafood that tastes this good for this price. Even if you can only afford to go once this summer, it is a must-try experience at the shore. Fat Boy heaven indeed.

Rating: 400 pounds

Fat Boy Heaven(tncms-asset)314473ea-5034-11e7-9532-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)(tncms-asset)ca037b98-49f5-11e7-bf84-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)