I don’t know about you, but as soon as the days start getting sunny, the sounds of the Jersey Shore flood my head. It’s almost time for crashing waves, saltwater taffy, funnel cake, and the aggressive serenade of “Watch The Tram Car Please” on the boardwalk. And while the traffic from the Atlantic City Expressway to Beach Ave in Cape May can get as long as the automated passwords my cellphone always suggests, a visit to one of these pizza spots, ice cream parlors, diners, or seafood shacks makes it so worth it. Here are 25 places where you can grab a bite overlooking Great Egg Harbor Bay, between rides at Playlands Castaway Cove, or after wipeouts at Morey’s Piers.
On certain hot summer days, the first sip of a cold beer can be more satisfying than waking up a few hours before the alarm goes off and heading back to your pillows. Thankfully, Tennessee Beer Hall has you covered with 30+ beers on tap, and even better, it’s just steps from the beach. With flavorful dishes like the Cajun lump crab cake bowl, free music on Saturdays and Sundays, $5 breakfast deals, and fire pits for the cool summer nights, this laid-back spot is one you should prioritize when heading to Atlantic City.
Open since 1927, Tony’s Baltimore Grill provides the Atlantic City faithful with more comfort than sitting on a Zoom work call with your mic muted and video off. The spot, known for pizza and classic Italian-American food, is open for 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. And while not everything goes together like my jumper and finally winning that Allen Iverson throwback after a run at Downtown Hoops at Steel Pier AC, they’ve found a wild pairing that works: spaghetti pizza. A filling slice may just what you need after a night out at Tennessee Ave.
Dock’s is another place that’s been around forever, but it looks more like an old country club or somewhere you’d go for your grandparents’ 50th-anniversary party (just don’t forget your starchy khaki pants or to part your hair to the side like your nana likes). It has white tablecloths and dark wood walls, and the food is classic Shore seafood. Focus on the raw bar - it’s the best one in the area - and if it’s your anniversary you’re celebrating, the lobster is a great choice.
After a long night at the casinos, that’s left both your confidence and bank account depleted, you need something that’ll give you enough energy for the drive home while also leaving enough money in your wallet to put gas in the car. Fortunately, right before you head over the bridge out of town, you’ll find White House Sub Shop. The White House Special with thick-cut salami, provolone, ham, capicola, and hot pepper giardiniera should do the trick. If you want something only slightly less meaty, go for the regular Italian. The lines can get long, but it’s well worth it.
MARGATE / VENTNOR
In Margate, a pizza craving can hit after minigolf at Congo Falls or a few swims at Jefferson Avenue Beach. But you don’t have to waste your time between waves asking Siri for the best pizza near you. Instead, just go to South End Pizza (the original location of the shore chain). With slices as big as the drape on Lucy the Elephant, they’ll have you bringing back the great Jersey “to fold or not to fold” debate.
There are two things you need to know about Downbeach Deli. One is that you don’t want to actually go to the deli there - Dino’s three blocks south is a far superior spot for hoagies and lunchmeat. But the second is that they have one of the best and cheapest breakfasts in Margate. You can get a full breakfast with an omelet, toast, and hashbrowns, or french toast made with carrot cake or cinnamon babka, for under $10. Either way, you’ll leave with enough change in your pocket to buy an extra six-pack to bring to the beach.
With vibrant pink and yellow picnic tables and throwback white signage, Margate Dairy Bar & Burger is pure nostalgia. And we’re not talking about the begging your parents for Home Alone 2 at Blockbuster or printing out Mapquest directions kind of nostalgia, we mean they’ve been open since 1952 when gas was $0.27 a gallon and every day was like the first episode of WandaVision on a loop (minus the superpowers). With each bite of their juicy grilled cheeseburger or sweet spoonful of their classic banana split, you’ll see why the 69-year-old establishment gets most of the whipped cream-topped business in town.
Often, shore days turn into long nights, and trying to corral breakfast options after a day of walking along the boardwalk, swatting seagulls from your fries, and a few drinks is not my idea of a vacation morning well spent. When you’re in Ventnor, make sure you stop by Hannah G’s. With over a dozen omelet options and all the usual suspects for a syrup-smothered morning (waffles, pancakes, and french toast), breakfast here will give you a bigger kick to start your day than any ocean sunrise.
This popular Ocean City spot serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, both on their cozy sidewalk setup and in their laidback dining room. Even though choosing between may give you more indecision than picking your commercial experience on Hulu, you can start your day with up to 14 frothy options from their coffee bar, including the sweet Pirate Special. The coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon pick-me-up goes great with their fresh avocado toast topped with over-easy eggs and mozzarella or their granola and craisin-encrusted spin on traditional french toast, the Vermont Lodge.
Have you ever had something so good that you wish you could Shazam the recipe like you would a song you can’t remember the name of? Well, the jumbo lump crab margherita pizza at Piccini in Ocean City makes me wish that app existed. And with 40 other wood-fired pizza options, this place is throwing everything from pepperoni to the Ferris wheel at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier on top of a fresh slice.
If there’s one reason to wake up before 8am on a summer Saturday morning, it’s to make it to Brown’s before the line is so long that you can barely see the boardwalk shack from the end of it. Pretty much everyone knows about this place, so if you arrive past 9:30am, there will be layers of bicycles lined up across the boardwalk and lines both to sit down for breakfast and to take donuts to go. But once you’ve waited, you’ll be rewarded with the best donuts on the entire Shore. They’re cakey on the inside, crispy on the outside, and served hot in six flavors, like vanilla, honey, and cinnamon sugar. The breakfast itself is also solid, but mostly it’s just a way to skip the much-longer to-go line and get your donuts brought to a table instead.
Whether you just need a few Italian hoagies to throw into your 17-year-old beach bag or are trying to feed your entire extended family - all of whom have entirely different preferences - Voltaco’s is the way to go. The tiny, take-out-only Italian place has been around since 1954, and neither the menu nor the space has really changed in its over 65 years on the planet. They have everything from perfectly crispy veal parmesan to pasta fagioli soup that you’ll be dreaming about six months later when you’re in full winter hibernation. They don’t do delivery or internet orders, so you’ll have to place your order the traditional way: by talking on the phone to a real person and showing up 20 minutes later to pick it all up.
Between flavor choices, size, toppings, and toasting options, choosing the right bagel at Dead End might be the most important decision of your day. And with cream cheese spreads like maple whiskey and honey habanero, there’s something here for everyone in your sharehouse. Made fresh daily and always nailing the crusty-to-fluffy ratio, this place makes the best bagels in Ocean City. Plus, if we didn’t tell you where to get a classic bacon, egg, and cheese down the shore, could this guide even be trusted?
The Local’s Spot sits right on the waterfront between Steelman Bay and Ship Channel, but great sunset views aren’t the only thing this place is known for. Like Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, an album with no skips, they just do everything right here. With filling options like sweet and spicy wings smothered in gochujang sauce to the massive Cuban Cow sandwich filled with grilled ham, roasted pork, and dijon mustard, you’ll have plenty of options to walk off with Bass Harbour and Gibbs Avenue Beah nearby.
Ice cream gets me more excited than my favorite pair of light-up sneakers from the third grade. And after a day at the shore, there’s nothing better than racing the sun to lick away a melting streak of vanilla or fudge from a fresh cone at Custard Hut. The family-owned spot in Somers Point is a true classic. With everything from soft serve to layered sundaes filled with cake and jimmies, this place shows there’s more to the Jersey shore food lineup than cups of lemonade, thick-cut fries, and more pizza places than Snapple has quotes for its lids.
With brunch and dinner menus longer than the Cash Only lanes on the Atlantic City Expressway, Josie Kelly’s Public House covers everything from great local seafood (think baked oysters and plump crab cakes) to traditional Irish dishes like bangers and mash and beef and Guinness pie. And with 50+ beers to choose from, a fun stop at this pub may quickly turn into a “green circles only” type of night on your Instagram stories.
If the only reason you’ve ever found yourself in Somers Point is to buy liquor, you’re not alone. But another place worth making a trip for is Smitty’s. It’s a small shack right on the banks of the bay with bar seats that wrap around the perimeter, and on most days there’s about an hour or so wait. But if you bring a cooler with a few beers (yes, people really do this) and maybe a bag of chips to tide you over, it’ll be worth the wait for a bowl of clam chowder, baked scallops, and pretty much anything that’s been put through the deep fryer.
I’m a huge fan of instant gratification. I’ll be the first one to work out for the first time in months and look in shock when my six-pack doesn’t appear. So after a night out at Josie Kelly’s or any other local pub, knowing where to get my fluffy pancakes and eggs on is a must. With over eight eggs benedicts and a menu ranging from cinnamon bun pancakes to a South Philly omelet stuffed with broccoli rob, provolone, and Italian sausage, CJ’s Corner Grill serves the best breakfast in Somers Point.
SEA ISLE CITY
Things are constantly changing. Years ago we opened our phones with our fingers and now we use our faces. If we do get to the point of Jetsons-style flying cars and teleportation, I’m heading straight to Fratelli’s for a Picante pizza and taking it to Ludlam Beach nearby to remind myself how good a simple thing can be. With plenty of sidewalk seating, it’s an easy spot to grab a pie while still covered in sand or after getting thrown around by the waves all day. It’s also open until 10pm on the weekend and they even deliver to the beach.
There are two ways you can do Mike’s. You can wait in line, place an order, sit down, and then wait for another 30 to 40 minutes for your buckets of fried seafood to arrive. Or, you can place an order over the phone, pick everything up with no wait, and take it all home to dig into in the privacy of your beach house. Unless you’re someone who enjoys chaos, the latter is the way to go. You’ll get the same tins filled with battered fish and crab claws doused in Old Bay, but without being stepped on by people still in their bathing suits and squeaky rubber flip flops.
From car horns to Peleton instructors belting out Beyoncé lyrics while I’m facing certain sweat death, the noise in my daily life can be exhausting. So when heading to the shore for peace and sunsets, I need gorgeous views of the water, boats, and a fun spot to people watch. Sunset Pier gives you all of that. And while discussing with your friends what you would name your imaginary yacht, you can’t go wrong with a fresh batch of steamers served with white wine, butter, and garlic sauce, or the spicy blackened grouper, at this bayside spot.
AVALON / STONE HARBOR
This fun bi-level spot features a Caribbean-focused menu and, depending on which day you go, live music. With an outdoor patio full of umbrellas and picnic tables and spacious wicker seating indoors, The Watering Hull is about as close as you can get to the islands without leaving the shore. Here you can bite into a jumbo shrimp cocktail from the raw bar, creamy shellfish chowder, and blackened mahi-mahi tacos topped with sweet mango salsa all while debating which hard seltzer you’d take to a desert island.
Right by Stone Harbor Boulevard and Shelter Haven Bay, this Italian and French deli has the Great Sound on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It’s also the best place in the area to get tailor-made Cajun roast beef sandwiches, a classic reuben, Italian hoagies, or even a creative fruit sandwich with pears, strawberries, brie, greens, and poppy seed dressing. With a window-filled atrium and plants all around, it’s a nice indoor escape after hot sand hopping at Seven Mile Beach and struggling to keep your umbrella upright all day.
Things are getting wild out here. Between robot dogs roaming the streets and UFO confirmations, it’s truly time to cling to some things we understand. And at the shore, that’s sun and pizza. With a menu full of massive specialty pies like the Wildwood (sausage, onions, and green pepper) and plenty of outdoor seating, Mack’s is the perfect location to peddle your cruiser up to the front door and grab a slice while keeping an eye out for the latest arrival of E.T. and his pals.
The Jersey Shore isn’t just a place full of big hair, extreme tans, and believing saltwater taffy can be a meal. OK, there is plenty of that, but there are also some really great spots for traditional Italian food too. With the classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths and family photos on every wall, this welcoming spot in Stone Harbor does it all - from homemade pasta and cheeses to savory desserts like Torta della Nonna. When you’re on day three of fried shrimp, hot dogs, and getting funnel cake sugar off your favorite shirt, this place will really hit the spot.
Speaking of food alternatives to hot dogs layered with every condiment imaginable, this charming BYO has been around since 1978 and recently reopened after closing its doors last year. And like “Hey Ya” or any other throwback track you hear and immediately remember all the words to, they’re back in the groove of serving everything from coconut curry mussels to pan-seared scallops topped with sweet red onion marmalade.
You’re going to wait in line at Springer’s, even if you come right when it opens at noon. But, given that they have over 50 homemade and perfect ice cream flavors at a time, it’s worth standing in line for. Plus, it goes pretty quickly, so really it’s the perfect amount of time needed to narrow the 50 flavors down to just the three you can fit in the biggest size they have.
We could give you an entire history lesson on the Mack and Manco families - one of the most dramatic Jersey Shore stories of all time - but instead we’ll just tell you this: Mack’s in Wildwood is essentially the same as Manco & Manco’s in Ocean City. It has the same huge, cheesy slices of pizza, the same long lines out front, and even the same light-up signs hanging outside of their boardwalk location. The only real distinction is that if you’re in Ocean City, you go to Manco’s, and if you’re in Wildwood, you go to Mack’s.
With great views of Beach Creek on display at each level of this double-decker restaurant, you’ll almost forgive the parking hunt you continually face when coming to one of the most popular places in Wildwood. The reward, however, isn’t just the sights and sounds, they also serve truly tremendous wood-pit barbecue and seafood here. One of my favorites is the beef brisket sandwich - it’s juicy and has a great smoked flavor.
Sometimes finding extra things in unexpected spots can be the best surprise, like when my friend told me she gets her olive oil from Home Goods and Ross (what?). Similarly, when you hear the name “Bagel Time Cafe,” you might just be expecting warm bagels and a place with smooth and creamy spreads that do to your tongue what ASMR videos do to your ears. But this spot, right across from the Wildwood Convention Center, also has a full breakfast and lunch menu. From belgian waffles and avocado toast to wild lunch items like their chorizo Frito burrito, there’s plenty of range here for whatever you have in mind to start your day.
Surrounded by pricier throwback diners nearby like the Pink Cadillac and Doo Wop, this tropical-themed spot is wallet-friendly - you can sit down to a Taylor pork roll omelet or sweet potato hotcakes for under $10. Open daily from 7am-2pm and known for its big portions, this flamingo mural-covered and relaxing spot exclusively serves up breakfast and lunch.
If the Jersey Shore had its own themed infinity gauntlet, fresh seafood would surely be one of the stones, and The Lobster House’s logo may be on it. Featuring dockside seating and serving some of the best seafood in the area, this should be your first stop after surviving the Garden State Parkway. It has a fish market, takeout shop, raw bar, and restaurant all under the same roof, so you can satisfy any craving you have - from feasting on shrimp by the water to taking home the catch of the day to grill up at your rental.
When the pandemic began, restaurants across the country had to get creative with how they structured their outdoor seating and indoor setup. However, Exit Zero Filling Station didn’t need any help in the imagination department - it’s literally a converted gas station that’s been transformed into one of the most frequented places in Cape May. Open daily, you can get everything here from a lobster, shrimp, and crab pot pie to a wide selection of curries and their sweet-and-spicy pad thai. And just like a trip to your local Sunoco, it’s full service at the pump here too - just with way better food.
Fact: there is nothing more summery than sipping cocktails on the porch. And at The Ebbitt Room, located inside the Virginia Hotel in the heart of the Cape May historic district, you can do just that. Featuring Victorian-era-like decor (think every Vampire Diaries flashback) with antique chandeliers throughout and live classical piano playing, this place is truly an out-of-this-time experience. Try the miso-glazed halibut, along with whatever cocktail makes you feel the most like you’re on vacation. It’s also just a block away from Beach Ave so you can immediately go from a classy meal to a casual stroll on the sand.
At any given time, there’s a lot going on at Rusty Nail. From the bar inside to the huge sandlot out back to the nightly live music, it’s a lot to take in. But for a casual dinner-and-a-beer situation in Cape May, there aren’t many better places you can go to. Start with a plate of barbecue at a table surrounded by Adirondack chairs, and then hang out by the fire pit until the bartender reminds you that all the people you came with left hours ago.