You may not want to face it. But this week’s crisp temperatures are screaming it at you: Summer is over. And it will be, officially, this Sunday, Sept. 22nd.
But I’d like to point out that despite this, much of the Shore is still open for business, and with fewer crowds. I’ve compiled a list of a few of the wonderful places that we’ve investigated this Summer that you really just don’t want to miss, even if you won’t be bringing your bathing suit along . Some are seasonal, and some will be open year-round (just in case you want to bundle up and check them out anyway), so call ahead of time.
The Reeds at Shelter Haven (Stone Harbor) : Only just opened this Summer, this brand-spankin’ new boutique hotel is simply a little gem. Relaxed,yet chic decor is echoed throughout the guest rooms and its two restaurants, the casual, outdoor Water Star Grille and the slightly more formal Sax (if you want to get a quick look-see, check out our first impressions). First, stop at the main bar in the lobby to get a cocktail made by the Head Bartender, Ed (trust us, the man knows his stuff); interestingly, his son works the bar across the way at the Sax, so if he’s busy head over there. John had the very BEST Old Fashioned ever, and Ed’s suggestion for me was a Blood Orange Martini, made simply with blood orange juice, Grey Goose Vodka, and Salerno (an Italian blood orange liqueur):tart, refreshing and sophisticated. But Chef David Utley is no slouch either. If you go all out and dine at the Sax, don’t miss the cauliflower-crawfish bisque, the Jersey Shore Midnight Snack (grilled shrimp and poached egg on top of a buttered brioche crouton with mustard dressing), the Kobe beef short rib and blue crab manicotti (with a ricotta cheese “fondue”…sure, Mario Batali calls cheese and seafood heresy, but it’s obvious Chef Utley understands the rules before he breaks them), or the Frangelico cake for dessert. At the Water Star Grill, cuddle up on one of the cushy couches by a fire pit, enjoy the view of the marina, and order yummy little munchies like sweet chili buffalo wings, fire-roasted day scallops, lo mein of sweet lobster knuckle, or some goat cheese cupcakes for dessert. 9601 Third Avenue, Stone Harbor. (609) 368.0100
Atlantic City Bottle Company: Another newbie that opened this year, you have to check this place out to believe it. It’s off the beaten path (think of stopping in on your way to or from the casinos), but well worth the trip. Walking in, you’ll find yourself in a mini-wonderland retail store filled with craft brews, top-shelf spirits, and fine wines (priced anywhere from $5.99-$2,000), and wonder what’s going on.Head through the small doorway to the backroom (almost like a speakeasy, isn’t it?) , revealing the upscale-yet-relaxed Iron Room, and you’ll get a warm welcome from the wait staff and barkeeps. Lenny, the Head Bartender, is in charge of the spirits selection, and he’ll make you the most solid Sazerac you’ve ever had. There’s lots of pre-Prohibition cocktails to choose from, and some experiments in the works (they are even looking to make their own bitters). You can run your own experiments, however, with over 200 types of artisan Scotch, bourbons, whiskeys and ryes (they offer tasting flights). If you’re not sure, just ask, and any one of the bartenders will give you great suggestions. But the “ACBC” wouldn’t be on this list if it weren’t for the food. Chef Kevin Cronin’s exquisite small plates are meant to be sampled all night long from an ever-changing, seasonal, and creative menu. When we were there, we sampled heirloom tomatoes, fried zucchini and a “sunflower cheese” (an “un-cheese” that tastes amazingly like a cross between Parmesan and a tangy goat cheese) or Arctic Char with soy, lemon, sesame seeds, and “popcorn shoots.” If you want to pair a special wine with all of this, ask for the go-to guy with the expertise, co-owner Paul Tonacci. They also have something going on every night of the week, with events like ½ off whiskey by the glass on Tuesdays, “Wine Geek” Night with blind tastings on Thursdays, food and beverage pairings on Fridays and a free 15-minute wine class at noon and special tastings throughout the day every Saturday in the retail store. 648 North Albany Ave., Atlantic City. (609) 348-6400.
Yuboka: Yet another brainchild of Iron Chef Garces has opened at Revel…this time it’s an Asian noodle bar. But before you brush it off, note that most of the dim sum recipes are from Dim Sum Garden in Chinatown (whom Garces consulted), and Craig LaBan already gave it his seal of approval (which is why it’s now a bit more crowded there). Must-haves are the Spicy Dan Dan Noodles (in a luscious ground pork sauce), sesame cold noodles (throw out your old ideas about the lackluster ones you get at your Chinese takeout),Wok- fired Lamb Bun (a cute little sandwich filled with spicy cumin lamb joy). A special note: although we highly recommend the genuine soup dumplings (happy purses filled with hot, unctuous pork soup) and we were originally ga ga over them, the second time we tried them many of the dumplings arrived broken, defeating the purpose. We even sent them back, but the second order arrived with one or two also broken. So good, but order at your own risk as sometimes the kitchen gets sloppy with this dish. Still, if you’re in a hurry or want the most bang for your buck, this place has it: if you don’t order alcohol, you can grab 4-5 of these dishes, be wonderfully full and satisfied, and spend less than $40 for all of it. Revel Resort, 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City. (609) 572-6488.
The Red Store: Ever wonder what happened to that wonderful Chef Lucas Manteca, of The Ebbitt Room and Sea Salt fame? Us, too. Well, we found him- he and his wife Deanna nabbed the cutest little old-fashioned general store by the lighthouse and turned it into the most amazing combination specialty store and restaurant to be found in the area. Walk past the flower and herb garden by the entrance and grab a quick gourmet coffee,fresh-made sandwich or something from the juice bar; or stay for a most amazing dinner (roasted skate, ricotta gnocchi, or homemade empanadas) or a Sunday brunch (chorizo torta or crab, corn, roasted poblano pepper and feta cheese pancakes, anyone?). You can dine either indoors, or on the gorgeous back deck garden, if the weather’s good. 500 Cape Avenue, Cape May Point. (609) 884-5757.