BY ANTHONY J. GARCIA
Night & Day Magazine
Summertime living is easy, which makes window walk-up and counter service dining such an attractive option. Whether you’re off the beach, off the couch or out of the office, these local hotspots are a great way to grab a quick, convenient and delicious bite to eat.
Carlson’s Corner, Manasquan
On the beachfront corner of the Manasquan Inlet, Carlson’s Corner has provided options to local residents throughout the pandemic, and the staff feels lucky to again serve beachgoers according to owner Colleen Elsinger.
“We are looking forward to seeing a lot of people out and about this year, and there seems to be some normalcy as far as things were during COVID. A lot of people seem to be happy this summer and having fun, “ she said.
The shop does its best when it sticks to the originals, she said, “hotdogs, hamburgers and ice cream.”
The menu always also consists of popular breakfast and lunch choices including breakfast sandwiches, fish sandwiches, salads and tacos. To quench the thirst of surfers and fishermen the shop offers a variety of fountain and bottled drinks. Place your order at the counter and then take your meal to one of Carlson’s outdoor dining tables or right back up on the beach or back home.
Although Carlson’s Corner has been fortunate throughout the years, Ms. Elsinger admits that the past year and a half has been tough on morale.
“It was rough on the kids. It was stressful because I’m not sure that people were always understanding when we couldn’t get products” due to shortages, she said. Regardless, the bustling corner store continues to be a mainstay for the Manasquan community.
“We are happy that we can let people back in the store. We kept everybody out last year. We had plexiglass on the doors,” she said.
“A lot of surf contests are on the way, and we have fireworks every Thursday. So we are looking forward to lots of fun events and seeing everybody again.”
Steak Stand, Belmar
Steak Stand has been a Main Street, Belmar fixture for late-night dining for three years now. The stand is open this summer until 2 a.m on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, aiming to provide options for visitors of the local bar scene. Walk up to the window, place your order and enjoy the cheesy goodness.
“We serve cheesesteaks, nuggets, and fries,” said manager Grant Golin. Also included on the menu is a variety of chicken choices including chicken cheesesteaks, as well as specialty fries like spicy cajun or buffalo fries to go along with signature cheesesteak recipes.
“It’s the way we cook our cheesesteaks, the bread, and our cheese. Our signature cheese definitely sets us apart, and the love and care,” he said.
During the pandemic, the stand was only open 12 hours a week. But this summer the late night hours have given the business time to cater to the post-pandemic atmosphere.
“Last year we did a pretty cool thing. We started donation only, so you could come and all the steaks were free and you could make a donation to help out people in need or affected by the pandemic. We ran it for about eight weeks and we gave away about $1,500 worth of steaks,” he said.
In regard to the last year and a half, Mr. Golin said “There was some good, some bad, but now we are back in full force and there’s way more people around which is a welcome sight.”
Gee Gee’s, Manasquan
Gee Gee’s on the Manasquan beachfront has been serving food to locals since 1987. Despite last year’s adjustments to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, the restaurant has been able to consistently feed breakfast, lunch, and dinner to locals.
The restaurant does this by having an expansive menu with pizza and grill options, as well as deli choices that serve breakfast sandwiches and lunches. Place your order at the counter and grab a table inside the restaurant with ocean views or head back to your towel on the sand. In addition, the ice cream parlor is open for dessert to go along with the entertainment of arcade games within the restaurant.
Last year, online ordering took over the majority of the business, upward of 80 percent of orders according to manager Cory Bryant. However now that restrictions have loosened, online ordering has returned back down to its normal percentage of 20 to 30 percent of all orders.
In a restaurant that is known for its family-like atmosphere, he noted the importance of other places opening up again and what that means for business.
“There’s been a lot less online ordering. This year there has obviously been a lot more people out, coming in and dining in. The biggest thing for us is the bar scene this summer. It’s been very busy,” Mr. Bryant said.
Bars opening back up during the summer like The Osprey allow Gee Gee’s to stay open late-night, until 3 a.m on Fridays and Saturdays.
Mayfair Boardwalk Grill, Asbury Park
Located on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, the Mayfair Boardwalk Grill has been open for over 60 years. The food truck known for its traditional one-foot hotdogs can be found between the 3rd and 4th Avenue Pavilions.
Right now the restaurant opens at 11 a.m, closes around 10 p.m, but they plan to stay open later to about 1 a.m later this summer, according to manager Gianna Gurin.
“We’ve been around since 1952. We sell famous hotdogs that people always come for, it’s our signature,” said Ms. Gurin. “It’s an old-time recipe. It’s a combination of the long boardwalk hotdog and the schickhaus one, it’s 12 inches long. We get them from a distributor called Wenning, they’re a brand new company and they have really great hotdogs.”
Along with the foot-long hotdog, the stand also sells steaks, burgers, chicken, fries and tots. To drink, lemonade is offered along with iced tea and frozen chillers in a variety of flavors.
So far the summer is off to a good start for the Mayfair Boardwalk Girl.
“This summer has been amazing. As a matter of fact, this last June is the highest June we’ve ever had in sales in Mayfair history. There’s definitely been a lot more life on the boardwalk I would say and the streets,” said Ms. Gurin.
Funnel cakes are also a favorite with visitors, so Mayfair offers seven different types. The unique flavors include cookies and cream funnel cake, strawberry cream funnel cake, nutella funnel cake, southern fried chicken funnel cake, cinnamon bun, bacon me crazy funnel cake, and the classic recipe.
“We’ve been having a lot of families come down and they say that they come from New York just for our funnel cakes,” said Ms. Gurin.
Joey Tomato’s, Point Pleasant Beach
Joey Tomato’s continues to serve quality pizza and Italian cuisine on the Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. The pizzeria is open everyday April through September.
According to owner Joey Karcich, the pandemic has presented its difficulties but the shop has remained open, adaptable and consistent.
“We are a gourmet pizza place, with a lot of items that we cook and saute. Our product is more like an Italian deli, where you take higher prices because what you buy is good stuff. Our food quality is a lot better than a normal pizzeria. Our tomatoes are better, and of course everything does cost me a lot more money but people know its quality,” he said.
On the menu is specialty pizza, and Italian meals for lunch and dinner.
“During the pandemic it originally started that we could only get food from the outside counter, no one was allowed inside. After that we were only allowed 50 percent dining,” said Mr. Karcich.
Joey said that it was fortunate for the parlor as most local restaurants were required to have a tighter capacity, however still the number of customers was lower than usual.
“The pandemic has destroyed our labor industry; right now we are very short and that’s making me, someone who retired years ago, come back and work again,” he said.
As for the late night scene, “85 percent of our business used to be from 11 p.m to 2 a.m but that’s nonexistent anymore,” said Mr. Karcich. The place is open everyday and closes around midnight.
Relish Hot Dog & Sausage Co., Belmar
The Relish Hot Dog & Sausage Company in Belmar closed during the winter of 2019, but it has since reopened with new owners. The restaurant remained closed for the entirety of 2020 until opening its doors on Main Street again this summer.
New owners Nicole Duymich and her husband, Jeff, acknowledge that “the biggest challenge right now is finding staff.” But they do not lack for customers. “It’s been pretty steady,” she said. “We have a lot of customers that are coming back who have had Relish before, and some new customers which is exciting.”
As far as changes go, Relish has changed the ordering options and added a new traditional menu option.
“We changed the way the restaurant runs, specifically the way people order,” said Ms. Duymich. Now there is limited interaction between service and customers for the safety of all. Customers can still order in person through screen doors, or order pick up or delivery online.
Their signature hot dogs are made specially with hollowed-out buns, filled with condiments like their signature relish, ketchup, mustard, caramelized onions or peppers. The restaurant also has vegetarian options and is looking to add burgers to the menu.
“We have our signature relish hot dogs which are quarter pound hotdogs, and those are ones that we have our homemade relish and sausages already prepared for you in the bun of the hotdog, You can also make your own, you could choose what condiments you want in it but we highlight the favorites in our signature sandwiches.”
A new addition to the menu is the Dirty Jersey Waterdog, a hot dog in the style of what you would find boiling water on the streets of New York City. These hot dogs are done more traditionally with toppings rather than stuffed.
This addition to the menu has opened options for customers looking for something more familiar. This along with customizable options of the quarter-pound hot dog are available at the hot dog stand.
Currently, the stand is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and open from 11 a.m to 5 p.m on Monday, Thursday and Sunday and 11 a.m to 8 p.m on Friday and Saturday.