Best of the Beaches 2011

For the first time ever, MLT critics pick their favorite Shore spots, from New Jersey to Delaware to Maryland.

Victoria’s Restaurant at Delaware's Boardwalk Plaza Hotel.
PICK A STATE

New Jersey (pages 2-8)

Delaware (pages 9-10)

Maryland (page 11)
 
 

 

New Jersey


Bagels >>> Hot Bagels and More

You can’t ask for much more than a fresh, hot bagel for breakfast at the Shore—and the chewy wonders from this Margate standby are some of the best. 7807 Ventnor Ave., Margate City, N.J., (609) 823-4144.

Bakery >>> Britton’s Gourmet Bakery
If you want one of their famous apple fritters—crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, with just the right amount of icing—plan on getting to Britton’s early. The crumb cake and sticky buns are also worth setting your alarm for. 5600 Pacific Ave., Wildwood Crest, N.J., (609) 522-5600.

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Bakery for Morning Treats >>> Kohler’s Bakery
If you frequent Avalon in the summer, it’s likely you’ve witnessed the lines outside Kohler’s firsthand. Their cinnamon buns that are to die for, the coconut macaroons are sinfully good, and the cream doughnuts are in a class all their own. (As if clichés can do Kohler’s justice.) 2709 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J.; (609) 967-3694, kohlersbakery.com.

Beach with a View >>> The Gardens, Ocean City, N.J.
On this well-positioned stretch of sand on the northern tip of Ocean City, you can soak in the Atlantic while eyeing up the length of Absecon Island, from Longport, Margate City and Ventnor on up to the AC skyline.
 

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Boutique >>> Skirt
Much to the delight of her fashionista clients, Maureen Conallen has opened this Stone Harbor outpost of her beloved Bryn Mawr store. The boutique offers all the high-end labels you’d expect from Skirt, with an appropriate beach-chic vibe. 272 96th St., Stone Harbor, N.J.; (609) 948-4912, shop-skirt.com.

Breakfast >>> Mustache Bill’s Diner
There’s a reason this Barnegat Light diner was honored by the James Beard Foundation and played host to the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Huge, made-to-order omelets are staples, and the Cyclops—a secret-recipe pancake made with a fried egg in the middle—is a tried-and-true favorite. Go hungry. Eighth and Broadway, Barnegat Light, N.J., (609) 494-0155.

Brunch >>> Capriccio
Capriccio isn’t the only casino restaurant with an extravagant Sunday brunch, but it’s got our vote for the best. A raw bar, hot and cold Italian, Jewish deli, Chinese, waffles, eggs and omelets to order, caviar, sushi and luscious desserts are among the myriad options—all arranged artfully on a series of tables strategically positioned to avoid lines and errant elbows. Top it off with attentive service from an old-school Italian wait staff and lovely views of the beach and ocean, and $45 a head seems like a steal. Resorts Atlantic City, 1133 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.; (609) 322-7469, resortsac.com.

Casual Dinner >>> Chef Ted’s Offshore Café
When overpriced menus, weekend crowds and mediocre food leave you wanting to escape Avalon or Stone Harbor, Chef Ted’s is just a short drive away on Route 9. This friendly, casual BYO boasts a tasty, reasonably priced American/Italian menu that’s heavy on fresh seafood. 1546 N. Route 9, Swainton, N.J., (609) 463-5444.
 

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Cheesesteaks >>> Voltaco’s
We’ll go out on a limb and say it: A Voltaco’s cheesesteak rivals any Philly version and surpasses most. Its long, soft roll packed with tender steak, sweet caramelized onions and just the right portion of melted cheese, a large ($12.25) could feed a family of four. But we suggest ordering your own. 957 West Ave., Ocean City, N.J.; (609) 399-0743, voltacositalianfoods.com.

Cocktails >>> Daddy O
Marty Grims’ classy boutique hotel offers some the most delicious cocktails at the beach. And with names like the Lebowski (you guessed it, a White Russian), the Frank Sinatra (a Manhattan) and the Fat Elvis (banana rum, peanut liquor and vodka), they’re as fun to order as they are to drink. 4401 Long Beach Blvd., Brant Beach, N.J.; (609) 494-1300, daddyohotel.com.

Crab Cakes >>> Back Bay Seafood
Fried or broiled on-premises, or cooked at home, the crab cakes from this busy Stone Harbor seafood stop are meaty, light on filler and exceedingly flavorful. 8305 Third Ave., Stone Harbor, N.J.; (609) 368-2022, backbayseafood.net.

Extension of a Philadelphia Restaurant >>> The Diving Horse
This Avalon BYO comes to us from the owners of Center City’s well-regarded Pub & Kitchen. The seafood-focused menu has a number of highlights, including the fried oysters with pancetta remoulade and smashed golden potato salad. The weekly plates are uniformly delicious. Enjoy your meal with a cold bucket of beer at one of the outdoor, family-style tables. 2109 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J.; (609) 368-5000, thedivinghorseavalon.com.
 

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Fried Chicken >>> The Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel
When the Food Network’s Tyler Florence was looking for the Ultimate fried chicken, he found it at the historic Chalfonte Hotel. We couldn’t agree more. The recipe is a family secret, and this juicy-crispy Shore delicacy has been a favorite among locals and vacationers alike for more than 60 years. 301 Howard St., Cape May, N.J.; (609) 884-8409, chalfonte.com.

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Happy Hour >>> Whitebrier Restaurant
It’s worth leaving the beach early to grab a seat on the Whitebrier’s expansive outdoor patio. Every day in summer from 4 to 7 p.m., the happiest hour in Avalon features drink specials and “buy one, get one half off” sushi. Saturday and Sunday, the fun starts at noon. 260 20th St., Avalon, N.J.; (609) 967-5225, whitebrier.net.

Healthy Fare >>> Green Cuisine
With its huge salads, made-to-order fruit-and-vegetable juices and smoothies, quiche, sandwiches, wraps, and soups, Green Cuisine is a much-welcomed break from greasier on-the-go Shore fare. Great hummus and veggie burgers, too. 302 96th St., Stone Harbor, N.J., (609) 368-1616.

Hidden Culinary Treasure >>> Backstreet Simply Delicious

It’s easy to miss this tiny, dinner-only BYO situated in a way-off-the-beaten-path strip center. But the locals love Culinary Institute of America grad Theresa McGlade’s restrained food stylings. Be sure to start with the warm goat cheese salad and end with a homemade dessert. 600 Park Blvd., West Cape May, N.J.; (609) 884-7660, backstreetcapemaynj.com.
 

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Ice Cream >>> A La Mode Ice Cream Parlor
They’re known for their sundaes (the FBI—fudge, brownie, ice cream—is a favorite). But any of their creamy homemade flavors is delicious on a cone, in a shake, or heaped atop a fresh, hot waffle. 301 E. 55th St., Ocean City, N.J., (609) 398-2207.

Italian BYO >>> Chef Vola’s
Located on a tiny street in the basement of what appears to be a home, without so much as a sign on the door, just an inconspicuous side entrance, Chef Vola’s doesn’t take walk-ins, and you better show up on time for your reservation. But this tiny, old-school Italian eatery—its menu rife with specials—is worth the hassle. Even if you’re stuffed, don’t skip dessert. 111 S. Albion Place, Atlantic City, N.J.; (609) 345-2022, chefvolas.com.

Pizza >>> Mack and Manco
Some say it’s too greasy. Others say the crust is too thin and the sauce is lacking. We say trust the instincts of the loyal customers who gladly form a line daily for a seat and a slice (or three) at this boardwalk institution. Various locations in Ocean City, N.J., mackandmancos.com.

Place to Fly a Kite >>> Cape May’s Kite Festival
In a world dominated by digital devices, it’s hard to imagine a more natural pastime than flying a kite—and in Cape May, N.J., buoyed by ocean and bay breezes, they do it right. Held Sept. 10-11, the Cape May Kite Festival features kite-flying exhibits, kite making, races, games, and more. Capemayrecreation.org.
 

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Rainy Day Shopping Destination >>> The Pier Shops at Caesars
When the wet stuff threatens to put a damper on your weekend, head to Pier Shops at Caesars, where you can sink your toes in the sand, relax in an old-fashioned, wooden beach chair and look out over the Atlantic Ocean from the upper floor of this $175-million shopping, dining and entertainment complex. You’ll find the high-end likes of Burberry, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, snazzy eateries like Budakkan, and an hourly fountain show with lights and music. One Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, N.J.; (609) 345-3100, thepiershopsatcaesars.com.

Seafood Restaurant >>> Carmen’s
The service and upbeat atmosphere are superior, the lobster and steamers sublime, at this family-owned bayside BYO. Think Avalon’s much-loved Sylvester’s—minus the plastic and Styrofoam. 343 43rd Place, Sea Isle City, N.J., (609) 263-1634.

“Secret” Beach >>> First through 10th streets, Sea Isle City, N.J.
No lifeguards, ample free parking and a sandbar that creates one of the more consistent surf breaks south of Atlantic City. On second thought, stay away … please.

Spa Lover’s Paradise >>> Bath Time
For a zen retreat in your own bathtub, look no further than Cape May’s Bath Time. Mistral, Abra and Tarocco products line the shelves, and creative types can formulate their own fragrance oils in blends of peppermint, almond, green tea and more. 318 Washington St., Cape May, N.J.; (609) 884-9234, bathtimecapemay.com.
 

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Surf Shop >>> Surfers Supplies
Unlike many of the so-called surf shops up and down the Jersey Shore, Surfers Supplies caters almost solely to people who actually surf, not those who see the sport and its attendant lifestyle as little more than a fashion statement. That said, the men’s and women’s apparel selection routinely edges out more touristy spots, and the inventory of boards, wetsuits and accessories is ample (even more so online). And you don’t have to be year-round shredder to expect attitude-free service from its courteous staff of passionate surfers. 3101 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, N.J.; (609) 399-8399, surferssupplies.com.

Takeout Italian >>> Piccini Brick Oven Pizza

In summer, the crowds pick up at Piccini and controlled chaos reigns in the kitchen. And frankly, this inconspicuous Ocean City joint doesn’t make it any easier on itself with such an expansive menu. The wood-fired, brick-oven pizza is exceptional, and so is everything else—especially the pasta. 1260 West Ave., Ocean City, N.J., (609) 525-0767.

Takeout Seafood >>> Avalon Seafood & Produce Market
Broiled or fried, Avalon Seafood’s tasty platters are as convenient as they are deliciously beachy. Clams, oysters, shrimp, Cajun yellowfin tuna, stuffed lobster tail and stuffed flounder are just a few of the many options to go—all served with corn on the cob, coleslaw, and fries or a baked potato. 29th Street and Ocean Drive, Avalon, N.J.; (609) 967-7555, avalonseafood.com.

Unconventional Stick-to-Your-Ribs Shore Fare >>> Tortilla Flats
Serving Mexican food with a Southwestern bent, this more-than-20-year-old BYO may be the best meal deal in Avalon. If you’re planning on hitting the hay right after dinner, try the Navajo taco—ground beef, chicken, pulled pork or chorizo sausage piled high on fry bread and covered with black beans, tomatillo salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sour cream. 2540 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J., (609) 967-5658.
 

Best of the Delaware Beaches on page 9 …
 

Delaware


Accessories >>> Downtown Cowgirl

Those looking for something to jazz up their summer wardrobe can choose from Downtown Cowgirl’s vast assortment of colorful handbags, sleek shades and watches, hard-to-find artisan jewelry, and funky tees only found here. 146 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth; (302) 227-1917, downtowncowgirl.tumblr.com.

Bay-to-Ocean Kayaking >>> Cape Henlopen State Park

Explore up to 3 miles of the Delaware Bay via kayak or canoe, with an easy launch from the beach. The fishing pier, shoreline and point border this paddler’s paradise of easy to moderate difficulty. Keep your eyes open for dolphins, nesting shorebirds and other wildlife around Henlopen Lighthouse. 15099 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes; (302) 645-8983, destateparks.com.

Beach Fries >>> Thrasher’s
Crispy and piping hot, Thrasher’s fries are best enjoyed with a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar (save the ketchup for the hotdogs). Watch out, though: Seagulls love them as much as people do. 26 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth, (302) 227-8499.

Italian Restaurant >>> DiFebo’s
Nothing complicated here—just great, homey Italian food with a modern touch. There’s always fresh fish on the menu, along with beautifully prepared meat and poultry dishes. The cavatelli bolognese is an Italian Sunday dinner tradition on a plate, and you can’t go wrong with the risotto of the day. 789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach; (302) 539-4550, difebos.com.

Breakfast on the Boardwalk >>> Victoria’s Restaurant at the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel
This comfy, al fresco bistro’s excellent a.m. fare includes the crab-studded Chesapeake omelet, Delmarva frittata and lemon-berry French toast with scrapple. The ambience is Victorian, sans stuffy formality. 2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth, (302) 227-7169, boardwalkplaza.com.
 

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Place for Live Music >>> Bottle & Cork
Thanks to the Bottle & Cork, little ol’ beer-soaked Dewey Beach remains a viable tour stop for countless national acts. It’s impressive how many moderate to big names have found their way to the Cork—everyone from Cyndi Lauper to Goo Goo Dolls. The club marks its 75th anniversary in 2011, so expect some serious celebrating this summer. 1807 Highway One, Dewey Beach; (302) 227-7272, deweybeachlife.com.

Quaint Kids’ Activity >>> St. Peter’s Labyrinth in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Courtyard
Through a gate off Second Street, passersby discover St. Peter’s Labyrinth, a fun and meditative place for kids and adults alike. This stone-lined path spirals toward a meaningful center, where visitors often leave simple, sometimes silly gifts from their pockets. Second and Market streets, Lewes; (302) 645-8479, stpeters.episcopaldelaware.org.

Quiet Downtown Stroll >>> Second Street, Lewes, Del.
Despite beckoning storefronts and crowded restaurants, the vibe on Second Street is calm and leisurely. Have a seat on the bench outside King’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop, cone in hand, or take advantage of the pedestrian-friendly streets and sidewalks for that true getaway feeling. Leweschamber.com.

Sushi >>> Stingray Sushi Bar + Asian Latino Grill

The menu at Stingray is broad enough to satisfy any craving—especially if you like a little heat. The Hairy Mexican (fried shrimp, avocado and spicy sauce topped with a crab stick and eel sauce) is a crowd favorite. 59 Lake Ave., Rehoboth; (302) 227-6476, stingrayrestaurant.com.
 

Best of the Maryland Beaches on page 11 …
 

Maryland


Crabs >>> Woody’s Crab House

You won’t find anything better than the crabs at Woody’s. House specialties are steamed crabs and cakes packed with jumbo lump crabmeat. The crab bisque and imperial are also worth the nod. 29 S. Main St., North East, (410) 287-3541, woodyscrabhouse.com.

Happy Hour >>> Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina
May through September, the Tiki Bar at the Chesapeake Inn is easily one of the most popular Eastern Shore hangouts. Along with the prerequisite beer and frozen-drink specials, select menu items are featured during the week—like half-price brick-oven pizzas on Tuesday and half-price oysters on Thursday. 605 Second St., Chesapeake City, (410) 885-2040, martuscelliandsons.com.

Seafood Dinner with a View >>> Harrison’s Harbor Watch
The view can’t be beat, and neither can the seafood. Overlooking the Ocean City Inlet, this close-to-30-year-old restaurant’s popular raw bar features local oysters on the half shell. The dinner menu caters to seafood lovers and carnivores alike. Have a go at the Alaskan snow crab legs—you won’t be sorry. 806 S. Atlantic Ave., Ocean City, (410) 289-5121, harborwatchrestaurant.com.

Waterfront Dining >>> Kitty Knight House
The best seats in the house are on the deck at Kitty Knight House overlooking the Sassafras River. They fill up fast, so get there early and catch the amazing sunset. 14028 Augustine Herman Highway, Georgetown, (410) 648-5200, kittyknight.com.
 

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Our Best of the Main Line & Western Suburbs Party is July 25!