Circus Drive-In, Wharfside & Shrimp Box
I’m acquainted with two people who grew up at the Jersey Shore and they seem reasonably normal (ok, one thinks you need to carry a gun if you’re going to go to Philadelphia but whatever). So, despite the recent guido brouhaha, I decided to pay a brief visit last weekend. I pretty much stayed off the beach, away from boardwalk amusements and did my drinking during daylight hours. I wasn’t asking for any trouble.
One of my biggest surprises was getting to visit a newborn Costco. Seriously. We arrived at the old Brick, NJ location only to find a sign directing us to a different location a few miles up the highway that had opened the day before. A one-day-old Costco? I love nothing more than a nice big clean and uncrowded chain store so this was almost too much to bear. I really only ended up with a case of seltzer water, rotisserie chicken and too many cherries to eat in a week, but actual groceries were almost beside the point.
The true raison d’etre for this excursion was tracking down a softshell crab sandwich at the Circus Drive-In that was featured on the Food Network recently. Embarrassing source of edibles intel or not, I like the idea of a spidery fried crustacean on a bun. And it didn’t hurt that the big top theme was highly entertaining. We only missed a performance by Macaroni Anne Cheeze the clown by a few hours.
The only questions are platter (with fries) or sandwich and tartar or cocktail sauce. Sandwich only (we wanted onion rings) and tartar sauce. This is no frills, just a little side of coleslaw and condiments by Kraft. The single-minded sandwich forces you to focus on the crab and had just enough sweet meatiness to prevent a crusty batter and bread starch overdose.
I only attempted a few sips of James’ milkshake (there will be no There Will Be Blood joke) and was thwarted by the solidity of the vanilla ice cream. These are serious shakes. I was holding out for a hot fudge sundae at aptly named regional chain Sundaes down the highway. I made myself so ill off of the cherry ice cream concoction that I didn’t take any photos and didn’t even finish my size small dish. My tolerance for sickly sweet has diminished greatly this year, which should be no reflection on Sundaes’ products.
Point Pleasant was our final destination, which we reached by late afternoon (we didn’t leave until after noon, hoping a violent flood-inducing rainstorm would pass). I just wanted a drink since the crab sandwich hadn’t had time to settle yet. We ended up at the random outdoor patio next to Wharfside restaurant. Luckily, it was dinner time so the lines were at the proper restaurant and it was too early for the party crowds (there was one bridal shower going on). We avoided the carding and wrist band procedure that was occurring by the time we left.
Since we took a table, I think we had to order food. A spicy crab dip that wasn’t really spicy kept us busy for a while.
I would’ve gone to Red’s Lobster Pot, as the little white shack seemed like the most charming of the lot in the corner of town that we had driven to, but waits are super long to sit inside and they close at 9pm. Maybe next time if we get it together earlier in the day.
We ended up at nearby Shrimp Box, which I knew was a middling but perfectly sufficient choice. I was a little bummed because the dated nautical décor on their website had been lost in a renovation from earlier this spring. Now, the overall effect is neutral ‘90s Holiday Inn. They did still have a salad bar (the photo is from their site—it doesn’t look exactly like this now), a dying breed, at least in my day-to-day culinary existence. And a great slogan, “we overlook nothing but the harbor!” Indeed.
I couldn’t stomach a full dinner so oysters on the half shell and coconut shrimp suited me fine. Oh, and a fruity blue martini. I think colorful cocktails are acceptable once you've crossed New York state lines.