New Jersey is split on enough things - Bon Jovi or The Boss, Phillies or Yankees, pork roll or Taylor Ham - we’re not going to add Long Beach Island to the list. It’s about 90 minutes from Philly and two hours from NYC, but the truth is, everyone should spend time here. And when you do go, use this guide to decide where to eat and drink. Along with some great seafood, there are spots for cheesesteaks, bagels, rapidly melting ice cream cones, and all of the state’s other primary food groups. From 24/7 diners to candlelit special occasion spots, here are 29 places you should be eating when you’re on LBI.
Everyone knows that setting a calendar reminder a few weeks in advance is the only way to get a reservation at Pizzeria Beddia in Philly or Carbone in Manhattan, but you should also keep it in mind if you plan on eating at Black Eyed Susans in Harvey Cedars. This BYOB spot is constantly packed with people celebrating special occasions, like a kid’s completion of freshman year, or an anniversary (while their freshman kid raids their liquor cabinet back at the house). The reason this white tablecloth restaurant is constantly slammed is the seafood-focused American food, like doughy, charred gnocchi with big chunks of lobster, and tender tilefish over thick vichyssoise.
Even though you’re officially on vacation, it can take a while to forget about real life issues like incompetent bosses and forgotten Netflix passwords. The best way to snap yourself into “vacation mode” on LBI is to head to The Chicken Or The Egg (Chegg) in Beach Haven. It’s a 24/7 (from Memorial Day to Labor Day) diner filled with groups who seem to have all gotten the memo on the implicit dress code of tank tops and flip-flops. The menu is huge, ranging from six-egg omelets to a reuben with not-too-salty, housemade corned beef. This place also serves some of the best buffalo wings we’ve ever had, which are offered naked or breaded and tossed in your choice of 18 different sauces (the naked wings with zapper sauce is our go-to order). When we say that the ludicrous (spiciest) sauce is a day-ruiner, you should trust us.
We may not have been close friends with the kid at school who had the party house, but we still hung out there every afternoon in the summer. Tucker’s Tavern feels like that kid’s house, and the huge square bar in the middle of this spot in Beach Haven is where you should find yourself during Happy Hour (3-7pm every day). Their Bloody Marys are topped with jumbo shrimp, bacon, and blue cheese-stuffed olives, and they go great with a basket of wings and $1 oysters. Like at the party house in high school, there’s usually someone playing guitar in the corner, and there’s a roof where you can watch the sunset with someone who you asked to prom (15 years ago).
There’s going to be a wait at Mustache Bill’s, but whether you need to rock, paper, scissors for who has to go early and put a name in or you plan to kill time by cheating at mini-golf across the street, you should find a way to eat here. This cash-only diner near the lighthouse in Barnegat Light feels like it probably hasn’t changed much since it opened in the ’50s, with simple green swivel stools at the counter and a few booths lining the wall of the narrow space. It’s open from 6am-3pm, with a huge menu that ranges from eggs and pancakes to cheesesteaks and fried seafood platters, but no matter what you order, you’re going to leave full and happy. You can maximize both of those feelings by getting the “bombed eggs,” a massive plate of grits, gravy, and chipped beef topped with a few over-easy eggs.
Parker’s Garage is from the same people as Mud City, Old Causeway, and a few spots on this side of the bridge, and like all of those places, the food here is very heavy and very enjoyable. Start with lobster corn dogs or croquettes filled with New England clam chowder, and then get the biscuits and gravy, which is a big plate of fried oysters and andouille topped with creamy gravy and a biscuit the size of whatever paperback you’re planning on reading at the beach. What makes Parker’s different from those spots, and really from anywhere else on the island, is its space. The big, open-air dining room is right on the water in Beach Haven, and all of the tables inside, as well as on the dock outside, have sunset views over the water. Enjoy them with a date or group, while drinking, well, anything you want (it’s BYOB).
Black Whale is less than a block from Parker’s Garage, and both spots are from the same team, but deciding between the two is pretty straightforward. If you want dinner, go to Parker’s Garage, and if you want drinks and snacks, go to Black Whale. This walk-in-only spot (except for groups of eight or more) is almost always packed, but if you get there early enough or wait around long enough, you’ll be able to get a high-top or seats at the horseshoe bar. This is an especially good move during Happy Hour (3-6pm on weekdays), when there are $3 beers, $4 wine and well drinks, and discounted food, like $1 oysters and big plates of not-overly-fried calamari.
Old Causeway isn’t technically on LBI, but before you insult our geography skills, know that we already heard it all in sixth-grade homeroom, and it still belongs on this guide. Not only is it the last turn before the bridge, but they also have a private shuttle that you can call to take you to and from the island. As the name suggests, there are steaks and oysters on the menu, and you won’t be upset ordering either here, but our favorite thing to get at dinner is the karate-chop pork chop doused in a pineapple-soy glaze. You could also just come for Happy Hour (3-6pm), have a few drinks at the bar, and eat some spice-rubbed wings and jersey devils (deviled eggs topped with fried oysters).
Mud City is from the same people as Old Causeway (and places on the island like Parker’s Garage and Ship Bottom Shellfish), and since it’s literally next door, you can use the same private shuttle to get to and from either place. The menu is seafood focused, with things like soft shell crabs, baked clams, and massive crab cakes that are almost entirely made up of crab meat. For those who like to drink, they have a full bar in a converted trailer on the outdoor patio, and for those who like to drink a lot, they fully allow BYOB.
It seems like every place on LBI serves fried seafood - and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a sign in front of Wawa advertising a free 24-ounce soda with every pound of fried clams - but the best stuff is at Viking Fresh Off The Hook. Like Boulevard Clams and Pinky’s Shrimps, it has a staff who would bankrupt ABC if Jeopardy only asked questions about the ocean, and they serve seafood that you can literally watch come in off the docks in Viking Village. Our go-to here is scallops, but if you want to try everything, order the combo with five types of seafood, and eat it at a picnic table outside.
Most of New Jersey’s key food groups - pork roll, hoagies, and disco fries just to name a few - are well represented on LBI. But there isn’t a ton of red sauce Italian food, and if that’s what you’re craving, you’re only going one place - Raimondo’s. The portions are all large, and unless you biked to this Ship Bottom spot from Beach Haven or Loveladies, the appetizers, like meatballs with whipped ricotta or octopus with fregola sarda pasta, could work as entrees. There’s also a veal porterhouse with mushroom confit and deep-fried asparagus that’s served over linguini alfredo, and it’s one of our favorites dishes on the island.
Kubel’s feels like a locals-only spot. It’s a loud, dark bar that opened in 1927 near the docks in Barnegat Light with free popcorn, a few domestic beers, and a simple menu of things like clam strips and house chili. But it’s tough for any spot on the island to keep from being somewhat overrun during the summer anymore, and it’s pretty much impossible after Anthony Bourdain films a TV show there. Even still, Kubel’s is relatively low-key, and it’s a place everyone should check out at least once. Come during Happy Hour (4-7pm on weekdays), get some discounted beers and bar food while watching early season baseball on TV, and you’ll feel like you’re part of the locals-only crowd.
You want to bring sandwiches to the beach, but you don’t want to spend all morning trying to remember who throws tantrums when you leave the crust on their bread. Instead, just make a pitstop at Pearl Street Market, a Beach Haven spot that has some of the best deli and seafood sandwiches on the island. You can go with a Greek chicken wrap or lobster roll, which is light on mayo and very heavy on lobster. Or if you want to get something that’ll keep you from eating a whole box of Cheez-Its at 3pm, try the roast beef melt or baseball-sized crab cake on brioche. There are also a bunch of tables out front in case you don’t want to deal with seagulls and runaway napkins while you eat.
The Arlington is pretty upscale by LBI standards. But it’s also on LBI, which is why we never feel out of place walking straight here for lunch or $1 oyster Happy Hour after spending too many hours riding two-foot chop in 60-degree water. Fortunately, it’s a short walk, as this big American spot, which actually looks more like a ski lodge than an island restaurant, is less than a block from the beach in Ship Bottom. Whether you sit in the first-come bar area or get a table in one of the dining rooms, you should start with a plate of chicken wings with housemade ranch and any of the 22 unusual, rotating beers they have on tap. If you want to keep things casual, get the very good double cheeseburger, or if you want to class up your board shorts and flip flops, go with the slightly sweet pork chop over andouille and cornbread stuffing.
From the lighthouse and state park to the massive mini-golf course that’d give Happy Gilmore fits (with or without Chubbs), there are a lot of reasons you might find yourself in Barnegat Light. So you should know about Daymark, a year-round American spot from the people behind The Arlington that works for all kinds of dining situations. Come during brunch and get the fried oysters with syrupy grits or the breakfast burger (a pork roll, egg, and cheese on top of a patty), during Happy Hour (4-7pm every day) at the big, rectangular bar, or for dinner when there’s usually live music.
When you want a 30-minute throwback to a simpler time, back when people tucked short-sleeved button-downs into khakis, go to Holiday Snack Bar. It’s been serving a short menu focused on griddle-cooked burgers and housemade pies since 1948, and the circular bar is still a good spot to pull up a seat, drink a milkshake, and temporarily forget about the sparkling Jordans and matcha ice cream back home.
Think about all the foods you associate with LBI, and besides breakfast dishes and a bag of sand-covered potato chips, you can find all of them at Barry’s. This counter-service spot just south of Bay Village in Beach Haven serves burgers, Italian hoagies, meatball parms, and really good cheesesteaks - and those are only four of the 20 different sections on the menu. You really can’t go wrong as long as you remember two key things: get the garlic rolls - a dozen doughy balls that you dip in marinara sauce - and finish up at the ice cream bar. There are a ton of different toppings you can choose for either soft serve or a scoop of ice cream, as well as a whole menu of sundaes and milkshakes.
The kids are staying home and ordering in (they’re actually probably doing keg stands on the beach with a couple of lifeguards and 10 of their friends who are back for the summer), and you want to go somewhere for a nice date night. Check out Yellowfin, a small, BYOB seafood spot in Surf City with candlelit tables and white tablecloths. Start with the crispy flatbread topped with slices of avocado and local tuna or the fried green tomato covered with a ton of lobster meat, and then get the scallops and risotto or perfectly-cooked halibut with lump crab.
There are some things New Jersey does as well as anywhere in the country: be the set of HBO shows, house the stadiums of other states’ sports teams, and serve great Italian food. Combine that (just the bit about the Italian food) with the fact that LBI has great seafood, and you get some of the best food on the island at Stefano’s. This upscale spot in Beach Haven does straightforward Italian dishes really well, like eggplant parm and housemade meatballs, as well as some seafood, like crab-encrusted salmon over lobster mashed potatoes. But our favorite things here are the combinations, like local scallops over crab and tomato risotto, and penne vodka with shrimp, scallops, and lots of crab meat. Bring some Chianti or barbera (it’s BYOB), and try to get a table on the outdoor patio if it’s nice out.
Whether you need a break from winning your kids stuffed animals at Fantasy Island, or you just want a fun spot to drink some really good beers, you should go to Ship Bottom Brewery. This big brewery and bar overlooking the square in Bay Village serves about 10 beers that are brewed on site, which you can try as part of different tasting flights, like “The Wipeout” that includes just about all of them. It’s also BYO food, so bring some gigantic slices from Bay Village Pizza next door, and drink some really good beers while listening to live music, which they have most days during the summer.
Blue Water Cafe is from the same people as Stefano’s, and is like the hypothetical love child of that white tablecloth seafood restaurant and a casual diner. This BYOB American spot on Long Beach Boulevard in Beach Haven serves things like yellowfin tuna and lobster-whipped potatoes at dinner, but it also has a massive all-day menu with things like huevos rancheros and Nutella french toast. We like it best at brunch when you should sit on the covered patio outside and eat a phenomenal burger topped with a huge portion of blue crab dip.
You and your friends aren’t saying much besides the occasional comment about not needing those tequila shots last night and needing coffee right now. You definitely don’t want to wait 90 minutes for a table at the Chegg (Chicken Or The Egg), so walk a block over to Uncle Will’s. This diner in the middle of Beach Haven has been around since 1965 and has a lot of space and tables that work for big groups. Most dishes come with home fries, but for $1.50 you can substitute them for a full stack of blueberry or banana chocolate chip pancakes, which you should absolutely do. They even have a few wines (all from New Jersey) available in case you want to ditch the coffee for some hair of the dog.
If the suitcase you bring to LBI is filled with nothing but board shorts, bleach-stained tank tops, and three pairs of sunglasses, then that makes two of us. But just know that you’re going to feel a bit underdressed at The Gables. From the long, dripping candles on the white tablecloth tables, to the chandeliers and old paintings, to the piano player in the entrance hall, this 19th-century inn in Beach Haven is the most formal restaurant on the island. The space is beautiful, including an outdoor terrace that feels like it belongs in Charleston, and the food - like rich Thai curry soup with shrimp, a giant ravioli with ricotta and crispy bacon, and seared scallops over mushroom risotto - is excellent, both of which make it a good place to celebrate a special occasion.
Maybe your nap on the beach was cut short by some kids taking spikeball way too seriously, or perhaps nobody in your house is volunteering to be the DD. Regardless, you don’t feel like going out for dinner tonight. Instead, bring in some pizzas from Panzone’s, which has locations in Beach Haven and Surf City. Order a meatball parm or buffalo chicken cheesesteak as well, then finish it on the beach tomorrow and you’ll have no trouble falling asleep.
Plantation feels like the result of someone pulling a liquor license out of a claw machine and then immediately turning their house into a restaurant without making many changes. The outside of this big spot in Harvey Cedars looks like a nice home, as does the inside, with a carpeted dining room that has a fireplace, and another room with green wallpaper and random picture frames. It’s a comfortable spot for lunch or brunch when you can sit at a table and get a massive bacon cheeseburger or sweet potato hash with corned beef and eggs, but it’s best during Happy Hour from 4-7pm every day. Get some $4 beers or $5 glasses of wine, as well as discounted bar food, like a plate of really good, meaty buffalo wings.
There are about as many ice cream shops on LBI as there are cop cars hiding out on Long Beach Boulevard. For the most part, you should just go to whichever one is most convenient - like Poppy’s after walking around the lighthouse in Barnegat Light or Shore Good Donuts on your way off the island. But one place that’s worth traveling for is Skipper Dipper in Beach Haven. It’s been around since the ’70s, serving tons of flavors in hard and soft serve, sundaes, and milkshakes, including a cold brew float with coffee from La Colombe. A cone with two scoops of cookies and cream ice cream topped with chocolate and vanilla swirl soft serve definitely isn’t the only move, but it is the right one.
You want to get breakfast somewhere, but don’t feel like waiting an hour for one of the diners and then getting knocked out by some cream cheese-stuffed french toast and chipped beef covered in gravy. Go to The Local, a casual market right by the foot of the bridge in Ship Bottom, where you can sit outside and read the paper while drinking coffee and eating a pork roll, egg, and cheese. They also serve really good sandwiches until 7pm every day, so pick up a triple-decker turkey and swiss or a roast beef with horseradish cheddar on your way to the beach or as a snack for the road on your way off the island.
Dockside seems like a pretty typical diner - it’s a casual space with counter seats and a few booths, and it has a big menu with about 20 types of omelets, as well as sandwiches ranging from grilled cheese to one with Cajun mahi-mahi. But the simple-sounding food is all excellent, and it’s right on the water, so if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to watch paddleboarders fall into the bay as you eat your cinnamon roll pancakes.
When you want great seafood near the water on LBI, you could eat fried flounder out of to-go containers at Viking Fresh Off The Hook, or you could eat flounder francaise on a white tablecloth at Stefano’s. But for something in between, go to Ship Bottom Shellfish. It’s a casual spot with a big menu that ranges from buffalo calamari to shrimp stuffed with crab imperial, but we like to keep it simple and dip bread into a big bowl of clams with wine and garlic butter. You usually have to wait for a table, but it’s BYOB, so bring a bottle (or a cooler) and hang out on the outdoor patio until your name is called.
Order any of the nine burgers at Wally’s, and your plate will arrive with fries, housemade slaw, a burger, and another burger. Whether you get the one topped with bourbon-onion-bacon jam or the one with chili and melted cheese, you’ll get two burgers that are cooked in a cast iron skillet for around $13. In the off chance that you need more reason to go to this diner in Surf City, they also serve great stuff at breakfast, like big pancakes filled with peanut butter and chocolate chips, and topped with chocolate, peanut sauce, and powdered sugar.