Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wharfside Patio Bar - Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday down at the Jersey shore, my wife and I were looking for a place to have lunch and a drink on the water. We were lucky enough to find The Wharfside on the Manasquan inlet in Point pleasant Beach, NJ. Back in the day, this restaurant was called The Lobster Shanty. Now it serves the same seafood menu under a new name. We didn't bother entering the Wharfside. Having come from the beach in flip flops and sleeveless shirts, we didn't think we were dressed appropriately. Instead, we sat ourselves at the outdoor Patio Bar on a huge deck overlooking the inlet.

As soon as we stepped out on the deck, I knew we had found a gem. Straight ahead in the middle of the  inlet, we could see a sandbar exposed by the low tide that had several boats beached on it. Groups of families and young people were having a beach party on this narrow spit of land.

On one side of the deck was an immense, somewhat circular bar. On the other, were about 20 tables with umbrellas. We sat at a table with a good view of the beach party and ordered our drinks. I asked the waitress if they had any local Jersey beers and she told me about Beach Haus which, according to the label, is made right in Point Pleasant. My wife ordered a Leinenkugel Summer Shanty on tap. The Shanty tasted a little funky as tap beers sometimes can. All the lemony taste in the world is not going to hide the sourness that comes from dirty beer lines. She switched to Bud Lime after that, but I stuck with the Haus for our whole stay.

This pilsner had a floral scent and strong taste. The after taste was crisp and a little bitter. The strong taste didn't carry a heavy kick and I was able to drink several of these cold babies on this hot afternoon without feeling drunk.

I was curious about the location in town where this beer gets brewed so I googled it on my Iphone and found out that the beer was supposedly made a few blocks away on Arnold Street. We actually went there after lunch looking for the brewery. Unfortunately, no one we asked in town had heard of the brewery. As it turns out, Beach Haus is brewed in Rochester by another company until the owners can raise the money to build a local brewery. Right now the East Coast Beer Co. is based out of an office in Point Pleasant. Regardless of where it is produced, they make a refreshing, drinkable beer.

Out on the deck, food has to be ordered at a long counter and your waitress delivers it. I ordered clams from the raw bar and a cheese burger. My wife, Doreen, got the onion crusted Mahi sandwich. Though she is not a big onion fan, there was just enough of a hint of onion to complement the fish. My burger was just what I needed to fill the empty spot in my stomach. And if there is anything better than clams and cold beer on a sunny day by the ocean, then please let me know.

The crowd out on the deck was . . . eclectic.  That's a nice way to say there were some strange birds flying around that day.  There was a large group celebrating a birthday and the man of honor was wearing a necklace made of veggies and lunch meats.

Not long after we devoured our food the Billy Lawlor Band, which had been on break, re-took the stage. They played classics from the 60's and 70's at a volume that allowed for conversation. When they played a Grateful Dead song, Doreen could not help herself and dragged me up to dance. When we sat back down she said to me, "I can't believe nobody else got up and danced?" I replied, "Give them a little time, they will be up later." And sure enough, after a lively version of Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath, complete with flute solo, the crowd started to come alive. They then broke into "Bertha", another Dead classic and Doreen's favorite song. We started out the lone dancers in a place filled with over 100 people. But after a string of more familiar Paul Simon classics the dance floor was filled with dancers aged 4 to 60.

The band completed their last set and, though there was another band coming on shortly after, we felt it would be hard to replicate what we had just enjoyed for the last 3 hours. We looked out to the inlet and saw that the tide was coming in covering what was left of the sandbar. So like the beach partiers who had to end there stay, we departed with good memories and a vow to return to this unique spot.

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