Asbury Park, a seaside town in New Jersey best known for fostering the state’s most beloved icon and a ‘God’ to many others, Bruce Springsteen. His 1973 album ‘Greetings from Asbury Park’ thrust this little town, an hour or so from NYC, into the rock and roll limelight. In the past few years Asbury has really transformed itself, from boarded up houses and abandoned parking lots to brand new condos and trendy restaurants on every corner. As developers keep coming in and buying up buildings, every trip to Asbury Park seem to uncover new bars and restaurants, new shops, and plenty of new high end residential buildings. As you might imagine, this place is jam packed is during the summer. However even though summer has come and gone, this beach town, unlike many others, never seems to die down. Here are some recommendations for a weekend out in Asbury.
Stop 1: The Asbury Park Hotel
If you’re going to be doing some drinking, you might as well find a place to stay. The Asbury Park Hotel was the first hotel to make its debut in Asbury in over 50 years. It showcases an outdoor movie theater, rooftop bar, beer garden, and swimming pool with cabanas and a lobby that resembles an adult summer camp (or a typical Greenpoint, Brooklyn hangout). The hotel had 110 rooms in total and features suites, and regular rooms, as well as dorm style rooms with two bathrooms, a common area, and bunk beds sleeping anywhere from four to eight people. (The perfect room for a bachelor/bachelorette or wedding party). When the weather is nice, you can find food trucks serving casual food and a refrigerated beer truck hanging out next to the hotel, just waiting for the thirsty crowd. Another thing guests will love is its convenient location, just two blocks from the beach and boardwalk and a 10-minute walk to Main Street and all the bars, this hotel is the perfect solution to a weekend getaway. Note that the hotel does not serve food, as the owners did not want to interfere with the restaurant scene downtown, but they do have a lobby bar and will provide prepacked snacks.
Stop 2: Porta
Before a long night of drinking you should always put some food in your stomach, especially carbs, as you need something to soak up all that booze! With that being said, why not check out one of the best pizza places in Asbury? The space itself is huge, with 25-foot exposed ceilings showcasing large exposed piping, light bulbs, random doors aligning the back walls, a giant rectangular bar in the middle of the space, communal style seating, and an open kitchen with brick ovens. The menu is easy to navigate and perfect for large groups…ten different types of pizza are offered, along with three salads, a few pastas, appetizers and sides. Easy, but delicious. On Fridays and Saturdays, they also open up their dance floor and, in the summer,, you can hear bands playing outside. Even with its large space and capacity to sit 100+ people, this place is still always crowded and often has a line outside too.
Stop 3: Watermark
Upscale, sleek and sexy, Watermark is one of the most swankiest spots in Asbury. They have an excellent selection of martinis, cocktails, beers, wines and small plates, and spectacular deals during their happy hour from 5-7pm, including $5 glasses of wine, $3 beers and bottles of wine for $20-$45. This trendy lounge is located on the boardwalk and boasts spectacular views of the ocean, both inside and outside. While the outdoor patio area has a more casual vibe, the inside area is a bit more chic, with a large, open room containing plush couches positioned across ornate windows overlooking the beach and ocean below. For a more intimate vibe, check out the back room with its dim lighting, cozy fireplace, and individual seating ‘hotel like’ cozy couches. Please note, this place can get very crowded on weekend evenings!
Stop 4: Little Buddy Hideaway
For a little taste of the Polynesian ‘tiki life’, head to this little gem, opened Thursday thru Sunday from 9pm to 2am. You’ll find yourself drinking Pina Colads with multi colored straws, and little Hawaiian umbrellas and/or bananas shaped like fish, how can you go wrong there? Be a bit cautious of their vodka and soda’s though, they’re all about the cheap well vodka! Stick with the pre-diabetic tropical drinks, the sugar may kill you, but it’s totally worth it! If you get the chance to visit during the month of October, the place is very decked out for Halloween!
If you come to Asbury and don’t visit Johnny Mac’s, you should be highly ashamed of yourself. Johnny Mac’s is excellent finish to the night as you don’t have to find a late-night snack afterwards because they offer a regular personal size free pizza with the the purchase of just one drink. How the heck can you go wrong there?! (A regular personal pan is free, toppings cost $1 extra. $1 for a buffalo chicken pizza, that’s just wrong! It’s also only one pizza per person, but how hungry could one be?) There can be a fairly long line at the pizza station, but it’s worth it. (They also do free omelettes for Sunday brunch!) Anyway, moving past my obvious pizza infatuation, the establishment itself is awesome. It has a dive bar meets Irish pub feel with an added kick. Trinkets, posters and random hilarious miscellaneous things align the walls, as well as hang from the ceiling. There’s also outdoor ping pong, skeeball downstairs, along with carnival style basketball, and darts. As you might imagine, this place gets packed on Friday and Saturday evening and really, any other night as they have events going on constantly here, like speed dating!
Stop 6 or stop 1 the following day: Cross and Orange:
With all the drinking you are guaranteed to do in Asbury, a hearty, hangover brunch must be a sure thing. The place itself has a very rustic, country like vibe mixed with a bit of hipster (Asbury is the Brooklyn of the Jersey shore, so you’re stuck with the hipster vibe, whether you like it or not!) The lights hanging from the ceiling do give the place a bit of an Austin, TX feel, which is fun. The brunch menu contains the usual staples, eggs benedict, omelets, French toast, breakfast tacos and a variety of lunch options. Going with the ‘keeping it local’ theme that many places have adopted, the owner refuses to serve wine that’s not from the USA (horrifying), but the Sauvignon Blanc was pretty good. They also serve a variety of mainly local craft beers which vary by season.
Stop 7: Brickwell Tavern and Dining Room:
If Sunday has you craving more beers, or more hearty food, or let’s be frank, you just don’t know how to stop partying, (no judgement here) check out Brickwell Tavern. They always have an excellent selection of delicious food like their fried or grilled chicken BLT, fried chicken, or a hearty cheesesteak. No matter what you order, you’ll find yourself overly stuffed, and wishing you hadn’t subscribed to that office weight loss challenge. The good news is, at least the bill won’t put a hole in your wallet as their prices are very reasonable. They also have a great selection of draft beers here and amazingly hilarious expressions all over the walls, which will have you laughing for days.