On an early Saturday afternoon in August, Bob Boyer stands at he cash register of the Chat- terbox Restaurant and attends to a short line of customers. It’s his second year as the owner of Ocean City’s largest and
best-known restaurant. The Chatterbox
is a local institution, with its bright pink,
Mediterranean Revival-style exterior
enticing hungry passersby from its prominent perch at the corner of 9th Street and
Central Avenue. Dating to 1937, it’s also
one of the town’s oldest attractions.
“For so many people this is the first
place they stop to eat when checking in
on a Saturday and the last place they eat
before going home,” says Boyer, who has
lived on the island with his wife, Maria,
since 1997. They are the third family to
own the Chatterbox. “I meet people who
tell me they’ve been coming here with
their families for 50 or 60 years.”
The Chatterbox is one of many com-
mercial establishments in the bustling
northern end of Ocean City. Since alcohol
isn’t a feature here, most dining spots fo-
cus on casual meals. One block from the
Chatterbox is the Varsity Inn, a popular
breakfast and lunch spot. Other favorites
include the Sindia Restaurant, Jay’s Crab
Shack and Wards Pastry.
Asbury Avenue, between 6th and 14th
streets, is the heart of the downtown
shopping district. The more than 100
gift shops, galleries and eateries include
Spadafora’s Seafood Market, Heritage
Surf Shop, Yoasis frozen yogurt and Vito-
rio’s Italian Restaurant.
Heading south, the town reveals its
municipal underpinnings, including an
impressive community center on Simpson Avenue. Further on, between 23rd
and 29th streets, there’s a four-block
wildlife refuge, an airport and a 12-hole
golf course. The southernmost part of the
island—known as the Gold Coast—is an
enclave of upscale beach homes.
“The north end is where you find most
of your renters. The Gold Coast is for peo-
ple who can afford to live here all summer
long,” says Boyer. “It all works together.”
As the last of his afternoon customers
exits, Boyer takes a seat under a large mu-
ral in the back of the restaurant. Painted
in 1940, it depicts the Chatterbox in its
early years. Behind the counter, a soda
jerk fixes an ice cream float. It’s a fitting
visual for a town that cherishes its past.
“Ocean City hasn’t really changed at
all,” says Boyer. “It’s a little more crowded
and some of the houses are bigger, but it’s
really the same place it’s always been.”
Nick DiUlio is South Jersey bureau chief
for New Jersey Monthly.
CAPE MAY CELEBRATES
The venerable Congress Hall Hotel
has revamped its 106 guest rooms
in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Parent company Cape Resorts
debuts a restaurant for breakfast and
lunch at its Beach Plum Farm in West
Cape May (initially, weekends only).
Elsewhere in Cape May, the inaugural
Hops Festival will feature blues and
barbecue alongside local craft beer
June 25 at the Emlen Physick Estate.
LBI GETS CRABBY
Win Allen, noted for Allen’s Clam Bar
in New Gretna, sails into Ship Bottom with Crabby Paddy’s, a casual
seafood restaurant slated to open
Memorial Day weekend at 15th Street
and Long Beach Boulevard.
Atlantic City rolls out its inaugural
Food Truck Festival June 18. Sea Isle
City follows closely with its first Food
Truck Invitational June 24 to 26.
NO W PLAYING
The refurbished Harbor Square
Theater in Stone Harbor reopens in
late June with four screens, state-of-the-art audio and a burger bar.
Alas, in Ocean City, the boardwalk’s
venerable Strand Theater has been
converted to an amusement arcade.
Monmouth County’s Booskerdoo
Coffee & Baking Co. is opening a new
2,000-square-foot café and roastery
in Asbury Park, and a smaller café in
Long Branch’s Pier Village.
Back Bay BBQ
135 Longport-Somers Point Boulevard
Brothers Len and John Dagit
run this Wednesday to Sunday
haven of smoked meat, seafood
and classic sides (mac ’n’
cheese, cowboy beans) perched
on a strip of land in the marsh
beneath the bridge to Longport.
Barbecue ribs, chicken and pork
share the menu with Shore fare
like roasted corn and skewers
of grilled shrimp and scallops.
At day’s end, grab a patio seat
under the striped umbrellas and
bask in the sunset.
Bay Avenue Sushi
718 Bay Avenue
This BYO, modest from the
outside, offers a modern din-
ing room and fresh, appealing
sushi, with hand rolls starting
at $4.50 each, and traditional
cooked dishes such as tempu-
ra, teriyaki and udon noodles.
Try for a seat on the patio and
catch the bay breezes.
998 Bay Avenue
Opened in 2011 by chef/owner
Edward Bonsignore in the for-
mer Bay Shores dance club, this
spacious bayside spot just north
of the bridge to Ocean City
features grilled fish and meats,
each with several tempting
house sauces to choose from.
Italian and Shore favorites round
out the varied menu. Many cus-
tomers come to sip Baia’s playful
martinis and frozen cocktails on
three separate decks and dance
to live bands. Musicwise, every
Sunday is Reggae Sunday.
Caroline’s by the Bay
450 Bay Avenue
If you want to hang with the
locals, visit this 18-year-old
favorite, open year-round. Mary
Mathis, whose daughter Caroline
is co-owner, books the bands
that play the patio bar and puts
up with their penchant for clos-
ing the last set with the inevitable
“Sweet Caroline.” Caroline’s is
mostly about whooping it up, but
the grub is decent and plentiful,
from bowls of oyster chowder
($12) to chicken parm ($9.95).
Continued on page 71
AT THE SHORE