Beach cruisers and outdoor showers aside, something you’ll find on every New Jersey beach, from Point Pleasant to Long Beach Island, is an abundance of “shore” puns. Whether it’s “Shore Bets” as a menu category or “Shore to Please” as the motto of NJ’s beach-themed license plate, the joke is, unabashedly, everywhere. In true spirit of the area, then, I’ve collected five east coast “Shore Favorites.” They’re a “shore” hit!
1. The Good Humor Ice Cream Truck. The Good Humor company has been around for over 90 years, but its trucks’ days may be numbered. (I know, I know: Say it isn’t so!) I certainly hope not, but after a Maryland Good Humor factory shut down, the classic treats have been un-seasonally sparse. After waving down our neighborhood ice cream man at the beach, my family and I were sad appalled to learn that there were no Toasted Almonds. We all screamed in horror and the seller nodded sympathetically in return; clearly, he’d seen the reaction before. Chocolate Eclairs were in stock, however, and my uncle was on them like an ice cream bar on a stick. “How many do you have?” he asked. “A lot. A whole case,” the ice cream man answered. And without a moment’s hesitation: “I’ll take them.” At the very least—even if the Good Humor favorites are becoming more difficult to devour, I know that Jersey vacationers will never waver in their devotion to the truck.
2. Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas. Any Arrested Development fans out there? This frozen treat was a recurring storyline in the hit comedy series, but has been around long before the Bluth family came to television. And while I, admittedly, have a T-shirt that reads “There’s always money in the banana stand!” I’ve loved frozen bananas since I was old enough to hold a stick. Because this tropical fruit is naturally soft, it freezes particularly well, as creamy as ice cream and a whole lot healthier. Similar to a corn dog, a chocolate covered frozen banana takes something delicious, skewers it, then smothers it in something even more delicious. I love frozen bananas because they’re perfect for both stifling weather and long strolls on the boardwalk: chilly and portable. My recent visit to the frozen banana snack bar on LBI ended similarly to the Toasted Almond ordeal: no frozen bananas available (gasp). Luckily, the owner understood my family’s distress at the thought of a beach vacation without the treat, and wrote us a “contract” to make them by the following Saturday. (He delivered on the promise, and we bought all he had.)
3. Taylor, Egg, and Cheese. Calm the 12-year-old girls! The northeasters are not serving Taylor Swift on an egg sandwich. “Taylor” is to colloquially say “Taylor Ham.” Oh. Still never heard of it? “Taylor Ham” is to synonymously say “Pork Roll.” …Still never heard of it? No worries, you’re not out of the loop—in most of the country, at least. In New Jersey, though, the item called pork roll it’s as popular as bacon and sausage. Think of it as the Jersey version Canadian Bacon. (It’s pretty similar in shape.) You’ll find it at any (proper) breakfast place in the state. My family bikes to get one of these sandwiches most mornings at the shore. Two slices is customary, but the place we (strategically) go to serves three.
4. Chowder and Gazpacho. Hold it right there: This isn’t New Jersey! Chowder is New England and gazpacho is Spanish! Well. Yes, and yes. Despite their origins, though, these are soup staples of the Jersey shore. At the beach I go to, there are two chowder stands across the street from each other. The one I eat at (Country Kettle Chowda) serves a host of homemade soups, including New England with Wine, Manhattan, Rhode Island Red (a combination of the first two), Gazpacho, and “Lobsta” Bisque. The last is so painfully good I could have a whole quart of it in one sitting, just forget that one of its main ingredients is heavy cream. Country Kettle Chowda, like many other chowder huts, also offers for its soups to be served in a sourdough bread bowl. Yum. Gazpacho gets particularly popular on the 100-plus degree days, but most often vacationers embrace the heat-on-heat element of enjoying piping hot chowder at a picnic table in the bright summer sun. Eating clams from in the ocean, in view of the ocean? It’s almost too much. (And the seagulls love the extra bits of “bowl,” too!)
5. Clam Dive. True fact: New Jerseyites love crustaceans. From clams to oysters to mussels, we eat them they by the bucket-full, raw over ice or steamed and drowning in sauce. Whatever you do—for the former, do not forget the horseradish, cocktail sauce, and lemon, and for the latter, do not forget the bread. Every Jersey beach has at least one clam dive, a place that smells like the sea, uses paper not porcelain plates, and serves dishes full of flavor and without any frills. The “Clam Bar” is this place at the beach I go to. People stand outside for an hour-plus with their pack(s) of beer, patiently, devoutly waiting for a seat at the bar (as its name indicates, there are no tables). Eventually, they’re rewarded when the “Seafood Diva” (self-proclaimed name by a sign on the wall) calls them inside. Her snappy demeanor, don’t-mess-with-my-clam-bar attitude, and occasional smile make her the most feared and flattered cook on the island. Like “The Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld, customers desperately seek out her approval—sometimes receive it in moment of friendliness and always in a generous serving of seafood. The last time I was there, I ordered Mussels Marinara (swiftly, for the Seafood Diva does not appreciate waiting for an order). I overheard a regular customer share with our character hostess that her friend “had never had a raw oyster before!” The Seafood Diva and a few people in the bar looked up disapprovingly. Never had a raw oyster? Queue the shucking, please.
Follow Emma on Twitter: @Emma Laperruque