Let me introduce you to some of my favorite restaurants and watering holes in Asbury Park. When I moved to Asbury Park in 2001, the town was run-down, the boardwalk was nonexistent and reminiscent of the drug-ridden Coney Island beach in Brooklyn of yesteryear. Today it boasts a plethora of delicious, Zagat-rated restaurants, beautiful condos, great watering holes, and big supporters of the Asbury Park LGBTQ community.

Our first stop is one of my absolute favorites. The restaurant at Hotel Tides (408 7th Avenue), a boutique hotel in Asbury Park. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d completely miss it. Jeffrey Parent is the executive chef. This young chef delivers delicious, creative dishes that leave you wanting more. Featuring New American cuisine, our chef highlights fresh, seasonal,  local ingredients, intricately detailed tin ceiling and walls – dating back to the 1920s  – that demanded a ten-month renovation. The place showcases the cultural heritage and history in modern day Asbury Park. Come relax and enjoy a new change to the Jersey Shore’s dining scene. Or just have a drink in our bar, featuring signature cocktails and a light fare bar menu. Some of my favorites are the Ahi Tuna Poke with golden beets, wakame, green onion, radish, and glass noodle as an appetizer or a meal and the mouth-watering Bacon Wrapped Eight-Ounce Filet Mignon horseradish mashed potatoes, Chinese broccoli, and guajillo demi-glace.

Next is Pascal and Sabine (601 Bangs Avenue), one of Asbury’s finest restaurants. Executive chef Mike Bingham masters a delicious menu featuring European brasserie staples such as escargot in garlic and parsley butter that’s so good you can’t help ask for more more bread to dunk in this incredible dish. Dinners here are delicious, but I love sitting at the bar for their incredible brunch. The French classic Croque Monsieur is one of my favorites, along with seared Foie Gras. The restaurant is inspired by Albert Lamroisse’s classic, The Red Balloon. Pascal & Sabine embraces the flight of fancy and ephemeral quality of an inflated balloon, adding a unique touch of playfulness.

Porta (911 Kingsley Street) is our next stop. This huge restaurant and event space boasts community-style seating, a great bar, and an incredible brick-oven imported from Italy to recreate classic Neapolitan pizza. What makes this place great is not only the delicious food but the staff. Craig Stewart the most welcoming and friendliest bartender. Porta is inspired love of the idea of gathering around a table and sharing a meal with people we love, with the name coming from the Latin phrase, Porta patens esto. Nulli claudatur honesto. (“May the door always be open. May it never be closed to any honest person.”)

Last and certainly not least is Lentil Tree (808 5th Avenue). This Mediterranean restaurant is inexpensively delicious. It’s the brainchild of David Ades, owner and chef. While small, it boasts a beautiful outdoor patio where you can enjoy different flavored hookahs and refreshing signature platters. Some of my favorites are the Schnitzel Platter, which includes sesame crusted boneless chicken, with a garlic aioli dipping sauce and home-made hummus, an Israeli cucumber-and-tomato salad served with fresh pita bread. The babaganoush is my second favorite. The rich creamy fire-roasted dish awakens all of your taste buds, and is served with pita or their Za’atar pita chips.

I hope you have a chance to stop in and enjoy some of these amazing restaurants. Tell them Rai sent ya!