The Lowkey Jersey Shore
Now, I know what you're thinking: Snooki, cheetah, thick accents. Believe it or not, the Jersey Shore is not what you see on TV. Some of the most popular Jersey Shore towns include Avon, Sea Isle, and Ocean City, but the ‘lowkey’ beach towns are the heart of the Jersey Shore. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches, best pizza and bagels, and, of course, the famous Rook coffee, being only thirty minutes outside of New York City, Monmouth County, New Jersey is the Jersey Shore you want to visit, take it from a born and raised local!
A day in Monmouth County must start with a stop at Rook coffee, a nationally acclaimed coffee shop located only throughout Monmouth County. Ask any local– this coffee is addictive. A personal favorite is the New Orleans brewed iced coffee, but really any brew will be the best coffee your taste buds have ever tasted.
After you hit Rook, getting a classic Jersey bagel is a must. Now, we may be more lowkey than New Yorkers when it comes to bragging about our bagels, but they are just as delicious, if not better. A few famous bagel places in Monmouth county include Bagel Masters, located in Shrewsbury, Fanagle the Bagel located in Long Branch, and Grandmas Bagels located in Rumson. A Monmouth County staple is of course our famous Pork Roll (yes, North Jerseyans it's Pork Roll, not Taylor Ham), so make sure you order the classic Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese and thank me later.
Bagels are not the only staple food the Jersey Shore is known for. Jersey pizza is the best, don't bother arguing with me. Monmouth County is home to some of the best, old school classic pizza shops. Attilios, located in Long Branch, is great for a classic cheese pie but they are known for the specialty pies including penne vodka pasta pizza, ravioli pizza, bbq chicken pizza, baked ziti pizza, pesto sicilian and so many more. Sea Bright Pizza located in Sea Bright is a personal favorite. You must try the Grandma pizza, Christian pizza, Buffalo Chicken pizza, or the Forgetabouta pizza.
Now Fairfield, I know Playa Bowls is all the rave these days, but guess what...Playa Bowls is a Monmouth County born and raised business. Located on 8th Avenue in Belmar, Playa Bowls was once a tiny cart on the side of the beach in front of a pizza shop serving Hawaiian acai bowls– I was one of their very first customers! If you want to try the OG Playa Bowl, head down to Belmar to the original shop on 8th Avenue.
If you're looking for a sit down meal, I’ve got you. Here is a list of some local favorites:
Not to be dramatic or anything, but if you want the best Italian food ever– correction, the best food ever, you have to eat at Angelicas. It is my all time favorite restaurant and everyone in Monmouth county's favorite restaurant. My recommendations are the ‘cacio e pepe’ or the ‘arrabiata’ (look at my Instagram highlights if you don’t believe me).
Woody's Ocean Grille
California coastal style with southwestern flair. Woodys is a great spot for a fun authentic meal. My recommendation: baja tacos, sea bright sliders, or the beach burger.
Tommy's Tavern and Tap
Tommy’s is always packed with locals. Located on the river alongside a vibey atmosphere, Tommy’s is a great spot to grab some amazing food. My recommendations: coal oven roasted chicken wings, pizza alla russa, or the apple salad.
I know you're probably saying “how do I say this” so I’ll help you out. Say “did ya eat” then read it again….get it now? Djeet is a favorite spot to grab lunch. The small intimate restaurant has a unique menu that leaves you craving more and more. My recommendations: The Joey with a side of parmesan truffle fries (it is actually to die for), The Grandpa, or the soba noodle salad.
Ocean Avenue is indeed a real road, not just a song. Ocean Avenue is a scenic road, which divides the river from the ocean. The drive itself is worth a trip to Monmouth County. North to South, Ocean Avenue takes you to all the timeless, beautiful beaches including Asbury Park, Seven Presidents, Sea Bright, Monmouth Beach, and Sandy Hook. No matter where you go, the sand will be hot, the sun will be shining, and the waves will be crashing. Oh, and P.S., the beach will be full of cute surfers and lifeguards.
What is better than stores on the beach? Pier Village, located in Long Branch, is a must go to. Molly and Zoey is my favorite stores, since it is home to the trendiest clothes and they are affordable. What makes Molly and Zoey even better is it’s not just one store...but two. Yes, you heard right, there are two different Molly and Zoey stores located right next to each other. One is home to the best going out, trendy, and edgy clothes, while the other is has a more beachy casual flare. So whether you are looking to go bold, or casual, Molly and Zoey has got you covered. Pier Village is also home to stores such as Nirvana and Lululemon, and restaurants such as Mcloone's, Sirenna, and Playa Bowls (yes another one).
The Grove in Shrewsbury is also a great spot to hit the shops. The Grove is an outdoor shopping plaza with stores such as Francesca's, South Moon Under, Free People, Lululemon, Madewell, Blue Mercury, and so many more. It is basically the Westport of Monmouth County.
Monmouth County is only a 40 minute Ferry ride from New York City, so if you get sick of going to the beach, hop on the ferry and enjoy a day in the best city in the world. The ferries are located in Atlantic Highlands and the Highlands. Not only will this ferry bring you to New York city, the ride itself is outstanding, as you slowly transition from the views of the beach towns to the views of the city, including the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, and the Empire State Building. Oh, and did I mention that the ferries have a bar on board?
Although I may be biased, as I was born and raised on the Jersey Shore, I truly believe you will find my little beach town worth the trip. So mark your calendars for this summer, and head on down to the “lowkey Jersey Shore”