The Weekend Getaway: Asbury Park, NJ

So. I’m obsessed with the actual “Jersey Shore” and I have a past of being very outspoken about it. Personally, I find this to be completely normal. Not only is Jersey a lovely, dynamic place, but it’s also where I’m from. And, aren’t most people proud of where they’re from?

I grew up at Takanassee Beach Club in Elberon and, while Tak has since closed (#RIP), I still return each summer to spend weekends in Deal and Asbury Park with my family and friends. To me, the Jersey Shore has always just been home – a string of happy, little beaches filled with the brightest, childhood memories possible and interspersed with some of the best Italian food in the world. As I got older though, I quickly realized that – shocker, you guys – not everyone loves New Jersey! In fact, some people really hate us.

I couldn’t comprehend this at first. In college and abroad I would always be asked the staple getting-to-know-you question from various guys, “where are you from?” When responding with anything along the lines of “New Jersey” or “the Jersey Shore,” though, I received everything from laughter to hatred to the haughtiest of apologies for having come from such obvious trash.

Smooth, bros.

It seemed so utterly stupid to judge an entire state and its people off of one stereotype that, mind you, comes from people that are not even from New Jersey! More bothersome, though, was that I couldn’t fathom how someone could deem it appropriate and acceptable to bash someone’s answer to the question “Where are you from?” I mean, isn’t exercising verbal restraint regarding judging another’s home or cultural background LITERALLY RULE NUMBER ONE in having any semblance of manners?

But, alas, I digress. This post isn't for the haters, but for the lovers - and to them, I say welcome! Welcome to the Jersey Shore…the greatest country in the world. 

Where To Stay 

The Berkeley Carteret if you're looking for modern luxury. The Berkeley is a 100 year-old hotel of Victorian style and grandeur that sits atop the famed Asbury Boardwalk. It is so large and sprawling that it can comfortably host large wedding parties without interferring in your small, romantic retreat.

Tides Hotel if you're gay. And fun. Tides is plenty of both, not to mention utterly charming.

The Empress Hotel also if you're gay. However, not a requirement. The Empress has been around fo'eva, having sunk in and rose up with the tides of Asbury's economy over the years. A resort that once hosted the likes of Liza Minelli and Judy Garland and graced the cover of Springsteen's records, The Empress is as iconic and special to the town as Jersey's unspoken mascot, tillie. 

Where to Eat

Toast - for dressing up and going to a delicious brunch with friends 

Porta - for not dressing up and going to brunch for $10 bottomless mimosas. Also, for phenomenal brick oven pizza. Also, for roofies maybe. More on this later.

Frank’s Restaurant – for the most authentic porkroll egg and cheese you’ll ever have. Cash-only and I would recommend take-out.

Goldie’s – for vegan selections or something simply more on the healthy side, accompanied by gorgeous décor in the heart of the arts district.

The Sunset Landing – for feeling as if you're in Grandma's Hawaiian kitchen. A (very) small mom n’ pop place with an open kitchen and surfboards hanging from the ceiling, The Sunset Landing resides on the Asbury Park lake where you can feed the ducks while sipping carrot ginger juice.

Langosta Lounge – for seafood/sushi accompanied by live music and boardwalk seating

Cubacan -  for date night with contemporary cuban with latin fare on the hottest spot on the boardwalk. 

Where to Go Out

Watermark - for the first drink of the trip at least. This cocktail lounge is set in the heart of the boardwalk across from the aforementioned, famed Empress and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The unique cocktails are deliciously crafted by attentive staff in a relaxed, open setting with crisp white lounges and modern couches that you don't have to pay $1000 to sit on. Imagine that!

Beach Bar - for the rum buckets! A great spot to get tuned up with a big group of friends, slightly more north along the boardwalk. While there is some roof coverage, it is pretty much entirely outdoors. Anchor's Bend is right around the corner and generally has live music for a quick visit or change of scene.

Porta - for the experience. Porta is an old-warehouse-turned-gorgeous-three-space-bar with outdoor seating, high-lofted ceilings and a boom-boom-room like no other. It's drawn quite a lot of attention and criticism regarding its rowdiness which makes it, unfortunately, an attraction for fist-pumping visitors. Clearly, though, visitors aren't the only ones patronizing the bar regularly; it's a locals hang as well. Just watch your drink, as the place is rumored to be a roofies hub, and we all know there's nothing like a good 'ol roofie to spoil your day.

Johnny Mac's - for the free pizza ALL day EVERY day. Also for the "Irish Village" decor and late-nighting since it tends to stay open until 2-2:30 whereas most local bars close around 1:30 instead.


The Weekend Getaway: Montauk, NY

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Ditch Plains, Montauk, NY

Ditch Plains, Montauk, NY

And so it began: my very first trip to the Long Island coastline.

The roads were a deepening dark. Shadows loomed around every bend, and with the tank nearing empty at a quickening pace, I was scared, anxious… and alone.

LOLLL, JK!  It was 11AM on a gorgeous day and I was with my boyfriend.  And his family.  And, like, 28 of their closest friends.  Just keeping you on your toes.

It was, however, truly my first time “out east,” as they so fancily say and I did have just a tad bit of nervous excitement about it (but, you know, in a totally very casual and cool way, right?).

Anyway.

Having been raised on the beaches of Jersey, not once did I find it strange growing up that I had never been to other popular, North East shore towns. Ocean City, Maryland and Delaware’s Dewey and Bethany Beach seemed, quite frankly, unnecessary trips. And, Long Island? Well, that just seemed silly. If I could ride my bike to the beach, why would I ever get in a car for the same thing?

Nonetheless, despite all my former protests and reasoning, here I was, so as not to remain ‘ignant, driving out of the city on a Wednesday for an extended-weekend stay in Montauk.

Cruising through the Hampton towns, we passed a series of charming downtown areas, each one lined with a mélange of fancy, high-end stores mixed in with dainty mom n’ pop shops. We also, to matt’s delight, just missed the entrances to a few antique shops. I’m still reeling.  

In between towns I marveled at the wineries and large plots of appealing-yet-untouched land as commercial real estate grew fewer and farther between. Finally, after quite some time of shamelessly looking for celebrities while (also shamelessly) pretending I was auditioning for a role in The Great Gatsby, we arrived in Montauk. And, even the die-hard “Jersey Shore” girl in me has to admit, I loved it.

Of course, it likely helped that I was being shown around by a collection of 20+ year Montauk veterans. So check it out! 

Montauk Highlights: 

Where To Eat

Ditch Witch – Does Zagat rate food trucks? Because they should give Ditch Witch a 30. Serving up a variety of perfectly-pressed paninis, salads, quesadillas and smoothies, the Ditch Witch located at Ditch Plains beach was easily one of my favorite meals of the trip. I mean, who knew you could have freshly made mozz and local basil prepared on artisan bread at the beach? It's all about the paninis in bikinis.

John’s Drive-in – Located right in the downtown area, this classic drive-in spot has deliciously creamy hard ice-cream. I’m talking REAL GOOD, like stays-creamy-even-after-being-in-the-freezer-2-days and IDGAF-if-I’m-wearing-a-bikini-tomorrow-give-me-the-cake-batter-or-I-bite-your-hand-off good.

Montauk Golf Course – Apparently, this course is one of the top 10 hardest in the country, which is probably why they have a deliciously hearty breakfast to prep you for it. I lament to say, however, that the dog ate my clubs so I wasn’t able to participate this time and instead was resigned only to having breakfast overlooking the sprawling course. Ugh, FML.

Lobster Roll, aka LUNCH – To ease the sorrow of a vacation’s end, we decided to fill up on arguably the best lobster roll in the country on our way out of town. Award-winning and frequented by very big names, I once more shamelessly purveyed the scene in search of a famous face, and I think I may have seen Giuliana Rancic’s husband. Or I guess Bill Rancic? Whatever. He may not give the place any points, but the lobster, clam chowder and clams casino definitely do. 

And of course, at home! Beach life in Montauk is all about casual backyard grilling. Especially when you happen to be vacationing with a renowned NYC private chef. #amysamuel

What To do

Montauk Brewery – With a selection of deliciously smooth brews, you would never guess this place is only 2 years old and in its nascent brewery development. Go visit the brewery and sit down for a few samples with the ever-friendly Erin, pictured above.

Go fish! / Gosman’s – Montauk is widely known as the “fishing capital of the world” to many. Unfortunately, my vomition center (it’s a thing) doesn’t enjoy long spans of time on small boats in open seas, so I stayed on land. Conversely, the boyf digs fishing, so I still got to reap the benefits of his labor. My only regret is skipping out on the chance to sit at Gosman’s on the dock with some oysters and a cocktail as the boys came in from their trip. That, my friends, is my kind of fishing. It is also what repeat trips are for. :-)

The Beach – Duh.

Montauk Point Lighthouse - As a national historic landmark built in the 1700s and authorized by George Washington himself, it's worth the 5 minute drive. Plus, #selfienation.

Bonfires – Montauk allows bonfires on the beach at night which makes going to the bars vs. going back to the beach for drinks a very, very easy decision.  Reminiscent of late-nighting at Takanassee Beach in Long Branch, NJ as a kid, Ditch Plains had me feeling right at home.

And for some bonus shots!