Thursday, April 14, 2011

Where to Eat & Drink: Asbury Park Half Marathon Edition

If you're running the Asbury Park Half Marathon on Saturday, you've already gotten the email with dining recommendations.

Since there's only six on the list, here's my informal guide of where to go for what. I've included bars because, let's be honest, a lot of us run races then immediately participate in the sport known as "day drinking" to celebrate.

There *IS* a post-race party at Convention Hall, but if you want to do something different, or eat up the night before, here are some of my recommendations. Note! There are a lot more excellent Asbury Park dining options, but these are places for which I can vouch:

Wonderbar. This is the turquoise building with a giant Tilly on the side. Nothing fancy here, but they have my favorite post-race combo: slutty cheeseburgers and bloody marys (I am not suggesting that the cheeseburgers are easy - they're greasy and awesome. This from someone who doesn't like burgers). This is also the last place Bruce Springsteen dropped by to play a casual set.

Moonstruck. Not on the beach but on a lake - and still easy to walk to from the heart of town - this is a slightly upscale option for pre-race pasta and much more. It's a locals hang out, too.

Langosta Lounge. I heart this place, which touts "vacation cuisine." Good if you have a lot of people with different tastes in your group. The bar scene is busy if you're looking for ANOTHER kind of exercise (wink wink nudge nudge, say no more, say no more). Langosta was one of the places featured in this New York Times piece I wrote about nice places at the shore.

Brick Wall Tavern. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. The sliders are excellent, as is the beer selection. Casual place, too. Gets a more crowded and louder later at night, but you should be resting by then (right? RIGHT?!)

The Annex. This is more than next door to Brick Wall. If you go to the back of the restaurant, you'll see a big sliding door along the right wall. That goes into the Annex. The red sangria is excellent. It also has fun chalkboard walls.

Watermark. Fancy place that does drinks and tapas. I would think twice about coming here immediately after the race - unless you sat outside. Then again, they don't open until 5pm on Saturday. You'd feel pretty scuzzy by then. Also featured in that New York Times piece.

Stella Marina. On the boardwalk with more pasta options that you could ever hope to eat. My favorite memory was from summer 2009 while I was staying in the area, working on that New York Times piece. I travel alone for these kinds of pieces, and a guy had come up to me earlier that day and called me by a different name. He swore up and down that I was his ex-girlfriend. I was not. That night, I had dinner on the upstairs dining deck at Stella Marina. The same guy passed me but he was on the boardwalk, and yelled up at me, angry that I was eating alone. Weird memory. But good food.

Asbury Lanes. I put a bowling alley on here for two reasons. One, it's awesome. Two, they have the best tater tots on the face of the planet (and, yes, a bar). I know I'm going to want to walk right from the finish line into "the Lanes" as the locals call it, though they're only open from 8pm until 2am. Perhaps a Friday night snack.

Dauphin Grille. This is the new-ish restaurant and bar in the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, where I'm going to guess a lot of runners are staying. I stopped in here about a month ago, and they had Allagash White on tap. I didn't eat here, just had a drink, and I dug it. Classic shore restaurant feel. They open at noon on Saturday.

Nagles. This is in Ocean Grove (just south of Asbury and way easy to walk to), so it's dry. But if you've got kids with you, or really want ice cream, I highly recommend this former pharmacy. It's now more diner and ambiance. And did I mention the ice cream?

Like I said - this is a list based on my experiences. It's also done with runners in mind, which is why I kept a few gems off the list (I love you, Trinity and the Pope, but I just can't fit in you into the running equation). If you have any additions, drop them into the comments.

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