Lovingly referred to as “the Shore,” New Jersey’s coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches within driving distance of NYC. From Sandy Hook to Cape May, the Shore is lined with many resort towns worthy of exploration, but none are experiencing a renaissance like Asbury Park—a small, quirky town on the cusp of becoming New York City’s biggest beach destination. Originally developed in the 1920s, Asbury Park has famously bred rockstars like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, and was a second home to Johnny Cash, who practically lived at the now 100-year-old Berkeley Hotel (whispers say you can rent out his old room, “The Johnny Cash Suite,” on the top floor). But in between the decaying Victorian architecture, abandoned carousels, and aging boardwalk gypsies new life is emerging. With a diverse mix of new art, music and cuisine—and the highly anticipated opening of the luxury Asbury Ocean Club resort and residences—the future is bright with the rebirth of this seaside town.
The Asbury Hotel
The first hotel to open in the area in almost 50 years, The Asbury Hotel is arguably the wind that turned Asbury Park’s tide in attracting out-of-towners. Designed by Anda Andrei—the designer behind Gramercy Park Hotel, Delano, and much of Asbury Park’s revitalization—the hotel oozes rock’n’roll with its vintage pinball machines, music posters, and painted song lyrics on walls from the likes of Blondie and The Rolling Stones. The Asbury Hotel aims to cultivate community, and so features a stage for live music and poetry readings, an outdoor space for yoga and movies nights, and a rooftop for sunset cocktails.
High Voltage Café
The sea-front, plant-filled oasis of High Voltage Café provides a peaceful respite from the hot boardwalk sun. A European-inspired eatery with serious coffee culture, the beach outpost of this café (they have a second location downtown) is perfect for a casual morning business meeting, a late brunch or afternoon espresso. Although many varieties of local coffee from drip to cold brew to pour over are served, we suggest the Lavender Latte, a perfect accompaniment while you sit back and watch the sea.
Pascal & Sabine
Stepping into Pascal & Sabine makes you forget you’re in America, let alone the Jersey Shore. Sipping a French Blonde in a deep brown, leather banquette under the dim light of a vintage red library lamp might resemble a romantic evening in Paris. Named for the two young protagonists from the Oscar-winning French film The Red Balloon, this French bistro blends tradition and whimsy to provide an exceptionally unique evening.
Asbury continues the tradition of keeping its roots alive with the newly renovated Asbury Lanes, a vintage bowling alley and performance space featuring live music, boozy milkshakes and pork roll waffle sandwiches. Originally opened in the 1960s and known for its legendary punk rock shows, the refurb of this beloved Asbury landmark has been well received by the community. Bruce Springsteen performed at their June 2018 reopening, and the venue plans to continue its showcase of great musical acts through a partnership with Bowery Presents.
You will never leave Porta without having a great time. While their pizza has been praised as being some of the best in the country (the 14 ½ with spicy soppressata is the go-to order, but vegan pizza is offered as well), it’s the atmosphere Porta really gets right. Set up in a massive industrial-like warehouse that used to be home to a number of nightclubs back in the day, the space has a raucous yet cozy ambiance with rustic communal tables, reclaimed wood walls and live music. Is there anything better than pizza, beer and tunes after a day at the beach?
Exhibit No. 9
Asbury is painted with exhibitions, galleries and public murals. In the heart of downtown, contemporary gallery and studio Exhibit No. 9 is a big part of the town’s growing and vibrant art scene. With an exciting rotation of exhibitions, artists and artist residencies from around the world, you’ll find yourself re-curating your walls each time you visit.
Not to be overshadowed by its famous neighbor, the Stone Pony, Wonder Bar upholds Asbury’s rock’n’roll reputation with live bands almost every night. But Wonder Bar is unique for two reasons: painted on the side of its structure is a massive tribute to Asbury’s iconic mascot, the “fun face Tillie,” and its open-door policy to all—even our furry friends. The daily “Yappy Hour” allows dogs of all breeds and sizes to socialize with their neighbors.
Images courtesy of respective venues