Even if you prefer to spend your time horizontal on a towel, there’s just something about being at the beach that makes food taste better. If you’ve rented a house, you could theoretically pack your own lunch to eat on the sand, but hey, you’re on vacation. Plus, daytrips to the Jersey Shore are also fun, since you get to come home and take advantage of the nightlife in the city, but you still gotta eat while you’re down there.
This summer, satisfy the appetite brought on by hot sun and salt air with a grab-and-go meal from one of these spots — we’ve picked a great option for each of the southern shore towns.
Founded in 1977, this is one of the shore’s few remaining independent butcher shops. But it’s also got a killer deli counter, where you can order everything from hoagies (yeah they call ‘em subs, but we know what’s right) to cheesesteaks to roast beef specials — and they’re all pretty cheap, especially by Philly standards. The chicken salad is a customer favorite, and when you’re thinking about sides, don’t miss the chance to try the housemade beef jerky.
3305 W Brigantine Ave, Brigantine, 609-266-1588
Yes, owner Michael Hauke is a bit of a media hound, but even his publicity stunts have heart. He made the news two years ago for “banning” Donald Trump from his establishment, and most recently caught a viral wave with his idea for a “taco pizza” — that crust topped with tacos actually could work at the beach, as long as you bring plenty of plates. There’s also a selection of creative sandwiches, like the Gaucho, which features chimichurri, housemade fresh mozz and fried jalapenos on either beef, chicken or cauliflower.
300 Oriental Ave., Atlantic City, 609-344-8669
Two years ago, Caroline “Cookie” Till decided to branch out from Margate standby Steve & Cookie’s, where she made most of the pastries served at dessert since its 1998 opening. She partnered with friend and baker Kim Richmond to open this standalone bakeshop. There’s lots of sweets — scones, cookies, muffins, bars and biscotti — but also a selection of savory handpies and tarts, which make good sand-resistant snacks. On weekend there’s also the option to pick up a ham and cheese on a fresh-baked bun.
7311 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor City, 609-246-7097
If the donuts are hot out of the fryer, it’ll be hard to resist added a couple to your take-out lunch from this beachside shack, but beach appetites require more than just sugar. Beef it up with one of the quarter-pound franks, loaded with toppings of your choice (chili, kraut, onions, cheese). Other options include battered corn dogs, chicken fingers or sandwiches, fries, and even a caesar salad, if you want to pretend to be healthy.
9315 Amherst Ave., Margate, 609-823-8790
When Hurricane Sandy flooded and shut down this longtime favorite, the Longport community let out a collective gasp. It reopened after several months of rehab just in time for that summer season, and has remained just as busy ever since. Dishes like pancakes or waffles are best at the diner’s counter or booths, but you can also snag food to go. Try the breakfast burrito, the breakfast sandwich oozing with cheddar, or any of the various deli sandwiches and wraps.
2401 Atlantic Ave., Longport, 609-487-0575
Of all the shore towns, this one probably has the most solid take-out lunch options, including plenty of shacks right along the boardwalk. But it also has this new service that wins out on ease and convenience. Pull up the mobile site on your phone, tap a few menu items — BLT? Wings? Crab cake? Grilled cheese? — enter your card info and place your order. Not long later, a delivery person will stroll up to your actual spot on the beach and hand you a hot, fresh-cooked meal. Instant picnic on the sand.
It sometimes seems like this tiny town has almost as many eating and drinking establishments as it does residents, but this is one of the best bets if you’re looking for food to take with you. The lunch menu includes all the regular sandwich suspects, both hot and cold, including a house-roasted pork and beef. There’s also hand-scooped ice cream if you want a treat while you wait for your order (it can get busy, in Strathmere-relative terms).
705 Commonwealth Dr., Strathmere, 609-263-7773
Sure, there’s now two outposts of this square-pizza specialist in the city proper, but Sea Isle is where it all started back in 1998. In addition to the rectangular pies — the breakfast pizza is famous, with scrambled eggs, american cheese and sausage or bacon — there’s easy-transport items like strombolis and boli buns, along with a whole complement of cheesesteaks and hoagies. Plus, delivery directly to the beach? Uncle Oogie’s does it too.
6118 Landis Ave., Sea Isle City, 609-263-6086
One of those spots you might not know about, but as soon as you do, you’ll be going back every time you’re “cooler by a mile.” It’s not that the sandwiches, wraps, salads and sides are that unique, it’s just that they’re done with care — and, kinda rare in tourist areas — always served with a smile. In the spot’s eight years in business, plenty of others have figured that out, too, so expect summer lines.
3101 Dune Dr., Avalon, 609-368-6453
Quahogs Seafood Shack is a well-known destination for casual dinner in this swank shore town, but for daytime eats, its sister Mexican food shack is where to go. Walk up to the order window and choose from a dozen or so burritos and quesadillas, add sides like guac, salsa, grilled corn and rice and beans, then throw your own private fiesta on the beach. Cash only.
206 97th St., Stone Harbor, 609-368-6300
You can’t miss this bright yellow shack dropped among a sea of white beach houses, nor do you want to. The veal-beef-pork franks are housemade, then served dressed with toppings either classic or zany. Double-stacked burgers are another choice, or chicken cutlet, or sausage on a roll. There’s also seafood, veg and vegan options, plus fresh-cut french fries with optional spice seasoning.
806 New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood, 609-846-0444
This relative newcomer to the party-hardy town is a must-visit if you’re a burger person. The stuffed patties come in varieties like Italian (roasted peppers and prov inside the meat) or jalapeno popper, with the sliced peppers and cream cheese cooked right in. Fresh, never frozen, chicken breast sandwiches are available for non-beef-eaters, as are a few salads and of course fries and onion rings on the side.
3421 Pacific Ave., Wildwood, 609-602-1522
Jamaica native Charles Regal sprinkles the menu at his seasonal shop just off Diamond Beach with a few Caribbean dishes — and there are also Jamaican bottled sodas on offer — but mostly the breakfast and lunch menus are full of American faves. BBQ is served at night (return one time for the killer ribs), so during the day things like pulled pork and blackened mahi sandwiches are definitely the smart choice.
9501 Atlantic Ave., Wildwood Crest, 609-522-2311
Indulge in your best throwback memories by choosing PB&J for your beach eats at this nut-happy retail shop that also does sandwiches and sweets to go. Choose from more than 10 different nut butters and 40 varieties of jam and jelly, or go for a pre-designed special like the Monkey’s Uncle (PB + banana) or the Fireside Delight (chocolate PB + Fluff). Also check out the peanut butter smoothies for a cool, easy snack.
516 Carpenter Ln., Cape May 609-898-4444