It's cycled through a couple different names and locations since its inception in 1976 but Dock's Clam Bar & Pasta House has always been owned by the same family. Kim and Trisha, daughters of the original owners, run the restaurant today. During their tenure as managers, they’ve revamped the menu to include homemade desserts and blackboard specials, and oversee chefs who stock the raw bar with half shells full of clams and oysters, heap linguine with shrimp, and stuff ravioli with lobster. Mixologists, meanwhile, rattle cocktail shakers full of spirits and tropical juices, to serve up fresh cocktails and drown out distracting siren calls.
Named for a type of plane tree with a broad, sprawling crown, Chinar on the Island shelters diners in a space designed to look like a breezy Mediterranean courtyard. Sandstone archways and clusters of palms surround diners as they tuck into appetizers, such as fresh mussels and saffron shrimp, or point out which of the clouds painted on the ceiling are shaped most like fried calamari.
For the main meal, shareable kebab plates skewer grilled meats and veggies, and pilaf dishes steam tender rice with spices and vegetables in a tangine, or earthenware pot. Hearty traditional dishes, such as roast quail or lamb slow-cooked on the bone, can fill bellies or weigh down brass display vessels commandeered for impromptu rounds of shot put.
At South Fin Grill, the ocean breeze mingles with a menu of upscale seafood and steakhouse dishes praised by New York magazine. Amid what critic Ethan Wolff describes as a "priceless" ocean view, servers roll out lobster, crab, swordfish, and salmon incarnated as pasta, soup, and sushi dishes. The "turf" portion of the menu showcases grilled new york sirloin, filet mignon, and barbecued pork, but the focus once again turns seaside at a raw bar that features clams and oysters kept fresh by pearl-shaped breath mints.
Beams of blue and yellow lighting hover above the interior dining tables, each blanketed with a white tablecloth and centered with a flickering candle. Outside, the ocean deck's sea-blue umbrellas shelter views of the boardwalk, ocean, and seagull beach volleyball tourneys. The restaurant bolsters its elegantly plated cuisine with occasional entertainment acts, which have included DJs.
The culinary wizards at Spanish Pavillion adroitly sate hunger pangs with their multifarious lunch and dinner menus that feature authentic Spanish cuisine. Noontime noshers feast on handheld victuals such as an imported ham-and-cheese panini with saffron aioli ($8) or delve carnivorously lunching forks into the meaty depths of the 8-ounce filet mignon with mojo verde ($16). During dinner, put kindergarten-honed sharing skills into practice with the savory tapas menu, which dishes out small plates including a Galician bean stew ($4), grilled chorizo ($9), and octopus with hot paprika ($11). Larger entrees include the paella calasparra, hosting a toothsome protein party of clams, mussels, prawns, calamari, scallops, chicken, shrimp, and chorizo congenially hot-tubbing in a saffron seafood broth ($26, $49 for two). Red-wine-braised short ribs delight mouths with their tender flavor-kisses ($24), and the 1.25-pound grilled twin lobsters team up in matching red costumes for a palatable duet ($31).
Jutting out over the salty waters of Raritan Bay, Jakeabob's Bay furnishes diners with picturesque views to accompany a menu of classic American and maritime fare. Tantalize taste buds with an appetizer of fried calamari with marinara sauce ($12) and bypass cumbersome cutlery with dishes such as the fried-tilapia fish taco served in a soft tortilla shell with pineapple chili ($12) or the fried-sea-scallop-and-wasabi-mayo sandwich ($11). Daily specials add variety to the standard menu with such variables as the lobster dinner ($17)—a steamy crustacean served whole, complete with its lobster bowtie. As they take in their nautical cuisine, diners catch between-bite views of the New York skyline and invigorating breaths of Atlantic wind.