Classic seafood in a Classy seaside spot
Published in the Courier-News 07/20/00
By HILARY HARDING
If you have ever been to Sandy Hook National Park, you have seen it. Bahrs Landing, or more popularly, Bahrs, with its somewhat ramshackle external appearance, dominates the view to the left as you cross the bridge leading to the park.
Inside, Bahrs looks like most of the simple, cheerful shore restaurants that operate up and down the coast from Maine to New Jersey, where I ate during my childhood. These restaurants serve seafood as well as steak and pasta. We liked the basics the best: steamers, broiled and fried seafood and a good, beefy steak.
Bahrs has been around since 1917, when John Bahr and his wife, Flo, opened a motel for fishermen and also sold bait, tobacco and soft drinks. When a storm grounded the fishermen, Bahrs started serving them meals.They put out breakfasts of fried eels, eggs and buckwheat pancakes and hearty lunches and dinners, freshly-caught fish, stews and Jack’s still-famous clam chowder.
They haven’t stopped since. The restaurant is now run by Ray Cosgrove and his son Jay, grandson and great-grandson of the founders. It is much larger now, with outside dining at their marina, and ‘‘Moby’s’’ for beachside dining. The latter serves fish sandwiches and burgers as well as shore dinners.
The restaurant’s longevity alone told us we needed to try it. We suspected it might be only tradition that kept it going, but we were wrong. The food was better than your average contemporary shore food. The service was far and away better than what today’s typical staff can muster.
On The Menu
BAHRS LANDING RESTAURANT:
2 Bay Ave., Highlands/Sandy Hook. (732) 872 -1245. www.bahrs.com
HOURS: March to October: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. November to February: noon to 9 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; noon to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 1-8 p.m. Sundays. Lunch served until 4:30 p.m. every day. Dinner served all day.
PAYMENT: All major cards.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations not accepted; Call in advance to be on courtesy seating list (waiting list).
HANDICAPPED ACCESS: Can accommodate wheelchairs.
SMOKING: Smoking area available.
ATMOSPHERE: Nostalgia personified. Atmosphere hasn’t changed much since the 1950s. Every table has a view of the water.
SERVICE: Terrific service – informal, friendly and efficient.
VALUE: Good value for old fashioned, good quality shore food. Price range of main courses, $12.95 to $26.95.
FOOD: Seafood, steak and pasta.
RATING: Three Stars
We stopped there on the way home after trying to catch a glimpse of the Tall Ships of Op Sail 2000, anchored at Sandy Hook on July 3.
Bahrs doesn’t accept reservations, but if you call in advance, it will put you on a waiting list, which cuts down the wait when you get there. We arrived about two hours later than we had told them we would be there because of traffic. It was approaching the end of a very long, busy day at the restaurant, and the staff’s energy level was clearly fading. Nevertheless, we were greeted very courteously and seated at our table before we even had a chance to order drinks at the bar. The table (like every table in the dining room) had a good view of the water. Our server looked tired, but she remained cheerful and attentive throughout the evening.
As for the food, we were mainly pleased. Jack’s famous Manhattan clam chowder ($3 for a bowl, $4.50 for a cup) was delicious, filled with fresh clams and flavors that had been allowed to mature.
We also loved the steamers (market price)– plump, delicious and very clean. We hardly needed the broth, served traditionally for washing off extraneous sand. Fried calamari served with marinara sauce ($8.50) was fine, but not first rate. Clams casino ($7.95) were good, but I prefer them with the traditional bacon bits, which these lacked.
Main courses included all the traditional shore dishes: lobsters of all sizes, stuffed, broiled and fried seafood, steak and seafood combinations and soft-shell crabs which Bahrs harvests themselves.
We loved the seared salmon fillet topped with shrimp and served over sauteed spinach with garlic butter ($19.95). Also superior was the 14-ounce Omaha Black Angus King steak ($21.95), with rich beefy flavor and perfectly charbroiled to order.
Dinner specials included some fancier dishes such as lobster bisque (sadly, it was all gone), stuffed artichoke hearts, bronzed mako and bluefish served Cajun-style.
From this list we chose sauteed tilapia ($19.95) with artichoke hearts and garlic herb butter. It sat atop sun-dried tomato, mushroom orzo (tiny, rice-shaped pasta). The fish was slightly underdone, which the kitchen quickly addressed.
Also from the specials list was lobster Nantucket ($24.94), a one-pound lobster stuffed with shrimp, scallops and Ritz cracker crumbs, a very tasty but rich combination.
The three stars this restaurant earned was based primarily on service and atmosphere, but the food is not far behind.
from the Courier News
Published on July 20, 2000