Jack Baker's Wharfside

 Jack Baker’s restaurants are a Shore staple.  With nine different locations scattered throughout New Jersey there is a something for everyone.  On this particular night in February we decided to visit Jack Baker’s side by side Wharfside and LobsterShanty restaurants on Channel Drive in Point Pleasant Beach. Just around the corner from the Manasquan Inlet, this area suffered heavy damage during Hurricane Sandy and while the rebuilding is progressing, it is still early in the recovery process.

Our first inclination was to have dinner at the Lobster Shanty.  The Lobster Shanty is known for its fresh seafood and for the Sunset Ballroom banquet hall, which boasts beautiful waterside views.  On this night a private event was being held and the ballroom was appointed beautifully with white flowers matching white tablecloths.   We proceeded past the bar and into the dining room – only to face a brand new wall!  The hostess, amused at our confusion, came over to explain that the dining room sustained heavy storm damage and was being rebuilt.  In order to maintain the ambiance of the banquet hall, a new wall was built to hide the ongoing repairs from the public.  And it worked – one would never know where the original doorway was located.

So after a laugh we made our way to the Wharfside Restaurant, and upon inquiring was informed that this location was just a bit higher in elevation and had ‘just missed’ being flooded by Hurricane Sandy. 

Open every day for lunch and dinner, the Wharfside was one of only a very few restaurants in the area to escape serious damage during the storm. The restaurant features daily dining and drink specials, and has a full wine list.  The outside dining is closed for the winter, but we were assured that it is undamaged and both the Patio Bar and the outdoor restaurant will open as soon as weather permits.

Wharfside Bar
We settled down in the bar area for what turned out to be a very short wait during which time we enjoyed spectacular views of the Manasquan river and Gull Island County Park. Gull Island is only visible during low tide, and is covered with seagulls much of the time.   Boaters and naturalists find this little island a delight for picnics. 

We were shown to a lovely table for two next to a window with a wonderful view of the outdoor Patio Bar which also overlooks Gull Island.  The dining room, while busy, has a lovely ambiance that provides waterfront views on three sides.  The tables along the interior hold parties of eight or more, while the tables and booths along the windows seat two to 6.  In the distance, remains of the homes along the Manasquan Inlet – some boarded up, others gutted and awaiting repairs, offered a constant reminder of Hurricane Sandy.  The commercial fishing boats seemed undamaged, coming and going past the restaurant as we dined, followed by the ever hopeful flocks of seagulls looking for a handout.

Our waiter, Shane, was both friendly and knowledgeable, fully explaining the daily specials as the complimentary signature coleslaw was placed on the table.  This freshly made local favorite is served lightly chilled and topped with just the right amount of paprika. The bread basket offered garlic toast and Jack Bakers’ own special recipe for zeppoles – delightful deep fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar. Bakers’ zeppoles would be at home on any dessert tray – but you get to eat them before dinner!  One of the joys of Shore dining!
Teriyaki Steak Bites
The appetizer menu has a wide variety of seafood and meat appetizers ($8 - $12) to suit every taste.  A raw bar is also available.  My date chose the Steamers, which were plentiful enough to share, while I chose the Teriyaki Steak bites with Horseradish dipping sauce.   Salads are prepared tableside, with your choice of lettuce, vegetables, and the freshly prepared dressing of your choice. 

Garlic Lobster
After polishing off the bread basket, appetizers, and salad I wondered how I’d have room for dinner but I couldn’t resist the tempting Garlic Lobster Entrée – fresh picked lobster meat with grape tomatoes, garlic and herbs in a light sherry sauce over linguini.  The menu is a seafood lover’s dream – Jumbo Shrimp & Scallops, Crab, and Lobster – and for the landlubbers the steaks and chicken are top notch.  I ordered the 10oz marinated Black Angus sirloin which was served piping hot and very tender.  Entrees ($18 - $29) come with the salad, and sides such as potatoes or chefs’ rice, and the portions are enough to bring some home for lunch. 

We followed up dinner with a signature hot cocoa with a touch of Chambord Black Raspberry Liquor and some fresh whipped cream.   It was the perfect ending to a lovely dinner.

If you go: During the winter months, parking is never an issue but in the summer be sure to use the restaurant’s free parking lot if you can as most of the street parking is metered.  Valet parking is another option, especially if you are attending an event.  Boat parking is first come first served, and there are no docking fees while you dine. Reservations are not required, but in the summer expect to wait to get a table in the outside areas.  Dress is casual, but be sure to wear shoes and a shirt. Families are welcome and there are plenty of menu choices for the little ones. - Debbie Miksiewicz for Inlets and Outlets.

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