It is very hard to anticipate the fine food and picturesque views that the Atlantic Bar and Grill provides as you are pulling into the parking lot of the Island Beach Motor Lodge, but do not be dismayed. At the end of that long row of numbered doors and parked cars, awaits a wonderful culinary adventure led by the very talented Chef Michael d’Ennery (formally of Trinity Restaurant in Keyport.) I stumbled onto Chef d’Ennery’s work a few years ago when I had heard rumors of an innovative new chef fresh out of New Orleans who was dishing up some really exciting plates emphasizing New Jersey local fare. I quickly fell in love with not only the fruits of his labor, but with the hardworking Chef himself. Chef d’Ennery is one of those eat-sleep-and-breath-it food kind of guys, as you quickly learn within minutes of chatting with him. Just check out his Facebook status. When he’s not cooking it, he’s talking about it. Being a Chef is a vocation not a job by any means for this man. So, when we got a tip that one of our favorite chefs had moved to the Atlantic Bar & Grill, we followed.
Once we found our way into the restaurant, (Its a crazy walk to the entrance. You enter in what appears to be the back door. Just follow the signs.) we positioned ourselves at the bar. The bar is by far the best place to get the inside scoop from other patrons and the bartender on what is really happening. It also provides a beautiful view of the ocean which is not available from the lower dining area. The lower level is encased with windows on all sides which look out onto the sand dunes, very cool atmosphere as well. Outside dining on the deck is also available.
Owner, Joe Leone, (no relation to Point Pleasant Beach’s Joe Leone Italian Specialty Store) opened the Atlantic Bar and Grill 12 years ago. As the owner of the Motor Lodge, he thought it would be nice for the residents of the motel to have a place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After a few years in the restaurant business, he decided to put it in the capable hands of a seasoned professional, Ed Gaffney. In his position as manager for ten years now, Ed has changed the restaurant to a dinner spot that diners travel great distances to enjoy. “I just got lucky.” Joe confessed, “I had a great Manager and now, I’m going on my second excellent chef. I just let them do their thing.” No sweeter words could be spoken to Michael d’Ennery.
Thankfully, Joe is letting Chef d’Ennery do his thing, like source locally grown organic produce from Silverton Farms in Toms River and other New Jersey Farms. I paid a visit to Silverton Farms to see for myself where Atlantic Bar & Grill is getting their goodies. Driving onto the property is like taking a trip back in time. The only sounds are the distant clucking of chickens and the occasional crunch of gravel under the tires of a patron looking for today’s picks. In one of the baskets in the quaint general store were Garlic Scapes. I noticed them on the menu at Atlantic Bar & Grill and confess that I had no clue what they were, which is another reason I love Chef’s who make it their mission to menu around locally grown produce. It forces the average uneducated consumer (i.e., me) to actually try different things.
On our last visit while seated at the bar, we soon got involved in a conversation with the couple next to us who told us they have been regulars for at least seven years. I asked our new friends what their favorites were. Lorraine leans toward the seafood selections of crab cake and salmon. She says they never fail. Stephen on the other hand admits to indulging in the pork belly (pictured left) from time to time. I believe he said that he feels less guilty by starting the meal off with another of his favorites, the Tuna Tartare. When Stephen mentioned the Pork Belly, I remembered Chef d’Ennery’s penchant for pork. At ABG Pork lovers will never have to worry. Pork in one form or fashion will always be a staple on Chef d’Ennery’s menu. The Honey Cherry Pepper Glazed 14 oz. Pork Rib Chop is a regular as is the Simply Grazin Pork Belly with sweet soy glaze, watermelon, green jalapeno sauce and pork rinds. We sampled the Pork Belly on a recent visit to ABG, and two words sum it up; sweet sin. You know you are being bad and you just don’t give a damn.
After chatting with our neighbors, it was time to eat. Peter and I decided on lighter fare this visit. We started off with some beauties from the Raw menu. The raw clams served with tomato horseradish granita (cocktail sauce frozen and shaved and pictured above) were pretty and delicious. The Shrimp cocktail was served with 3 very different sauces. I loved the mustard sauce using Zatarain’s creole mustard, which is a shout out to Chef’s New Orlean’s roots once again. In the far right of the picture above is a bowl of roasted garlic and oil that also kept me very happy.
For dinner, we took Lorraine’s lead and ordered the Smoked Pepper Roasted Scottish Salmon with “Dirty” Wild Rice with Local Duck & Foie gras, Roasted asparagus, creole tomato butter sauce. (pictured above). Chef d’Ennery is the one who taught me that I “must eat the skin” of the fish that he cooks. He actually caught me picking it off the first time we met. (That was the last time I did that.) So, consequently, I have learned to cook fish the proper way, and to eat it the proper way. The salmon was cooked to perfection as was the skin. The rice was extremely “wild” and required a bit of chewing, but that’s what wild rice is supposed to require and we loved it.
We ended our meal with another light menu option, homemade Watermelon Granita. Another regular on the dessert menu is ice cream brought in from Princeton’s The Bent Spoon. For those of you who flip to the dessert section first, click here for the whole list of “sweets.”
Entree prices range from a $25 burger. Yes, you heard me. But, let me explain. This is no ordinary burger. I almost hesitate to put it in the burger category. 100% organic/pastured Simply Grazin’ Hamburger topped with a thick slab of Hudson Valley foie gras, truffle cheese, onion marmalade, herb garlic aioli, homemade ketchup, brioche, truffle french fries along with the Chef’s side note: will not cook more than medium please. Like I said, not your ordinary burger. Prices range from mid-twenties to high thirties. Actually the best way to check out there prices is to look at their Facebook page for specials and their regular online menu. Their menu changes approximately once per month.
Under the new direction of Chef d’Ennery, the Atlantic Bar & Grill is truly making a name for itself in the farm to table movement. I hope you’ll visit and let the Louisiana boy (only six years in the Garden State) know that we appreciate his dedication to showcasing New Jersey’s finest. And, if you really want to get on his good side, order the pork belly and don’t you dare take the skin off the fish.
Atlantic Bar & Grill
24th & Central Avenue
South Seaside Park (just look for the Island Beach Motor Lodge)
On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AtlanticBarandGrill
For more views of Silverton Farms, check out our Photo Album on Facebook.
Deborah Smith , Founder and Executive Editor of JerseyBites.com. Launched in 2007 as a home for her growing collection of recipes, Jersey Bites soon grew into a hub for all things edible in the Garden State. Deborah is also the owner ofParents With Nannies, Inc. which operates a network of nanny employment websites established in 1999. In her spare time, (Ha) she works as a Social Media consultant and speaker. You can learn more about her services and marketing through social media on her blogwww.DeborahLSmith.com