Home Made Jersey Shore Video:
Tastes of the Jersey Shore
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By: Tom Wilk
From saltwater taffy to seafood dinners, the Jersey Shore has always offered vacationers plenty of options to satisfy any appetite. Author Karen L. Schnitzspahn takes a look at the foods that lined the boardwalks and filled the dinner plates at Shore restaurants in “Jersey Shore Food History: Victorian Feasts to Boardwalk Treats” (American Palate/The History Press; 2012).
“Food is a big part of the Shore culture,” she says, in explaining the inspiration for the book. A New Jersey native who lives in Little Silver, Schnitzspahn fondly recalls visiting her grandparents in Margate in the 1950s.
“I remember going to Hackney’s and ordering lobster as a child. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” she says. The Atlantic City restaurant accommodated up to 3,200 patrons and featured waitresses in lobster costumes at the Miss America parade and in promotional materials to highlight its signature dish.
Schnitzspahn shows how Shore cuisine has evolved from the 19th century to the present. An 1850 breakfast menu from Congress Hall in Cape May offers standard fare, such as scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. However, the first four items listed are unlikely to grace most breakfast tables today: beef steaks, mutton chops, fresh fish and tripe. “I think that was the European influence,” she says, as the breakfast offerings also included kidneys, liver and clam fritters.
Other popular dishes fell out of favor with the passage of time. Celia Brown’s, a Belmar drive-in, offered a pineapple with cream cheese sandwich for 20 cents in the mid-1930s. And restaurants were not above adding a side of hyperbole to their meals. “We make the best Chocolate Ice Cream Soda in the World or any other place,” Celia Brown’s menu proclaimed.
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Schnitzspahn offers short profiles of Shore institutions, including Kohr Brothers ice cream, Max’s Famous Hot Dogs in Long Branch and the Knife and Fork Inn in Atlantic City. Interspersed through the book are 90 photographs and illustrations. Some demonstrate the visual element in marketing food and drink.
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Atlantic City celebrated the occasion with a merry-go-round bar that made it stand out from other watering holes. The WindMill restaurant in Long Branch remains a landmark that creates a lasting impression with its white vanes.
To give readers the opportunity to sample Shore cuisine through the ages, Schnitzspahn has reprinted more than 20 recipes. They range from an 1873 recipe for mock turtle soup served at the West End Hotel in Long Branch to a recipe for funnel cake, the popular boardwalk snack.
“I like to eat, but I don’t consider myself a foodie,” says Schnitzspahn, who tried out some of the recipes with her two grandchildren, including one for blancmange from the 19th century.
Today, she sees the Shore adapting to keep up with culinary trends, such as the farm-to-table movement and the growing demand for organic food. “There are now more vegetarian options and vegan restaurants,” she says.
Schnitzspahn believes Shore restaurants can handle all tastes. “There’s something for everybody, whether you want to hold a meal in your hand or sit down to a spectacular five-course dinner.”
View A Slide Show of 1900s New Jersey photos here.
History of the New Jersey Board Walk
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Nothing is more New Jersey than its boardwalks. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents enjoy the unique entertainment that these iconic wooden pathways provide along the Jersey Shore.
Many towns along the state’s 130 miles of ocean coastline boast a boardwalk and each one has its own individuality. Family-friendly, bustling, romantic or sophisticated, Jersey Shore boardwalk towns have dozens of distinct styles that appeal to all ages.
The boardwalk as we know it today – a raised promenade of plank boards straddling the sandy coastline – first appeared in Atlantic City in 1870, making it the world’s first. Today, it’s also the world’s longest.
Its initial purpose was pragmatic, intending to minimize the amount of sand trafficked into seaside hotels and train cars, but it wasn’t long before the boardwalk was inserted into the public consciousness as a symbol of good times and easy living.
New Jersey boardwalks are very distinctive. Writer Jeff Schlegel put it best in an article in the Washington Post, when he stated candidly, “With all due respect to Coney Island and Virginia Beach, no place in the country matches the breadth and depth of boardwalk culture found along the Jersey Shore.”
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In addition to Atlantic City, Jersey Shore boardwalks offer something for everyone. The mile long boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach is a super family-friendly promenade with tons of rides and arcades for kids, a wide beach, restaurants, bars and even an aquarium.
To the south of Point Pleasant Beach is the Seaside Heights boardwalk that features the Casino and Funtown piers amusement parks. The mile long boardwalk is action-packed and one of the most popular and most visited in the state and is a magnet for young people. It’s full of game stands, rides, arcades and even a waterpark.
Near the southern most tip of New Jersey Wildwood has a total of five amusement piers, dozens of carnival games, souvenir shops, food stands, waterparks and world-class roller coasters. This bustling boardwalk draws tons of visitors to enjoy all the amusements, the expansive beach and the many special events.
For those seeking a quieter setting Spring Lake offers residents and vacationers alike an unhurried and peaceful atmosphere that has made the town a highly-desirable destination at the Jersey Shore for more than 100 years. Along with its uncluttered beach, the two-mile long boardwalk is the longest non-commercial boardwalk in New Jersey and provides a unique atmosphere for all visitors.
So, when in New Jersey, don’t miss out on the unforgettable experience of visiting our state’s boardwalks.
Compiled By: Josh Martin