Ah, downbeach. The Atlantic City-adjacent towns of Ventnor, Margate, and Longport lovingly call each summer to tens of thousands of visitors, many donning Ivy League T-shirts. They come to speed-walk or bicycle along the boardwalk. And eat.
Here’s what to do, and where to eat, in the three other towns on Abescon Island.
The Ventnor, Margate, and Longport beaches are great, beach-badge checkers notwithstanding. On weekends with lifeguard races, be sure to pack a thermos with vodka before you head out to watch, as the locals do.
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A Jersey Shore icon, the six-story wooden elephant is synonymous with Margate beaches. And even better, the 138-year-old National Historic Landmark isn’t just an Instagrammable monument: It’s also an AirBnB.
Stand on the Dorset Avenue Bridge on Aug. 1 and wait for the swimmers from the Jim Whelan Open Water Festival & Around the Island Marathon Swim, or take part yourself.
And if you prefer to fish instead of swim, fishing boats still run out of Ray Scott’s Dock in Margate, or rent a boat or kayak.
The owners of Stone Harbor’s popular Harbor Square Theater have tackled the ambitious renovation of the historic Ventnor Movie Theater and also have a liquor license. It reopened in May 2021 with a three-screen theater, a restaurant, and speakeasy.
Jon Simon’s epic boxing classes at the JCC in Margate are a favorite of Suzy Kolber, host of ESPN’s “NFL Monday Night Countdown,” and a lifelong regular at the Shore, where she honed those sideline skills as a beach-badge checker during the summer. “One of the best and most fun workouts anywhere,” Kolber said.
Restaurants and bars
Really, do people come here to go to the beach or to eat? On a busy summer evening, take a stroll and count how many sidewalk cafes you pass.
A cozy cornerstone Italian restaurant with fresh pasta, generous portions and wood-fired pizza available for takeout. And stick around for the lemon cake. Bonus points for being a BYOB.
The cafe is another Kolber favorite. “Fabulous, organic, vegan — a restaurant with a soul,” she said. The cafe and restaurant, founded by the Hansen Foundation, benefits the recovery community: 100% of cafe profits help fund substance abuse treatment for people who can’t afford it.
The cafe opened in 2019 as a replacement for Cardinal Bistro, and has become a popular spot among the brunch crowd. The healthy-leaning menu includes Millennial favorites avocado toast and egg-white omelet, but doesn’t skimp on the chicken and waffles. Also a BYOB.
Isabella’s menu includes hefty, American-style breakfast dishes, but its Mexican-inspired lunch and dinner offerings are its signature. Included on the menu, based on co-owner Lupe Terrones’ upbringing in Oaxaca, Mexico, is a steak-stuffed burrito and corn-tortilla filled sopa Azteca. It’s homemade chips and salsa are always a crowd-pleaser. Another BYOB.
Baker Burger married a burger joint with a bakery. In 2020, Kelly Baker and son Ethan Roberts opened a restaurant that churns out blended burger patties as well as Snickerdoodle cookies. Not to mention they also sell homemade ice cream sandwiches, crab cake sandwiches, and varieties of crispy chicken. It’s going to be a busy summer.
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What more can you say? This Margate classic, for more than 20 years, has been mentioned on most lists singling out the best restaurants at the Jersey Shore. And all these years later their lobster mac-n-cheese is still at the top of the class.
Tomatoes includes a stylish setting on the bay with nearly 300 seats spread over three dining areas, a robust bar, and an overstuffed Asian-American-Latin-Italian menu. A curiosity remains the Cuban pork chop seasoned with a spice rub and served with a pumpkin gnocchi with a cinnamon sauce.
In the shadow of Lucy the Elephant is a spacious spot with options. Treat a date to a fancy night in the ocean-view dining room, catch an afternoon Phillies game and order routine pub fare at the downstairs cafe or rooftop deck, or enjoy a few drinks at night at the sandy tiki bar. Good for large families, especially with children.
This article has been updated since it first published.
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