It’s taken me far too long to write about the excellent cuisine at Jay’s on Third, our favorite restaurant in our favorite beach town, Stone Harbor. It is no surprise that executive chef Jason Hippen turns out some of the best Asian-inspired dishes around when you learn that he grew up with a Thai mother, was a line cook at Morimoto, and was part of the team that opened Buddakan, Atlantic City.
During our last beach vacation, while enjoying our third meal that week at Jay’s on Third, the hostess commented, “There are other restaurants on the island, Ladies!” But why go anywhere else when we could enjoy perfectly grilled octopus, fresh peach and burrata salad and any given variety of the fresh catch-of-the-day accompanied by jade pesto with baby boy choy with Vadouvan-spiced coconut over sticky rice?
The fact that we will eat at Jay’s at least three times in one trip is a given. Really the only other decision to make is what wine to bring along. Even that decision can be delayed until we’re ready to order as they have a bottle delivery service available from Fred’s Tavern Liquor, which has an impressive selection of wines for any store, but especially for a small barrier island at the Jersey Shore.
Anyone who goes to Stone Harbor, though, knows that it isn’t your cousin Vinny’s Jersey Shore. Instead, Stone Harbor, and neighboring Avalon, comprise 7 miles of shoreline where one can readily spot herons and egrets, sometimes shy American River Otters on the bay, and dolphins playfully breaching in the waves while we watch from our beach chairs in the blazing August sun. Sans boardwalk and amusements and the usual tourist trappings, it is an island paradise.
As eateries come and go, there are a few that have remained steadfast over the last decade. Your tastebuds will thank you for a few of the following: an egg and bagel sandwich from Cafe Noir, a full breakfast at Fishin’ Pier which boasts a friendly and highly efficient staff and an awesome chalkboard of “stupid questions” you’re going to want to avoid asking there or anywhere else. Drive, jog, or bike up to Avalon for a Kohler’s donut, and don’t miss the fantastic ice cream at Sundae Best (I’d recommend Espresso Crunch).
Come for the beach. Stay for Jay’s, ice cream and donuts, and the inherent sense that this place, as Avalon’s motto goes, truly is “cooler by a mile.”