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Overrated Boardwalk Eats

Alex Van Buren

Overrated Boardwalk Eats

Swimsuit contestants on an Australian boardwalk, 1953. Photo credit: State Library Queensland, Flickr.

You’ve got beach hair. You’re sunburnt. You’re dehydrated (because you tipped back good-lookin’ canned beers instead of water). But you’re in an awesome mood.

Because, as is true of other things, even a bad day at the beach is a good day at the beach. 

The dog days of summer are tailor-made for indulgent grub. And no one will judge you for a funnel cake, a corn dog, or a sickly sweet (but oh-so-good) lemon ice. But some boardwalk grub is overrated. Stick with us for a minute, and then tell us how wrong we are in the comments.

SWEETS DIVISION

NO: Salt Water Taffy

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Photo credit: Anthony Masterson, StockFood

Are you a salt water taffy sort of person? Good for you. Takes all kinds. (In truth, we’re divided here at Yahoo Food HQ. Some of us are pro-taffy. Others think it’s a sugary scam.) Sure, salt water taffy has a cute history, but the truth is that it gets on your teeth and feels like it’ll be there for life—a sandy taffy molar glue designed to ruin braces and rip out crowns. Don’t do it. 

NO: Cotton Candy

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Photo credit: Dana Hoff, StockFood.

You’re not six anymore, and no one wants to see you covered with blue spun sugar. Cotton candy is theoretically fantastic, but if you don’t have a buzzcut, that seaside wind has just whipped your hair straight into the stuff. Also, the flavor delivery—sugar + air?—just isn’t there. This is a novelty item right up there with the “I ♥ THE JERSEY SHORE” t-shirt you just bought. 

YES: Ice Cream and Frozen Custard

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Photo credit: StockFood

Even mediocre ice cream is delicious on a boardwalk. It’s cold, unlike taffy, and even if it gets all over your arms, no problem: Go jump in the ocean.

YES: Funnel Cake

Where else are you going to find funnel cake, a.k.a. fried dough? Unless you’re a carny, the answer is probably “never.” If you see a stand doing brisk business, cross your fingers that it means they change the oil in the fryer frequently. And go to town. 

SAVORY DIVISION

NO: Corn Dogs

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Photo credit: Flickr, Cameron Russell.

Yes, we know to duck and cover, here. You love your corn dogs. Corn dogs for America. But when was the last time you ate a corn dog that wasn’t deflated and gross? They look good (hello, deep-fried hot dogs!), but their exterior is always soggier than you expect. Say “no” to corn dogs unless you can get one straight out of the fryer. 

NO: Pizza

Nostalgia aside, even pizzaiolos we’ve spoken to know that August is not kind to a slice. Humidity just doesn’t do right by pizza. And you can bet that the guy on the other side of the glass at the stand probably didn’t drag that slice out of a brick-, coal- or wood-burning oven. No one will judge you for that late-night toasted Stouffer’s, but now? There are better options. Move along, kid. 

YES: Hot Dogs

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Photo credit: Charles Schiller, StockFood

The frankfurter is the smaller, less-trendy, glasses-wearing sister to the corn dog that you eventually realize is just as foxy as the big sister. Dress it up however you like; it’s still better than a corn dog, especially if it’s been griddled. (Maybe try to avoid those “dirty water” dogs, blegh.) 

YES: Pickles

"Piquant" or "tart" is a whole flavor profile you might forget about up on the boardwalk, but don’t! If you see a pickle guy (because it’s 1978 on the Southern Massachusetts shore and that mom-and-pop deli is still somehow doing well), get some dang pickles! They will taste SO good if they’re nice and cold, and piquant is always a smart foil to salty. This is a rare sighting, but a family-owned little shop is almost always going to be a solid bet. 

YES: Fried Seafood Anything

Are you on the shore? At the OCEAN? Right, that’s the definition of the boardwalk. OK, ask where the fish behind the counter is from. Be that person. If it’s local, or if they have fried clam bellies in a roll, or lobster in a roll, or really anything fried and fishy in a roll, that’s what you want. But you knew that already.