On Sunday, Joe Jonas made a proclamation: “It feels good to be home,” he screamed to a crowd of 9,000 that had gathered to see him, and his brothers, record a rollicking performance for the VMAs. The stage he was on wasn’t in a massive stadium, but at the Stone Pony, the iconic rock venue where a young Bruce Springsteen (sorry, Bruuuuuuuce) got his start. And the city wasn’t New York or Los Angeles. It was Asbury Park, New Jersey.
It’s just the latest stamp of “cool” approval for the Jersey Shore town which, to be fair, has been cool for awhile (did you read that bit about Springsteen!). But the past few years has seen Asbury Park rapidly developed into a full-fledged urban hotspot by the sea with innovative restaurants, a plethora of art galleries, and a boardwalk that’s got food trucks and Korean tacos. Case in point: the Jonas Brothers stayed at the new Asbury Ocean Club Hotel, a five-star boutique property opened by the design team behind 11 Howard and the architects behind the Rosewood Abu Dubai.
So what is there to know about Asbury Park, the seaside spot with some serious rock and roll roots where Victorian houses reign? Here, a comprehensive guide.
Where to Eat
The bright and airy Barrio Costero serves a mean taco and an even meaner drink—their mezcal drink, Jalisco Is Burning, is scrumptious and spicy. French brasserie Pascal & Sabine is perfect for date night or just for an elevated evening: dishes include escargot, suckling pig, moules frites, as well as trout almondine, and there’s always caviar at the ready.
For a livelier scene, Porta’s got the two most essential ingredients for a good night: live music and pizza. You can’t go wrong with the Summer Betty, their pie with goat cheese and Jersey heirloom tomatoes, or the Italian Stallion, which features their delicious homemade sausages. (Vegans: don’t fret, they have several non-meat, non-dairy options on the menu as well.) There’s also a club where a DJ spins in the back, because this is the Jersey shore, after all.
Then there’s the Asbury Park Festhalle and Biergarten—just refer to it as “the Biergarten”—which offers an impressive array of bratwursts, sausages, spaetzles, pretzels, and beer on tap. It’s got multiple floors, but head up to the 9,000 square roof. With its twinkling lights and views of the town’s Victorians, it’s a summer night well spent.
For a nightcap, go to Moonstruck, a quaint little spot housed in one of those aforementioned Victorians. The first floor is a cocktail lounge, and on Sundays local legend Bob Egan plays the piano.
What to Do
Hit the beach! After you pay the five dollar charge, the wonders of the beach are all yours: so swim, surf, and explore the boardwalk, which is filled with a variety of shops, restaurants, and stalls. Just don’t leave without getting the Jersey shore beach day essential: an Italian ice.
Downtown Asbury is dotted with quaint boutiques and art galleries. The two most well-known are Parlor Gallery and Exhibit No. 9. There’s also the arthouse theater, the Showroom, which shows a mix of independent films and documentaries.
Go bowling at Asbury Lanes, where the decor includes a giant American flag comprised of red, white, and blue bowling balls. There’s a diner inside, where after a late night, you can order the ultimate drunk fantasy food: a pork roll on a waffle. And no trip to Asbury is complete without a visit to the Silverball Museum, which features rows and rows of antique pinball machines. (A sample lyric from Springsteen’s song, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”: Down in town the circuit's full of switchblade lovers so fast, so shiny, so sharp/As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark.)
Come nighttime, experience what Asbury does best: live music. You won’t have to look very hard to find it: the aforementioned Asbury Lanes, Biergarten, and Porta regularly have bands strumming away. Wonder Bar is also a popular spot, and The Stone Pony regularly draws notable names for the Summer Stage concert series (the Stone Temple Pilots are coming up).
Asbury is also the Jersey Shore’s best spot for gay nightlife, thanks to Paradise at the legendary Empress Hotel.
Looking for a chic cocktail? Head up to Salvation, the refined rooftop bar at The Asbury Hotel. After all, there’s nothing better than a late summer night spent under a disco ball.
Originally Appeared on Vogue