Weekender

Day Tripper: Weekend at Asbury Park a pleasant surprise

You know that trip that just ends too soon?

It’s your last afternoon or evening there, and you realize all of the things that you didn’t do. You end up either immediately planning your next visit or trying to cram as many activities as you can into your last few hours.

I certainly didn’t expect to feel that way about Asbury Park, but here I am.

I was, indeed, pleasantly surprised by the short weekend trip I took there with my partner (Thursday evening through Saturday morning), which was not much more than a last-ditch effort to go to a beach before the summer’s impending end.

My most pleasant surprise, interestingly enough, was the food.

As a vegetarian with a vegan significant other, our trips need to be carefully chosen to ensure that we aren’t stuck with salads and a few black bean burgers for every meal. We need at least a few places with a couple of good options, and Asbury Park fit the bill.

Sure, we ended up with a two-star hotel outside of the shoretown with yellowing walls and no water in the vending machines, but what did we expect when we booked the cheapest hotel we could find on only a few day’s notice?

We wasted almost no time upon arriving at our hotel before making our way to the Watermark, a bar and tapas lounge by the ocean.

Let me tell you about their seitan skewers. For those who aren’t vegetarian, seitan is a wheat gluten with a meat-like texture. I will think about these skewers every day until I can have them again. I will dream about them. I will never, ever forget them. They were incredible.

Among the other blissful delicacies we shared were soft-serve vegan ice cream from Cookman Creamery. We both got strawberry and banana twists in cones, and wow. Holy creamy.

We enjoyed our ice cream in “gARTen @713 Cookman,” an outdoor gallery featuring art created from found objects.

And then there was the “Vodka Bacon” pizza from Talula’s, with vodka sauce, vegan ricotta and coconut bacon. I was skeptical about the coconut bacon, because while I always feel that the texture is there, all I can taste is coconut. I can tell you right now that I did not want coconut on my pizza, and I still do not want coconut on my pizza (unless I’m wrong about that and I’m missing out?).

Talula’s bacon imposter, however, was awesome. I tasted no coconut, but instead the wonderfully salty little crunchy bits that I was hoping for.

How could I forget the Korean fusion tofu tacos from Mogo right on the boardwalk?

Seriously. I almost considered moving there just by virtue of the food.

But that’s enough about the food. I don’t know nearly enough to write a food column. I just really liked eating it.

Of course, the beach was wonderful. Prior to the trip we were warned about Asbury’s beach being dirty, but that did not appear to be the case.

We spent as much time there as possible, but had to find time to squeeze in some shopping at the plethora of vintage stores and other shops that had me jumping up and down.

I will say, Asbury Park’s boardwalk is not like the ones I remember visiting as a kid.

I didn’t see any rides or any games, but there was the Silverball Pinball Museum, which is exactly what it sounds like except that you can also play retro arcade games and drink beer.

No, there weren’t any stands where you pay an exorbitant amount of money to throw darts at balloons for a price worth about 15 cents, but there were a lot of really cool bars and restaurants, and there was a lot of music. There was seemingly a live band at every other establishment as you walked by, and the vibe was great.

Unfortunately, the Stone Pony and Wonder Bar, pretty much the only places I knew about prior to going to Asbury Park, were busy with performances by The Gaslight Anthem and Dick Dale, respectively, and we didn’t get to check them out.

There was also a bar on the beach that seemed like loads of fun, and likely many more restaurants.

Welp, I guess we’ll just have to go back. Oh, darn, I guess I wouldn’t mind some more of those seitan skewers.

Toni enjoys some vegan soft serve from Cookman Creamery in gARTen @ 713 Cookman, an outdoor gallery featuring art made from found objects.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_ice-creamRGBTURNT.jpgToni enjoys some vegan soft serve from Cookman Creamery in gARTen @ 713 Cookman, an outdoor gallery featuring art made from found objects.
Toni and her partner, James, enjoying the beach. They both got sunburn, but, reportedly, it was worth it.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_beachRGBTURNT.jpgToni and her partner, James, enjoying the beach. They both got sunburn, but, reportedly, it was worth it.
The vegan Vodka Bacon pizza from Talula’s with a Gin and Jam cocktail.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_pizzaRGB.jpgThe vegan Vodka Bacon pizza from Talula’s with a Gin and Jam cocktail.

By Toni Pennello

tpennello@timesleader.com