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Bum Rogers Tavern & Crab House – Seaside Park, NJ

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Not bumming it by any means.

Bum Rogers Tavern & Crab House – Seaside Park, NJ
Price: $70 (For two – includes drinks & tip)
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 8pm
No known website

Just a short drive up the coast and you’ll find an abundance of seafood houses. In fact, if you weren’t a local, you’d really be overwhelmed with choices. We’ve been to a lot of them over the years, and unfortunately most of our visits pre-date the birth of this wonderful website. That said, we walked over to Bum Rogers after hitting the beach last weekend and have plenty to share if you happen to be renting in Seaside Park, hungry after a day at Island Beach, or maybe are looking for dinner after the boardwalk in neighboring Seaside Heights.

The exterior of Bum Rogers is highlighted by its easily visible, animated bright red crab sign. Right next door (a walk of a few seconds), the Pier House steals a little of its thunder with a much nicer exterior. Parking is virtually non-existent, and your best bet is to find a spot somewhere in the street. On weekends, expect wait times of at least 15 minutes to get a seat, but even with a full house there were a couple of spots at the bar to hang out while you wait. The atmosphere is authentic, and you’ll find a wide mix of casual beach goers (is that a good way to describe overweight men drinking beer with t-shirts and flip flops?) and nicely-dressed couples. It’s fairly loud in the bar area, but the dining room area is much quieter. We were lucky enough to get a seat on the far side of the building which probably had the most privacy as any in the building. Almost inexplicably, there is one, unisex bathroom. Expect a consistent, but not obnoxious interior full of ship steering wheels, black and white photographs, and era memorabilia. It’s a cool place. Unfortunately, we were there a bit longer than we expected.

The menu is loaded with seafood, and their mainstay is obviously their crabs. There are some options if you’d want a steak or a chicken filet, but come on, you need to order something from the ocean. Our waitress was excellent, but the kitchen was at capacity and backed up. After starting with a couple of coors lights and Autumn’s malibu and diet coke, we waited a good 15 minutes for our calamari, which was pretty much only for me anyway. Man, was it good. An enormous portion (that I finished for breakfast the next day) with perfectly fried calamari and a good accompanying marinara sauce. At a $13 menu price, you pay for the size, but comparing against the $10 offering next door, it’s a vastly better value. Autumn got a loaf of bread prior to her crab ravioli, but it was a bit on the tough side and probably comparable to something you’d grab in the supermarket.

Another half hour later – a couple that was seated at the same time we were had just finishing paying for their bill – and still no food. Our waitress checked back with the kitchen and kept us updated frequently, but it may have been the longest we’ve waited for dinner. Thankfully, a couple of beers is more than enough to keep me in a good mood. Clearly, the summer tourist rush completely bombed the kitchen. Can’t really blame anyone for the volume, although watching another couple finish their meal, from start to finish, would have probably been very irritating sans the alcohol in my body. Finally though, everything arrived.

They were out of a whole lot of stuff, which included the fresh mahi mahi I wanted. Instead, I tried the swordfish, which was prepared at your choice (grilled, blackened, or cajun) with either a lobster butter or light basil olive oil. The above-and-beyond portion was paired with steamed broccoli and uncle-bens-like rice pilaf. The swordfish, which I’ve never had before, had a mild taste and was superb. You’ll get a pair of 6oz steaks which were grilled to perfection with gorgeous grill marks. Combined, it’s definitely a generous portion. The first bite of each was a little fishy, but the rest of the steaks had a great, off-the-grill moist flavor with medium firmness. I can imagine the other fresh fish they offered (salmon, tuna, and mahi-mahi) would be equally prepared well. Expect to put out $24 for your favorite.

Autumn’s crab ravoli got high marks. An equally large portion for her (she finished most of it), the red-striped ravoli was covered in a medium-weight vodka sauce with an abundance of crab meat throughout. It was hot enough to enjoy but not steaming to the point where it needed to cool down. You won’t get any sides with the meal besides the ho-hum bread, which is disappointing given the price but fairly common for pasta dishes. The entire dinner lasted 2.5 hours; we’d recommend passing this place if you find yourself on a first date in the middle of the summer. That has torture written all over it. =)

We didn’t ask for it, and the waitress didn’t mention it, but we appeared to get a few price breaks. Presumably because of the extreme wait, the calamari was reduced to $9.95 and the ravoil was pushed back to $15.99. That’s about an $8 haircut. This was an absolutely excellent decision and showed us that the waitress understood that our time was valuable and wanted to make the experience a little easier to swallow. No manager or negotiation needed, and we left very happy. We tipped our waitress very well and hope her conduct is reflective of all the wait staff at Bum Rogers.

Pros:

– Excellent seafood
– Authentic shore atmosphere
– Excellent waitress
– Proximity to beach

Cons:

– Maximum capacity can create significant wait times
– You’re on your own for parking
– Fairly loud near the bar
– Not a great environment for small kids

Guru’s Score: 4.0
Autumn’s Score: 3.8

Combined Score: 3.9 Chews

 ★★★★☆

Subjective rating: Inches from that coveted 4.0 score!

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Bum Rogers Tavern & Crab House - Seaside Park, NJ, 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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