My wife surprised me and arranged a one night vacation in Asbury Park last night-- the perfect complement to my guys trip down to Nags Head-- and we were happy to see that the gentrification of the area is proceeding at an extraordinary rate . . . my mother-in-law lived in the neighboring town of Ocean Grove for many years, so we headed across Wesley Lake and wandered the narrow streets-- every tiny front yard planted with bright flowers, every house a different size and color, the tent city still in the shadow of the Great Auditorium, and we were quite shocked to look back towards Asbury and see a skyline of high-end condominiums and the Biergarten . . . quite a change from the 1990's . . . anyway, here's an analogy and a few food/drink recommendations:
1) Ocean Grove is to Asbury Park as Highland Park is to New Brunswick . . . the small and sleepy town receiving the benefits of the gentrification of the larger grittier city;
2) Barrio Costero has incredible margaritas (but go for happy hour, they're not cheap) and high end Mexican tapas . . . the tuna ceviche is essentially sushi-grade tuna on tiny homemade tortilla chips-- super-tasty-- and the al pastor and fish tacos are ridiculously good;
3) Barrio Costero's sister restaurant, Reyla, has excellent Mediterranean style tapas;
4) The Speakeatery has the ultimate hipster sandwich (and fantastic if you're trying to avoid wheat/bread/gluten) which consists of a slab of General Tso's chicken sandwiched between two sticky rice "buns" and some broccoli and slaw as condiments . . . it's delicious and totally weird;
5) The Chat and Nibble is across Main Street but worth the drive if you like chorizo with your eggs.