Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Klee's Bar and Grill - Seaside Heights, New Jersey

Seaside Heights, New Jersey is one of the Jersey Shore's best known vacation spots, sporting an enormous boardwalk complete with amusement piers, beaches, T-shirt shops, and all manner of bars and small eateries. Of late, the town has gained national fame (or infamy) thanks to the popular reality show "Jersey Shore".

Reality TV madness aside- Seaside is much more than a place for college aged kids and young adults to go and party. Despite it's TV notoriety, it has been, and remains, mainly a family vacation destination- a place for people in the tri-state area to take their families "down the shore" for a reasonably priced family getaway. It should come as no surprise that among the myriad cheap pizza joints and other quick and dirty places to eat, there are also a fair share of places to go for a quality meal.

Crab Cake Sandwich with Dijonaise and Old Bay French Fries

That said, you're not going to find expensive Michelin Star restaurants within walking distance of the infamous MTV house. You'll find, if you know where to look, and/or get a tip from the locals, good honest food. When I was there this past week with my family to look around for a vacation rental, we were tipped off about one such place, and were not disappointed.

Klee's Bar and Grill, only a block away from the nightclub "Bamboo" where reality TV fans have seen "The Situation," "Snooki," and company misbehave on a regular basis, offers good quality Pub Style food at a fair price. We went in on a Monday afternoon in the off-season, and even then, the dining room had a good number of patrons- always a good sign.

I had the Crab Cake Sandwich with Old Bay Fries. The dish is unassuming and was everything you would expect from a decent Crab Cake. The Crab Cake itself was not pushing the boundaries of great food by any means, but was good in a comforting familiar way. The real star of the plate were the fries. They were simple, fried just right, and given a healthy dose of Old Bay for flavor. They too, were not breaking new and innovative culinary ground, but they were done right, and hit the spot- exactly what good pub food should do.

My wife had a Turkey Wrap sandwich with a Potato Salad that was made in house, and the kids shared a thin crust bar pizza. I got to sample a little of both, and just like my own meal, they were good and comforting. The turkey in the wrap was fresh, and the potato salad that came as a side practically upstaged the sandwich. The pizza had a nice thin crust, and just the right mix of cheese and sauce. The crust had a nice crunch to it- but the extra slice of pizza that I snaked from one of the kids to try had cooled off by the time I got to it. Even cold, the pizza was obviously much better than the over-sized wedges of utility pizza you'll find every few storefronts along the boardwalk. (that utility pizza has it's own charms, but Klee's pizza was just good).

Service was a little on the slow side, but it was obvious from watching the wait staff that it wasn't from lack of skill or caring- they were just plain busy with the lunch rush. Our waitress was friendly and helpful, despite being obviously extremely busy. I wonder if they were short a person on the floor, or were just hit with a larger than expected lunch crowd during a usually quieter off-season. In any case, the wait staff handled things about as well as could be expected under the circumstances- and didn't miss a beat as the lunch rush began to thin out. I was more than happy with everything.

So yes, even in the often misunderstood, and somewhat misrepresented Jersey Shore, there is good food to be had. As countless travel shows on cable constantly remind us, try to eat where the locals eat, and you'll find a place you'll want to go back to again. We'll most likely patronize Klee's Bar and Grill again when we return for our summer getaway.

We'll conclude with an obligatory photo related to said reality TV show...

Good food is within walking distance of reality TV hangouts in Seaside Heights

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