Located in the landmark Art Deco building long occupied by Howard Johnson’s, the Saltwater Beach Café (1200 Ocean Ave.; 732-774-1400) opened on Memorial Day with a former Four Seasons chef and a killer, open-faced crab-cake sandwich. Spiffed up as it is, the restaurant’s dark-wood-and-tile interior can’t compete with the people-watching on the boardwalk patio.
Meet the locals—including (possibly) Bruce Springsteen—at Frank’s Deli & Restaurant (1406 Main St.; 732-775-6682), where three generations of the same Asbury clan can be spotted behind the counter. Grab a red vinyl counter seat, and gird yourself for a heart-stopping Jersey classic: the pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich.
Arrive early to avoid a long wait at Spanish-Portuguese Bistro Olé, across from the train station—it opens at 5 p.m. and doesn’t take reservations. Well-spiced paella Valenciana, pesto-topped sea bass, and a charismatic owner (the one-named Rico) keep the place packed.
No weekend in Asbury is complete without one heaping Italian meal. Jimmy’s Italian Restaurant is as old-school as it gets: There’s valet service in the lot; a buttery sole Juliet on the menu; and a booths-and-mirrors interior crowded with photos of the late Jimmy arm in arm with Sinatra, Nixon, and, of course, Springsteen.