SOUTH SEASIDE PARK, NJ – If you visit the major Jersey Shore tourism centers of New Jersey, there are seafood restaurants galore, but on the lower barrier island, there’s a seafood desert between Ortley Beach and South Seaside Park.
That is unless you consider slurping down raw clams at a boardwalk stand a seafood experience.
Aside from the Crab’s Claw Inn to the north and Bum Rogers to the south, there are no real ‘seafood restaurants’ like the ones you will find in places like Wildwood and Cape May where they’re seemingly on every corner.
Both Crab’s Claw Inn and Bum Rogers have stood the test of time, both located essentially in the middle of nowhere, Bum Rogers manages to draw a crowd and deliver quality Jersey Shore memories for families, and they have been doing over the course of five decades now.
Jerry Rotonda, the owner of Bum Rogers says his iconic restaurant that sits just outside the gate to Island Beach State Park, has been a unique, specialty house restaurant and the communal, spirit-lifting watering hole of the indigenous and migrating young and young-at-heart.
“We, the Bum Rogers Family and staff, continue to be dedicated to the proposition that you came to this place to have a good time, eat heartily, and depart feeling better than before,” Rotonda claims.
I’ll admit. I have lived in Ocean County my entire life and after passing the place, which I had always pictured a tourist trap probably two or three thousand times, I finally decided to stop in and see what has kept the place going for so long.
I was surprised to find that despite the outside roadside tourist decor, it’s definitely nothing like the typical roadside Jersey Shore seafood tourist trap. It’s actually quite an enjoyable place to grab a bite, albeit a little on the pricey side, but that’s expected along the shore.
“Our restaurant first opened in 1969. Many decades later, four friends came together with a shared love of the Jersey shore and Bum Rogers,” Rotonda said. “Finally, in March of 2013, we were able to realize our dream and purchase the restaurant, with the goal of restoring Bum Rogers to its glory and doing our part to help the restore the Shore.”
The place is definitely looking better since Rotonda purchased the restaurant and it does give off that classic Jersey Shore Americana seaside seafood vibe in so many ways.
” You’ll still get our world-famous garlic crabs and ice cold beer when you come off the beach or out of Island Beach State Park, but it’s now in an updated restaurant with a renovated interior, remodeled bathrooms, and passionate staff. Come back to Bum’s and hang out with us all summer and throughout the year,” Rotonda described the restaurant in his Yelp! listing.
We arrived on a hot summer weekday after a day of fishing and crabbing off the 5th Street Pier in Seaside Park. We ordered the basic Jersey Shore seafood essentials, a dozen oysters on the half-shell, their award-winning lobster bisque, an order of mussels marina, and clams casino.
The food and service were fantastic and we were all pleasantly delighted with the entire experience. Being a local, we’re not so much wowed by the whole ‘seafood decor’ schtick, but Bum Rogers keeps it simple and in some ways, elegant inside the restaurant.
As a local, I’d say definitely visit the place the next time you’re in the mood for seafood, it’s worth the journey to the bottom of the barrier island. If you’re a tourist visiting our Jersey Shore, definitely include it in your plans if you can manage it.
Although it looks a bit small and barlike from the outside, inside it’s pretty spacious and gives off definite family restaurant vibes. Whether you want to go out for a few drinks with friends or have a full dinner, Bum Rogers should be on your Jersey Shore bucket list.