When an old friend from high school reaches out and asks if you'd like to attend a friends and family dinner at the new restaurant she is working at, it's hard to turn an offer like that down. Especially when the event is at a place that you have been anxiously awaiting the opening of for the last few months. This was exactly the scenario a few weeks ago when my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the soft opening of the brand new Atlantic House in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Housed in the 100 plus year old building that used to be the home of the legendary local barbecue joint, Memphis Pig Out, it was a bit hard to accept the loss of this institution and welcome a new one. However, once I heard that the owner was Rich Crocker, a partner in the Asbury Park Festhalle & Biergarten, one of my favorite Jersey Shore restaurants, my lamentations turned to excitement. The concept, an open air biergarten focused on local fare, good drinks and a comfortable atmosphere would be a welcome addition to the evolving Atlantic Highlands. So we jumped on this opportunity and headed over excited to give this new restaurant a try.
Renovated Atlantic House Creates a Welcoming Beach Town Vibe
Walking up to the Atlantic House, you instantly realize that it is a stark contrast to the former Memphis Pig Out. The once all red brick building has been completely gutted and renovated. The brick is still there, just painted in lighter more seashore tones giving it a brighter feeling that instantly welcomes you in. The change in the facade is nice, but the real crown jewel of this renovation is the second floor biergarten. A deck area, visible from First Ave catches your eyes and leads them to the exposed beams that you can see fully as you turn the corner and glance up through the floor to ceiling windows. Open, they create an airy affect that defines the restaurant's beach town vibe.
As you walk in, you know that the Atlantic House is so not Memphis Pig Out. I mean this in a good way. The bottom floor has an almost swanky shore vibe, highlighted by a beautiful bar that is in full view of its patrons from anywhere in the restaurant. Head up the industrial chic staircase to the aforementioned open air second floor and you are truly transported into the comfortable shore town atmosphere that the owners were going for. The windows and deck create feelings of freedom and openness, while offering up solid views of the surrounding area. Another beautiful, but this time, nautical themed bar runs the length of the non windowed wall. Pale white washed shiplap and a marble top confirms the notion that this is beach living and certainly a place you should have on your list for food and drinks après surf.
A Menu That Tells a Story of Comfort and Community
The menu at the Atlantic House is ideal for both a quick stop enroute home from the beach or a full on sit down dinner. Reasonably priced and dotted with small shareable plates and delicious dinner dishes, Chef Brendan Neville creates a menu that fully supports their story of comfort and community along the sea. Start with the raw bar which serves up fish so fresh you can still taste the brine of the ocean. Shrimp the size of your hand and lobster cocktail that is far from bite size are a must but you cannot go wrong with anything here, it's just that fresh. The same can be said for the charcuterie as your choices include meats and cheeses that are hand picked from some of the best artisans in the area. Moving forward, you will find a multitude of small, shareable plates on what is the largest portion of the menu. With only two of us, it was actually tough to choose as so many of the options look so darn delicious and I desperately wanted to save room for dinner. Having choices like this only adds to the communal experience. Go with a group and order as many as you like, then bask in their excellence as you and your friends chat about how good each dish is.
This time around I sampled as many of these items that my belly could hold. The fish tacos are money, as are the House Made Kettle Chips with blue cheese fondue both perfect for sampling with a group. The Cast Iron Steak Bites are an absolute must! Grass fed beef, cooked to a perfect medium rare and topped in blue cheese, a bordelaise sauce and crispy shallots they are melt-in-your-mouth good. Compliment them with the Crispy Brussel Sprouts cooked in a sweet potato maple glaze and all conversations will most certainly be cast aside until you finish devouring these delicious dishes. Satiated, for sure, you could end your night, right then and there but then you would miss out on some excellent dinner options. Although there is less to choose from on this portion of the menu, there is definitely something for everyone.
Carnivorous by nature, I'm not one to order fish, let alone salmon at a restaurant. I took a chance since it was the special for the night and am happy I did. Beautifully cooked, the crispy exterior provided the perfect textural contrast to the soft medium rare interior. Accompanied by a spicy quinoa, bok choy and and avocado puree, it was easily one of the best fish dishes that I have ever eaten. My wife, in contrast, ordered the burger and the grass fed beef delivered, once again, melting in my mouth much like the steak bites. Complimenting all of these tasty treats with a few cold craft beers from a local breweries I finished my meal excited to have found a new gem in our local restaurant scene.
Amazing food aside, one of the best parts of the menu is how reasonable the prices are. This is a welcome respite from many of the high priced restaurants in the area and will, most certainly be an added attraction given the amount of food you get and how good it is. It also adds to the notion of comfort, allowing your group to sample more than normally would be the case expanding their palates and their conversation.
Atlantic House Checking All of The Boxes As a New Go To Restaurant on the Jersey Shore
Conversation and comfort are what it is all about at the new Atlantic House as they are checking all the boxes. The new, brighter, beach colored tones and open air roof top draw you in while the delicious menu filled with shareable plates will delight your taste buds. Ultimately, checking all the boxes, the Atlantic House left us satisfied in knowing that this would definitely be one of our new go to après surf spots on the Jersey Shore.