Sunday, February 22, 2015

Paragon Tap and Table

Coworkers of mine visited this one Friday for happy hour and just raved, so when my husband and I had a rare date night, we trekked out to Clark.

The vibe of the place is very nice; you certainly forget that you are sitting inside a suburban strip mall with exposed brick, fireplaces, and lots of chalkboards around.

We both chose flights, and neither one of us really hit the mark on our choices. My coworkers probably sat at the bar, and if I'd done that I would have tried samples until I nailed the right one and then ordering a pint; this was a disappointment but not at all the restaurant's fault.

We each had ravioli, but different types. I chose to go outside of my comfort zone by choosing Butternut Squash ravioli, and they were outstanding. My husband chose Pear and Pork Ravioli and he was pretty excited about them.

Since we visited on Valentine's Day weekend, we also opted for a special dessert option. It involved three different treats, and all were fantastic.

A super nice touch was the chef walking around and checking in on everyone as they ate. I know he has several locations, so the kitchen probably runs itself, so this was a really nice touch for him.

In short, we had a very good meal and a nice time, but we probably wouldn't make the trek to Clark if it's just the two of us. But for those in the Clark area, this is like living close to New Brunswick.

We did not have our children this time, but there were many families there, so I'd have to give it a kid friendly rating!
 photo posted by @smallbutfeisty78 on
   Paragon Tap & Table on Urbanspoon

Hailey's Harp and Pub

I have not blogged in forever, possibly the result of having too many blogs. So it's time to just start writing.

My family paid our second visit to Hailey's Harp and Pub in Metuchen the other night. My kids LOVE this place, simply because of the shuffleboard table. Yes, my children love bar games.

My husband and I though, love the food. The first time we visited, they had a special Oktoberfest menu and the food was great, and this time we both ordered from the regular menu.  He chose and entree I was eyeing, "Hailey's Hooley," which was tasty but out of season tomatoes really brought it down a smidge. My husband raved about the eggplant in the dish, though. I tried the Guinness Stew. Despite not being a fan of the beer, this stew was so good. My 4 year old tried it, and he did a "watch me fall out of my seat to show you how much I love this!" I had leftovers the next day and the meat was still incredibly flavorful and tender.

As of this post, Hailey's is on; stop at ebates first to get up to to 10% cash back on your shopping there!

Hailey's Harp & Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Warren Deli and Grill

It's typical for us to want hoagies on Sunday, when many delis are closed, so we took the opportunity of Martin Luther King, Jr. day to try a new place out.  My husband wanted specialty sandwiches, so I found this place online.  A littler further than we'd normally travel, but this place was great.  I had a Roma Panning (breaded eggplant, roasted peppers, pesto, and mozzarella) while my husband had an enormous daily special sandwich.  The place is nice and clean, and has a wide variety of chips and drinks.  We also tried the macaroni salad and the pasta salad.  My husband exclaimed that the macaroni was perfect, while I enjoyed the pasta salad more with its black olives, green peppers, and yellow squash.

It's a little out of our way, but we were really pleased with our trip to Warren Deli!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Zeppelin Hall

88 Liberty View Drive Jersey City, NJ

 Somehow I haven't reviewed this place. It came onto my radar several years ago when a coworker who lived in Jersey City mentioned it. I knew it was a place I'd enjoy, and suggested going with some friends. These friends mentioned their preference for the Beer Garden in Hoboken, so my visit here was delayed some time.  But over the summer, and then again in the fall, some of my work friends were able to get together for a night out here.

Over the summer, we were able to sit outside.  This was lovely, especially since we could see the skyline of Manhattan.  The crowd was strange though; it was mostly folks coming home from work and they were young and very well paid (if judgments can be made from the quality and style of their clothing).  But feeling extremely out of place did not put a damper on our fun.  We had a great time, enjoying all kinds of food and drink.

I was super enthused to see that they serve Currywurst, something I discovered in Berlin.  But during the week, they apparently don't serve the kind I know.  I went ahead and tried this different kind of wurst and while it was good, it wasn't what I remembered and loved.

On our second visit, I WAS able to get Berliner style and it was fantastic.  Not what I remembered, but still good.  We also tried the pretzels on the second trip, and it was fantabulous.  The second trip was on a Saturday night, and the crowd was much more family oriented than it was on a random summer Wednesday evening.

We had a great time at Zeppelin Hall!
Zeppelin Hall on Urbanspoon


28 Woodbridge Ave Highland Park, NJ

Pithari has been on my restaurant list for a very long time; their restaurant looks super inviting and interesting and Greek food is always delicious; they have the added welcoming benefit of my favorite shade of blue as the main color scheme.

My husband and I had a day off without the kids and decided to go to a movie and a nice lunch.  We chose Pithari and what a treat it was.  The weather was still nice, so we were able to dine al fresco on their nice patio, which overlooks the neighborhood side of the restaurant rather than the busy traffic-y side.  Since it was a day when most people were at work, we pretty much had the restaurant to ourselves, so service was especially awesome.

When we sat down, we were given some of the most delicious pita I've had in my life.  I could have made a meal on it, and it's inspired me to try to make my own one day.  We were also given an olive plate which was a nice touch.

Since we were there for lunch, we intentionally chose smaller plates.  I selected the Chicken Souvlaki platter, and oh my word it was so good.  The tzatziki sauce was unbelievable, and scooping it up with that amazing pita was pure heaven.  The chicken was slightly overdone for my liking, but the rest of the dish more than made up for this. I can't remember what my husband had, but he was a pretty happy camper.

Great meal and I can't wait to try it one day for dinner!

Pithari on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Catherine Lombardi

3 Livingston Avenue 
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Wow, it's been such a long time since I've posted.  Life.  We have, however, continued to try new restaurants and have continued our quest for the best pizza and bagels in NJ.

For our anniversary, the universe, the school district, and my parents gave us the best anniversary gift possible--school was closed for our kids while open for us (teachers) so my parents took the boys for a few nights that coincided with our anniversary.  So we wanted someplace special that would not be good to take the kids and decided on Catherine Lombardi, a long time wishlist holder.

We arrived too early (darn teachers) and they were still having a staff meeting, but we were seated at the bar.  As is our way, we chatted with the bartender, who suggested this amazing champagne based cocktail.  We were having a great time and they left us alone until it was official opening time (props for serving us in the bar despite not quite being open).  

My husband wasn't feeling great so we skipped the appetizer course and ordered dinner.  I tried the waiter's suggestion of a wild board ravioli and my husband had something he raved about.  I appreciated the wild board ravioli's extravagance but wasn't a super huge fan.

As I said, we were celebrating our anniversary so it was super nice when the waiter brought out a special dessert for us.  It was a really nice, really thoughtful gift.

We had a great time at Catherine Lombardi, and could go on and on about how great the service was.  The restaurant was really cozy with two fires blazing and the swanky decor.   Catherine Lombardi on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 22, 2013

I was offered the opportunity to try out, a website that allows you to place an order from a huge variety of take out restaurants in your area, ONLINE.  They're new to NJ and looking to expand.

Image Source:

I was intrigued, and signed up to participate.  First, I entered my zip code.  I then realized that I needed to enter my specific address, since I'm on the other side of town from the "center of town," and would have far better options with my exact address.

I decided to go for a pizza place; we had a visitor we were looking to feed, so pizza made the most sense.  I selected one with a lower delivery charge (listed right on the main page, which is really helpful), and was excited to see a whole menu (it's so hard to find menus online, even through a place like allmenus).  I placed my order and waited for confirmation.

About ten minutes later, I received a phone call.  It turns out that the location I'd selected does not deliver to my area, but rather only provides catering.  I was disappointed because not only did I waste about 10 minutes (at rush hour, waiting for delivery, with two kids to feed and keep on a schedule), but it seems that the website wasn't as updated as I'd hoped.  Still today, ten days later, the website does not indicate the restaurant is catering only.

The man who called suggested a similar restaurant to which he knew an order had been successfully placed, so I turned to that restaurant next.  I was now really disappointed, because it was a higher delivery charge and the site had no prices or menu on the site.  Since my family and our guest were waiting, I went ahead and placed the order anyway.

The ordering experience was fairly easy--you input it and go; in this case, I ordered two pies and mentioned in the comments we wanted one plain and one mushroom.  We got an email about 10 minutes later confirming the order and telling me that the order would be delivered in about 40 minutes (and THIS is why I so infrequently order delivery, but I digress).

The bell rang about 25 minutes later, sweet!

The delivery man was very confused, though, because the order was placed using a different card than the one I'd used to place the order.  It was also at this point that I found out how much I was actually paying for my order.  Hopefully this is something that will be resolved moving forward and as the company expands.

This service is definitely one I'd have loved when I first moved to the area; it's nice to have a one-stop-shop for which restaurants deliver to my address (aside from the catering only snafu) with menus too.  If we hadn't been in this particular situation (looking for something cheap to feed 5 people), it would have opened up a quick meal option for us beyond our typical Chinese or pizza routine, which is something I'm always happy to do; there's been a ton of times we order from the less-than-favorite pizza place around the corner because it's, well, around the corner and traffic around here around dinnertime is ridiculous.  I really like that you can see everything, from delivery charge to will they deliver to me, all in one place.

They are running a promotion right now; like Bringmethat on facebook to get $5 off your order, which isn't a bad deal at all!  Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Silver Diner

2131 New Jersey 38
Cherry HillNJ 08002

We were in the area, after a visit to The Garden State Discovery Museum (which rocked, by the way!), and wanted something new for dinner.  It just so happened that The Silver Diner, as sponsor of the museum, had a whole play area that piqued our interest and had us pulling out the phones to look them up.  We decided to give it a go after finding coupons for kids eat free there!

This place is awesome!  I loved that the kids menu didn't really have standard kids menu fare.  Rather, they had "Chicken Pizza Quesadilla," which my kids chose and enjoyed, which came with a side of strawberries instead of fries.  Sweet!

I love the atmosphere... they have real personal table jukeboxes, though the music plays for the whole restaurant (we didn't hear any of our picks in the time we were there).

My husband and I were really happy with our food.  My husband was thrilled since he found something he's always sought from restaurants--the ability to have the burger replaced with chicken.  This place has it!  I chose something very different, something from the under 600 calories menu, the mango vegetarian stir fry.  I really enjoyed it, and was super thrilled to see a diner menu that has healthful choices, gluten free choices, vegetarian and vegan choices!  We also splurged on a shake (they have healthier options for these too!) and it was so good too.

You have to check out the Silver Diner when you are in Cherry Hill!

Silver Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pheasant's Landing

311 Amwell Rd Ste A
Hillsborough, NJ
(908) 281-1288

I've been eyeing Pheasant's Landing for some time; I was considering it for my son's baptism but it's a little far from home to make a regular place.  So when they offered a Groupon, I jumped on it hoping to give it a try.

We went on a random Lenten Friday, in the midst of trying to get the almost three year old to learn how to use the potty.  So he was pretty cranky.  Not knowing what we were doing, we headed to the main dining room.  Due to his crankiness, it was *suggested* that we instead move downstairs where he would be more comfortable.  (Although it was certainly... probably...not meant THAT way, we were embarrassed that our kid was THAT kid who can't behave in a restaurant.

So we went downstairs.  Not only was the two year old more comfortable, but so were my husband and I!  The downstairs feels like you're in someone's basement, which might be a turn off to many, but we were happier there.  There were tvs, a foosball table that entertained the boys so my husband and I could chat, and folks were playing pool kindly letting the boys watch (and even let them take a shot each).  WAY more low key!

The menu is slightly different; I'd been eyeing something on the menu in the dining room that didn't appear on the menu downstairs, but it was still pretty similar.  The food was good, though I can't remember what we specifically had.  I know my husband had a sandwich of some kind and was really happy with it, while I had an entree that was large and delicious-- I definitely got at least two days of lunches from the leftovers.

The prices seem to be a little on the high side; if it wasn't for the deal, we probably would have complained to each other about the prices.  They ARE on, which you can buy through Ebates for even greater savings.

Overall, we were very happy with Pheasant's Landing and if they weren't so far from home, we'd probably be regular visitors.  I do plan to go back to sample some of their Oktoberfest offerings one day!

Pheasants Landing Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 15, 2013

Smokehouse Barbecue

45 West Main St
Somerville, NJ 08876

I've had a hankering for barbecue ever since I started reading Gone with the Wind a few weeks ago, so when I saw a Living Social deal for this place, it went onto the radar.  Alas, I missed the deal but snagged a coupon via ebates (for 15% cash back!) and off we went.

The reviews I read online were mixed, but I was very impressed that the owner responds to each negative criticism on both yelp and urbanspoon, so thought it was worth a try.

I liked the decor of the place; it's small and homey with a southwestern theme going on.  Plus, the walls are lined with empty bottles (some of which are signed, sort of like those first few dollars on the wall at small establishments) of their private label root beer, sasparilla, lemonade, etc.  Pretty neat.  Also cool was that there was a wall of children's coloring; my sons thought this was so neat that THEIR work would hang on the wall at the restaurant!

So the food, which, of course is what you want to know.  My husband ordered a Cowboy Burrito and LOVED it.  He actually mentioned how good it was the next day.  He mentioned that he liked that there wasn't that much sauce because he could customize it to his liking and it wasn't as messy that way.  He was pleased.  Ever indecisive, I chose a 1/2 chicken and pulled pork.  The pulled pork was very tasty, though I'd say it was a little bit dry.  Still good though, and I enjoyed it the next day---the serving was HUGE.  The chicken was delicious, though I was not a fan of peeling the skin off (though this is my own problem since who gets skinless chicken barbecue?) and I thought the baked beans side was perfect and just what I was looking for in my barbecue craving.  The boys both had mac and cheese, and my husband said a few times that he was impressed that it seemed to be homemade.  Our server was super accommodating of our request to sub veggies for the fries, which always gets high marks in my book.

Overall, a good meal and we will be back! Smokehouse Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Green Knoll Grille

645 Us Hwy 202/206
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

The Green Knoll Grille was a place that had caught my eye on the way to another place.  I'd heard of it from browsing various online dining reviews, but didn't formally have it on my list.  But when we drove by, "happy hour spot" came to mind and I'm always looking for ways to at least mentally relive my youth.

After two visits, the Green Knoll Grille is one of my favorite places in the area to take my family.  We've been in the summer when the outdoor patio was hopping and in the fall when everything outside was closed up, but the little playground area is a parent's dream.  My kids had a great time climbing while we waited for our food to arrive (so much better for the two year old than even crayons!) and I was happy to people watch folks at the outdoor bar area and soak up some sun.  We enjoyed this area on our fall visit too, because the play area was still open even though the bar area was not.

The food is pretty sports bar typical; burgers, fries, dominate, though there are some entrees that are good too.  We particularly like choosing our kids' dinners and an appetizer from the $3.99 happy hour menu, but we tend to eat dinner at 5 when such specials are available.

We have always had FUN and a good meal at the Green Knoll Grille!

Green Knoll Grille on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Scampi's Seafood Restaurant

198 W Main St
Somerville, NJ 08876

Scampi's has been on my mental list for a very long time, so I jumped when a Living Social deal there appeared.  We ended up going with another couple and were very thankful for the deal because after everything we ordered, it was a very expensive meal!

My husband and I were hesitant to try here because so much of our dining is with our kids in tow, and I wasn't super certain that our kids (particularly the two year old) would do well here.  With that said, there was another table that had two couples and six kids between them and they seemed to do just fine.  With that said, it's more on the upscale side and while kids would surely be welcomed, it's probably only a place you'd take them in the very early evening so as to not disturb someone's romantic dinner.  The restaurant has two areas, a dimly lit bar area with some tables (we walked through and I didn't really make much note of the area) and a more typical dining area that has better lighting; the whole place was very classy and felt sophisticated.

Our food was really good.  As someone who loves variety, especially at a seafood restaurant, I went for the Fisherman's combo, which allowed me my beloved crab cakes as well as shrimp, tilapia, and scallops.  It was very good and very fresh, if on the pricey side (though what else can one expect when one is going for good seafood).  Our friends ordered an oyster plate appetizer and they enjoyed it very much, and everyone enjoyed their dinners.

We had a really great, if expensive, time at Scampi's.

Friday, January 18, 2013


275 Route 18 South,
East Brunswick, NJ 08816

On New Year's Day, we were out on a family adventure to the aquarium.  Fish plus fun equaled sushi in my mind, so we did some quick googling and headed to a recommended sushi place.  On our way there, we saw the new buffet had opened and decided to give it a go.

Luckily, we arrived around 5 because the lobby was full of diners waiting to sit when we left!  On New Year's Day, they had an incredible special for the buffet and the price couldn't have been beat if I had made dinner at home.  It's not clear at this moment what their regular prices are, though.

The buffet was pretty good.  There's a wide range of Asian dishes to choose (as well as chicken fingers, fries, etc too) as well as Asian barbecue with a duck carving station, a hibachi station, and a sushi bar.  Since I wanted sushi, that's where I focused my attention.  They had some really interesting sushi rolls and the variety changed over the course of the time we were there too.  It wasn't the freshest sushi I've ever had, but for the super cheap price we paid, I was satisfied and my husband agreed.

We really enjoyed our meal at this buffet.

Teppanyaki Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cafe Paris

441 Main St
Metuchen, NJ 08840
(732) 603-9200

After a recent doctor's appointment, I was starving on my sick day, so wanted to pick up something easy for lunch.  I looked on the internet for places that serve soup, trying to stay away from the old standby of Panera, and Cafe Paris came up as highly rated.  Folks mostly commented on their crepes, so I was super excited to try one.

After a quick glance at the menu, I didn't see any crepes (I later saw that they only have dessert crepes, and they seemed on the pricey side to me, but I digress), so I ordered a lunch special of soup and sandwich.  I received a chicken breast sandwich on delicious bread with a roasted yellow pepper, tomato, lettuce, and mozzarella cheese that was pressed and the silkiest butternut squash soup I've ever had.

Since I ordered takeout (and was the only customer in the place on a random Tuesday), the service was super fast.  The atmosphere is very cafe cute, and I told my husband we need to go there together sometime.

Cafe Paris on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mama Rosina's

350 E Main St
Bound Brook, NJ 08805
(732) 805-3377

You know how it is during the holiday season, so when we had a Living Social deal and a hectic evening, we moseyed over to Mama Rosina's.  I was highly anticipating the meal, largely because I had read that it was in the former Bound Brook train station and knew this would be a real treat for my family.

As far as atmosphere, this was in fact a real treat.  The trains flew by and my sons bounced off their chairs to run to the window.  It's such a cool space, with the bar situated in the former ticket booth and it appears they have maintained some of the original windows for that space.

The service was really great too; I now judge service mostly on how accommodating they are of my children and at Mama Rosina's, they were incredible toward my kids (aside from the built in train entertainment).

The problem, of course, was that the food just wasn't that good.  I had the Pollo Rosina, described on their website as "Breast of Chicken Sautéed with Mushrooms, Artichokes, Sun Dried Tomatoes in a Pink Cream Sauce, Topped with Mozzarella."

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Sorry for the horrible dark photo

The chicken was terribly overcooked, which made the rest of the meal really unpalatable.  The sauce was ok, though I definitely picked up the flavor of canned tomatoes, but after picking out the chicken, I was really disappointed and ended up not even taking my leftovers home.

My husband's dinner got a rating of "fine," which is a sure sign of good enough to eat and enjoy but not good enough to come back.  I actually would probably give it even lower marks, which is terribly disappointing to me.  I had super high hopes of LOVING this place, which is close to home and could have been a real regular place for us. Mama Rosina's on Urbanspoon

The New West Brook Tavern

525 Talmadge Ave
Bound Brook, NJ 08805

On Saturday, running errands conflicted with our eating at home plan, so we decided to go out and try a new to us restaurant.  A friend had mentioned this, and it sounded like a good and easy place to go after my look at their website previously.

It's pretty low key and the restaurant is on the smaller side with about 15 tables.  They have bands that play, and I can only imagine they remove tables to make the space for them.

Our server was great, giving us lots of attention and kindness to our two boys.

As far as the food, it's solid and portions are large.  The "kids" hot dog was enormous and came with an awesome looking roll, plus at $4.95 (with drink and ice cream), the price really can't be beat.  I had eggplant parm, which was really large as well and fairly priced.  It came with salad and was your typical restaurant eggplant parm dish.  When I looked at the menu, I noticed a sandwich that was like it was invented by my husband, having all the ingredients (and in a sandwich, no less) that he loves.  Not surprisingly, he really enjoyed it.  As far as the bar, they have a pretty standard selection of drafts, with probably 8-10 choices.

In short, this is a really solid neighborhood bar and restaurant with reasonable prices, great service, and good food.

 The New West Brook on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pasta Lovers

142 W 49th St.
(between 7th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)
New York, NY 10019

We chose this restaurant because of its location near Radio City.  The reviews across the internet were mixed between really good and that it's a tourist trap and too pricey, but of the choices our group made, this seemed to be the best.

It's location to Radio City, Times Square, Penn Station, Port Authority, and Rockefeller Center is unbeatable.

Our food was fine.  We split a Mozzarella Caprese appetizer, which was quite good.  The mozzarella was super fresh, and the price was about double that of the same meal at a local central NJ Italian restaurant.  

The rest of our group was late due to train issues, and despite having the appetizer, we were given a great deal of pressure from our waiter about where the rest of our group was.  He wouldn't bring us bread and asked us probably three times where they were.  I completely understand the need for table turn around, but the restaurant was empty.  The tables on either side of us were the same size and unused.

My friends enjoyed their meals of varying pasta dishes, and my mom and I each had a pizza roll type thing--basically a stromboli.  Based on the amount we each ate, we could easily have shared one.  It was good, typical, but nothing to really write home about.  These also happened to be the least expensive entrees on the menu; my eggplant stromboli was $10, which I thought pretty reasonable for anywhere, let alone Midtown Manhattan.

Our waiter warmed to us once our friends arrived, but I was pretty ticked off as a result of the pressure about the rest of our party.

So, my recommendation would be to find a small place over on 8th Ave if you're going to the area and are able to walk a little bit away from the center of the action.  It's definitely fine, but who goes into town for a fine meal?

  Pasta Lovers on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nectresse Review

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of NECTRESSE™Sweetener for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I do not like artificial sweetener; I worry about the potential risks of the chemicals in the product and I HATE the taste.  Of course, I know there are risks associated with regular sugar too.  So I was both interested and skeptical when NECTRESSE™Sweetener arrived on my doorstep.


First, I tried the product in my tea.  I wasn't a huge fan, but must make a note that I usually drink tea without any sweetener at all.  I then tried it in coffee and while it wasn't bad, it would take me some getting used to.  I then had a friend over and offered it when she asked for a cup of tea; she is an artificial sweetener user and said she really enjoyed it.


Nectresse is an interesting blend of no calorie sweetener and all natural (read:  no artificial junk); it's made from "monk fruit," and seems to be 150x sweeter than sugar; this is the only 100% natural sweetener made from fruit in my grocery store.


also made a video about the product; you should check it out!




You can get a FREE sample of NECTRESSE™Sweetener by visiting the Nectresse sample site.  Also take a look at the Nectresse Facebook page.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Carriage House Cafe

600 W Union Ave Bound Brook NJ

We've tried to go here before, only to discover too late that they are closed on Sunday.  We were in the area and decided to splurge on lunch out.

We got our meals to go; the boys shared (and enjoyed) a kids' cheeseburger, which came with fries.    I had a Chipotle Chicken Panini and it was  so good.  Half was plenty for me, especially when combined with the fries I swiped from the boys and the onion rings (perhaps the best I've ever had) I shared with my husband.

My husband had their signature Bulgogi (Chicken) Sub.  It's chicken in a Korean style sauce.  It was tasty, and he enjoyed it, but it definitely wasn't quite as good as my sandwich.

A good, and not too expensive, meal at Cafe Carriage House!

Cafe Carriage House on Urbanspoon

Gateway National Recreation Area

Check out the National Parks Service page for Sandy Hook!

This year, I have made it my mission to expand the beaches to which I (and my boys) have been.  Growing up, we went went to 44th Street Beach in Long Beach Township (at Wida's!) every time.  My mom still goes there. 

This week, we ventured to Sandy Hook.  I'd been there once before, on a field trip in High School.  We didn't go to the beach but rather to the Twin Lights and probably something for bio class.  Otherwise, I don't think I've ever been there.  I chose this because it is the northern most ocean beach, and so is closest to our central NJ home.

For $15, the whole car-ful gets access to the National Park.  This is a great deal if you'd be paying for your whole family's beach badges, but for just me and my two little (free on most beaches) boys, it really wasn't worth it.  If my husband was with us, though, it would be a day that would make everyone happy, since he'd have plenty of trails to ride on his bike and there's more than just the beach to see (he's not a fan of the beach at all). 

A friend mentioned that the beach at the Sea Gull's Nest restaurant was nice, so that's where we went.  As soon as we arrived, we hit the bathrooms; they are plentiful and clean.  I saw many outdoor (and not private) showers, and found online that there are indoor showers available (I couldn't confirm that by spending many minutes searching and calling the visitor's center).  We walked to the beach and it's really wide.  Luckily for those of us towing a heavy Wonder Wheeler, it's fairly flat (though still difficult going back up with said Wonder Wheeler and two tired kiddos who aren't interested in carrying anything).  We chose the lifeguard protected side; it was nice because you don't have to worry about swimming "between the flags" like on many other beaches.  Here, as long as you go to the lifeguarded side, it's ALL "between the flags." 

It didn't seem like such a clear day, but yet:
Manhattan; you can see the Freedom Tower on the left.

The waves were pretty gentle here.  My almost 5 year old got knocked down a few times, standing at the water's edge, but it is definitely not a place to go surfing.  It didn't even seem like really a good place to go boogie boarding; the waves were crashing maybe 10 feet from the water's edge.  The nice thing about this, though, is that you can get out pretty far just by walking, or be in up to your hips and yet you're out past the breaks.

One complaint, and you'll see it on any review of the beach here, is that there are no trash receptacles anywhere.  It's a carry in, carry out place, which makes sense, except that many people DON'T.  There was trash around us, which I picked up and carried out, only to find there was NO WHERE to throw out what I picked up (and sorry, I'm not carrying other people's garbage and beer bottles home in my car with me).

We then went for a little drive to see what we could see.  We passed the famous Gunnison Beach (that would be the nude beach to which my high school boyfriend always said he was going to take me), and drove around the lighthouse and Fort Hancock barracks area.  My son was thrilled to see missiles and canons... not so impressed by the lighthouse.

In short, we had a great time, but it's not going to be a regular beach destination for us; the price is prohibitive... at least until I have to pay for each of my sons to join me.   We will definitely be back, though, with my husband and his bike in tow.  Maybe we'll even combine a beach and bike tour one day!