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Boardwalks are living nostalgia, and the memories families and friends make on them are ones that last a lifetime. While the rides and the kitschy shops are all part of the experience, the food is perhaps what we remember most. Here are America’s most iconic boardwalk foods.
Those who have a boardwalk within traveling distance know that it isn’t simply a beach-town gimmick with tourist T-shirts and overpriced rides. It is where a little boy won his first arcade game, where a little girl got her face painted for the first time. It is where high school seniors went after prom or for senior week, where they got their first kisses, and where they dreamed of returning with their own families someday. Those memories are personal, but the memories of boardwalk foods, from corn dogs to salt water taffy, are collective.
While you’d hardly call any of these foods healthy, calories are far from our minds when we're vacationing. Plus, if you’re going to eat a funnel cake, you’re better off doing it on a day when you’ve been walking around and swimming, right? Read on for the most iconic boardwalk foods.
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It’s really hard to mess up a corn dog, so you can enjoy one pretty much anywhere they’re served, from a New Jersey boardwalk to South Korea, which has a particularly interesting variation. But the best ones are at Jane’s Corndogs in Newport Beach, California, which is open until 2:30 a.m. and has become a popular after-hours spot. This local legend fries their dogs as you order and serves a mean dish of chili cheese fries to go with them.
Deep-fried Oreos are pretty easy to make at home, so long as you have Bisquick lying around, but they just taste better at county fairs — or, even better, on boardwalks. After all, isn’t biting into a soft pancake enveloping that familiar cookie sandwich we all love the definition of pleasure and nostalgia? They are ubiquitous on boardwalks on both coasts, and make for a decadent once-a-summer treat.
Fish tacos are the new kids on the block when it comes to classic boardwalk food, but they’re a very welcome addition to the canon. You’ll find some of the best fish tacos at La Playa Taco Shop at San Diego’s Mission Beach Boardwalk, and they've become a popular West Coast boardwalk staple.
It’s a tale of two styles of French fries, in two different cities of the same name. Thrasher’s in Ocean City, Maryland, prides itself on its fries to such an extent that they don’t let you have ketchup with them; your only seasoning options are salt and vinegar. Then there’s Curly’s Fries in Ocean City, New Jersey, where they serve big round buckets of springy, Old Bay-seasoned curly fries that are perfect to eat while watching the sunset. Don’t choose; make sure to visit both at some point.
For those hot summer days, the only thing more refreshing than a dip in the ocean is a frozen custard, especially if it’s from Kohr’s Bros in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Containing less fat and sugar than a traditional cone of ice cream, this is one (slightly) guilt-free snack that doesn’t sacrifice taste for calories. With over 15 flavors, such as Oreo smash and butterscotch ripple, and a choice of hand-dipped versus soft serve, Kohr’s frozen treats never fail to please.
For authentic boardwalk fudge, you ought to travel to The Fudgery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Fresh fudge is created before your very eyes while the Wonka-like staff belts out show tunes and encourages you to join along. According to the original fudge master, A.C. Marshall, the interactive retail experience is what sets his fudge shop apart from others. That, and using the finest quality ingredients to create truly show-stopping fudge. And of course, no trip to Michigan's Mackinac Island is complete without fudge, even though it's not exactly a boardwalk destination.
Mmm, funnel cakes.Funnel cakes are at their best when they're fried to order and dusted with nothing but a heap of powdered sugar and maybe some fresh fruit. The best boardwalk to sample them is the legendary one in Atlantic City, New Jersey, specifically at Vanina’s, where they come in multiple flavors, like cinnamon or strawberry. If you’re on the West Coast, Jane’s in Newport Beach, California tops them with fresh fruit.
Coney Island is home to what's arguably America’s most famous boardwalk, and the most iconic food from this legendary Brooklyn destination is the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand. Most visitors line up on Surf Avenue (a couple blocks from the boardwalk) to order from the original 1916 stand, but there’s a second location (with an ample outdoor seating area) located right on the boardwalk itself. Grab a couple dogs and stroll down the boardwalk, just like folks have been doing for more than 100 years.
Salt water taffy is now common in many boardwalk towns, but it all started in Jersey. Known as the salt water taffy capital of the world, New Jersey proudly hosts the famous Shriver's taffy shop in Ocean Beach. Featuring over 40 different flavors, Shriver's bills itself as "the oldest business on the boardwalk," and it’s all due to their multicolored treats. New Jersey is also home to James’ Candy Company in Atlantic City — they offer a 30- to 40-minute candy-making tour so you can see how the taffy is made.
Yelp/ Brigit B.
In Seaside Heights, New Jersey, no food is more synonymous to the boardwalk than a slice of “spiral pizza” from Maruca’s Tomato Pies. In business since 1950, Maruca’s signature Trenton-style pie starts with a thin crust, which is then topped with a special blend of cheese before being finished with a swirl of tomato sauce. Plenty of imitators have popped up over the years, but Maruca’s (which is opening a location in Asbury Park later this year) is still the best.
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The tornado potato is like a cross between French fries and potato chips, on steroids. You’ll find these easily-sharable fried potatoes on a stick all over the Wildwood, New Jersey, boardwalk. They originated in Seoul, South Korea, and took the New Jersey boardwalk by storm in 2009. Since then, they've popped up at boardwalks nationwide, and are giving French fries a run for their money.
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