One of the frustrating things about seafood restaurants is that they go to either one extreme or another. Places that primarily serve fruits of the sea tend to be very fancy and thus expensive, or so casual that they provide plastic utensils and Styrofoam plates. There’s nothing wrong with fine dining or disposable tableware, it’s just difficult to find a happy medium — a casual seafood joint that serves elevated fare for a reasonable price. The Bonney Read in Asbury Park, New Jersey is that happy medium.
Named after two infamous female pirates of the Caribbean, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, the restaurant is the newest offering from the same partners that brought the Festhalle and Biergarten to Asbury Park last year. Much like the Festhalle, the Bonney Read offers diners a relaxed atmosphere where they can enjoy skillfully prepared dishes at affordable prices.
The warm and inviting space features weathered-looking wooden surfaces and exposed support beams made to look like the masts of a ship. An open kitchen and raw bar are on prominent display as diners enter, and immediately convey the dedication to fresh and local ingredients that chef James Avery brings to his work. His commitment to only the freshest ingredients is reflected in the menu as well, with rotating fish and oyster selections.
At its heart the Bonney Read is an upscale chowder house, and the chowders do not disappoint. Taking direction from some of the older, more traditional recipes for the dish, the New England clam chowder
is not as heavy than most you find today, with a light and creamy texture and chock-full of whole Middleneck clams, potatoes, and of course, bacon. The lobster bisque
with fennel, chives, and sherry is full of big chunks of lobster but the soup itself is also on the lighter side, which is great because there are so many small plates to choose from that you’ll want to try them all.
Chef Avery takes his inspiration from classic, well known dishes but like every great chef he adds his own unique touch. The linguini with white clam sauce
, a staple in countless Italian kitchens, features the white wine, garlic, and parsley normally found in the dish but with the incredible addition of guanciale. The clam and chorizo fritters are another twist on a classic with a wonderfully delicate saffron aioli served on the side.
The Bonney Read, like every great pirate ship, features a rum-centric cocktail menu, but doesn’t skimp on wine or beer. The wine list by the glass is fantastic and very reasonably priced, the beer list has a style for every palate, and almost all of the beers are from local breweries. It's the perfect neighborhood place to enjoy a refreshing drink and fresh, elevated seafood in a relaxed environment.