The Inlet Café - Highlands, NJ
It's a beautiful afternoon and you want to enjoy some outside dining - better yet - you want to eat and sit outside by the ocean. Sometimes it's an itch that needs to be scratched, but trying to find a great place with an ocean-view can be daunting. The Inlet Café has you covered when it comes to great food, amazing service, and a spectacular view. With a proven track record of half a century and quite the view of Sandy Hook - Highlands could be your next destination and Inlet Café needs to be the spot.
Whether it's to come to the Inlet Café to grab a full meal, some appetizers or just a beer or two, you couldn't ask for a better location to overlook Sandy Hook and the many boats, kayaks, and jet-skis that come and go. Upon our visit, the day was a wonderful 85 degrees, but you could barely feel it since the breeze picking up from the coast made the temperature manageable. The outside tables were packed with plenty of people waiting for their turn to be seated as well. In fact, some of the people sitting at the benches were people waiting. If you're going to wait to be seated, why not enjoy the same view you can enjoy when you actually make it to a table? The wait is truly a testament to the combination of culinary greatness as well as the ample outside seating for friends and families to enjoy.
Unfortunately, craft beer lovers, there are not that many options for you. The best I could do was a Sam Adams Rebel IPA. I'd love it if they at least had a Carton option on tap, especially since the brewery is so close by. The Inlet Café is practically begging for a Carton BOAT or the Wit Whale, since both would pair excellently with the offerings here. Still, the Rebel IPA is worth having to go along with your meal of choice. But still, consider this my petition to have the Inlet Café get at least one local tap in its bar (*cough Carton *cough*?).
Probably their second best soup, the Manhattan Clam Chowder had nice good chunks of clam along with very savory vegetables within the broth. I'm not much of a fan of clams, but I decided to give this one a try and it was pretty good. If you love clams and want a different take on clam chowder, I'd recommend this.
The lobster & crab bisque is fantastic. It packs plenty of favor. The bisque has this thick mouth feel to it with plenty of lobster and crack chunks in it. I ordered this at the last minute and was definitely glad that I did so. I was not disappointed as this set the right tone for the next two dishes to come.
The Crab Trap Dip is a delicious appetizer that blends generous chunks of crab meat into a fondue with mozzarella cheese. It's served with a nice loaf of bread for you to spread over. I really enjoyed the blend of the crab and the cheese! It's not a bad choice if you are looking for a shareable appetizer. Once you start pulling some of the dip out, you will see the nice size of the crab meat.
The crab cakes were absolutely killer. There's been plenty of times that I've ordered crab cakes only to receive more cake than crab. Here at the Inlet, as soon as I dipped the fork into the cake, a pretty big piece of crab meat was present. This was definitely a great sign. The sauce underneath the crab cakes added a whole extra dimension of flavor to what was already a delicious portion of food. If you see this on the menu or the specials, you should definitely give it a shot. I would definitely order this again, no questions asked.
Inlet Café is one of my favorite outdoor locations in Monmouth County. It's a beautiful location and I am very thankful that the Inlet Café has come back since the disaster that was Hurricane Sandy. It's always gratifying to see such a gem of a place rise back up from the ashes that were left behind by this natural phenomenon. It's back and here to stay.
It's enjoyable both inside and outside. No matter what, take a second and soak in the view. There's something unique and spectacular about it. Not only is the view going to leave you in awe, but the meal accompanying the panoramic vista is quite fresh and enjoyable. I'll definitely be back and enjoy the crab cakes and try more of their menu offerings. Hopefully in the future, they'll please me with at least a local tap so that I can sit back, sip on a nice refreshing craft beer and enjoy the culinary experience blended in with the scenic perfection.