Hunter’s Casual Crusades: Surf Taco (Red Bank, NJ)

While being spontaneous is a great quality, spontaneity with food choices is not something I want to participate in while I’m crawling for a bite to eat. I’m running on empty, hearing my stomach crying out in desperation. I need to stick to my roots— to what I know. What place has what food, and for how much. I need it now. My girlfriend wanted to drive to what seemed like the other side of the world to Red Bank for Surf Taco which I never had before. Needless to say, buttons began to be pushed. Nearly a half hour longer without food. Can’t we get tacos anywhere closer? 

The place seemed neat, I guess. I have to admit, there was a cool ambiance to it. There was a giant menu…with near giant prices soon to follow. I checked the menu online on the drive over as to not waste another second. The 12-year-old in me eyed up a “Chicken Tender Taco” that could be done buffalo style which was enough for me. I got up to the counter and placed the order.

Expectations began to skyrocket (or plummet, depending on how you look at it) when I dropped a $20 bill on a couple of tacos for us, which I thought was a little unreal. My girlfriend could tell I was unhappy, and before this goes any further, just know I apologized after the result. The food hit the table, and they took away the table number stand that they have nowhere else except Chuck E. Cheese. Does it really get that busy? But my negative thoughts were immediately shut down when I looked at the pretty impressive basket in front of me.

Buffalo chicken tenders (done at an extra cost) were glistening with a perfect orange glaze. Diced tomatoes were without a doubt fresh. The shredded lettuce in the mix was topped with a modest amount of ranch dressing that wouldn’t lead me to needing a hundred napkins. It was served with tortilla chips which was a nice touch, but due to the price tag it should be mandatory. I scooped up the fallen contents of the soft shell taco with the chips because I was not paying even more money for salsa. Even with constant talk of money, just know it didn’t totally break the bank. Being located in Red Bank, the prices are reasonable. Anywhere else and no way Jose.

It was very satisfying as a matter of fact. Perfect amount of spice and heat, portion was enough without it being too much. The contents were not splattering out of the tortilla and my hands were kept clean. Time came to put up or shut up and they delivered, changing my mind for the better in the process. The only major complaint I had was that all the fountain drinks were coming out almost as a flavored water, and needed to be replaced.

The long walk back to the car was one of contentment as opposed to a long walk of “I told you so” shame. I’d definitely go again if I was in the area with friends. With tables outside the venue, it may be a hot spot for me this summer. Throughout high school and years to follow, I’ve heard the Surf Taco name thrown around but it never seemed like a place I’d go to. I’m honestly glad I eventually did. Surf Taco earns 3.5 out of 5 stars, (it might have been 4 if a couple of tacos didn’t cost me two hours pay and the soda wasn’t water).

Hunter Dillon is a guest blogger on Eating New Jersey. As a hockey player, he is always on the go, which has served as the inspiration for his “Casual Crusades” column. He has more than four years of restaurant kitchen experience and can cook up the best cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia.

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