There are not many places out there which can transport you somewhere else. Oh, how the simple act of being able to put your toes in the sand just feet from the water while sipping a cold beer to the sound of island music can remove all of your troubles in this world. That’s how we felt last night at The Seafarer in Highlands. Can a place with no walls be termed a “hole in the wall”? If so, they would classify. Had I not read about it on the Hungry Onion message board last year, I would have had no idea they even existed. It is a tiny, little spot wedged up against a marina. There is a hut which serves as the epitome of a tiki bar, and maybe seats 15 around. It is surrounded by sand on a deck a few feet up from the river.
Before you get that far, there is a food/truck trailer with a few items on the menu and large wood-burning and charcoal grills next to that. After you order your drinks, you can sit at the bar or take a seat at one of the many options they have for you: there are picnic tables with umbrellas, beach chairs, hammocks, and these strange-but-comfortable spiral chairs, including some set up under an open tepee, and multiple fire-pits for when the sun goes down. For those wanting to literally be on the water, there are more tables on a small pier extending into the river. If anyone has ever watched Death in Paradise, this is where the main characters would hang out after solving a case.
We arrived at around 6:30 PM after a couple hours of swimming at Sandy Hook. There was not much of a crowd but it steadily filled up for the next hour and a half. It was a mix of people, ranging from couples and groups of friends to families with children. We checked out the drink menu to see a selection of beers solely local and/or craft. Despite working in Atlantic Highlands since 2011, I never had Carton before, so I ordered a can of their This Town Lager. Justin had a Narragansett which is currently offering special edition cans with their 1975 design. We took a seat in the sand and put our beers on a plank of wood which would be our table. It was still blistering hot, but the oncoming shade made it bearable. A cool breeze started to blow as the smell of grilled meats wafted across the area.
I went over to the food truck and got us some chips and guacamole. It was a decent-sized portion and I thoroughly enjoyed this chunky (and slightly spicy) guac. After a few more minutes, we decided it was time for an island beverage. I had the rum punch which used three different kinds of local Shipwreck Rum and fruit juices, while the name of his evades me—it had a cream of coconut base. We both thought they tasted good, though we wished they were a little bigger for the price.
At this point, I went to post some pictures on Instagram and felt a splash of water. Aiming at me from the bar with a water gun was the bartender with a smile and a warning of, “Get off your phone!” She was, in fact, correct. The atmosphere was too beautiful to be wasting it on screentime. All the bartenders they had there were very friendly and efficient. There was never any waiting for drinks despite the swelling crowd.
Justin and I did not have plans to eat anymore but we just could not stand the smell of the charcoal and wood burning any longer. Wanting to go “light”, we ordered a grilled shrimp skewer to share. There were five enormous head-on shrimp which were cooked perfectly and very, very messy! The food nut that I am, I will admit that this is the first time I have ever eaten a whole shrimp including the head and shell. It was an interesting experience. While waiting for the shrimp, I took some pictures. There was a half chicken and whole fish being grilled at the same time. Aside from those, the limited menu also had a burger, vegan burger, grilled corn on the cob, and rice. We grabbed one more beer (or was it two?) before heading out. I think at the same time we said, “This is the life”. Nothing but good vibes here. The atmosphere was so relaxed, the energy pleasant, and the weather was getting to that perfect point right before the sun went down. I feel like I have been waiting a long time for a place like this.
And now for a score: for set-up, atmosphere, service, and “vibes” alone, easily 5 stars. This is one of those times I knew I was giving a good rating after five minutes. However, I do have to be all-inclusive of everything. Drink prices were on the higher side, but dare I say, not abnormal for the area. Beer cans started at $5 and ranged up to $8. All cocktails were more than $10, and the signature ones that we tried were $13. This is probably the going rate, but the smallish mason jar they came in could have been a little bigger. It would also be nice if the food truck had a few more options.
The guy grilling obviously knows what he is doing and I know they have limited storage, but I would like to see what he could do with some ribs or slow-cooked pulled pork. The whole fish was $16 and the burger was $15 (I’m not sure if it included fries). The prices one pays to sit at such an awesome location, though the $8 for the guacamole was more than fair. I am going to give The Seafarer 4 out of 5 stars, which is actually a high score for a non-food-centered establishment. Simply put, this place is wonderful. I highly recommend that if you are looking for somewhere to hangout this summer with drinks and a snack, to do it here. I hope you have as good an experience as we did.
The Seafarer is located at 1 Atlantic Street in Highlands, NJ.