Le Beach Chic

The Jersey Shore is a golden gift all year once you master the map. Asbury for retro coolness (echoes of Bruce’s glory days at The Stone Pony). Spring Lake for a pretty beach bordered by showcase homes and manicured lawns. Ocean Grove for Victorian architecture and cones at Nagle’s, once a pharmacy. And now, Long Branch for a day trip combining three favorite sports: Sunning, shopping and dining.

Developers have tapped this sandy shore for fresh dinners on the deck, coffee refueling spots and trendy clothing boutiques. (The Havaianas pop-up was a beachy bonus.) Parking, in limited street spaces or at an ample parking deck, is reasonably priced. We checked out Avenue Restaurant—known for its deluxe, multi-tiered, chilled seafood platters, perfect to take the heat off a sunburn—and its sister, exclusive Le Club, for the inside story.

FRENCH FOOD BY THE SEA
Avenue offers the valuable perk of tables and comfy seating on a deck overlooking the Atlantic. Spearing our Pommes Dauphine (divine potato puffs, crispy outside and soft inside) with a fork, we saw a colorful parade pass as the sunset. New parents pushed luxe prams and a woman who looked like a princess from Mumbai strolled with her very new husband, her beautiful wedding attire shimmering against the ocean blue.

Chef Josh Sauer’s menu offers a take on steamed mussels with white wine, a dish Julia Child loved. Here, Moules Frites perfume the air with such an alluring aroma that if you didn’t order it, you will want to tear off a piece of bread and ask if you can dip it into another lucky diner’s soup plate.

Open all year, the restaurant features other French favorites, too, from Trout Amandine to Boeuf Bourguignon. Entrées range from the simple ($16 for a burger with pommes frites) to the luxurious, such as Homemade Lobster Spaghetti ($39, with butter-poached lobster, lemon mascarpone and saffron). The crème brûlée arrived accessorized with a petite lemon madeleine. And the excellent cup of cappuccino (decaf, so we could drift to sleep easily that night, remembering the sound of the sea and the call of the gulls) had a thick, spoonable white cap, like the foamy curl of a rolling wave.

MEMBERS ONLY
Le Club, the private area with cabanas, chaises, umbrellas and towel service, is open from the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day. Membership includes wristbands for beach access. A cabana with louvred windows, daybed, flat-screen TV and mini fridge is perfect if your cranky toddler (or spouse) needs a cold drink and an afternoon nap. We loved the Mario Badescu shower products provided for freshening up. Our hair never looked better.

Having a waitress come to our cabana table with a refreshing Blue Velvet cocktail, made with mint leaves, muddled blueberries and Stoli Blueberi Vodka, and a luscious Salade Niçoise with white anchovies and seared tuna, was also a sun-kissed gift.

The deluxe day in the sun ended with a dip in the secluded rooftop pool, another privilege for members only (lifeguard on duty). Individual and family memberships available. Visit leclubavenue.com for details.

Beach Club Photographs Courtesy of Avenue, Food & Cocktail Photographs Courtesy of Shedrick Pelt.

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