By Donald Wittkowski
For Joanne Regan and her son, John, there will likely be no need this week for trips to the supermarket, no need for cooking dinner and, perhaps best of all, no need to clean up messy pots, pans and dishes.
They are planning to eat out just about every night during Sea Isle City’s Restaurant Week, a culinary extravaganza that showcases the shore town’s dining scene.
On Monday, the first night of Restaurant Week, the Regans decided to have dinner at O’Donnell’s Pour House, the Irish-themed eatery and pub on Landis Avenue in the heart of downtown.
“We’re going to try to go out almost every night,” said Joanne Regan, who lives in Sea Isle. “Where else can you get a meal like this for $34?”
Foodies will have the opportunity to savor all Sea Isle has to offer during Restaurant Week’s prix fixe menu that includes four courses for $34.
Restaurant Week includes a dozen participating eateries throughout Sea Isle and two in neighboring Strathmere – from casual, old-school taverns to gourmet waterfront establishments. It runs through June 10.
“It’s fantastic,” said John Regan, who is visiting his mother from his home in Pennsylvania. “I think this is a great idea. This really allows Sea Isle to showcase the restaurants in town.”
Restaurant owners are counting on the event to elevate Sea Isle’s dining scene to an even higher level. They hope to tempt visitors to come to town a little bit earlier in the summer season by appealing to their appetites.
“We have been getting phone calls from people who want to make reservations already. People are saying they are coming to town for Restaurant Week,” said Kathy Larkin, manager of O’Donnell’s Pour House.
Despite its small size, Sea Isle likes to boast that its restaurants are on par – if not superior – with any others at the Jersey Shore. Restaurant operators are eager to prove it this week.
“Sea Isle is very fortunate to have such a diverse group of restaurants,” said Mike Monichetti, owner of Mike’s Seafood & Dock Restaurant. “I would say that Sea Isle is by far the tops at the Jersey Shore. We have everything from sushi to fine, white-tablecloth dining.”
Mike’s Seafood on Park Road is one of the famed local eateries in the heart of the Fish Alley neighborhood, an enclave of family-owned restaurants and fishing boats rooted in Sea Isle’s early history as a small commercial seaport.
Larkin, also emphasizing the different dining options offered in Sea Isle, said the local restaurants are, without question, a major draw for tourists.
“First of all, we have great diversity. There are so many different types of restaurants on the island,” Larkin said. “I think people are definitely coming here all the time for the restaurants.”
Hoping to capitalize further on the event’s popularity, the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization has already been discussing the possibility of having a Restaurant Week in the fall.
This summer, diners will have a chance to sample some new restaurants in town. For instance, the legendary Lobster Loft overlooking the bayfront on 42nd Place in Fish Alley has been rebranded into a pub-style restaurant called the Oar House.
The Oar House had a “soft opening” on May 19. A formal grand opening will be held later. At that time, the iconic giant red lobster that decorated the front entrance of the old Lobster Loft will be removed from the building and auctioned off, with the proceeds benefiting autism-related charities.
Amy Cossaboone, manager of the Oar House, said Restaurant Week is an opportunity for diners to get a sneak peek of the new eatery as it continues its transformation with its interior decor and renovations.
Cossaboone, like Monichetti and Larkin, believes Sea Isle’s restaurants compare favorably with any others at the shore.
“Sea Isle, to me, has really good restaurants,” she said. “I think the restaurants are family-oriented and date-oriented. I don’t feel the pricing is over the top. The price point is something that people can definitely afford. With the great food and restaurants, there’s a million reasons to come here.”
Visit www.seaislerestaurantweek.com for a list of participating restaurants and menus for Restaurant Week.