I got my second shot the beginning of May. My husband had long since been vaccinated. So when I saw the promotion for a nearby craft show I was ready. I jumped in the convertible, top down and headed up the highway! It was wonderful to be around other people, laughing and chatting. Almost everyone followed social distancing, used masks inside of booths, and in general showed respect for the other attendees. It was great fun and of course I came home with a few little goodies. 🙂
The weather was great so once I was home my husband was easily persuaded to head down the shore for dinner. We went to our current fav, Inlet Cafe. The view and food were great, live music from the venue next door, but our timing was terrible. I thought by going early we’d beat the crowd. Noooo, we should have gone LATE (which would have worked for us also). We waited nearly 2 hours I think before we were seated. We were just about to go the restaurant next door when our beeper beeped. Next time we’ll go down in the middle of the week and avoid that weekend rush. Because we can. *grin*.
I know I’m getting older. Time was if I’d planned to go to the beach, nothing would deter me. But despite having plans to spend Thursday down the shore, I could sense my heart wasn’t really in it. I’ve been hearing horror stories about the traffic and the lines to get into the national park. It’s been so humid that it sucks the life out of me. Late Wednesday night I emailed my sister and said – let’s not go. She was astounded and concerned. The truth was that I’ve been doing so many things that I’ve wanted to get done for so long, and I wasn’t ready to take a day and do nothing. I wrote back and said that nothing was wrong, I really was still her sister Ahuva, and that I was planning to go down the shore for lunch. She was amenable to that change so down to the Highlands we went, back to Inlet Cafe. That place is really becoming one of my favorite spots.
We drove down in the luxury car, not the convertible. Neither of us was really up for the 96 degree heat and humidity. I love my new used car – it rides so smoothly and is so powerful. I’m enjoying all the luxuries and appreciate the fine tuning. Unlike dinner on a Saturday night, there was no wait for a table. I probably made a mistake by asking for a table in the shade. We sat close to the building and there was only an occasional breeze. I’m not sure that it would have been better at the tables by the water, however. They are separated by walls of clear plastic now and it’s possible that the plastic would also break the breeze. It didn’t really matter as the food was great, excellent service and a lovely view of the water.
While we were there I had birthday calls and texts from my niece and my son, so it was a little family lunch. For many years the 4 of us had what we called “our beach day”. Over the years we had traditional stops on the way, traditional conversations, and lots of memories of good times together. Time passes, children grow up and move away, and it’s been awhile since we had “our beach day”.
My sister CLAIMS she reads my blog posts, but she was astounded when I parked the car in the tiny municipal lot by the tiny little beach. Despite signs claiming it was an unguarded beach there WAS a lifeguard on duty. I’d noticed the lifeguard stand when we’d been down there for dinner. There were letters on the back but they were partly covered by signs. My liberal arts Roman history major mind looked at what was visible and was sure the letters were SPQR – Senātus Populusque Rōmānus. For those of you who did NOT study with our beloved Dr. P. B. Harvey at PSU, SPQR is “The Senate and People of Rome”, an emblematic abbreviated phrase referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by an inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public works. I had no idea why a lifeguard stand in the Highlands should have SPQR painted on it, but it definitely struck my fancy. 🙂 Since there was someone ON the stand, I couldn’t resist. I walked over and asked the young (cute) life guard what it said. He replied that it was SBOR – Sea Bright Ocean Rescue. I told him I was crushed and started to explain and he nodded and finished the explanation. *grin* Not only cute but learned. Impressive. Ah well, we must learn to live with disappointment.
I pointed out to my sister some of my other favorite little discoveries around the restaurant. I have always been an LBI fan, especially drawn to Beach Haven, but I could really envision renting down in the Highlands. Actually, I could envision retiring to the Highlands. Too bad my husband is set on moving further south when we actually do this retirement thing.
Driving home we had one of those “sister experiences”, where we end up laughing so hard we are crying, our sides hurt from laughing, and we worry about not having a change of clothing. 🙂 I do believe my sister is the only one who makes me laugh like that, where I am crying from laughing, and I scream with laughter. It felt good. I begged her to write a post for this, because she writes so well and we were so out of control, but she decided it simply would not translate properly. We had dinner at her house, as her husband offered to make me anything I wanted for my birthday dinner. He and I cook for each other now it seems. He is always making me bread that is so delicious I cannot stop eating it. All his bread is good but his salt sticks and rye bread are sublime. Many many many years ago I traded my Thanksgiving dinner rights for a yearly loaf of rye bread. On the other hand, *I* make him sugar-free desserts. One of the things I wanted to do on vacation was try a new recipe – a flourless chocolate cake. Since I now have FIVE boxes of Tagatesse, I wanted to see if I could make a SF chocolate cake. I knew once I licked the batter that I had a winner. Flourless cakes are much like thick brownies. We brought over some SF vanilla ice cream and had a fantastic dinner with my favorite breads (and hot pastrami) and a great dessert! Birthdays are fun. Just a shame that they come with aging bodies. 🙂
My husband is brilliant. I don’t remember what we were discussing. Maybe talking about the possibility of eating out at a restaurant. Maybe just the fact that we are not going to be able to go away on a vacation this year. Whatever the topic, he said “Let’s go have dinner down the shore on Saturday.” I agreed but didn’t really think much about it – we plan lots of things that don’t come to fruition, especially if it involves moving. 🙂 Saturday was in the 90s, humid, and hot hot hot. I’d already been running the air conditioners since the previous afternoon. When he repeated the suggestion at lunchtime first I said no, it would be too hot. Then I wondered who had taken over my body and was speaking for me – I NEVER say no to going down the shore. So I said we should go. I called the restaurant and of course they don’t take reservations. She said we could call 45 minutes before we got there to get on the list. Think about that for a moment.
We left just after 4:00. We opted for the local roads instead of the Parkway. Of course we took the convertible. 🙂 With the top down, and the a/c going full blast, it was perfectly comfortable. We were on Rt 36, closing in on the Highlands, when “Thriller” came on the radio. Say what you will about the singer, that song is still so much fun and gets me dancing, even if I’m stopped at a red light. *grin* After that I did my usual push to go to another station for music, not commercials. We caught the opening notes of Leyla. I turned the volume waaaaaaay up. I turned to my husband and said “This is the life I wanted. I’m blonde, driving a convertible, with my boyfriend, great music, on my way down the shore. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
I’ll spare you the minutiae about parking the car – I was obsessing. To my son I’ll say – it was like picking a restaurant when we are out on vacation together. Not the first one, not the second one, okay, so maybe the third. Your father was amazingly patient. We did indeed have an hour wait, once we gave our names to the hostess. We went into the bar and got drinks and took them out where we could look at the water. We were at Inlet Cafe (I told you about them last year), across the Navesink from Gateway National Park. I downed my gin & tonic waaaay too fast so I got a wine spritzer for my next drink. We chatted with the couple next to us (social distanced next to us) and watched the boats on the water, and the boats coming to dock at the restaurant next door. Dinner was great, with VERY attentive service. Maybe a little too attentive – we guessed that they were trying to make up for the reduced number of tables by increasing turnover. Even so – it was a lovely dinner: delicious food, fantastic view, great fresh ocean air. It really wasn’t even all that hot by the water. There was a nice breeze. We walked back to the car and spent a few minutes sitting in the little gazebo at the small beach. I love LBI (Long Beach Island for those not from Jersey), but I think I could be convinced to live in the Highlands.
We did it! We snuck away last weekend on a SUNDAY night to have dinner down the shore. Now if you know my husband, you know that he NEVER does anything anymore on a work night. *grin* I remember when we used to go out bowling with friends on Monday evening, starting at 9pm once the leagues were done. Hard to imagine that now. We were both going to be working from home on this Monday, because we had a kidney stone follow-up appointment. When he suggested heading to Inlet Cafe in Highlands, NJ, I was thrilled.
We drove down with no trouble. I took the local way, not the Parkway, for those of you who know what I mean (and care about which road is which *grin*). Of course we took the convertible. We’d scoped out the parking the last time we were here, and I headed for the little municipal lot I’d noticed then. Although there were cars there were still spots. It only holds perhaps 10 cars maximum, maybe even only 8. What I hadn’t realized was that there was a BEACH behind the lot. There is a small gazebo, and a small beach. If you don’t mind swimming in the bay (as opposed to the ocean), there’s no reason to head over the causeway to Sandy Hook. All of a sudden the allure of renting in the Highlands became much clearer. There are a lot of cute looking restaurants and cafes in that area, as well as the Twin Lights (the historic lighthouse situated on the bluffs above the bay).
It’s only 2 blocks over to the Inlet Cafe. They have a corn hole game set up, 2 large lawn swings, some benches, and of course a great view of the water, in case you have to wait for a table. They have 3 dining areas – indoors, outside under a roof but with open sides (the bar was there), and then outside at tables along the water. Of course we opted for outside. We had a table right along the water and it was perfect. Like many of the restaurants there, they had a dock so you could motor up in your boat, moor, have your meal, and head out again. I always enjoy watching the boats come and go.
The drinks were great, the food extremely tasty. That is why I’m posting a food picture. I had the tuna tacos and Jim had steamers. That’s my ‘chick drink’ martini – vodka, chambord and pineapple. I do appreciate getting a good-size drink, but it shouldn’t be filled to the brim. Use bigger glasses so that I can have the proper amount of liquid without losing half of it every time I lift the glass. 😦 That’s probably my only complaint of the evening.
I want to call out the wait staff as well, and the hostess – both pleasant and professional. My husband had left his fork on his salad plate and so had no fork when his entree arrived. I was looking about for our waiter, wearing that familiar “diner in distress face”. 🙂 Another waiter went by quickly, arms full of dirty dishes. He might have been 2 steps past me when he stopped, backed up and asked if I needed anything. He brought a new fork in under 30 seconds. Now THAT is good wait staff.
Before we left I wandered down to the dock to get better pictures of the swans. I know they thought I had food, so they posed for me, hoping for a reward. Alas, I’d eaten MY dinner. As we were leaving, we wandered over to see the lawn swings, and the sign post and check out what else might be there. We were easily 6 feet from the hostess stand as we headed to our car, but she called out to us, thanking us for coming and wishing us a good evening. Again – she could have ignored us, as the waiter could have justifiably ignored us. But I went back to chat with her about how much we enjoyed the meal and how management should be aware of that waiter’s professionalism and concern.
We got back to our car and the little municipal lot was now full. As I was about to unlock the doors I felt eyes upon me. Next to us were 2 LARGE dogs. They looked like happy friendly dogs – a lot of snuffling the window and drooling – no growls or barking. I’m not sure they’d have FIT in my car!
I am not sure the restaurant is open all through the winter. I seem to remember being told that they close for a month or two. In any case, we really, really enjoyed Inlet Cafe and will be heading back there for the food, service and view!