Tonio’s Seafood Shack Avalon NJ

This delicious and upscale eatery is nothing of the shack sense, but it’s in their name. We found this place entirely on accident, as our first choice the Oceanside Seafood restaurant was a hot mess. Lucky for us it was a quick walk from Dune Drive.

When we entered Tonio’s I wasn’t so sure that the food would be up to par, as the dinning room was barren. But the decor was so contemporary and romantic we stayed. Usually I gauge the freshness of the food on the amount of people, the less people-the lower the turnaround on the food=the less fresh. However I am glad to say I was WRONG! Thank goodness we stayed, as after sitting for less than 5 minutes at our table, at least 3 different parties approached the counter to pick up To Go orders. Throughout the evening there must have been at least 15 different pick up’s, and after tasting my dish I understand why!

We had a pleasant server who promptly opened our BYOB wine and brought us water, before we asked-a sign of a fabulous server in my book! They did not charge a corking fee, which was a good thing; as we brought 2 bottles of wine. We ordered the shack bake ($35.99), which consisted of a whole lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, steamed corn on the cob, coleslaw and a salad, as well as a broiled seafood combo ($25.95), which consisted of flounder, shrimp, scallops, crab cake, coleslaw, baked potato and a salad. The plating was a little “shack-ie” as the sides were served in plastic containers; but the taste and freshness more than made up for this laziness of the plating.

I must say that this was the most tasty and freshest seafood in Avalon New Jersey. I’m so glad we decided to share both dishes because they were equally delicious. The shack bake seafood was baked directly inside the lobster shell on top of the lobster, melding the flavors of the lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams, intertwining them beautifully, while creating a melt in your mouth blanket of sumptuous tastiness. I’m usually not a big fan of scallops but they tasted absolutely divine! So divine that I will make a it a point to taste them every chance I can. The mussels and clams were cooked to perfection as well. We ordered the broiled seafood combo, as apposed to the fried seafood combo, which was a pleasant surprise-as each piece of seafood was absolutely soft and tender. The flounder was so delicate it melted in my mouth like straight butter! The crab cake was out of this world, tasty and flavorful-filled with crab and not too much filler. The steamed corn on the cob was so sweet and probably fresh of the farm! The salads were a generous portion and tasty, topped with a house vinaigrette. The baked potatoes were presented with the butter squares pushed down inside the cut opening to heat it up, which was clever; however I’m not sure if this was very sanitary.

Since it was my birthday we also had desert. But I must say that after finishing off our plates, we only had room to share the ice cream ball, which was a wonderful treat. I winced a bit at the description when the server said it consisted of papaya, mango and orange sorbet, but was delighted that there wasn’t a hint of papaya.

Lucky for us we happened to be the only patrons in the entire 8 table dinning room. It was a quaint and cozy place, with two TV’s, contemporary furnishing and not too bright. I would definitely recommend Tonio’s to anyone looking for fresh seafood without all the craziness that comes with most shack’s, as this one is nothing of the kind-except for the plastic and plating techniques.

Tonio’s Seafood Shack & Fresh Fish Market
2475 Ocean Drive
Avalon, NJ 08202
609-368-8862
http://toniosseafoodshack.webs.com

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Kincaid’s Phoenix AZ

WOW! Finally a restaurant in the desert that has me head over heels. Location, service, freshness, menu, view, large but intimate dinning room, I can go on and on! It was Valentines day, our 10th year anniversary-last minute date with this being our 20th choice. They were wide open, no reservations needed. Not only are they located in the Heart and Soul of downtown. It is so close to the new convention center, that several times during the meal I had the urge to reach out and grab the building to pull us closer; as I chose the table closest to the edge on the patio near the convention center and sat right in the center of the table looking out. The view was so breathtaking, I almost forgot we ordered the best appetizer ever!

The Classic Sampler included Roasted garlic prawns over tasty mashed potatoes, teriyaki tenderloin over rice, hot red King crab and artichoke dip served with the tastiest bread sticks. Everything was superb! This could have easily been a meal in itself. We shared a salad at the suggestion of the waiter-expecting a portion that could be shared, but received the smallest-most delicious salad. It was served chopped style (yup this is the real deal when it comes to Chop houses) with a delicious ranch dressing. Next time we will each order our own because I wanted MORE! I didn’t mind as it made more room for the bottle of wine. I ordered the Grilled North Atlantic Maine Lobster Tails which were served with grilled asparagus, melted butter for dipping and fresh lemon. My love ordered the Bone in Rib Eye 20 oz. (which is Creekstone Farms’ premium Black Angus beef, corn fed and aged 28 days for flavor and tenderness). All steaks are grilled and seasoned with a custom rub, then topped with steakhouse butter. A definite plus is that they are all served with crispy buttermilk onion strings and red jacket mashed potatoes. It was so delicious I had to copy and paste the menu as this is one restaurant that is sure to be tried even just once. If your a Phoenician or a lover of Phoenix as I, then you can finally be proud to know that downtown Phoenix is the home to one of the Best Chop houses in all of my 13 country travels!!!!

Kincaid’s
2 S Third St
Phoenix, AZ 85004
602-340-0000
http://www.kincaids.com

Chart House Cardiff CA

Floor to ceiling wall windows that overlook the ocean, plus food prepared to perfection! The last time I was there was right before the Comicon in San Diego, but much to my surprise this location is not considered San Diego. Its located just outside on South Coast Highway 101, a nice drive along the water front too.

My meal began with the Lobster Bisque ($8.99) which was exquisitely creamy and ladden with bits of lobster. I’m a big fan of Lobster Bisque, but rarely is it created with such a precise blend of each ingredient. I highly recommend it!

I then had the Chopped Spinach Salad ($8.50) served up with chopped egg, bacon, radishes and mushrooms over chopped spinach of course, topped with a warm bacon dressing. Yummy! My taste buds were jumping for joy with each bite of this sumptuous salad, which could have been a meal in itself.

My entree was a fabulous cut of Filet 8 oz ($31.99), served medium rare. The Filet was perfectly cut and grilled. There wasn’t one bit of fat on it anywhere. They grill their steak with a dab of butter and season it just right. I also had a side of the Sizzling Mushrooms ($7.99) which were the perfect pairing for each bite of my pink in them middle Filet. I love this place; every dish they prepare is done with skill and pride.

The service was superb! Very attentive and anticipatory. Not one need was ever unattended, and not one thing had to be requested. Everyone was spot on!  The hostess, the food runner and the server must have been trained in a 5 star academy because each was pleasant and very customer oriented. I totally recommend this place for everyone looking for a special place to share with that special person.

Chart House
2588 South Coast Highway 101
Cardiff, CA 92007
760-463-4044
http://chart-house.com