A baker’s dozen of us gathered together down in a backyard in Manhawkin, New Jersey, Saturday afternoon as part of a meeting of wonderful folks who share interests in historical (and sometimes not-so-historical) re-enactments. Two of us had driven down together from Connecticut, and afterwards spent a comfortable night in the nearby family owned Barnegat Motel. Therein as we checked in, we were recommended to breakfast at the Horizon Diner, Manhawkin, NJ, only a few miles away.
Real food, or a Dunkin Donuts? Dunkin makes decent coffee, but not much else. Their donuts tend to sit on my stomach like lead, unless I can get just one or two donut holes and call it quits. Out here on the East Coast, quality diners are worth their weight in gold. Many are quality, but not necessarily all. But we’d check it out. It’s not a short drive home.
This one was built in the 1940’s, and features the original counter and stools, although we settled happily into a booth which probably came with the 1990’s build-on. On our way out, I noticed an image of a Greek Orthodox iconic Madonna-and-Child over the cashier’s station — a lot of diners out this way are Greek-run or Greek-influenced. They had also posted framed photos of this diner from earlier days.
We’d planned for breakfast. This wasn’t breakfast. It was true BRUNCH, filling us to hold for hours. For one, I never did have lunch, though I did have a light dinner.
Our servers were friendly, fast, and informative.
I ordered the Lox Eggs Benedict. My friend ordered the Eggs Benedict with Crab Cakes (two), and she gave me a taste of a crab cake. We also ordered a side of crispy bacon to share between us. Smartly, we each asked (respectively) for the Hollandaise sauce to be served on the side, or omitted entirely. There was a LOT of Hollandaise sauce that came with my side. I think in total I ate one tablespoon. Maybe.
The poached eggs arrived on English muffins, as is usual; and was piled around by fresh fruit (NOT sweetened fruit cocktail with all that icky syrup) — lots of strawberries, cantalope, honeydew melon, and some fresh orange slices and pink grapefruit slices. This turned into two servings — I had my second portion in my lunch salad today… They also supply a three-meal supply of home fried potato side — and they do provide doggie take-home containers, I think without asking! My friend’s crab cakes were served on the side of the poached eggs on English muffin; my lox was atop the muffins, topped with the eggs.
The eggs were expertly poached.
The lox was just right, fresh and not too salty, the potatoes were flavorful and not card-boardy, and the Hollandaise sauce tasted genuine (I’m just not interested in eating a lot of this sauce — for me, a little goes a Long Way).
The bacon was crispy to perfection, and I’m glad we split a serving. Something like six or eight slices in that serving!
The fruit was fresh, flavorful, and I even liked the honeydew melon, which in most places has no flavor to speak of.
The crab cake taste I had, tasted awesome!!! I think I have only tasted one crab cake its equal, served at a semi-fancy restaurant just outside of D.C. in Virginia. That was several years ago; it is possible that this one was even better. The crab cakes had nice tender flakes of real crab, with just enough breading and such to hold it together. The chefs here allow the crab to be the main flavor of the cake.
The coffee was slightly bitter, but a hint of milk solved that one.
Looking around at the other folk dining here: If it’s your thing, there was a superb-looking pile of waffles topped with a mound of whipped cream, topped again with a bundle of fresh strawberries.
If I ever end up in Manhawkin again: I’m having brunch here again. I’ll either order the Eggs Benedict with Crab Cakes, or the Eggs Oscar with a Crab Cake and Asparagus (asparagus being one of my absolute fave veggies). Mine with lox was excellent, but good lox is far easier to find than good crab cakes.
Of course, I simply had to google Eggs Oscar. Apparently the very act of including both crab and asparagus with the poached eggs turns the thing into Oscar (and not the Oscar from Sesame Street). It is usually served with a Bearnaise sauce, which is pretty similar to Hollandaise, so on the side it will be. I’m not highly interested in mayo, your millage may differ.
If you dine here, plan for multiple meals.
32 East Bay Avenue, Manhawkin, New Jersey, 08050
Brunch Rating: 4.8 out of 5.0
I hadn’t realized we were this close to the ocean. Long Beach Island, which we took a quick visit to, does have protective barrier reefs, but a lot of Hurricane Sandy back in October 2012 swirled back in behind the island to do damage more “inland”. Much of the area has recovered and has been re-built, but not all.