Busch’s seafood restaurant died a dozen near-deaths before the end actually came.
So when it was finally sold in 2014 and the Townsend’s Inlet icon slipped beneath the waves of history – after 132 years and five generations of family ownership – no one was surprised. It was a 425-seat whale to maintain, decidedly frumpy in look, and seriously out of fashion on the plates.
Even so, I still miss it. From the rich she-crab soup to the deviled clams, perfectly broiled lobster, and juicy blueberry cobbler, Busch’s produced the timeless flavors of a Shore seafood house with consistency and character that’s hard to match.
But there is a surprisingly diverse host of contenders vying to carry on that fish-house tradition, including a big new branch of the Doc Magrogan’s chain, which, coincidentally, occupies the condo complex that rose over the block where Busch’s was demolished.
There is a supersize new revamp of Dock’s Oyster House, Atlantic City’s own seafood supercentenarian founded in 1897.
One of the Shore’s star chefs, Lucas Manteca, has continued to refine his vision for a casual seafood shack with a Latin twist at Quahog’s in Stone Harbor.
Seafood-centric bar food rules the colorful confines of yearling Fins in Cape May. And on Long Beach Island, the goofily named new Crabby Paddy’s is channeling the serious seafood cred of its respected sibling, Allen’s Clam Bar.
So, with seafood profit margins slimmer than ever, and the constant challenge of changing tastes, is the Shore’s seafood tradition in trouble – or entering a golden new era?
I set sail for answers.
Harvey Cedars Shellfish Co.
7904 Long Beach Blvd., Harvey Cedars, 609-494-7112; harveycedarsshellfishco.com
For more than 40 years, Michael and John Garofalo’s old beach house turned seafood haunt has served spot-on steamed seafood at picnic benches on a screened-in porch, especially “blistered” local clams, juicy lobster, seafood pastas and great chowders.