Only In New Jersey

Yes, the above title certainly answers the question of where to buy wine and the most likely place to get in a car accident with a bad driver, but it also refers to the quintessential locales that just could not exist outside the Garden State. Say what you will about the Jerz, but a place like Smith’s Clam Bar (AKA Smitty’s) in Somers Point couldn’t happen it Philly. The shuck shack sits on a gravel strewn lot so close to banks of Great Egg Bay, it looks like it might fall in. There’s a sit-down restaurant and an outdoor counter that hugs two sides of the building in a Formica L. Locals and shoobees alike create insane waits in the height of summer, but now is the perfect time to go, when weekenders have retreated to gotham and the balmy September breeze kicks across the Bay. The seat-yourself system flows remarkably smoothly. For a table in the dining room, see the hostess, but the Smitty’s prime perch is the counter. Grab a seat on the ancient park benches that run parallel to the bar. This effectively reserves the stool in front of you, but must cede it to someone that’s have been waiting longer than you. The democracy is a bit disparagingly for the first half-hour, but by then you’ll have been there longer than most of the people waiting. Strange thing is, there’s none of cutthroat stool stealing we would probably engage in if we were in the Illadelph. Weird! Most people bring a cooler to weather the wait. Stock it with wine, beer, whatever. There’ll be a part-time lifeguard strolling around the lot handing out giant Coke cups, corkscrews and bottle top poppers. Once you wedge yourself into a stool between off-duty Somers Point fireman and a bojangly bubbe from Margate, the fun really begins (or maybe it was just ‘cause we were drunk by that point) with Smitty’s sick steamers dipped in drawn butter, fried oysters and cold corn salad. The marker board menu tells all. Seafood fried or baked in a variety of sauces; raw clams shucked to order; fat shrimps served with a passed-around pitcher full of cocktail sauce. And did we mention beer? Lots of beer. Go. Now. Please. Just don’t drive home. The locals are so friendly, they’ll probably put you up.

Photo: blogalicious

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