There is no question that being near the ocean stimulates the appetite. The sea has always yielded its own bounty which local dwellers have turned into endless fare. This cooking was originally meant to feed families and returning fisherman but as visitors arrived, the opportunity to capitalize on hungry tourists was seized by many. Several restaurants along the shore like Bahrs in Highlands and the Shrimp Box in Point Pleasant trace their roots to humble beginnings feeding the hungry seafarers and visitors in the early part of the 20th century. As more guests arrived with the trains from New York to Atlantic City, local beach-side eateries opened up all along the coast, especially along boardwalks, selling everything from taffy and fudge to ice cream, frozen custard, pizza (tomato pies)
and hot dogs. This section of Eat Along the Shore will bring you some interesting Jersey Shore food history.
New Jersey Clam Chowder? Not Manhattan
The red form of this famous soup was actually created right here at the northern Jersey Shore around the area of the highlands. Clams were a free source of protein and potatoes a staple food. Articles from the Red Bank Register archives show the existence of this dish as early as the late 1800’s. While many food historians give claim to the Portuguese immigrants, the Italians and Chefs from New York City the research proves this to be incorrect. One well known chef on the Food Network claims that there is no reference prior to 1920. He better do his homework. Please read this article called New Jersey, not Manhattan, Clam Chowder.
Jersey Shore Rum Running
During prohibition it was easy to buy a drink in many secret clubs all along the shore thanks to the efforts of the rum runners of the Highlands and their super fast boats known as Sea Bright Skiffs powered by Gray Marine engines. The first one is credited to Pappy Seaman who built it in 1922 and is considered the Father of the Sea Bright Skiff. The area quickly became known as rum alley. The ships would dock offshore from Canada and the Caribbean and they would be met buy eager buyers who could turn a huge but risky profit. Read more about the Rum Runners of the Jersey Shore.
New Jersey’s Love Affair with Pork Roll
In 1857 John Taylor developed a product called Taylor Ham and marketed it in the New Jersey and Philadelphia area. It was made in Trenton and still is today. In 1870 a butcher and farmer named George Washington Case developed a similar product, making it and selling it from his farm in Belle Meade. He called his company the Case Pork Pack Company. It was later changed to the Case Pork Roll Company. As a result of the Pure Food Act of 1906, Taylor was required to change the name of his product to Taylor Pork Roll which remains today.
As trains began to run along the Jersey Shore. bringing more and more tourists, pork roll became a favorite food along the boardwalks and in restaurants. The pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich served on a hard roll is often referred to as the New Jersey sandwich or the Jersey Shore special. In the northern part of the state they still use the name Taylor Ham from the early 1900’s, but from the Driscoll Bridge south it is called pork roll. Both Case and Taylor operate out of Trenton today. Taylor also produces Trenton Pork Roll used in many Jersey Shore eateries. Trenton even has an annual Pork Roll Festival. Be sure to see the informative video on the festival web site.