For real! This picture is the back of the famous Paramount Theater (and convention hall) on the Asbury Park (NJ) boardwalk. This is the front:

We saw Bruce Springsteen perform here, back when we lived just south of AP. He put on a great show, and it was the perfect place to see him. 

Asbury Park has changed soooo much since we left here 14 years ago. Then, it was sad and sort of scary. When I used to stop by the Asbury Park Police Department each week to look at their blotter (I was a reporter at the Asbury Park Press), I made sure that there was nothing that looked like it could be worth anything in my car, even though I was parked in the PD parking lot. Not kidding.
Today, there are all kinds of new businesses, shops and restaurants, the boardwalk is a lively, friendly place instead of a virtual wasteland. AThe seeds of this change had been barely planted when we lived here; it was exciting to see that they had come to fruition.
Anyhoo…this was a midway stop on our little nostalgia tour of Central New Jersey last Sunday. You’ll be shocked to hear that it involved food and walking. We picked up a rental car from the airport and drove to Red Bank, which anyone who is a fan of Kevin Smith movies would recognize. Especially “Dogma.” For old time’s sake, we stopped in at the Broadway Diner for a late breakfast, and had no trouble getting a booth thanks to competition from a street fair outside.

Not much had changed, except they swapped plain diner china for the Fiestaware they used to use.

I had a spinach and feta omlette with hashbrowns and an English muffin. And delighted in grossing Jeff out by putting ketchup on my eggs. (“Bloody eggs! Bloody eggs!” is what I hear from him when I do that.) It was good, simple, tasty diner food.

From there, we drove down to circle the Asbury Park Press building (actually located in Neptune, NJ), which was sadly down at heel, and surrounded by an outlet mall and a lot of stuff that wasn’t there before. I was able to remember how to navigate the back road we often took between the paper and our lovely garden apartment in Spring Lake Heights. A few more houses, but not much had changed. It was pretty and green and leafy, and reminded you why New Jersey is “The Garden State.” When we passed a tiny, rustic produce stand we’d forgotten about, we both yelled out “Ohmygod, we used to go there!” Good times.

We were craving a walk, so after checking out our former apartment complex (pretty, brick, lots of trees), we continued the mile-plus to the shore to take a long walk along the boardwalk, then back again along the gorgeous shorefront homes. 

From there we did a U-turn to make our way back toward the airport. We made a stop at Freedman’s Bakery in Belmar, a significant place for us. Not only did we stop there to buy ourselves a small “wedding” cake after we got married at City Hall in Manhattan, but we frequently went there on Sundays to buy a loaf of their amazing, crusty raisin walnut bread, which we would take home to devour with a pot of coffee and the Sunday New York Times. It’s not a part of our nutritional past that we’re especially proud of. We, like many people, were caught up in the low-fat craze, and we actually felt like we were being somewhat virtuous! It was amazing bread, but today we would limit ourselves to a toasted slice, accompanied by eggs (or Greek yogurt) and fruit.

They were out of raisin walnut bread, but we bought a cannoli and brownie to share later, and two biscotti to take home with us.

We headed to Asbury Park for another walkabout, and were starting to get hungry. We continued our drive up the shore, then headed inland through the wealthy and quite green-and-lovely community of Rumson (where Springsteen has a home, and Jon Bon Jovi used to, until he moved across the river). I also used to check the police blotter here, and it was a very different experience than checking it in Asbury Park! Feeling the lask of vegetables, we let Google Maps lead us to the Whole Foods in Middletown.


From there it was back to the Newark airport, which was down to one runway which made our plane leave more than three hours late. Gah! Nevertheless, we had a great trip, with delicious food and lots of sightseeing by foot. That’s my kind of vacation!
I have a column in The Seattle Times this Sunday (on how to choose and use the right fat or oil for the right job) and will have some related content on the blog next week. Until then, have a great weekend!