Posted by: kurtdman24 | June 1, 2013

Wildwood Eats – Santino’s Pizza

Santino's Pizza Wildwood

Santino’s – The Best! Maybe!

I won’t say Santino’s is the best pizza on the boardwalk, even though it’s won some awards for it (and is one of many institutions in Wildwood that claim to have been voted the “best”)…there are better slices of pizza, like at Sam’s or 3 Brothers or Mack’s if you catch them at the right time.

However, I will say that as far as value goes, Santino’s may really be the best.

Santino's Pizza Wildwood

Santino’s Pizza, in the heart of the Wildwood Boardwalk.

If you’re a veteran of the Wildwood boards, Santino’s doesn’t really stick out as a name; it doesn’t have the bright lighted sign like Mack’s or the several different locations like Hot Spot or 3 Brothers. Santino’s is better known for the sign that says: “Home of the 92 cent slice”. It’s on the back of their T-shirts, too.

Santino's Pizza Wildwood NJ

Pizza with french fries on it. I’ve never tried this Atkins nightmare. Maybe next time.

It’s natural to expect an inferior slice of pizza at that price, even to expect something similar to Seasons or Cici’s. But the 92-cent slice is still an above average slice of pizza. It costs more for the extras, obviously, but there’s nothing wrong with a plain slice.

Santino’s also makes a sizable stromboli for a very reasonable price. I don’t remember whether what I ordered was small or medium, but it wasn’t a large and it was certainly enough for two. I think it was around $6-7, another great bargain. Again, not the best stromboli on the island, but certainly more than adequate for the price.

Santino's Pizza Wildwood

The hefty stromboli from Santino’s, with pepperoni this time.

They screwed up my order an forgot the pepperoni in it the first time, but for the size of that big thing I could forgive them.

So don’t be put off by the 92-cent slice sign. In some cases you would expect that to be pizza-in-name-only; Santino’s is anything but. It’s nice when a place exceeds expectations too. You might prefer the pizza from another place, but I haven’t found better value on the boards.

Posted by: kurtdman24 | May 21, 2013

Sunrise On The Beach

It’s never easy, especially when one is on vacation, to get out of bed early enough to see a sunrise on the beach. But some things are worth fighting sleep to witness.

I try to make a point to see at least one sunrise each time we go to Wildwood. It’s a special thing to me to walk on the white sand in near darkness to see the day begin, as difficult as it can be to pull myself from under the covers after an evening of boardwalk trampling and ice cream.

Generally the sun emerges from the horizon somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, depending on the time of year. Before the sun comes up, the beach is quiet and often cool, possibly requiring a jacket or long pants. Gulls are plentiful in search of bird sustenance, making tiny claw prints along the wet surface near the water, occasionally speeding up their pace away from cold waves that no doubt surprise them.

Wildwood sunrise

The Wildwood beach pre-sunrise.

The Wildwood beach is uncharacteristically almost devoid of humans at this time of day, but it’s not quite deserted. Every square quarter mile or so of beach has one or two folks there to see the sunrise too. Joggers looking for the runner’s high without the sunburn eschew their mattresses to stomp on the walkways near the beach. It’s a good time to take a four-legged friend for a walk on nearby paths, as some do.

Often there will be a hardy fisherman, pants rolled up and feet in what must be extremely cold water. I’ve often wondered what sort of marine life they manage to hook when there aren’t legs everywhere scaring fish away. Or if maybe the fisherman doesn’t care what he catches, and that the important thing to him is just to channel his inner Hemingway.

Sunrise at Wildwood

The emerging sun, with the lit clouds above it. Well worth getting out of bed.

Because of the shape of the island, the sun doesn’t appear directly in front of the beach. The island curves to the south and west, so facing the water, the sun appears on the left. Coming from the boardwalk, the farther north on the beach one goes, the better the view.

Just before God’s lamp shows itself on the horizon, you can see the day becoming gradually brighter. Even better, if there are a few clouds just above the horizon where the sun is, the bottom edges of them will be brilliantly lit, as if they were a warm-up act for the incredible show. The cloud edges become increasingly brighter, and then suddenly, the center of our solar system pops up.

Wildwood Beach sunrise

The day has begun. Make the most of it.

For the bright round fireball to be completely above the horizon and in its full glory reflecting on the water takes just seconds, in contrast to the sun’s seeming stillness any other time of day when we grab a quick look to gauge its location. It’s awe-inspiring and humbling at the same time, and gives one a saddening sense of how quickly this day will be a memory. But somehow, its regularity and orderliness is comforting, too, as if to say that there will always be a new day, a new opportunity, a chance to make the future better.

Wildwood is known for crowded beaches, crowded boardwalks, noisy amusements and a recorded voice repeatedly clearing the way for the tram car.

Yet in the midst all of that, it provides some of its most memorable, spectacular moments in the quiet solitude of a sunrise on the beach.

Rarely do we make a trip to Wildwood of any length of time without getting in line for a bucket of Curley’s Fries.

Curley’s is located on the boardwalk, near the northernmost pier belonging to the Morey’s gang. I’m not sure whether they fall under “The Many Things Morey Owns in Wildwood”, but it’s possible. Curley’s fries are actually part of a larger Curley’s eatery, which features pizza, cheesesteaks, seafood and fresh lemonade (which is also excellent). But the big attraction is the fries.

Culeys Fries Wildwood

The Curley’s Fry Stand, with the sign a strong indicator of what is sold here.

The fries are made with fresh potatoes, sliced into thick crinkle cut form and oiled to perfection. When you receive them, they are burning hot enough that you have to take it easy for the first couple of bites…no easy thing to do when that bucket is sitting there in front of you. The fries have just the right crunch on the outside and a nice fluffiness on the inside.

There is a small picnic area where patrons can sit and enjoy their fries; it’s got concrete tables and is covered by a net to protect people from seagull poop—and the chance of a stray fry will definitely attract them. Occasionally a gull will get caught in these nets, which if you can get over feeling bad for the bird is pretty funny. You can watch kids on the pier’s rides, or see go-karts racing on the next pier over.

They’re not cheap, I will admit; they come in three different sizes—cup, bucket or barrel, and none of them are really a bargain. My wife and I can usually split a bucket and be satisfied. You can get a cup of melted cheese for an extra $2, and fill up cups nearby with ketchup, vinegar or hot sauce for dipping. If you ask, they’ll give you small tubs of honey mustard or barbeque sauce. (I sometimes get cheese and hot sauce and dip the fries in both…hot mama!)

You can now get a Cuban version of the fries, where they are shaken in something resembling Old Bay. This latest may be a response to the recent opening of Chickie’s and Pete’s in Wildwood and their famous crab fries. Every bit as good with the cheese sauce.

Curleys Fries Wildwood NJ

Reaching for a Curley’s fry with the mandatory vigor.

And Curley’s lemonade is no slouch; I enjoy inhaling sugar crystals through the straw well after the drink itself is finished. You can keep the cup and refill it for $2 I think.

The best part about Curley’s for us is that they only do fries in the vat, so my celiac-afflicted wife can enjoy them.

What makes Curley’s so great I can’t say, but the fresh cut potatoes probably have something to do with it. In fact in the early 1990s Curley’s switched over to frozen fries; I’m guessing the outcry was enough to make them change back. Thankfully, this spared my WW Partner Stav some embarrassment, since he agreed to share this letter I had written for them:

Attention Formerly Cool Curley’s Fries People:

I cannot help but express my heartfelt disappointment at the recent abandonment of fresh potatoes in favor of frozen fries.

As an emphatic supporter of Curley’s Fries since 1993, it comes as no small disturbance to me that a staple of Wildwood’s famous boardwalk would sacrifice a time proven method in favor of a bigger profit margin. Such avarice has proven responsible for the Vietnam War, the Super Bowl, New Coke, and the current UPS strike. Surely Curley’s would not prefer to be associated with similar toxins in a free society?

I strongly urge you to revive the fresh potatoes for the manufacture of your world-famous fries in the future. Everyone suffers when the sacred is forsaken in favor of the profane.

Poor Stav. He cracked up reading this, but I made him promise he would give it to the Curley’s people. He told me he was really nervous but was ready to hand it to them, so I’m glad for the reprieve for him!

Anyway, Curley’s rocks. Don’t miss them.

Curley’s Fries

2416 Boardwalk

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 729-3131

Posted by: kurtdman24 | March 17, 2013

On The Boards: Racing The Wildwood Go-Karts

Sometime I will find out who the genius was that fixed up a small vehicle with a lawnmower engine. I think of that guy every time I mow my lawn and smell the fuel. What a brilliant idea for a fun kid’s activity.

Jr. Speedway Sign

The Entrance to the Junior Speedway, where you race on the boards.

To my knowledge, there are four go-kart tracks on the Wildwood boardwalk. There may be more, I don’t know, and there may be something elsewhere on the island or in Rio Grande that I don’t know about. So for now I’m just going to talk about the four and the different characteristics of each one. They’re all cool in their own way, and most of them are modeled after NASCAR cars from the days when people watched NASCAR. But they all have different attributes between them.

The Sprint Karts track on the next pier north of the first Morey’s pier is the only one where the karts actually race on the boards, and the boards rattling underneath your go-kart is a cool noise. This track has a lot of twists and turns and is fun to ride on, but for the most part whether you pass other karts or not depends on the quality of your engine…you can generally floor it throughout and keep the kart on the inside lane, and you’ll either pass people or someone will spin you out for blocking them. (I almost got into a post-race fight with some jerk for doing this.)

Since I’m a clean racer who doesn’t dump people, if I can’t get around someone I just tail them and hope that they’re polite and move over. On occasion I can pull off a big move here but not often…the best place to pass is in the first turn.

Wildwood MS Go-Kart Track

The concrete track on one of Morey’s Piers. Braking required.

The track next to the Curley’s Fries pier is also on the pier, but you’re racing on concrete. While this isn’t as fun as racing on rattling boards, it does make the go-karts faster, and this is a track where at least a couple of spots, like the hairpin first turn, will require some braking. There is real racing on this track and it seems longer than the rest of them. Other than the first hairpin there aren’t many difficult turns to navigate, although there are plenty of turns to get through.

Of all of these I think this one is the best. The track is winding and requires braking, and the competition is usually better…for those of us who are competing, of course. Some people like to just ride around and others like to run into people like it’s bumper cars. But this track is at least more conducive to on-track battles.

The track on Morey’s Pier isn’t easy to find if you don’t know about it…it’s actually under the pier. It also requires a separate charge to ride on; you can’t use your Morey’s bracelet for the go-karts.

It’s a neat idea to have a go-kart track under the pier, but this track has the least efficient cars of all of them; many times your go-kart could just stop for no reason, and if there’s a heated race going on, that’s going to get you knocked in the behind. You can’t really blame people; it’s not easy to get out of the way so fast. The track is oval and has an uphill and downhill straightaway, and if you don’t have a strong car (and you likely will not), you could have some trouble getting up that hill.

It’s a fun track if you’ve got the car to handle it, but if you don’t you’re going to feel gypped.

The track on the other side of the boardwalk also races on concrete; this track is a bit smaller than the Sprint or Curley’s track. The track is narrower, too, and there are sometimes too many cars on it and logjams happen that aren’t easy to sort out. This track seems to draw a larger proportion of kids than the others for some reason; perhaps it’s the kiddie track next to it for the little tykes.

Wildwood Motorsports Go-Karts

The early morning discount, at most all of the tracks.

Not that this track is bad; you get good enough value, and if you hit it at a time when there aren’t so many riders, you can have a fun race against someone. Not the best place for the crowded times, though.

Ooh…by the way, there’s an M&M’s machine at this one. Shhh!

So that’s the skinny on the go-kart racing on the boards; the tracks are all good in their own unique way but some are better than others. Also, I believe all of them offer double time in the morning before 11:00 or 12:00; despite that bargain this seems to be when the tracks are the least crowded. A race typically costs $6-7.

You’re also not supposed to be bumping, but most of the tracks don’t enforce this to the level that they should (the people working there often don’t even speak English). Most times if you’re pounding into someone with your go-kart you’ll get a warning; I’ve never seen anyone get removed from the kart for excessive bumping. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion; personally I don’t have a lot of patience with being rear-ended.

But for the most part the go-karts are a lot of fun. Just do it in the morning; there’s lots of other stuff to do on the boards at night and the tracks are usually too crowded anyway.

Posted by: kurtdman24 | February 24, 2013

A Bike Ride on the Boards

One of the best things about a vacation in Wildwood is the great potential for fun exercise…walking or running on the boardwalk or beach, swimming or boogie boarding in the ocean, or riding bicycles in the morning. Not that stupid exercise that we force ourselves through at a gym where guys can’t wait to rip their shirts off in the locker room.

Wildwood bike rental

The bicycle rental in the 1900 building.

Throughout the boardwalk, but mostly at the northern and southern ends, there are small shops that rent bicycles to vacationing riders in the morning. Riding a bike on the boardwalk is permitted until 11:00 AM most mornings, and most bike rental shops open at 6:00 AM. Bicycles cost in the range of $6-7 per hour, with larger bikes going for a much bigger price.

Usually Mrs. Wildwoods Guy and I take an hour. I’ve found that I can start at the north end of the boardwalk, ride all the way to the southern end, and then ride on the bicycle path in front of the motels in Wildwood Crest to the Admiral Motel—a beautiful part of town to be in early in the morning—and make it back with a few minutes to spare. Or I can head in the opposite direction, through North Wildwood where most folks are walking their dogs, but it’s not quite as nice.

Early in the morning, the earlier the better, the Wildwood boardwalk has a whole different air about it. Most of the arcades, piers, prize booths and pizza joints are closed, and the entertainment area that just hours before was relentlessly assaulting your senses is peaceful and inviting, with the sound of the waves not far away. People are riding, walking or jogging, and there’s actually room to get around without the crowds and the tram car constantly making their presence known. The most prominent sound of all is the echo of loose boards rattling from the weight of bicycles.

You get a nice overview of all of the stores and eateries on the boardwalk without wearing yourself out walking. There are a few places with coffee and breakfast sandwiches too (although not premium coffee so much). The boardwalk does start to get busier and tougher to navigate around 9:30 or so, so it’s good to get out there earlier if you can.

Wildwood Crest Bike Path

Use the path on the right so you won’t be tempted to give money to this guy.

You don’t have to stay on the boardwalk. Wildwood Crest in particular is a perfectly nice and quiet atmosphere to two-wheel around, and there are plenty of bicycle lanes to make things safer. As you get further from the boardwalk, it gets morning quiet and beautifully peaceful, and you can explore the other side of the island, which has a nice little bay of its own.

The only caution I would mention is to be aware of the breeze and which direction it’s flowing.

I remember renting a bicycle in Long Beach Island one time. We were staying in Barnegat Light, in the northern part of the large island, and I was listening to a Beatles compilation cassette I had made. I figured I would ride as far as I could while one side played, and then turn back for the second side. I made it as far as Beach Haven, the southernmost part of the island, and then learned that the wind had been blowing at my back the whole time. Oops. So if you’re intent on only paying for an hour, be certain you can move in the other direction just as fast.

Riding a bicycle on the boardwalk early in the morning is one of my favorite pastimes in the Wildwoods, and it’s great exercise too, building up the appetite for breakfast at Adam’s, Pompeo’s or Uncle Bill’s. If there’s a better way to start a day I can’t think of it.

Posted by: kurtdman24 | August 29, 2012

Standout Shoppes – The Cook’s Shoppe

There is only one problem with the Wildwoods boardwalk, and that is that 80% of the stores generally revolve around T-shirts, pizza or fudge, few of which offer much in the way of originality. Not that there isn’t a bunch of other types of stores, but there’s just a little much of seeing the same T-shirts over and over.

The Cooks Shoppe Wildwood

The Cook’s Shoppe on the Wildwood Boardwalk

So when possible, Beaches and Boards will make a point to give a shoutout to stores that aren’t the garden variety vacation outlet. The Cook’s Shoppe is one such place.The Cook’s Shoppe is appropriately named; they sell mostly kitchen items, like specialized utensils and types of cookware. But it’s got some consumables too, like cake mix, hot sauce and delightfully smelling but slightly expensive coffee. I can go in there without any money just to sniff the coffee.

It’s worth a walk around especially for people renting a condo or staying in a suite, which is most vacationers in Wildwood. Chances are if you’re doing some of your own cooking, you can likely find something of value here.

gluten free wildwood nj

The Cook’s Shoppe can do gluten-free.

It’s great for my celiac wife, too…they not only have some gluten free cake mixes and such, but she was able to get small toaster bags there, to protect her breads in the toaster from my crumbs. Mrs. Wildwoods Guy has tried to persuade me to go gluten-free, but is not yet willing to eat seafood dishes in return, so for the moment, Homey don’t play gluten-free.

The hot sauces range from “The Hottest F—in’ Sauce” to Jim Beam’s line; the selection is nowhere near Peppers in Rehoboth, or even the Hot Sauce store in the Boardwalk Mall, but there’s a few you should be able to find a use for.

cooks shoppe wildwood nj coffee

Try some of the Cook’s coffee.

And the aforementioned coffee comes in flavors you likely wouldn’t have dreamed of, like Southern Pecan Sticky Bun, Blueberry Cinnamon or Pina Colada. The coffee isn’t cheap, but live it up, you’re on vacation. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.

Finally there are a bunch of signs sold there too, with some humorous quotations or sentiments. Anyone with a beach house should own a couple of them.

If you’re on your way to the shore and are in need of kitchen items, you might want to wait until you can visit the Cook’s Shoppe. If nothing else, part of its appeal is just not being everything else on the boardwalk.

And say hi to Carol, one of the co-owners of the place. She was kind enough to let me take pictures.

The Cook’s Shoppe

2910 Boardwalk (at Glenwood Avenue)

Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-9001

Posted by: kurtdman24 | July 8, 2012

Wildwood Eats: Stewart’s On The Boardwalk

Stewart;s Root Beer Wildwood NJ Boardwalk

Stewart’s Root Beer on the boardwalk. No, you don’t drive up to this one.

I think I’ve said elsewhere that I’m opposed to chains when I go on vacation. I can get McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts anytime, so why get them at the shore when there are hundreds of other choices?

Stewart’s is a chain, of course—they’re known for drive-up, eat-in-your-car types of restaurants. But in this case, it’s not a big deal to go there for a couple of reasons: a) the nearest Stewart’s to me, I think, is in Burlington, not counting a trailer truck in Pine Hill; b) I never go there at home anyway; and c) it’s a place where Mrs. Wildwoods Guy can get something gluten-free.

The Stewart’s in Wildwood isn’t a drive-up; it’s a two level diner-type eatery on the beach side of the boardwalk, with indoor dining downstairs and outdoor dining upstairs. The indoor section is kind of cramped, but the upper level offers outstanding views of the beach or the boardwalk, depending on which side you sit. If it’s not too windy, it’s a great place to sit and have an inexpensive meal.

Stewart's Root Beer Wildwood Boardwalk

The view of the boardwalk from the upper level at Stewart’s.

The menu is basically dogs, burgers, cheesesteaks, simple sandwich grub. Nothing wrong with any of it; the burgers are Angus beef served on tasty sesame seed buns and the hot dogs can be served with kraut or chili. Mrs. Wildwoods Guy can bring her own gluten-free rolls and put the dog or burger on them, and I usually eat her other roll, just because I’m tired of paying for it and not eating it.

And there’s the famous root beer, of course, which you can get as a float for dessert with one or two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Stewart’s used to call this a Black Cow—which always gets me humming the Steely Dan classic—but apparently they don’t anymore. Not being one for root beer, I would usually opt for an orange and cream float (formerly an Orange Cow).

So I can break my no-chain rule for Stewart’s. It’s not food I can get anywhere, the view is great upstairs, and most importantly, my wife can get something to eat on the boardwalk, which is no easy task for someone afflicted with celiac disease.

Stewart’s Root Beer

2901 Boardwalk

North Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 770-8538

Posted by: kurtdman24 | July 7, 2012

Why We Love The Matador Motel

Matador Motel North Wildwood NJ

The Matador Motel, as seem from the end of the boardwalk. I mean, you’re like right there.

The Mrs. and I, and my daughter now, make a point to spend at least one week a year in North Wildwood. Last year, we attempted to get a room at the Matador, unfortunately it was too little too late and they were booked up. Fortunately we were able to rent a condo at a pretty reasonable price. But when we can, we usually stay at the Matador.

There are plenty of hotels in the Wildwoods and many of them get great reviews, but there’s one thing we prefer about the Matador: the location. The Matador Motel is located on 16th Street, on the beach, at the northern end of the boardwalk. You can see the ocean from your window, and you’re right at the boardwalk without being in the middle of all the noise.

We prefer North Wildwood to Wildwood or Wildwood Crest. Wildwood is in the heart of it all, and it’s a little too city-like at its center, with a bit of congestion and high-rising (for Wildwood) hotels. Wildwood Crest is beautiful and very homey, but it’s a bit removed from the main attractions on the boardwalk and the hotels on the beach are muy expensive.

North of the Matador there are plenty of hotels like Le Boot and the Trylon which might be just as good. But there hasn’t yet been any reason for us to try anything else. I’ve visited Stav in Montego Bay, the big yellow hotel that is actually on the boardwalk where he stays and that makes for great people-watching. But Montego Bay is much more expensive, and while the room was nice I wasn’t crazy about the mildew smell in the indoor corridors. Or indoor corridors to begin with, for that matter.

Matador Motel North Wildwood NJ

The Matador as seen from the beach. Takes five minutes to get to this spot from the motel.

We usually get a Type 6 room at the Matador, which is something of a suite; it has a bedroom, a refrigerator, a microwave and a stove. There’s an excellent pool, and three barbecue grills which we always find time to use. The rooms are always clean, and the view from the third floor where we usually are is top notch. You can sit outside your room with a beer and enjoy the sight and sound of the ocean, especially appealing after a long day of Wildwooding.

If your stay is during a less-than-peak time, like after Labor Day, they’ll throw in a breakfast for four at places like Adam’s restaurant with each night, which is as good a breakfast as any in the ‘Woods.

My only beef with the Matador is the lack of screen doors for the rooms. They used to have them, and it was nice to have the door open with the sound of the waves audible in the late evening while watching TV. They’ve since removed them due to their fragility during hurricane season. Come on, this is New Jersey, not Florida! I have pleaded with them that I would pay an extra $10 a night to have a screen door, but to no avail.

But overall I’ve never been unhappy with a stay at the Matador. The rooms are nice, the staff is friendly and the location is absolutely perfect.

The Matador Motel

511 East 16th Avenue

North Wildwood, NJ 08260

(609) 522-9451

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