Shorely ethnic eats

Posted: May 16, 2014

THINK Shore flavors and what's for dinner? If you're going out to a white-tablecloth kind of place, chances are the chef is cooking Jersey fresh seafood or maybe a steak. But when you're on a family vacation, fine dining can get kind of spendy. Then there are the fast, casual, guilty pleasures that tempt up and down the Boardwalk from Atlantic City to Wildwood. The problem is, eat too many burgers, fried clams and pizza and you'll be wearing a cover-up even when you aren't on the beach.

Why not mix things up with some beyond Italian ethnic eats? Typically easy on the wallet, a favorite Thai, sushi or taco joint is your go-to when you want cheap and delicious at home, so why not at the beach?

It makes sense that Atlantic City is the epicenter for global dining. A wide array of restaurants have sprung up to serve the city's ethnically diverse residents, many of whom work in the gaming and hospitality industries. But, even beyond Atlantic City, you'll find homestyle havens of authentic international comfort food eager to serve.

Rama Thai

3003 English Creek Ave., Egg Harbor Township  

Just off the Black Horse Pike in the English Creek Shopping Center (across from Lowe's), Rama Thai is a great spot to hit on your way to or from the beach. Well-done authentic Thai cuisine made with fresh ingredients is served in a serene and friendly setting. If you like spice, the green curry with kaffir lime leaves is delish. Entrees are in the $15-$20 range, although the whole striped bass marinated with chili peppers, garlic and tamarind is perfect for sharing - and worth every penny of its $26.99 price tag.

Yuki Hana

3628 Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine

Tucked away in a strip shopping center on Brigantine Boulevard, this Chinese/Japanese spot is a favorite with locals for its BYO option as well as free delivery for orders of $10 or more. The typical Chinese dishes are available, but the special ample sushi rolls are the real draw, priced in the $10.95-$12.95 range, with ingredients like spicy tuna, asparagus, barbecued eel and soft-shell crab. If you're lucky, there might even be some toro on the specials menu.

Bandanas Mexican Grille

5607 Atlantic Ave., Wildwood Crest

Situated six blocks south of Rio Grande Avenue, this fresh Mexican eatery is the spot for homemade guac, chips and salsa, heaping plates of chicken nachos and mega-cheesesteak burritos busting with marinated beef, onions and cheese. If you don't want oozing cheese, you have options. Try the ceviche made with Jersey mahi mahi, char-grilled Jersey fish tacos or homemade empanadas filled with zippy chorizo sausage, onions and potatoes. After dinner, share a specialty sundae made with homemade ice cream in flavors like peanut butter fudgeanna or caramel-apple bowl. Crepes and Belgian waffles and ice cream are just as good.

Poteau African Village Restaurant

131 S. Tennessee Ave., Atlantic City


Just a short walk from the Boardwalk, this hidden gem is an oasis of boldly flavored West African and Caribbean cuisine. From its sunset-orange color scheme and African art to its warm and accommodating staff, Poteau makes guests feel right at home. All the food is homemade, which means orders can take a little longer, but it's worth the wait. Expect the juiciest jerk chicken accompanied by a fiery house-made hot sauce and a side of fried plantains. One specialty is attieke, grated cassava root with sauteed onions and red and orange peppers atop a fried whole tilapia, a national dish from the Cote d'Ivoire, a/k/a Ivory Coast. Prices are rock bottom, with most entrees under $15. BYO.

Little Saigon

2801 Arctic Ave., Atlantic City


Although there are now a handful of pho and Vietnamese spots in A.C., this modest Vietnamese cafe run by chef/owner Lien Pham started it all back in 1991. Pham originally came to A.C. to work as a dealer, and finding a growing community of Vietnamese folks in town, saw a niche for her own restaurant. Order the star anise-scented beefy pho, guaranteed to make "connoisseurs of the dish leap up from their plastic chairs with pleasure," according to a recent rave in the New York Times. Really everything is good, and with prices in the $8.95-$12.95 range, you can gorge without breaking the bank.

Murasaki Hibachi Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine

13 Dennisville Road, Cape May Court House

You feel like sushi but boyfriend wants pad thai? Not a problem at this kid-friendly BYO in Cape May Court House where both cuisines are featured. The hibachi cooking action is always a crowd-pleaser - love that onion volcano trick! - or sit at the sushi bar for fresh sashimi or a specialty Cape May roll. Thai entrees, served with rice, soup and salad, include crispy Thai peanut chicken, Thai basil beef and pineapple fried rice. Prices are in the $15 range for Thai, $3-$11 for sushi and $15 to $30 for hibachi dinners depending on whether you want chicken, salmon, filet or lobster.

Isabella's Ventnor Cafe

4 S. Portland Ave., Ventnor City


Although known for its hefty American-style breakfasts, Isabella's best-kept secret is its tasty homemade Mexican specialties, a menu based on co-owner Lupe Terrones' upbringing in Oaxaca, Mexico. Lunch and dinner offerings (although if you order huevos rancheros, the chef will oblige) include the likes of burrito ala Isabellas stuffed with steak, shredded pork, bacon and veggie, pork mole, homemade chips and salsa, fish tacos and more. Kids will love the cheesy quesadilla and everybody will love the tres leches, the traditional Mexican sponge-cake dessert topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Prices are in the $10-$20 range, with every dish made to order.

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