The motto at Chef Charles is “Gotta Put LOVE In Your Cookin’!” (It’s at 6774 Washington Avenue, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey; 609-641-7338. Ignore the address given on his own website.) I thought his barbecue was just dandy—authentic and very, very good (perhaps not the very peak of deliciousness). The ribs were slightly tough, but I attribute that to my early arrival on a Sunday, shortly after opening. Chef Charles’s soul food is also quite good (especially his slamming candy sweet potatoes and excellent cornbread). For dessert, he had no sweet potato pie, alas. But the lemon pound cake slayed me. It’s unrepentantly greasy, a dessert that says, “Hey, you’ve just been scarfing all those ribs: Drop all pretensions of being fat averse.”
Kelsey & Kim’s Soul Food (52 North Main Street, Pleasantville, New Jersey; 609-484-8448) is a nice place run by a sincere chef. It’s not set up to do ambitious Southern pit barbecue à la Chef Charles, but it’s one of those places that make up in deliciousness what they lack in authenticity and ambition. The ribs reminded me of Chinese restaurant ribs, because the meat has a penetrating sweetness that’s more addictive than annoying. Great tender texture. Their chicken wings are expertly fried; I’d order anything fried here (I bet the catfish is great).
The Clam Bar (910 Bay Avenue, Somers Point, New Jersey; 609-927-8783) is a lovely rustic seaside haunt. It’s spotlessly clean and run with friendly, expert efficiency. Nice place. Too bad I was too full to really try it.
Crabby Jack’s (on the dock behind the restaurant the Crab Trap, 2 Broadway, Somers Point, New Jersey; 609-927-7377) is a totally fun dockside summertime bar.
While sucking down drinks at Crabby Jack’s, the Newark Star-Ledger’s Peter Genovese and I recorded a manic double interview. (Note: The audio was not speeded up; we really talk like that. Bear in mind I was sucking down sugary rum drinks at a dizzying rate.) We covered the origins of Chowhound, the mission of Munchmobile, the pitfalls of restaurant reviewing, the appallingness of Jet Skis, and my big new discovery (suggested by the dude at a neighboring bar stool): Power Straws.