Ocean Grove restaurant venue sees new light
The doors for Dunes Boardwalk Cafe are open, and the restaurant is finally full of life after years of abandonment.
Hurricanes Irene and Sandy ensured the North End Pavilion building's demise, where Dunes Boardwalk Cafe is located, until Gannon Building & Renovation company began its transformation in February.
Today, the 7,500 square feet space at 4 North End Boardwalk differentiates itself from previously blundered business ventures at the location because it's shared by eight family-run vendors. Right on the water, Dunes Boardwalk Cafe boasts scenic views in addition to food that ranges from cheesesteaks to sushi burritos, and it opened June 17.
“There was a bunch of individuals trying to run a big place. So we decided – no pun intended – ‘let’s cut the pizza pie up.' And get, you know, eight friends or business partners that we’ve known," said Jim Gannon, office manager at Gannon Building & Remodeling, which renovated the space.
The boardwalk space had been empty and damaged for nearly five years since Hurricane Irene. Now, colorful picnic tables are situated near windows that overlook the beach. There was group yoga and live music at its grand-opening from June 24 through June 26, events the owners plan to continue throughout the summer.
“None of us are really in competition with each other … we want to see this place succeed," said Michael Solimando, manager of Bites on the Boards and Burgers on the Boards at Dunes Boardwalk Cafe. Prices range from $9 for a mac and cheese bowl with cornbread to $12 for a pulled pork sandwich.
Solimando said he brought food concepts over from the Asbury Ale House, where he is the executive chef. Homemade cheesesteak egg rolls, mac and cheese bites, chicken wings and pork roll breakfast sandwiches are some of the items on his menus.
The families who run the businesses all have a connection to the Gannons, who coordinated the cooperative business initiative. Jim Gannon is one of five owners of Dunes Boardwalk Cafe, though each of the vendors pay rent individually.
“It’s a very family-feeling atmosphere ... when you see someone that needs help, you know, everyone steps up and helps. It’s very nice," said Darcy Garruzzo, who owns Papa Blootz Pizza along with her father-in-law, Joe Garruzzo.
Pizza is $3.00 for a plain slice or $3.50 for a slice with toppings. Subs and cheesesteaks are also on the menu, starting at $7.00 for a half ham and provolone sub, or $7.50 for a half cheesesteak.
The space is cooperative in that vendors share the space and take turns cleaning up.
Michelle Gannon is the owner of It's All Good Kitchen, which specializes in organic, healthy eating.
“I think it was a challenge for one business, one restaurant to carry this whole space. So this is an ideal set up, to have a lot of people all doing a little bit,” she said. "They all have such variety. (Customers) can pick what they want, and then just gather at the table and hang out. It’s a beautiful view."
It's All Good Kitchen sells coffee, smoothie bowls and different juices in addition to other healthy options. Smoothie bowls start at $8.50 with a smoothie, oatmeal or chia pudding base and three toppings. Coffee is $2.50 for a 12-ounce cup, $3.25 for a 16-ounce cup or $4.00 for a cold brew.
Other options at Dunes Boardwalk Cafe vary. Miyako sushi sells sushi burritos and sushi rolls, starting at $4.95, while Coney Waffle specializes in ice cream creations and waffles starting at $4 for two scoops to $18 for an elaborate 'side show' shake. The Lobstah Roll sells lobster rolls and platters starting at $16.50, and Crepes & Cakes re-opened as a Mexican food vendor called Wanna Taco as of July 1.
Amy Snyder is a Tinton Falls resident who had heard about Dunes Boardwalk Cafe a few months ago, before it opened.
"I wanted to come because I love the location. And I really love the food, I think this is a great idea," Snyder said Wednesday. She ordered a slice of broccoli pizza from Papa Blootz Pizza, "it was delicious," she said.
The Mattern family usually travels to Ocean Grove from Caldwell so they can walk over to the Asbury Park Boardwalk. On Wednesday they decided to eat at Dunes Boardwalk Cafe because it looked new.
"The view got us to stay," said Kathy Mattern. "And the reasonable prices," added her husband, Joe Mattern.
"A lot of the time we go in to (eat) in Asbury. I mean, you could, but there's not a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers places," Joe Mattern said. The family ordered a pizza from Papa Blootz Pizza.
Jim Gannon, a longtime Ocean Grove resident, said the owners decided to establish the restaurant space in Ocean Grove because there aren't a lot of food options there.
“With this type of concept, you can come back here three or four days in a row and have three or four totally different meals," Gannon said.
Dune's Boardwalk and Cafe will be open seasonally until the fall, Gannon said. There are plans to re-open in the spring.
WHERE TO GO: Dunes Boardwalk Cafe, 4 N End Boardwalk, Ocean Grove, NJ 07756
HOURS: Monday through Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Individual vendor times may differ.