Back in 1979, in the summer before law school, a musician friend of mine told me about a bartending job in a restaurant near the humble shack where he lived: Doris & Ed’s Seafood Restaurant. The new owner, Jim Filip, and his then wife bought the lobster and clam joint from Doris after her husband, Ed, had died.
Working for Jim was no picnic. He had big plans to upscale this previously “locals only” restaurant, so I needed to learn the menu, learn how to make then chic drinks like frozen strawberry daiquiris and Frozen Grasshoppers.
And, thankfully, I had to learn about wines. Jim, you see, is truly a wine lover and expert. So me, a long-haired college graduate hanging out on the Jersey Shore, saw what it was to have a passion about wine…and to appreciate it…and how to grow and nurture it in others. But, also thankfully, we’re talkin’ the Jersey Shore here…so it had to remain fun and approachable.
Do you think that summer on the Jersey Shore hanging with my musician friends, bartending and learning how to appreciate and understand food and wine had an impact on me? Silly question, huh!
With the suffering economy, upscale hidden treasures, like this James Beard Award winning, Wine Spectator noted, restaurant had to find a way to keep true to itself, yet reinvent itself at the same time, for being someone’s favorite just isn’t enough. Well, Jim jumped in with both feet, both arms and a wing and a prayer. The result has been incredible…remembering he had established a pretty high mark for many years.
New Jersey’s major newspaper, The Star Ledger, recently wrote a review of Doris & Ed’s, which I copy here. It speaks for itself:
Legendary shore spot starts summer afresh
By Cody Kendall/For The Star-Ledger
May 14, 2010, 6:51PM
Doris & Ed’s. 348 Shore Drive, Highlands, (732) 872-1565 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (732) 872-1565 . DorisandEds.com. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 5-11 p.m. Saturdays, 3-10 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays except July and August, when it’s open on Tuesdays. THREE STARS
Shore fixture Doris & Ed’s is keeping up with the times while remembering the past. That’s a balancing act, but owner Jim Filip pulls it off with aplomb via two separate menus and a complete redo of his iconic restaurant.
Everything’s fresh, from the seafood to the paint and the linens. It’s a perfect setting for new chef Thomas Donohoe to reference “The Shore Today” — that menu develops complex dishes such as butter-poached lobster ($36) with truffle honey-glazed sunchokes, celery root, red ribbon sorrel and English cucumbers.
In contrast, “The Shore Yesterday” sticks to old faves, among them stuffed flounder ($30) and the predictable litany of unadorned fried and broiled seafood choices.
Both variety and execution are awesome in each category. Masterful balance is achieved in the grilled Washington State Quinault River sturgeon ($33), its essence elevated by a Madras curry jus that mixes dusky undertones artfully with the slightly sweet backstory of sautéed apples and turnips. Those seeking cool refreshment in the summer can indulge in the salad that jumbles Maine lobster with rock shrimp and littleneck clams ($19). High, low and mellow notes come courtesy of citrus, avocado and shaved fennel.
Traditionalists likely will revel in the regal jumbo lump crabmeat “Virginia style” ($31), unadulterated except for a soft veil of butter, parsley and vermouth that subtly boosts the enjoyment level. It comes with fries that thankfully are both hot and crisp, unlike the limp and cool versions we’ve suffered through elsewhere recently.
Lobster bisque ($9, cup; $15, bowl) has a gentle and flavorful soul that will please fans of either menu. Fish is the highlight here, yet there are sufficient choices of meat and fowl to satisfy those in your party who disdain seafood.
Donohoe, most recently of the Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Montana, trained with chefs Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in California and Jonathan Waxman at Barbuto in New York. His feeling for the food guides him with a touch that is light enough to assure the integrity of the ingredients, yet sufficiently creative to let them speak in different ways.
After a seafood supper, some prefer a low-profile dessert, such as the house-made sorbets and ice creams ($9), but my choice often is the classic Key lime pie ($8). For the trendy, there’s the strawberry-rhubarb tart ($9) with excitement provided by the black pepper and honey yogurt for a mini-rainbow of exclamation point flavors.
The spirit of Doris & Ed’s has been instilled in those who work there. Taking care of the patrons is a mission, not a duty, and even on a busy night we never lacked for attention.
This is definitely a high-end establishment, but there are some breaks available. The possibilities for kids 12 and under include a $7 burger platter (as well as a $15 lobster tail for budding gourmets). A three-course prix fixe option ($33) offers hearty eating with good, if limited, choices. The wine list presents excellent selections from around the world, but there are always five wines for $25 that should work with anything that comes out of the kitchen, though one can also indulge in bottles with dizzying prices.
Filip, who bought the restaurant in 1978 from its original owners (Doris and Ed, of course), is to be congratulated for risking reinvention and not being satisfied with the status quo. He went just far enough. That’s exemplified by the decision to drop the all-white interior for pale camel-colored walls that glow in the sunset looking out over Sandy Hook.
During the season, Saturday night reservations are a must. Try to call at least a week before you plan to go; otherwise, you might not get your favored time slot. This place has always been in demand, but it should be even more popular this summer. Doris & Ed’s is keeping up with the trendy new spots in Long Branch and Asbury Park while indulging its longtime patrons with their traditional choices. It doesn’t get better than that.
Cody Kendall may be contacted at CodyDine@aim.com.
You may recall that Goldring Travel hosts a Food & Wine Cruise every year on The Yachts of Seabourn. Jim Filip co-hosted on and, hopefully, will co-host another. In the meantime, if you are interested in the November 13, 2010 Food & Wine Cruise hosted by Jim’s former bartender (that would be me), you can read about it here…or call or email me.