By JIM WILLIS
It’s a Friday afternoon sometime in the late 1880s. A guy walks into a saloon in Red Bank. Which saloon isn’t important, because Red Bank is crowded with watering holes, but let’s say it’s Frank Clausey’s tavern on West Front Street.
Now, there would be a list a mile long of differences between his happy hour experience and our modern day experience of ordering up a martini at the Downtown. But two worth noting, according to Little Silver author and historian Karen Schnitzspahn: the women and the oysters.
First off, there’d be no women – “or at least no proper women,” says Schnitzspahn. Second, there’d be way more oysters on the menu, and they’d be really local.
“Oysters were the big industry going back,” she says. “The Navesink was a major source of oysters in the 19th century. They were served everywhere – at the best of hotels and at these bars or saloons. You’d go to a saloon on West Front Street and order Fried Oysters on Toast.”
Restaurants and food-as-entertainment are of particular historic interest to Schnitzspahn, who’ll be at the Red Bank Public Library tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss the history of food along the Shore.
“I’ll have a presentation on how things changed and developed, from elegant, elaborate meals at Victorian hotels, and evolved into having a slice of pizza or an ice cream walking on the boardwalk.”
Come with your questions and memories.
“I’d like to have a question-and-answer and some discussion,” she says, “because I’d like to give people a chance to talk about their memories of restaurants in the area.”
Schnitzspahn also will be signing copies of her book, Jersey Shore Food History: Victorian Feasts to Boardwalk Treats.