By RACHEL WESTON
Briskly breaking off the the legs of a steaming lobster, Brianne Simpson of Rumson appeared in her element as she and her family dined at Boondocks Fishery in Red Bank one night last week.
“This is what people want: casual, outdoor dining,” she told PieHole as the sun went down over an idyllic scene of boats bobbing on the Navesink River. “Doing this is what makes it great to live here.”
Opportunities follow suit are dwindling, however, as the restaurant nears its not only its annual closing, but the end of “a great season – best ever,” in the words of owner Kelly Ryan.
Which is saying something, considering the waterfront restaurant was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy and needed a big helping hand to reopen.
The boost came in two forms: an Indiegogo campaign and a community fundraiser at the Oyster Point Hotel, which enabled Ryan to raise the $30,000 she needed to rebuild and refurbish her modest dockside eatery, located just outside Irwin Marine.
With that funding, Ryan upgraded the structure with new side panels that can be opened and closed around the open-air dining area. Customers can enjoy the view of the Navesink without feeling the chill as the evenings begin to cool down. On a recent evening, Ryan left the side panel closed at the request of some customers.
Although Boondocks reopened in the summer of 2013, “we were back, but the weather wasn’t good,” said Ryan, who also goes by McRyan. “This year the weather was good, and we were 100-percent back.”
The eatery is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Wednesday, when it will feature the last of its twice-weekly lobster specials: two pound-and-a-quarter Maine lobsters, corn and potatoes for $25.95.
As the sun dropped lower in the sky one night last week, Paul and Adrienne Kalinauskas of Monmouth Beach sat at the table closest to the window where customers place their orders and take a number back to their table to wait for their food. Having had their wedding rehearsal dinner at Boondocks last year, the couple have a sentimental attachment to the restaurant, and Adrienne wore a headband with lobster claws waving above her head for this outing.
Customers often come decked out in crustaceous creations, and Ryan predicts the crowd on closing night will be wearing lobster bibs, hats and Mardi Gras beads.
To get a table, be prepared to wait. There are no reservations for the cash-only event. Buckets of ice are provided for guests who bring their own beer or wine.
“Everyone tries to get in for that last lobster night. It’s going to be fun,” Ryan says. She usually has a special thank-you gift for customers on the last night of the season. This year she is thinking about cupcakes. A few weeks ago her staff surprised her with a lobster-shaped cake from Sugarush on East Front Street.
And what of Ryan’s plans for a second location, in Sea Bright? Ryan had hoped to rent the former Sea Bright Service Station, adjacent to the Dunkin’ Donuts at the foot of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge. She said she was disappointed that project was “not happening,” but still is looking for a waterfront location in Sea Bright for 2015.