By SUSAN ERICSON
In the shadow of Rumson’s 75-year-old Navesink-River-spanning Oceanic Bridge, Barnacle Bill’s is packed on a Friday afternoon.
“You know it used to be on the pier?” an octogenarian customer who’s been coming to the Rumson perennial asks PieHole.
We do, and locals know also that the waterfront restaurant is the place to go when you’re craving a burger — and that it’s open for lunch from Friday through Sunday only.
The burgers here are thick and juicy. Below, a Friday lunch crowd gets a picture-window view of the Navesink River and the Oceanic Bridge. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
A decision to rid the restaurant of its trade-mark complimentary roasted peanuts over litigation fears in 2012 prompted vigorous complaints by some longtime customers, but the owners were unswayed, and it appears the controversy has faded away.
New chairs and flooring were installed after Hurricane Sandy damaged the restaurant, but everything else, including the nautical novelties decorating the ancient barn-wood walls, has remained the same, and that includes the grill in the bar area.
“Nothing much changes at the bar or in the dining room,” Sam Sherman, whose family owns the place, tells us. “We add things and change things here and there, but the burger doesn’t change. Consistency is important.”
A menu of lunch specials includes everything from fried oysters ($12.95) to a lobster salad sandwich on brioche ($19.95). But old standards on the permanent plastic-coated menu, such as the 10-ounce hamburger, the tube steak (a longer-than-average Schickhaus hot dog) and the cheese steak piqued our interest.
As we bellied up to the bar, the pungent aroma of grilling beef had our salivary glands going full throttle. The burgers here are the old-fashioned thick, beefy variety that remain juicy because they aren’t flattened with a spatula.
Charred on the outside, medium-rare on the inside, the burger is served on a hard roll that stands up to the oozy heft of the meat. Sauteed button mushrooms and onions normally topping the burger were served in a side dish as requested.
Traditional burger add-ons such as cheese ($1 extra), lettuce and tomato are also available. All burger orders come with potato chips and a dill pickle spear. Cheese sauce, a creamy-tangy concoction, is also available.
An order of thick steak-cut french fries ($4.95) is another constant on the menu. Oversized lengths of Idaho potatoes are fried to a crunchy outer shell, leaving the insides still luscious and creamy.
Barnacle Bill’s is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday only. Monday through Thursday, it opens at 4 p.m.