SEA BRIGHT: BACK TO THE BEACH @ DONOVAN’S

One of three bars at Donovan’s Reef is a thatched roof tiki bar.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

Flip-flop wearing beachgoers can now drink their beverage of choice at any of three separate bars within the confines of the newly re-built Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright. PieHole recently paid its first visit to the sprawling party palace since its resurrection from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

And is this the Jersey Shore? Swaying palm trees and ocean views could easily have your thinking you’re on a tropical vacation.
 The main and largest bar offers a shady retreat, while another, seen in the background, is bathed in sunlight. Below, a customer grabs her food order from the kitchen window. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

All three bars have stellar views of the ocean and beach. Saltwater breezes and a strong aroma of coconut-scented sunscreen wafts through the air as we belly up to the bamboo-clad bar at happy hour, which runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

“Everybody is always happy here,” bartender Liz Bogner says of the crowd. “You can’t beat a bar on the beach.”

Customers — a mix of young party goers and neighborhood regulars — are dressed in everything from bikinis and swim trunks to sun dresses and the ubiquitous cargo shorts and t-shirts.

Rum buckets, we’re told, are the big draw here, and will set you back $12, but Bogner informs us that you can order the drink in a glass instead, for less. A mixture of tropical flavored rums, triple sec and fruit juice over ice, it’s a thirst-quencher that goes down easy on a hot day, and should probably come with a warning label. It can be a potent drink.

A kitchen around the side of the building offers a menu of basic bar grub such as burgers, fish tacos and a myriad of substantial sandwiches, including meatball, sausage, chicken parm and cheese steaks Food is ordered at the open kitchen window and can be brought back to your seat at the bar, but it’s self-serve; bartenders here don’t take food orders.

Donovan’s Reef has its own parking lot on Ocean Avenue, and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. No credit cards are accepted — cash only.

SUSAN-ERICSON

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