Archive for Smythwick’s


Posted in BYOB Restaurant Reviews, Max's Seafood Cafe, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by ballymote

Max’s Seafood Cafe has been a neighborhood fixture in Gloucester City ever since we first came to New Jersey some 37 years ago. My wife, Kathy, and I have been there many times  but it’s been a few years since our last visit. It’s a touch more upscale than we remember but it still has that local “feel” that long-standing neighborhood establishments convey. Our Friday night dining group converged there this past Friday night. I would have preferred a BYOB but I was still anxious to see what the place had to offer. For starters they offered fresh bread and butter and most of us had a beer to begin the evening. I chose a Smythwick’s which they had on tap. They have quite an extensive list of domestic, imported and Belgian beers.

I ordered the Dungeness Crab Dip which came a a large cup of”warm cvrabmeat-cream cheese dip with toasted Pita triangles.” There was plenty of dip and a generous supply of pita triangles. The only problem was that the crab dip was virtually tasteless.  I’m not quite sure how you manage to put crabmeat and cream cheese together and totally remove all taste but, they did it. I had given a portion to my wife and she agreed with my observations. Although not pictured, I would be remiss in not mentioning that the blue cheese dressing on the salads was equally tasteless and did nothing to enhance the fresh ingredients evident in the salad. Why would you dilute blue cheese dressing??

Since we were dining at a seafood place we all went with some form of sea creature.  

I was in my “Creole is King” mood and I opted for the “New Orleans Jambalaya, with grilled chicken, baby shrimp, andouille, peppers, okra and risotto. It wasn’t bad and my only complaint, which other might consider a good thing, was that the dish was overpowered by the baby shrimp. Not so much chicken or andouille but more shrimp than even Bubba Gump could handle. The flavor was good, though and it was a nice size portion.

Joe B. ordered the Pan-Seared Jumbo Scallops, canelinni beans, spinach, roasted red peppers and balsamic syrup. He thought it was very good and the scallops were done to perfection.

Sue ordered the Fried Flounder and mixed veggies while Carol had the Broiled Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Lump Crabmeat, served with a fresh lemon-butter sauce and accompanied with a serving of cole slaw.

My wife Kathy, and Barb T. were elated to find Fried Select Oysters with cocktail and tartar sauce and a helping of cole slaw. Having never developed a taste for oysters I am always surprised when someone else finds them so enjoyable.

Tom T.. had no trouble finding what he wanted on the extensive seafood menu. He chose the Max’s Crab Cakes, two 4 ounce cakes in a roasted red pepper sauce with summer veggies. The crab cakes looked nice and full but he still kept eyeing Carol’s stuffed shrimp in an effort to calculate whether she had more crabcake stuffed into her shrimp than he did in his entire order.

Most of the entrees (mine excluded) came with a plate of Sweet Potato Fries. I did get to try a few and I am happy to report that they were outstanding; hot and crisp on the outside with lots of sweet potato filling. This is an item more places should add to their menus. Overall, I would have preferred a BYOB as I miss my opportunities for wine on a Friday evening. I’d give Max’s a C+ or maybe even a B-.


Posted in Shopping for Wine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by ballymote

Perhaps a better title for this post would be Wine Shopping at and on the way to the Jersey Shore. I took the opportunity of my week in Avalon to visit a number of wine outlets to see what was available to those on vacation in the area. What I found was that the selection varies greatly from store to store as do retail prices. I guess it’s only natural to expect to pay a little more for all items, including wine, when you are on vacation and that pretty much proved to be the norm. Here is a breakdown on the places I visited.


This one is located on Route 40 just pass the intersection of Route 54 in the town of Buena using the back roads to the Jersey Shore. The first thing that caught my eye was the preponderance of local wines from NJ vineyards throughout the area. If you are looking for your favorite Blueberry wine, and who isn’t, this would be the place you’d want to be shopping. They also have a large selection of what I refer to as “plonk” wines, the Cavits, Hacienda’s, Turning Leaf’s of the wine world. If you search real hard though you can find a handful of decent choices such as Franciscan Cab at $25.99, the always dependable, Menage a Trois red blend at $11.49. For the real Aussie fans there is even a couple of Two Hands Shirazes, Lily’s Blend at $56.99 and Angels Share at $33.99.  It’s not a place where I would spend much time browsing the selections but you can find something of interest in a pinch.


Located on OceanView-Woodbine Rd in Woodbine NJ, this store sits a few miles from busy Rt 9 which leads to access to many Jersey shore resort towns. You would expect that a wine outlet in this area would have a well-stocked and varied supply of wines. You’d be wrong. Campark’s focus is on beer and maybe I shouldn’t blame them as there is no question beer is the drink of choice for the hordes arriving for vacations at the beach. The few wines aside from the “plonk” brands that are available would be the Columbia Crest “Two Vines” series that usually sell for about $7.99 elsewhere marked at $12.99 at Campark. The always dependable Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserva is there for $29.99 and if you want to spend a few bucks for a Chardonnay there is the Husic at a brisk $44.99. One interesting find on a shelf marked “Sale Wines” was a lone bottle of Cockburn Vintage Port 1997, for $34.99. This usually sells for $65 – $80. I was tempted, but ended up being concerned as to how well it had been preserved in this store. Interestingly, this Campark Liquors sold one of the two winning tickets in the 2007 Mega Millions Jackpot of 350 million dollars. Buying a lottery ticket would be a better idea than buying a bottle of wine here. Just my opinion, though.


Located at 23rd and Dune Drive, Avalon Liquor Store manages to cram an awful lot of stock into its meager space. I am pleased to report that although you will definitely pay a few more sheckles per bottle than back in your own neighborhood, Avalon Liquor has a tremendous selection of quality wines available year round. Their Australian collection is top notch with all of the Mollydookers available including the top of the line Velvet Glove ($224.99).  The entry level Mollydookers such as The Boxer, The Maitre’d and Two Left Feet are all $32.99 as compared to $28.99 and $24.99 in most wine outlets. If the lottery ticket you bought at Campark Liquors turns out to be a winner you might purchase the 2005 Chateau Pavie for $550.00 (about $50.00 more than most places charge). They have an excellent selection of Pinot Noirs, Cabernet’s and Zinfandels. They also have some of my favorite QPR wines available such as Pillar Box Red for $13.99 (12.99 at home) and Strong Arms Shiraz $11.99 ($9.99 at home). It takes awhile to make sense of the layout of the wines but there is enough good stuff in this store to keep a wine geek busy browsing for quite some time. Kudos to Avalon Liquor for being a top notch wine outlet in a town with some really good BYOB’s.


Located at 6400 Landis Ave. in Sea Isle City, Kix is a good place to buy your beer for your time at the shore. There wine supply is limited and not very impressive. They have all the usual plonk suspects and a few real wines such as Zin 91 at $18.99, a Silver Oak Cab for more money than I wanna spend and the always present Ruffino Chianti Classico Reserva at $31.99. My advice would be to grab a six pack of Smythwick’s at Kix and pay the $1.50 to drive over the bridge into Avalon and get your wine at Avalon Liquors; but hey, that’s just me!