Aug 29, 2022

Dining with Draz: River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar

By Lori Draz

With summer gently exiting into fall and inspired by the Fall Sports Preview in this month’s Journal, we took off to Brick to sit by the water at the River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar, a popular dining spot, sports bar and party location for a dozen years. This workhorse of a restaurant is open from 11 am to 2 am seven days a week. Lunch, dinner and late night, it draws big crowds to enjoy the beautiful view of the Manasquan River, marina and the Route 70 Bridge – but that’s just the start. There’s a big tiki bar with a sand-covered floor where you can dance on your own private beach. Inside, there’s lots of tables and televisions that wrap around the big central bars, all designed for catching the games, which were going strong on our visit. There’s a big parking lot, and there is even an adjacent liquor store with spirits, local craft beers and keg rentals available as well. This is a lively place with a happy, casual energy, different entertainment from trivia contests to live bands nightly, and a breezy, friendly staff. Put all that together and River Rock transports you to a favorite destination – like taking a mini vacation any day of the week!

It was a balmy night, so we opted to dine outdoors and started with some tasty cocktails including the big, summery rum bucket that packed a fruity punchy flavor. These cocktails catch up on you, so sip slowly and enjoy. We did like so many do, especially when game watching, and tried a bunch of crunchy, tasty appetizers. 

We began our meal nibbling on the house specialty, the River Rock Nachos, which come with all the toppings and a side of River Rock chili. The light and crispy, multi-colored tortilla chips are just tough enough to hold up to the generous toppings. We also had the lightly fried and gooey Mozzarella Sticks and the Coconut Shrimp. These are five big shrimp, encrusted in a sweet coconut batter whose island flavor is ramped up when dipped in the coconut cream dipping sauce. The surprise was the Cheesesteak Taquitos, which are three fried wontons, packed with shaved sirloin, American cheese, and sautéed peppers and onions. Give any one a try; you’ll like them all.   

Now for the entrées. We were still in that sports bar mood, and River Rock has lots of casual fare, including a big burger, wrap and sandwich menu. Diner one chose the Seafood Tacos. It’s an unusual combination of a hard taco shell inside a soft taco shell with your choice of mahi mahi or grilled shrimp. They are topped with marinated shredded cabbage, guacamole, chipotle mayo and pico de gallo, served with rice on the side. There are two tacos in this dish, and she thought that it was just enough, especially after all those appetizers. She also thought the rice was good – light, fluffy and a nice side with tacos. 

Diner two went with the Ahi Tuna Salad with mixed greens and a cucumber wasabi sauce. Diner two won the prettiest plate of the night, and he commented that the slices of lightly seared tuna, carefully arranged in a semicircle, made it look like the dish was smiling at him. He smiled back and finished his meal with glee. 

I chose the Honey Siracha Salmon which comes with zucchini and yellow squash, broccoli and coconut rice. The siracha glaze on the well-cooked salmon delivered a sweet start with a hot and spicy kick at the end. It’s a bold treatment for salmon, which holds up under the almost-sticky sauce. Their take on coconut rice is a little more Americanized that a traditional Thai style. It’s rice topped with shredded coconut, still good and sweet, but a little unexpected. The serving of salmon was pretty large, and it had some nice crispy edges too. 

River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar only had two desserts, and we ordered both. The Crème Brulee Cheesecake’s name overpromised a little as it had no crunchy topping or burnt sugar, but it did deliver dense, creamy satisfaction. The Chocolate Brownie, served warm with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, was delightfully rich and gooey – a most pleasant surprise, as was the coffee which was rich and freshly brewed. 

The restaurant has a popular wood-fire pizza menu along with a huge selection of sushi, which we meant to order, but we just got a little too full. There’s a kids menu, plenty of parking, and it’s handicap accessible. 

Cost – reasonable

What we liked- The view, all those TVs, plenty of seating, the sandy tiki bar, the friendly staff including the manager, the unhurried pace, the fun energy, the well-made cocktails and freshly brewed coffee.

We give it 4 and three quarter Js. 

River Rock Restaurant & Marina Bar is located at 1600 Route 70 in Brick. 732-840-1110. It is open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 2 am.