Rooney's Ocean Front
Jun 11, 2018

Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant

By Lori Draz

Rooney's Ocean Front

Summer has returned, so we decided to slip out for some oceanfront dining before the summer rush. Off we went to Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant in Long Branch. This scenic spot, at the north side of Pier Village, has been there since 1995, long before all the revitalization of the area, a tribute to its loyal fans and good reputation.

It has real eye appeal with a sunken dining area and bar, high vaulted wood beam ceilings, and wrap-around windows that overlook the palm tree-lined Tiki bar. It’s like a California resort with a touch of ski lodge. We went on a rainy Tuesday night, and the dining room was nearly full. Mother Nature treated us to an impressive lighting show as we ordered our cocktails and made our choices. The big rectangular bar dominates the mid-level of the restaurant, and the bartenders are skillful. The wine list is fairly extensive and just a little expensive, but there are lots of good choices on the list.

Rooneys

We chose three appetizers to start. Our first was Shishito Peppers with an Asian dipping sauce. This is a nice, big plate of peppers and lucky us, we got all sweet ones. The peppers were very large for this time of year and well done. We also had Pretzel Crab Bites. These are five golf-ball sized crab balls made with plenty of lump crabmeat, crushed pretzels and Old Bay Seasoning. The pretzel flavor punches through, and the mustard aioli dipping sauce could not have been a better combination. It tasted like a “nibble-down-the-boardwalk stroll.”

Our third appetizer was a Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip – a creamy combination of spinach, artichoke, Parmesan and garlic sauce. It comes in a bread bowl with “everything” flat breads for dipping. Don’t miss tearing into that bread bowl, because it’s amazing; soft and tender, and we ate every last bite of the strong artichoke-flavored dip. Do try it. Rooney’s also offers a stuffed artichoke appetizer, which we came very close to trying. It’s a rare find on menus. and will probably be on the table at our next visit. We skipped the raw bar, soups and salads, moving right into the entrees.

Rooneys

Diner one made a straightforward choice – the nine-ounce Brazilian Lobster Tail. It’s a simple dish, just a broiled tail with corn on the cob and drawn butter, and she said it was juicy and good. Diner two selected a barbecued 14-ounce Bone-In Pork Chop with jalapeño cornbread, creamy herbed polenta, black bean corn relish, and house-made gold Vidalia barbecue sauce. It was a beautiful, showy dish. The cornbread was sweet and soft, and the jalapeno was so mild that everyone would enjoy it. The creamy polenta married beautifully with the light barbeque sauce, and the huge pork was dressed in the black bean corn relish. It’s a really nice choice for landlubbers, and big enough to take some home.

Diner three ordered from a Fish Your Way board, giving you a choice of five different fish, five methods of preparation, four sauces and five sides. His combination was broiled swordfish with lemon butter sauce, wild rice and asparagus spears. It was a plate-filling and attractive presentation of the three simple ingredients with no extra flourishes. He enjoyed the dish, remarking that each component was well-prepared: the rice was fluffy and nutty, the asparagus was tender but not mushy, and the swordfish done right. It’s a nice option for diners who like to have a little control over their entrée.

Rooneys

I had Chicken Braciole, three rolled “logs” made from pounded chicken breasts, filled with stuffing enriched with Parmesan and mozzarella, served in a house marinara, and topped with broccoli rabe and artichoke hearts. I thought the marinara was strongly flavored, bordering on a fra diavolo sauce, and a little strong against the vegetables. I also thought the chicken was a little dry. That said, I would probably not order that dish again. After all, Rooney’s is a predominately seafood restaurant; it has paella and a Fisherman’s Cioppino with pan-seared mahi, clams, shrimp, mussels, tomato broth, and linguini that seemed interesting. I’ll try either of those next time.

For dessert, we chose three, including a warm chocolate cake with ice cream and caramel sauce. The lava-like cake had a deeply decadent brownie taste, nicely rich and especially good for chocolate lovers. Coconut risotto was very creamy and loose, not quite a pudding. It was topped with toasted coconut – and was tropically tasty! And a special, butter pecan cake with vanilla ice cream and a gooey butter pecan sauce, featured two thick slabs of a very dense, almost shortbread-like cake with a thick layer of brown sugared pecans. Try it if it’s available on your visit.

Rooney’s also offers three oceanfront rooms for parties of 20 to 100. The website has some wonderful pictures if you would like to take a peek at the inside. It has a private parking lot, too.

Cost: High.

What we liked: Panoramic ocean views, large bar with well-made cocktails, high ceilings and good acoustics, the tiki bar, menu selections, and appetizers.

What could be better: Service was a little distant. Bathrooms are upstairs on the main entry level.

We give it 4 and a half J’s.

Rooney’s Oceanfront Restaurant, 100 Ocean Ave. North in Long Branch, 732-870-1200 or rooneysocean.com. Open seven days a week. Monday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.