An Allenhurst institution rises again with eyes to the ocean…and a nod to the past

by Marisa Procopio

“We’ve been partners for 25 years!” Karen Marzulli of Mr. C’s Beach Bistro said, squeezing Chic (Mr. C himself) Perrotto’s shoulders affectionately. In 2006, the team assumed ownership of
Allenhurst Beach Club’s restaurant afteroperating a spot by the same name inDeal since 1991. Built in the late 1930s, the Allenhurst venue was designed to resemble an ocean liner; with striking blue and white details and seating available inside as well as on the roof, guests dined amid cool breezes and sweeping views of the Atlantic.

The restaurant changed hands several times over the years, and rooftop seating was eventually discontinued. In 2012, waves from Hurricane Sandy barreled through the east-facing picture window and demolished the site. It was a blow not only to the building but to the community, who enjoyed dining there year round.

After a demanding, ground-up renovation, Mr. C’s reopened in 2015. The new interior is cool and serene, appointed in neutral colors, and offers expansive window views, while outside seating is spacious and varied (Marzulli and Perrotto added a full outdoor bar with dining alongside). Guests can also choose oceanfront dining, perched over the sand in front of the building. Older guests and local history enthusiasts alike delight in seeing al fresco dining introduced once again (appetizers and drinks are served on the rooftop by reservation).

In the kitchen, longtime Mr. C’s chef Mike Wahl prepares beloved beachy favorites like burgers and fried fish, but is just as comfortable plating high-end selections. His tuna tartare, a neat tower of rosy fish and grilled sweet potato, is topped with wisps of seaweed and a drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise alongside. It’s light and fresh—the very essence of upscale sun and surf fare.

Risotto—cauliflower risotto, no less—is an odd choice for the warm-weather menu, but it’s cheesy, creamy comfort food. “People love this,” said Marzulli, and who’s to argue with what people love?

Shrimp, seared in garlic and ginger and served over tomato-fennel ratatouille with basil oil, is snappy and full of flavor, as are the sea scallops. Huge, meaty, and cooked absolutely pillow-soft, they’re topped with a tomato-red onion salsa.

MARC CAIN SPREAD

“Oh! You have to try the funnel fries, too,” grinned Marzulli, as she scooted off to tell the kitchen. (“Whose idea was funnel fries?” “Mine!” Marzulli called back.) The dessert emerged Belgian fries-style, wrapped in a paper cone, and instead of ketchup or seasoned mayonnaise, raspberry and chocolate sauces flanked them. It’s a grown-up version of funnel cake…although kids no doubt fight their parents over the tender slivers of fried dough.

Mr. C’s is available year-round to host weddings, rehearsal dinners, showers, and other events, and during the warm months seating is offered both inside and out. Special event dates are still available for this summer.

Marzulli said the best part of this business is “the excitement.” The most challenging part? “Making everybody happy.” Not consistency? Most restauranteurs say that. “No, we have consistency down,” she said with a smile.

Then she waved Perrotto over. “Ask him the same questions!” she said. He obliged, and said the toughest part was getting front-of-house help, but the best part for him was the same as his cohort: “It’s exciting!”

Mister C’s Beach Bistro
Corner of Ocean and Allen Avenues, Allenhurst
732.531.3665 / mistercsbeachbistro.com