NESTLED ALONG ONE OF NEW JERSEY’S MOST HISTORIC CORNERS, A NEW RUSTIC ESTABLISHMENT IS CONTINUING THE CENTURIES- OLD TRADITION OF HOSPITALITY
BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC
An eager public watched with thirsty anticipation as the sparkling new Charlie’s of Lincroft rose on the same spot stagecoaches once beckoned travelers to stop, rest, and enjoy a hot meal. They were not disappointed. Throngs are once again flocking to the corner of Newman Springs (Route 520) and Middletown-Lincroft Roads right off the Garden State Parkway, which joins Charlie’s of Bayhead in offering lunch, dinner, two unique private party spaces, and a warm, welcoming bar. The space feels at once quaint and cozy yet spacious and grand.
Surrounded by natural wood, stone, and warm, thoughtful décor, mixologist Jacquie Allen supervises a genial staff of 11 that includes women redefining any lingering preconceptions of the once male-dominated profession. Allen noted how times have changed since the days bartenders were largely male, harkening back to Prohibition.
“I enjoy meeting people every day,” she said. “When people have a great experience, and I see a family of four smiling and beaming, that makes the sacrifice of missing family and friends back home worth it.” Allen has made the rounds in the restau- rant/bar industry, launching her career at an Olive Garden in her home state of Florida, followed by joining Houlihan’s in Holmdel after moving to New Jersey ten years ago.
“They taught me strict measurements, and it was a very uniform environment,” said Allen, adding, “There was no room for creativity.” Allen joined Charlie’s of Lincroft last May.
“I grew up in the small country town of Inverness, Florida,” said Allen. “There is a cultural difference here in New Jersey, but I love it.” She revels in the offerings of the Jersey Shore, primar- ily the beaches, and the music scene that spans everything from jam to hip-hop. “I need the water and the vastness and smell of the beach,” she said, describing it as her happy place.
With an extensive wine list that spans labels from South Africa to Napa Valley, France to New Zealand, Charlie’s delivers a fine dining experience to an appreciative audience. The cocktail menu is an adventure on its own. Take, for example, the Filthy Pig, a rebellious whiskey venture that works out beautifully as tasty bacon-infused bourbon is paired with a smoky Malbec wine, lemon juice, and celery bitters, then served over a block of ice. (Bacon lovers, prepare to swoon.)
Follow that with the jerk spiced pork ribs appetizer, made St. Louis style, to really indulge in the full pork experience. Charlie’s offers a wide range of entrées and seafood so no palate is overlooked. The seafood tower, comprised of oysters, U-8 shrimp, colossal crab meat, lobster, Middle Neck clams, Alaskan king crab, all served family style, is a fan favorite. Pizza and burgers share the menu with prime steaks, homemade pastas, and desserts like the baked Alaska, chocolate pistachio mousse, and New York cheesecake.
When it’s time to celebrate withfamily and friends, the picturesque Wine Room embodies an elegant, castle-like ambiance. It’s a favorite for weddings, showers, birthday soirées, and memorable private parties.
A sense of historical continuation permeates the establishment, located on land that was originally part of a 350-acre tract granted over 325 years ago by the King of England to John Bennett, whose descendants still reside in the area. Its lore includes the Leedsville Inn and the Lincroft Inn. Professors from nearby Brookdale Community College long referred to it as their “faculty club.” Visiting authors included Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee, Maya Angelou, Alan Ginsberg, Joyce Carol Oates, and Rex Reed.
For spring, the mixologist is crafting seasonal cocktails with fresh warm-weather flavors such as florals, passion fruits, and blood oranges.
“I’d like to start my own cocktail business,” said Allen, who recently earned a coding certificate through MIT and does freelance coding. “During COVID, I was teaching people how to make cocktails and they were very excited.” Another one of her spirit fancies is Bad to the Core, featuring Laird’s Applejack, a favorite of George Washington still produced by the Laird family in adjacent Colts Neck, deliciously refreshing to the last drop