MAKING FULL USE OF ITS HISTORIC AND SCENIC NEIGHBOR, THE SANDY HOOK NATIONAL GATEWAY AREA, THIS MULTI LEVEL WATERFRONT ESTABLISHMENT SERVES SATISFYING COCKTAILS WITH ITS FOOD AND VIEWS

BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY PATTY PIXELS

In 1874, when the U.S. military began testing new weaponry at Sandy Hook (Gateway National Park), they dubbed the site the “proving ground.” Today, that phrase translates to a new twist on food and drink at a restaurant that bears the same moniker: Proving Ground Waterfront Dining.
With soothing views of the Sandy Hook Bay and Manhattan skyline, Proving Ground celebrated its rst anniversary on July 8. Dining here is not only about enjoying a meal, but also appreciating the compelling surroundings. Motorboats whizz by on the Shrewsbury River, and tugboats harken back to the area’s maritime history.

The second floor dining area, with its floor to ceiling windows that open to the nautical scene, allows guests to be a part of it all.

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Here, a “Land Ho” cocktail is as refreshing as the view. Made with Cucumber and Mint Ketel One Vodka, club soda, fresh lime, and mint and garnished with a cucumber shaving, is a refreshing and effervescent drink that sings of its fresh notes. Proving Ground Assistant General Manager Jacklyn Allen, who is also the bar manager, returned the popular libation to the summer cocktail menu this year. Her “Strawberry & Bubbles” is another crowd pleasing thirst quencher, with its Altos Tequila, freshly squeezed lime juice, agave, and strawberry puree served on the rocks and topped with champagne and an optional sugar rim.

“It was a bestseller last year,” said Allen, who also enjoys doling out historic facts about the former installation and its connection to the restaurant, explaining that, “we named our three bars using military terms.” The downstairs bar is called “Hanger 56,” while the outdoor patio bar, just steps from the water, is the “Outpost.” The upstairs dining area’s drinking establishment is referred to as the “Main Operating Base.”

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Southbeach SPREAD

Proving Ground’s Happy Hour is a draw for locals and summer visitors alike from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Live music is offered seven days a week, and there are more than 20 different draft beers on tap, along with numerous large television screens. The spacious waterfront retreat, which specializes in fresh seafood but has a full menu of options (the brisket sandwich and seared salmon have become recent editorial staff favorites), garnered an Open Table Diner’s Choice Award this year. Its brunch is served on Sundays. Open year ‘round, the operation boasts its own private dock so boaters can tie up and dine. When the weather cools, the patio’s re pit tables create a cozy ambiance.

Allen has worked in the service industry for more than ten years, beginning with bussing tables at a little breakfast spot called Tina’s Place, then moving on to Killarney’s Public House Irish Pub and Restaurant, both in Hamilton in Mercer County. She’s now a Monmouth County resident.

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“People love fresh and infused ingredients, and we buy local,” she explained of her setup, adding that its bar racks include Asbury Park Vodka. “We also make our own Limoncello. We’re focused on customer service. We take care of people, and really got to know the locals during the winter months,” adding that during o hours, she enjoys spending time on the beach with her Husky.

Proving Ground Waterfront Dining
56 Shrewsbury Ave, Highlands, NJ 07732
(732) 872-2266
TheProvingGround.com