RED BANK’S 26 WEST DELIBERATELY AVOIDS TYPICAL OCEAN RESTAURANT KITSCH, BUT ACCENTUATES ITS FRESH CAUGHT ATLANTIC SEAFOOD AND GOURMET PRESENTATION

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

With its Confit Duck Linguine, Block Island Lobster Roll, and pork chop smothered in a grilled peach compote, the menu at 26 West reads like a page from a Martha Stewart Cape Cod cookbook. Oysters are grilled and stuffed with an herbed marscapone cheese, while the tuna tartare features a mango shallot salsa and pink ginger gastrique. Crab cakes are served as a sandwich on a brioche bun with tartar sauce and if the strawberry/cucumber/basil spicy tequila cocktails don’t remind one of a quaint summertime destination, there’s a bounty of clean white wainscoting and ship lapped walls.

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“We wanted to create a coastal style space that was light, bright, and casual, yet upscale a spot where clients would want to return multiple times a week,” noted Mikaela Milano, the restaurant’s manager. “Since everything else in the area is sort of industrial, we wanted to go with a cozier vibe.”

Celebrating its second anniversary in June, 26 West has also made a name for itself on the Red Bank dining scene with its buerre blanc sauces, herbaceous salads, and lemon laced risotto. The kitchen, led by Chef Robert Parella, uses hydroponic produce, microgreens, and organic ingredients to craft an ultra-fresh array of starters, entrees, and desserts.

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“The crab cakes, scallops, lobster rolls, and charred octopus are our most popular dishes,” Milano said. “We do maintain a strong focus on seafood, but there’s steaks, chops, short ribs, and burgers, too it really is a nice mix…a little something for everyone.”

Caddy Spread

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The restaurant, which is owned by Greg and Edie Milano, along with Vince Gifford and Jean Jaslovsky, features sweeping views of the Navesink River and garage style glass walls that can be rolled up to allow in the sea breeze. But kitschy nautical it is not. Designed in a classic white and blue color scheme, 26 West is devoid of anchors, seashells, and lighthouses. Instead, diners find tufted chairs and geometric china, along with an event space with tables that can accommodate 20 guests each. “It’s an upscale look,” Mikaela Milano said. “Bright and crisp; there’s no seashells in the bathroom, but there’s definitely a nod to the ocean and shore.”

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The restaurant has two full service bars, and its wine list is extensive, offering a number of California vintages as well as choices from Italy, France, Germany, Argentina, and New Zealand. There are more than 20 beers on tap, several local brands among them, including Asbury Sea Dragon and Cape May Summer Catch. Specialty cocktails are crafted from local spirits; popular choices include the Pumpkin Spice Negroni made of Crop Pumpkin Spice Vodka, Belvedere Ginger Zest Vodka, Bruto Americano, and sweet vermouth and the Pristine Praline, with Backwoods Pecan Pie Liqueur, Clyde May’s Alabama Whiskey, Lillet, and smoked simple syrup.

Desserts are made in house, and all ingredients are locally sourced and delivered fresh daily. “The only thing that’s frozen,” said Milano, “is our ice cream.”

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There are also specials every night: Mussels Monday features “all you can eat” mussels with a glass of beer or house wine for $20; Bubbles and Pearls Tuesday offers $1 East Coast oysters, $3 shrimp cocktails, and a $5 discount on bottles of champagne; Burger Wednesday, meanwhile, offers two burgers for $20 and half price draft beer all night; and Wings and Whiskey Thursday features jumbo wings for a dollar apiece and $2 off all whiskey drinks. A two course, $29 per person Sunday brunch comes with a personal bottle of prosecco. In addition, there are Happy Hour specials every day.

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“Many of our customers dine with us multiple times a week, so they love the specials,” Milano said. “It’s a great spot to enjoy a night out with friends or family. And I think our menu simply speaks for itself.”

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26 West
26 West Front Street, Red Bank 732.383.5664 /
26westonthenavesink.com