We found what could be the strangest restaurant in NJ
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — I am not using the term "bizarre" in a bad way, at all.
In fact, if I had the ability each night to magically transport myself to any restaurant in the Garden State for dinner, I'd pick this spot every single time (even though this restaurant is seasonal).
I've been to this restaurant well over 100 times in my life so far, including dozens of times since my employment began at New Jersey 101.5 in 2007. But I'm only choosing to write about it now because of a recent conversation that made me realize how truly unique this eatery is to the Shore and to the state overall.
A restaurant beyond explanation ... but here goes
A friend of a friend was asking for restaurant recommendations for an upcoming trip to Cape May County. I immediately jumped at the chance to suggest this spot — again, a place I could navigate with my eyes closed and could order from without ever needing a menu.
And then she asked two questions I somehow didn't know how to answer: What kind of place is it? And what kind of food do they serve?
I'd give good money to any customer of Menz Restaurant & Bar who can adequately describe the place. It's as if the original owners took suggestions from everyone in town — on everything from the menu choices to the decor — and said yes to every single one.
Think ... a saloon, meets a diner. A fancy steakhouse, meets a hole-in-the-wall roadside stop. Grandma's house, meets happy hour.
And then throw in a candy shop, arcade games, giant, ornate outdoor statues, and a display of two-headed animals, obviously.
I'd imagine that first-time visitors are thinking to themselves, "Where the hell am I?"
What to order at Menz Restaurant & Bar
Located on Route 47 South in Rio Grande (Middle Township), Menz is much more than a restaurant and bar — it really is an attraction.
It's been a part of my life since before I could walk, so I've never thought much about what was actually going on inside and outside. But I'd imagine that first-time visitors are thinking to themselves, "Where the hell am I?"
And that question likely would not be considered an insult by management. Even some of the souvenirs at the gift shop promote Menz as "the most unique restaurant at the shore."
On the Menz Facebook page, the restaurant is described as "specializing in fresh seafood, steaks, and much more." There really is no theme to the foods that are offered. Pork chops. Surf and turf. Spaghetti and meatballs. American burger. Stuffed shrimp with crabmeat. Chicken Francaise. And dozens of other options.
The best perk of the menu, in my opinion: two "vegetables" with every entree. I put "vegetables" in quotes because some of the "vegetable" choices are french fries, macaroni and cheese, and homemade mashed potatoes with gravy.
There's never been a meal I haven't liked at Menz. But for the past several visits, it's been the same order from me every time: French onion soup (no one makes it better), and as an entree, the chicken cutlet, with whichever two sides I'm feeling at the time.
For a while during the pandemic, the French onion soup was not being offered because Menz was operating on a limited menu. But it's back now!
What you should know if you go to Menz
- I am not a seafood eater, but it's an automatic go-to for members of my family, every visit.
- Orders from the children's menu come with a Frisbee, a large freeze pop, and a bag that's good for $2 worth of candy at the shop in the front of the restaurant.
- You don't just get bread before your meal. The basket includes fresh muffins as well — it's usually a struggle for me to not fill up before my order even arrives.
- There's a bar menu and a good selection of specialty drinks. My family always wants to hear about the different sangria options.
Menz became a part of our family
Menz, by the way, is the last name of the family that has owned and operated the restaurant since the 1970s. The family's story actually begins about 50 years prior, when Franklin Menz sold produce to passersby in Millville. You can read the whole story on the menu.
Franklin Menz passed away in November 1992. I still remember learning that news in the summer of 1993, at 8 years old, when our server arrived at my family's table. My parents asked her why "Mr. Menz" wasn't up front as usual, hanging out in his recliner chair and handing out lollipops.
My family has been vacationing in Wildwood Crest every summer since I was a baby. And every year, Menz has been a dining staple — we'd go two to three times per summer when we used to stay in the Crest for a couple of weeks. Now, with the vacation typically lasting a little more than a week, we make sure to hit up Menz at least once.
Coming from the Wildwoods towards Rio Grande, Menz is about a 10-minute ride after you cross over the bridge.
On more than one occasion, our Flammia meals have taken over an entire room inside Menz. My older brother's birthday is at the end of July, so about 90% of his birthday dinners have been at Menz. I'd argue that if all it could count on yearly was my family's cake and dessert purchases, the restaurant could still survive financially.
You'll get a lifetime of memories (courtesy of their own photographer)
Adding to the uniqueness of the restaurant, a photographer roams the premises and asks each party if it'd like to take a group picture. Later on, the photographer comes back with a black and white print. If you like what you see, you can buy one or more copies.
Below is just a sample of the Menz photos my family has posed for, and purchased, over the years. There is no photo for 2022, because last summer was my family's first summer without my mother, who passed away in November 2021. We still kept the Menz tradition alive, but we'd never take a Menz picture without her.
Interestingly, my mother decided in 2021 for the first time to convert our Menz photo from black and white to color (first photo below).
Menz Restaurant & Bar hours
During the busy summer weeks, Menz is open at 4 p.m. daily, and you may have to wait a while for a table if you don't make a reservation. Reservations must be made over the phone.
Leading up to the peak summer months, Menz is open from Thursday through Monday.