Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In the Ayre Tonight

Seasonal restaurants dot the landscape of Jersey Shore towns like Margate, Ventnor and Longport, many opening just before Memorial Day and serving meals through October. Salt Ayre Bistro, a three-year-old BYOB along the southern edge of Ventnor (7309 Ventnor Ave., 609-428-6952), is one such place. Serving dinner Wednesdays through Sundays, the cozy French-influenced seafooder stands out among the dozens of Italian and American restaurants on Absecon Island.

Salt Ayre Bistro's shrimp & grits
We were largely pleased with our dishes at the cash-only Salt Ayre on a recent Sunday, although service was on the slow side. About half of the items on the current menu are gluten free (vegetarian and gluten-free options are marked), including the entree salad, oysters and the Prince Edward Island mussels offered as a special. Our sons and I opted for a trio of gluten-free items: mahi mahi, shrimp & grits and BBQ pulled chicken. (My wife's roasted salmon wasn't gluten free.)

Blackened mahi atop mashed avocado
Our 13-year-old's excellent blackened mahi ($22) came with a side of jasmine rice and a creamy avocado mash. My cheesy grits were studded with smoky bits of Applewood bacon, complemented by four sautéed Gulf shrimp ($22). The sweet BBQ sauce couldn't save our 10-year-old's chicken dish, however ($18); there simply wasn't much meat, and lean morsels were few and far between.

The absence of a wine-and-spirits list helps to keep a ceiling on the overall tab. With more attentive service and larger portions, Salt Ayre can be a Ventnor staple for summers to come.

Salt Ayre Bistro on Urbanspoon
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