Bahama Breeze May be Heading for Toms River
By Phil Stilton
If you have ever been to a tropical beachfront grille in the Caribbean, you will immediately understand the concept of the Bahama Breeze restaurant chain that is trying to make its way into the fabric of Toms River. And why not? Toms River is the gateway to the Jersey Shore and the barrier islands of the Barnegat Bay. A pad site at the Ocean County Mall, at the intersection of Bay Avenue and Hooper Avenue has just been approved that could pave the way for Darden Restaurants to open a Bahama Breeze restaurant.
Darden Restaurants owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Seasons ’52 and Eddie V’s brand restaurants in 1,900 different locations. The company has a proven track record with culinary success and while Bahama Breeze may be unknown to locals, there are already three other locations in New Jersey, in Cherry Hill, Woodbridge, Wayne and a fourth local location in Philadelphia.
The flagship restaurant in the chain was built on International Drive, in Orlando, Florida, just a few minutes away. In April, I had the opportunity to visit the flagship restaurant and get a feel for the flavor of the brand. One of the great things about the restaurant is that some locations feature live music schedules, featuring authentic sounds of the Caribbean played live on the porch outside. As the New Jersey venue is in very early planning stages, there’s no information yet available, but in other locations, the cool beat of the steel drums or a the calming sounds of old school reggae is a nice finishing touch to a nice Caribbean style meal.
The restaurant is appealing to guests of all ages as it gives you a moment to relive your last Caribbean vacation, if only for an hour or two, and it delivers on that promise.
The menu successfully tries to recreate the flavors of the Caribbean, with an American appetite appeal, by adding tidbits here and there from each of the islands. While some of the creations are close clones, others of course, are American favorites with a Caribbean flair added to them.
For instance, if you’re not into trying new things like Jamaican beef patties, jerk chicken, fried plantains, curry or paella, there’s always pan seared fish, lobster and shrimp, steak, burgers and of course a traditional kids menu. While Bahama Breeze doesn’t go straight out jerk chicken, rice and beans and oxtail soup on you, they blend in the flavors and spices of the Caribbean, such as mango, cilantro, guava and pineapple into nearly every dish. One thing you will find is a great conch chowder.
Bahama Breeze restaurants come with a bar and an entertaining nightlife for the grownups. It should make for a nice and unique offering in Toms River. In the meantime, if you are now jonesing for some coastal cuisine you can head on over to any of Surf Taco’s three local locations, in Toms River, Seaside Park and Jackson or if you want to experience a real Jamaican experience, check out JA Rock on Route 166 in the Stella Towne Plaza. Optionally, you can visit the other nearby locations in Cherry Hill or Woodbridge if you just can’t wait.