Asbury Park: Where Art, Grit and Local Spirits Mix

A new wave of venues includes a glass-walled gallery attached to a year-old boutique hotel, the Asbury. The social hub stocks vinyl records and vintage rock ‘n’ roll T-shirts from Sweet Joey’s, a satellite of its flagship shop at 523 Bangs Avenue. On exhibit there through at least Sept. 15 are roughly 70 arresting photographs of music icons shot by Mr. Clinch, such as local hero Bruce Springsteen, as well as Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, Tom Waits and Tupac Shakur.

The gallery, at Kingsley Street and Fifth Avenue, also books musicians (invited by the singer-songwriter Rachel Ana Dobken) for free on Saturdays from 4 to 7 p.m., a convenient time for those who can’t linger for evening shows at the Stone Pony. The audience, a mixture of boho-chic locals and bronzed day-trippers, lounge on midcentury modern furnishings — a Jens Risom walnut armchair, for instance, had a $550 price tag.

“You never know who’s going to show up,” said Tina Kerekes, who runs the gallery. (Yes, Springsteen has paid a visit.)


The Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J.

Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

The unexpected can also occur just by strolling around, encountering charming Victorian and Craftsman houses or a spirited game of dodge ball on the beach.

New to downtown is Reyla, a modern Mediterranean restaurant at 603 Mattison Avenue, which opened in July. The focus is on small plates, such as cashews dusted with ras el hanout (a North African spice mix) and tender pork souvlaki. Prices range from $3 to $15. Cocktails include a stirred, smooth martini made from gin crafted at the nearby Asbury Park Distilling Co., another new business.

“When we first started coming in 2000 there was one restaurant, and now there are dozens,” said Victor Corbo, 55, an insurance executive sampling the food at Reyla, who counted himself among the “gay-oneers” who spurred the turnaround.

Around the corner is the hip Barrio Costero (610 Bangs Avenue), Reyla’s 18-month-old sister restaurant. The food is billed as “coastal Mexican,” with delicious fish tacos, tuna ceviche and “daily escape” drink specials, such as a tart, $6 margarita rimmed with lip-numbing chipotle salt.

Bruce Springsteen, who has sung about Asbury Park a time or two, noted in his 2016 memoir, “Born to Run,” that the town is not the same. He wrote, “I now play the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past as the city and its exciting new development passes me by.”

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