Everybody who follows The Crier knows my affinity for the Jersey Shore. There is unquestionably nothing more appealing than a Summer “Down at the Shore”. You can pitch going out east to The Hamptons or vacationing at The Cape to me, but I assure you that it will fall completely on deaf ears. I may just walk away from the conversation mid-discussion when the idea of going somewhere else besides Jersey comes up.
Give me a Saturday line-up of being at the beach all day (don’t get triggered UConn fans), stepping off the beach into happy hour at Columns, and then have that cascade into an evening in God’s Basement at The Parker House. That’s an ideal day and night.
I grew up in Jersey, went to school up at Providence, had a sabbatical post college in Manhattan and Hoboken, and inevitably returned home to the Promised Land a few years ago.
This article idea started when somebody tweeted at Big East’s prodigal son, John Fanta, to do a like for like comparison of Jersey Shore bars to Big East programs. John is a Jersey Shore Bar aficionado, often tweeting about Spring Lakers and The Boom Boom Room at The Osprey. Quite simply, he gets it.
I decided to do a comparison of my own. Enjoy. I’m sure fans and alums of these schools will take these comparisons in stride and not overreact.
Parker House – God’s Basement: For those familiar with this Sea Girt establishment, there is a CLEAR delineation between the upstairs of Parker House and the basement of Parker House (God’s Basement). The upstairs can be a bit stuffy, with the default clothing attire tucked in golf polos with a matching hat from the local country club. It can comes across as a bit pretentious at times and is often the late afternoon spot before you venture off to your evening plans.
God’s Basement is a whole different beast. Rules are meant to be broken here. The basement is jam packed with drunk 20 somethings that are routinely double fisting, spilling domestic lights down their shirts, and dancing clumsily to the live band playing. Providence fits this description perfectly, for better or worse. The Friars have built a reputation, deservedly so, as an affluent school with a party vibe to it. The fanbase is unruly, drunk, and full of joy.
You may even run into a spill or leakage on the floor of God’s Basement, just like you often see on the courts of The Dunk/AMP.
D’Jais – When people think of the Jersey Shore, they think of D’Jais. Fist pumping, EDM music blaring, guidos and guidettes. Every stereotype of The Jersey Shore is met here. You cannot think of The Jersey Shore without thinking of D’Jais.
You can make this parallel to the Big East and UConn (Kemba step back, Khalid El-Amin, Jim Calhoun, etc.).
The Big East is UConn, and UConn is the Big East. It’s as simple as that.
D’Jais is also very similar to UConn in that the average IQ of those attending the two establishments is below average. You know what you are getting into when you step into D’Jais in that same way that you know what type of interaction you’ll have with the typical UConn fan. Once you set your expectations accordingly, both are a reasonably good time.
D’Jais would only thrive at the Jersey Shore in the same way that UConn will only thrive in the Big East. The thought of D’Jais in Oklahoma or Michigan is laughable. UConn can learn a thing or two from D’Jais in staying where you know you’ll have success.
Leggett’s – I’ll admit my first encounter with Marquette was watching Tommy Boy graduate from Marquette after seven years.
When I think of Marquette basketball fans, I think of good midwestern Catholics that enjoy cold light beers, unhealthy food, and an affinity for a no frills sports bar. Enter Leggett’s, one of the preeminent drinking establishments at the Jersey Shore. It is everything you could want in a sports bar and honestly is a bit out of place when you consider it’s a baseball’s throw from The Atlantic.
You know what you are going to get every time you step into Leggett’s. The consistency and quality time you experience is something that you can set your watch to. Beyond Leggett’s painting its exterior every offseason to some type of neon shade, I don’t think Leggetts has refurbished and improved its bar in 40 years. But that’s okay. That is what you expect from this Manasquan staple.
Parker House – Upstairs & Outdoor Porch – See the above description of Parker House to get a sense of why this description perfectly fits. Villanova’s fan base is definitely the wine and cheese crowd and seems to have an apathy towards rowdy fan behavior. Try and order a few shots on the outdoor porch of Parker House, and you’ll be stared at dismissively for such childish actions. Villanova fans stare at Providence fans in this same manner of dismay at The Garden during Big East Tournament week when they see a jovial PC fan chug a Coors Light tall boy. They look down upon such immature behavior.
I guess being the most dominant basketball program nationwide over the past 10-15 years can have this effect on fan enthusiasm. Parker House is the alpha in the Jersey Shore bar food chain in the same way Villanova is still the alpha in the Big East.
Is Jay Wright retiring similar to Parker House hypothetically getting its liquor license taken away and fading into obscurity? We shall see.
The Salty Whale – DePaul should be an elite basketball program. It is in one of the top basketball conferences in the country and located in a city flush with prep talent. Even with all of these inherent advantages, it cannot seem to have sustained success.
The Salty Whale is unfortunately a similar story. The Salty Whale, despite being in an apparent ideal location a few blocks from the beach, continues to change ownership and names. I believe it has held three different names over the past 10 years: O’Neills, Manasquan Beach House, and now The Salty Whale.
Somebody is inevitably going to find magic in a bottle, and this place will turn into a hot spot, but for now it remains somewhat of an afterthought. I’ll never understand why, in the same way I’ll never understand why DePaul cannot be a top Midwest college basketball program. Everything is in place for it to succeed, but it can’t get out of its own way.
Donovan’s Reef – One of the preeminent Jersey Shore bars that can get a bit trashy and invoke confrontation at times.
Donovan’s is the rare Jersey shore bar that actually has a bar physically on the beach. Prior to Hurricane Sandy, Donovan’s was a local’s favorite escape. It was a staple to the Jersey Shore scene and could go toe to toe with any other more popular Jersey Shore haunts, but nobody outside of the locals really knew about it. Hurricane Sandy changed all of that. Sandy destroyed Donovan’s and led to the rebuild that made it night and day from what it once was. Now, everybody knows about Donovan’s.
I look at Xavier in a similar fashion. It always had a great basketball program, but was never routinely thought of as anything more than a top mid-major type program. The invitation to the Big East changed the program perception nationally. Now, all college basketball fans know who Xavier is. They also carry that street brawler, rough around the edges mentality that can sometimes be found on a summer weekend at Donovan’s.
Column’s – For those Creighton fans that don’t know Columns, this is probably the highest compliment one can receive. Columns has arguably the nicest views of any bar at the Jersey Shore, a Victorian mansion reconfigured into a massive bar and restaurant with direct views of The Atlantic Ocean.
Similar to Xavier and Donovan’s, Columns 10-15 years ago was well thought of, but had nowhere near the popularity that it does now. Columns is the go-to spot on the weekends now and that historically was never the case. Creighton, in a similar fashion, has become a destination spot for recruits.
Columns attracts the same personnel as Parker House. In my few interactions with Creighton fans, they’ve been polite and generally upstanding human beings. This is the same type of crowd you’ll get at Parker House. It’s a “roll off the beach and have few Coronas during happy hour” type bar. The fact that Creighton hasn’t had any incidents on dollar beer night in Omaha shows that they are well behaved members of society. The city of Providence would burn if The AMP ever tried that.
Joe’s Surf Shack – This bar previously went by the legend that is PK Shamrock. While the current iteration of this bar and restaurant is unquestionably nicer and aesthetically more pleasing, one wonders if this place was better off in its original form. PK Shamrock was known as THE Sunday Funday spot in Belmar before you made the trek over to D’Jais for happy hour. It was an institution and a rite of passage to get in line Sunday morning for a PK Shamrock Sunday.
Joe’s Surf Shack is nice enough, but nobody really goes out of the way to make it to this place. If you end up there, cool. If not, so be it.
Butler is a good parallel to Joe’s because, while I know fans are happy to be in the Big East, Butler had much more success as a mid-major than they are having now. One may wonder if they were better off staying put in the Missouri Valley Conference. They haven’t been able to replicate the success that Creighton and Xavier have post-entry into the Big East. Maybe Butler should have its PK Shamrock moment and return to where they had their most success.
Bar Anticipation – A Fanta favorite, Bar A is basically an adult playground. It has a few massive indoor bars, about 4 outdoor tiki bars, and beach cabanas that you can rent out. In short, it is a spectacle.
That is how I see St. John’s this year: they are going to be entertaining, but you have no idea what they are going to look like. At Bar A, you can spend 5 nights in a row there and never drink at the same spot. Your nights are always a bit of a mystery when heading to Bar A. St. John’s is going to be a rollercoaster ride this year, with the highs being high and the lows being low.
Most relevant, if you asked St. John’s fans which bars they are familiar with on The Jersey Shore, I’d venture that the majority would answer Bar A.
Kelly’s – I admittedly struggled with this school. I tried to think of a bar that has had success despite serious limitations. Seton Hall, even with a lack of quality resources for the basketball program, has found success even with the obvious roadblocks in its way. East Orange, NJ isn’t exactly a destination spot for recruits, they play their home games off campus, and a fair amount of its students are commuters. Seton Hall may be the toughest place to win at in the entire Big East.
Kelly’s in Neptune is a successful place for no apparent reason. It’s location is objectively terrible, sandwiched between seemingly 4 different highways. There is no easy way to get there. It is certainly not walkable and it is completely out of the way from other drinking establishments. There is no obvious reason why anybody would go here. Despite all these headwinds, people continue to turn up to Kelly’s, and Kelly’s in turns continues to have success.
Because the Jersey Shore has some foundational moral structure and is a popular destination, I had trouble thinking of any bar that could be compared to Georgetown. I then dug deep and reflected on which bars still exist that haven’t had success in 10+ years.
If anybody thinks of a good bar comparison for a program that is known for backstabbing conference foes and a fanbase that has unjustified arrogance despite having no success in the last decade, please forward my way. Thanks.
The Old Big East Conference
The Norwood Inn – The GOAT of Jersey Shore Bars. If you know, you know. My love of Pat Roddy blossomed here. Norwood Inn was the Jersey Shore’s best kept secret and truly a hidden gem.
Norwood Inn was purchased a few years back and subsequently knocked down to build coastal mansions in its ruins. The Old Big East, a juggernaut of a basketball conference, was destroyed due to the same desire of charter Big East members to sell out for more money (football money). RIP Norwood Inn.