I Fucking Love This Restaurant features writers’ favorite places that have been feeding a community for years: They aren’t the new spots.
On a four-lane causeway linking Wildwood and mainland New Jersey, across from the salt-corroded carcass of a definitely haunted mini-golf course, the Bright family catches, butchers, and cooks outstanding seafood. Their restaurant, Hooked Up Seafood, consists of a kitchen trailer manned by matriarch Michelle; a row of picnic tables staffed by whichever of her kids are home from college; and a couple of docks, stretching like fingers into the brackish marshes of Richardson Channel, where her husband Bill’s boats, Defiance and Retriever, moor. Timed to summer migration of Philadelphians to the South Jersey Shore, Hooked Up opens in May and closes in September. During these brief, sweet months, I eat here as often as possible. I fucking love this restaurant.
Before I get into why, there’s something you have to understand: For many Philadelphia families, allegiance to your Shore town is absolutely tribal, often governed by tradition that runs generations deep. From South Philly, where my family is from and where I live, the closest Shore point is Absecon Island, the key-shaped atoll home to Atlantic City, Ventnor City, Margate City, and Longport. My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all spent summers in AC until 1977, the year before the Resorts casino kicked off the gambling gold rush, and my mom’s parents, Frank and Josephine, retreated to a little white rancher at 304 North Delavan Avenue in Margate.
I was born in 1984 and spent the next 17 summers at 304. My grandparents’ house had burgundy shutters, white metal patio furniture that made waffle patterns in the backs of your thighs, and a fridge full of Clearly Canadian I was not allowed to touch. We shared the house with my grandparents and my grandmother’s sisters, Aunt Mickie and Aunt Mary. When my brother, Andrew, and I were little, my family bunked up in the back bedroom: my parents…