Zahav’s Down the Shore party gets the music and food just right.
We walked into Zahav on Thursday night and, within seconds, I was having a flashback.
I’m blue, da ba dee da ba die ...
“Well, they got the music right,” I said aloud, recalling a night in 1999 when Eiffel 65 played on a constant loop at Jilly’s Arcade on the Ocean City boardwalk.
My boyfriend and I had just entered the Down the Shore party at chef Mike Solomonov’s lauded Israeli restaurant. The party’s theme was simple: A bunch of Philly’s best chefs each put a new twist on a classic Shore dish. The milk-chocolate walls of the restaurant were adorned with banners announcing the evening’s menu. Pizza! Crab boil! Fried clams! Hot dogs! I’m a minor-league foodie but on this night, I wasn’t in it for the calorie consumption. I wanted to binge on nostalgia.
Growing up in the God-damn-right-it’s-Great Northeast section of Philadelphia, a vacation at the Jersey Shore was equivalent to a troupe of sorostitutes heading to Cancun: It was The Dream. We fantasized about our seven days in Ocean City for 51 weeks a year, planning and saving, making lists of which boardwalk shops we wanted to visit and wondering if the boardwalk had added any new amusements.
Oddly, The Dream hasn’t evolved much in the last decade or so. While the rest of the fashion world has changed, shops on the boardwalk are still carrying booty shorts with the names of shore towns emblazoned on the ass. Tie-dyed shirts. Hemp jewelry. Drug rugs. (Fashion at the Jersey Shore is not unlike what you’d see in the parking lot of a Dave Matthews Band show.) Not only is this hideous shit available for purchase, but people actually wear it. Unironically. I wouldn’t be shocked to walk into Jilly’s right now and hear Eiffel 65 blaring from the speakers.
I likely won’t get to the Jersey Shore this summer. So I needed to get my fill of N.J. lovin’ close to home.
I’m a machine head, better than the rest, green to red, machine head ...
The soundtrack appropriately stayed in the late 1990s as we mingled with other partygoers. The crowd was unsurprisingly brimming with members of the Philly foodie community.
We bought Miller High Life pounders from inside a wheeled trashcan, paying a guy wearing a mullet wig and a fanny pack. “This is authenticity,” I told my boyfriend.
Soon, our growling stomachs led us away from the bar and toward the kitchen. Camped out by one of the two kitchen doors, we pounced on servers, grabbing a trio of popsicles from Bistrot la Minette’s Peter Woolsey, mini hot dogs from John Taus (formerly of Snackbar) and Fork’s Andrew Wood, ice cream sandwiches from Percy Street’s Erin O’Shea and crab from Lucio Palazzo of Xochitl.
Starving, we dove right in.
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye, glory daaaaaays ...
As the evening’s playlist traveled further back in time, we made our way toward the opposite end of the restaurant, hoping to find more munching options.
On the way, I got sidetracked by a waitress donning another Jersey Shore fashion staple: Daisy Dukes. She was selling intriguing slushy split-pea-soup-colored beverages. Having had my fill of High Life, I asked about the drink’s ingredients.
The lemonada, featuring Jim Beam bourbon, mint, lemon, verbena and simple syrup, was the highlight of the evening. Gloriously herbal-y and deliciously sweet, I couldn’t stop drinking them.
One. Two. Three cups.
I felt my stomach gurgle and I suddenly realized I was swaying back and forth—likely not in time with the music. Fuck nostalgia. I needed more food. Now.
We stalked servers with trays of chunky herb-sprinkled fries from Bibou’s Pierre Camels, the most delicious fried clams I’ve ever tasted from Fork’s Terence Feury, burgers from Mémé’s David Katz and a lamb-stuffed calzone from party host Michael Solomonov. Much like every beach vacation I’ve ever taken, I stuffed my face with food I’d never allow myself to eat while preparing to wear a bathing suit.
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