McNally’s Jersey boardwalk-ready Texas Tommy hot dog. (Photo by April Lisante)

by April Lisante

This Fourth of July, I am packing to move, and the house is completely torn apart, with boxes, bags and chaos everywhere.

Since moving day is just a couple of weeks away, we decided to forgo the annual trip to the Ocean City, New Jersey beach for the holiday.

Once the reality set in that we wouldn’t be going to the beach, riding the rides or flying kites at sunset, another reality hit me like a ton of bricks: no boardwalk food.

While I am a healthy eater most of the time, something just kind of comes over me when I get to the boardwalk. Within about an hour of arrival, I have to have Manco’s white spinach pizza. And for a heavenly week straight, I am generally eating foods I know I can only get once a year, such as crab balls, Kohr Bros. ice cream, taffy, funnel cakes and monkey bread. I do, however, have my limits. I have not and do not plan to try the bread cone stuffed with meatballs. That just seems blasphemous.

To cure my cravings this year, I thought it would be fun to find some boardwalk items being served up on local menus. No, I thankfully did not find meatball cones, but I did find a lot of unique takes on boardwalk favorites right here on Germantown Avenue.

The treats will be served up this week for the holiday and beyond. Some items are even permanent fixtures on the menus. Here are a few of the goodies I discovered:

• At Paris Bistro & Jazz Café, (8235 Germantown Ave.) chef and owner Al Paris takes the humble steak fry and gives it a glam makeover. His truffle fries have been on the menu since day one because, frankly, diners are addicted to them. He only uses Kennebeck potatoes “because they get nice and crisp,” he says. The potatoes are cut into wedges, then blanched in 250-degree oil, removed and refried at 350 degrees, then topped with shaved truffles, salt, pepper and a special butter made with garlic, white pepper, thyme and parsley.

McNally’s (8634 Germantown Ave.) is famous for its Schmitter sandwich, a yummy concoction of steak and salami, but have you ever tried one of their Texas Tommy hot dogs? Owner Anne McNally says this is a winner with guests, who enjoy an all-beef hot dog topped with Hatfield bacon and Kraft American cheese. “We serve it with relish and mustard on a Conshohocken Bakery roll.”

Bredenbeck’s Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor (8126 Germantown Ave.) is making cakes with a boardwalk twist this summer, featuring larger-than-life hot dog and cheeseburger confections. The 9-inch vanilla cake is layered, then topped with assorted buttercream colors to create lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and mustard to look like a giant burger. “We make the relish using gummy bears,” said head sales manager Jacob Boyd. Order up a burger for $36.95 or a hot dog for $24.95.

Chill on the Hill frozen yogurt shop (5 E. Highland Ave.) is offering its own take on boardwalk desserts with its sea salt caramel pretzel soft-serve yogurt. The flavor will be available for a few weeks, and, I can vouch, is extremely addictive. Manager Joel Guerrero says most folks top it with chocolatey items like hot fudge, chocolate covered pretzels or Reeses. “Really, anything that plays with that chocolate and saltiness,” he said.

• And what would boardwalk fare be without seafood? But crab balls might just take a back seat to the Campbell’s Place (8337 Germantown Ave.) lobster roll. This New England native, which originated in Connecticut, is just as popular in our Shore towns now. Originally it was served hot, but now it’s a cold salad-style sandwich served on a hot dog roll. Campbell’s, as well as McNally’s, are offering this summer gem on their menus. Campbell’s owner Vanessa Mullen gave us her recipe, so all of us stuck at home this Fourth of July can make it ourselves, and pretend to feel sand beneath our feet.

Makes 4 rolls
1 ¼ pound Maine lobster
3 tbs. chopped fresh sage
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
¼ head iceberg lettuce
½ lemon
½ cup mayonnaise
4 split-top rolls

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, drop the lobster in water for nine minutes. Pull the lobster out and allow it to cool. While the lobster is cooling, slice the lettuce as thin as you can. In a separate bowl, mix mayo, chopped parsley, sage and juice from the lemon. Whisk the ingredients together. Use a lobster cracker to crack the lobster’s claws, knuckles, legs and tail. Pick out all the meat and rough chop it. Use a knife to spread some mayo on the outside of the hot dog bun. In a hot pan, place the mayo side down to toast each side of the bun. Mix lobster meat with the remaining mayo. Place shredded lettuce on the inside of the bun, top with lobster meat and enjoy.