Brigantine you fool! What you never heard of Brigantine New Jersey? What, you live under a rock or something?
Maybe you know it as “City of East Atlantic City” which it was once called. Maybe you know it as “the place with the WAWA before you get to Atlantic City”. Maybe you know it as “that shithole you stayed at because the Borgata in Atlantic City was full”. Whatever you know it as, I doubt you have seen it in all its glory. Thats why during a job photographing Congressman Patrick Kennedy (I mean if its good enough for a Kennedy, right?) I got to experience Brigantine for all it was worth, and lemme tell you, it’s a hellova place.
First, lets mention what Brigantine is famous for (other then teenage pregnancy). It’s majestic lighthouse.
You may notice that its in the middle of the road. Not surrounded by water. Anywhere. Thats because this lighthouse was built in the 20’s as a tourist attraction, and it was unfortunately not tall enough, and not close enough to either body of water, to be at all useful. In its day it has been a police station, a gift shop, and a way for drunks to find their way home from the Rod and Reel (or Cop and Feel as my amico Jamie Ward, a native, used to call this classy bar).
Now, on to our sleeping accommodations.
No, its not the set from the acclaimed Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island, it’s the Legacy Vacation Club! While the website will not tell you when it was built, the chatty staff will say it was built around 1929, and may or may not have caused the stock market crash. Either way while it wasn’t built yesterday it has that Shining charm that makes you want to write a novel and murder your family, I mean, lay at the beach.
For me, its the perfect hotel. I loathe cookie-cutter, personality-less joints. This place exudes character. It’s historic, has a great view, and has a hipster TV. Yes, thats right … A TUBE TELEVISION. Bet that’s worth money.
Attached to the hotel (perhaps against it’s will) is a nice little restaurant and outdoor bar, that was pretty damn lively for a weekday, or maybe not, it is Jersey. Our bartendress was a badass, and made our drinks long and strong. She had an interesting coin hanging from her neck so I asked her about it. “Oh yeah,” she said, wicked good accent, “my pop gave me this before he left. I was young. Donno what it is.” It was heavy and didn’t look like a repo. So I took a picture of it and sent it to a historian friend of mine.
Turns out it’s a Spanish Piece of 8. Could be worth a few grand. Just hanging round her neck. No big deal.
Thats the kinda joint this was. Adventure!
The town of Brigantine is quaint, quiet, and quixotic. Maybe not quixotic but I ran out of Q words, but I will say that it is a typical east coast seaside town. Everyone working is like 15 years old and wears a t-shirt a size too big and their hair in a ponytail. Mom and Pop stores have little signs on doors that say “be right back” and thats about all the info you get. It has the comforting feeling that they set this town up about 30 years ago, stepped back, and said “Yep. Done.” and kept it that way and everyone was cool with it.
For a traveller, it’s these little towns that make me happy, because they are real, organic, and alive. Everything you find here is here because it’s supposed to be, not because someone willed it there with demographic research or any desire to invest. Which brings us to The Cellar.
So. I’ve eaten at French Laundry. Even Per Se. Twice. The Cellar is the real deal. You see, there is no restaurant in the world that is also a liquor shop. Or rather, there is no liquor shop that is also a restaurant. Take your pick, either way, when you experience The Cellar you are basically experience what Darwin would call “Environmentally Influenced Evolution”. It just happened to a business and not to a finch.
Basically you are sitting in a liquor store, eating dinner, served by 15 year old’s who are someones daughter. It’s perfect Jersey Shore, YEAH BUDDY. Here’s the thing… the food? IS FUCKING AMAZING. Sure, you have a bucket of beer helping you taste, but no joke, the pork chop? LEGEND.
A quick aside about pork chops….
I donno when, maybe about a year or two ago, I started going on a chop kick. Whenever, I mean whenever I see a pork chop on the menu, I order it. And lemme tell you… I’ve never been disappointed. My theory is that a pork chop is either one of two things… good, or fucking horrible. So if it’s the latter, well, it wouldn’t be there.
So far my theory is in perfect standing.
That was it for Brigantine, where the people are super friendly, the restaurants have liquor stores, and the hotels are not haunted a lot. I highly suggest you come stay, visit, and enjoy as it’s much better then it’s flashy neighbor AC. Good on you Brigantine for changing your name. You are much more then East Atlantic City. You’re Brigantine.
And oh, they have scrapple.
addendum… Patrick Kennedy is an amazing man. Super lovely, intelligent, and someone that really makes you believe again in politics (and human beings). Also his house is beautiful and has some of the most amazing shingling I’ve ever seen. All in all, photographing his portrait was a wonderful experience, and the fact that he calls Brigantine his home makes me love him, and the fine town of Brigantine, even more. You can see more pictures from that here.