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In Red Bank, N.J.

David Hunsinger for The New York Times


Published: September 17, 2004

THOUGH the Atlantic Ocean is just eight miles away, Red Bank, on the south shore of the Navesink River, with many of its 11,500 residents living in modest Victorian homes, takes pride in its roots as a river town. English sailors first noticed its banks of red clay in 1609; it was settled in the late 17th century and developed into a bustling port rom which seafood and crops were sent to New York City. In the 1980's, its commercial district suffered an economic downturn that earned it the unfortunate moniker "Dead Bank." Today, with help from a downtown business alliance, the town has changed again. Red Bank supports a growing array of trendy shops and restaurants, and has fashioned itself into a mini-center for the arts, with famous neighbors including Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi in nearby towns. And while summer brings outdoor festivals, concerts and movies to the town's streets and public riverfront areas — Riverside Gardens Park and Marine Park — the crowds disperse during autumn, making the view of boats cruising the Navesink much easier to enjoy.


5 p.m.
1) Shrine to Comic Books

The filmmaker Kevin Smith, whose credits include "Dogma" and "Jersey Girl," helped put the town on the pop culture map by filming much of his "Chasing Amy" and the cult favorite "Clerks" in the area. He also owns a downtown comic book shop called Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (35 Broad Street, 732-758-0508). Join the steady stream of comic book aficionados as they browse through coveted copies of Swamp Thing or Identity Crisis.

8 p.m.
2) Taco Night

Red Bank boasts a large Mexican and Salvadoran population, and would-be patrons often wait in line for a table at the popular Juanito's Mexican restaurant (159 Monmouth Street, 732-747-9118; lunch and dinner). Try the queso fundido — a spicy cheese dip with Mexican sausage and flour tortillas ($7.95), or the shrimp enchiladas poblanas in a dark mole sauce ($16.95). And while you'll have to do without margaritas (there is no liquor license), customers can bring their own beer and wine.


9 a.m.
3) Stretch Yourself

Ease into the day with a class ($18) in Dancing Foot Yoga's 1,500-square-foot, wood-floor space at Synapse Studios (10 Broad Street, third floor; 732-219-6662). If that doesn't kick you into gear, head down the street to No Ordinary Joe Cafe (51 Broad Street, 732-530-4040) for a banana muffin ($1.85) and a medium-size cappuccino ($3.15).

11 a.m.
4) Out and About

Stroll the five-block downtown and browse at Funk and Standard Variety Store (40 Broad Street, 732-219-5885) for hip clothes and jewelry, retro lunch boxes ($14 and up), Cleopatra action figures ($10) and a copy of Cassell's Dictionary of Slang ($16.99). Then pop into the Bees Knees boutique (24 Broad Street, 732-758-1900) for girly Lilly Pulitzer clothing and Eliza B. accessories. In the rear of this space, don't miss the Jersey Shore Apparel Company (24 Broad Street, 732-530-1048), which stocks T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, coffee mugs and bumper stickers that all pay tribute to the Garden State and to Red Bank in particular.

1 p.m.
5) Food for the Soul

Down to Earth (7 Broad Street, 732-747-4542) serves organic vegetarian cuisine in its cheery basement-level dining room. Try the "notorious nachos" ($6.95), corn chips beneath homemade three-bean chili, lettuce, salsa and tofu sour cream — yeast cheese is a dollar extra. Or recharge with a concoction of iced apple and lemon juices with a dash of ginger ($4.75). After lunch, keep walking and peruse a few galleries — Art Forms (16 Monmouth Street, 732-530-4330); the Art Alliance of Monmouth County (33 Monmouth Street, 732-842-9403); and the Laurel Tracey Gallery (10 White Street, 732-224-0760) — for contemporary paintings, photography, jewelry and sculpture. Occasionally, Red Bank plans self-guided art-themed walks, and the Visitors' Center (in the train station at Monmouth Street and Bridge Avenue, 732-741-9211; offers maps highlighting galleries and antiques shops.

3 p.m.
6) To the Lighthouse

A 20-minute drive northeast to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse at Fort Hancock puts you where you can watch birds and hike on about five miles of trails. Built in 1764 and the oldest operating beacon in the United States, the lighthouse offers impressive views of lower Manhattan (Gateway National Recreation Area, 732-872-5970). It is open noon to 4:30 p.m. weekends through November, and admission is free. The nearby Twin Lights of Navesink is where America's first Fresnel lens was used. The Twin Lights' medieval-style turrets were decommissioned in 1949; today they are a museum and historic site (Lighthouse Road off Route 36, Highlands; 732-872-1814). It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; a donation is requested.

6 p.m.
7) Go Italian

For the last decade, 2 Senza (2 Bridge Avenue, 732-758-0999) has served Italian and Mediterranean food to loyal regulars from its open kitchen in the Galleria building. Start with a salad of mixed greens, roasted red peppers, grilled portobello mushrooms and gorgonzola ($10). Then dine on sushi-quality yellowfin tuna with sautéed spinach and a balsamic vinegar reduction ($30). It has a small shop specializing in Italian boutique wines.

8 p.m.
8) It's Showtime

This year, the Count Basie Theater (99 Monmouth Street, 732-842-9000; celebrates the centennial of Count Basie's birth. In August 1904, William James Basie, the renowned composer of "One O'Clock Jump," was born on Mechanic Street in Red Bank. The theater opened 22 years later as a vaudeville and movie house; it was given its current name

in 1984. Today its year-round programs include opera, music, dance, rock bands, world music, comedy and film. The space, with an impressive proscenium arch, has nearly 1,600 seats and recently reopened after a major refurbishment, which includes historically accurate theater seats and an updated screen and sound system. On Oct. 8 and 9, the theater will play host to the fourth annual Red Bank International Film Festival in conjunction with the Freedom Film Society.

10:30 p.m.
9) An Irish Nightcap

After the entertainment, head down the block for a pint of Smithwick's ($5) at the Dublin House (30 Monmouth Street, 732-747-6699), a charmingly scrappy Irish bar set in an attractive former home with a mansard roof, whose owners, Sean Dunne and Eugene Devlin, hail from the Emerald Isle.


10 a.m.
10) Rise and Shine

The bright and spacious River's Edge Café (35 Broad Street, 732-741-7198; breakfast, lunch, and dinner) is an unassuming downtown spot with around 40 tables; locals feast on eggs Benedict ($8.50) and seasonal specialties like pumpkin pancakes with honey butter ($7.50).

11 a.m.
11) Fresh and Wild

Every Sunday from May through October, you can load up on flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables and baked items — all from New Jersey — at the Red Bank Farmer's Market in the Galleria parking lot (corner of Bridge Avenue and West Front Street, 732-530-7300; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Before leaving town, grab a pressed roasted chicken or prosciutto sandwich ($8) and a latte ($2.50) from the coffee bar at Savanna (10 Bridge Avenue, 732-741-6333). This newly renovated cafe and tapas bar fills a section of the restored 80,000-square-foot brick Galleria, a former warehouse and factory where World War I uniforms and parachutes were made.

Visiting Red Bank

Red Bank is 48 miles south of New York City and 85 miles northeast of Philadelphia, at Exit 109 off the Garden State Parkway. Local trains on the New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast Line (800-772-2222; stop at Red Bank. From the station, Red Bank can easily be explored on foot.

The Molly Pitcher Inn (88 Riverside Avenue, 732-747-2500) was built on the Navesink in 1928 and has a bar and a restaurant with river views. There are boat slips for guests who float in. The inn's 106 rooms start at $159. The Oyster Point Hotel (146 Bodman Place, 732-530-8200) has the same owners as the Molly Pitcher, a few hundred yards away. Its 58 rooms start at $159, and it has a restaurant and bar, also on the water.

Seven miles northeast of town, the Blue Bay Inn (51 First Avenue, Atlantic Highlands; 732-708-9600) is a just-opened boutique hotel with a restaurant and lounge. Its 27 rooms, some with balconies, start at $159 and include a continental breakfast.

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Map of Red Bank, N.J.



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Smith, Kevin

Basie, Count

David Hunsinger for The New York Times


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