Asbury Park is a small New Jersey shore town made famous by Bruce Springsteen’s 1973 debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Beyond the rock-and-roll culture that grew from this legendary icon, Asbury Park has also come into the vegan scene in recent years, boasting several vegan-friendly spots throughout its lively downtown. From brunch to boardwalk snacks, this town has plenty of vegan eats to enjoy.


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Brighten up your Monday with a couple of crispy, spicy tofu tacos 🌱🌮 #vegan #vegetarian #whatsforlunch #eatmogo #asburypark #cookmanave

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Boardwalk bites
Whether it’s snowing or blisteringly hot and humid, kick back and relax at Watermark. The outdoor seating is shaded in the summer and surrounds a blazing fireplace in the winter. Claim your table and gaze out at the ocean while nibbling on seitan skewers, hummus, and ample libations. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, take a three-minute walking detour from the boardwalk and you’ll find Porta, a local spot known for its excellent vegan pizza. Try the Snawzeech pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, cashew ricotta, broccoli rabe, vegan sausage, and crushed red pepper, along with a side of the fire-roasted root veggies. Note, both Watermark and Porta transform into clubs at night, so plan your visit during the day or early evening hours before Snooki struts in. For a quick bite, seek out MOGO Tacos, a Korean Fusion joint. The boardwalk venue is only open during the summer months, but the downtown location is open year-round. The menu offers a spicy soy-glazed fried tofu that can be stuffed into a taco, burrito, or bowl and served with vegan slaw, rice, and assorted veggies.


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But first, brunch
The best cure for a wild night spent roaming through Asbury’s clubs is a solid vegan brunch. Toast is a local New Jersey chain that offers a few exceptional vegan staples. Order the tofu scramble with sweet potato fries, or enjoy the familiar comfort of steel cut oats with grilled bananas. For some conversation-starting brunch items, take a stroll just down the road to Cardinal Provisions where they’re serving vegan entrees such as a Big Sketchy Bagel, Weird Hash, and the Impossi-Ballz—vegan Italian meatballs made from ground-up Impossible Burgers.  Accompany your savory meal with a vegan apple fritter or a Chocolate Xuixo (a fried Catalan pastry filled with chocolate cream). Those in search of a boozy brunch can get their fix at Modine, a Southern-inspired restaurant serving up mimosas and champagne cocktails to accompany its Vegan Chicken Biscuits and Skillet Mac and Cheese. Make reservations to avoid a long wait.  


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Living it up downtown
While not the largest of downtowns, Asbury’s downtown district offers a cool culture with plenty of activities and vegan eats. For the widest selection of vegan options, make a beeline to the Twisted Tree Cafe. This eatery offers a casual and cheery setting, along with several vegan items such as an Italian Melt and a Soy Chicken Salad Sandwich. Just a two-minute walk away is Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room, which serves comfort food and craft brews until 1am. The vegan selection includes two different burgers—one made with an Impossible patty, another made from beans—and potato-heavy brewery staples such as tater tots and crinkle-cut fries. When night falls, even more vegan-friendly spots open up exclusively for dinner. Check out Barrio Costero for some high-end Mexican meals and margaritas (you can even pick the salt flavor for the rim of your glass). For downhome Southern eats, visit At The Table. The menu offers vegan renditions of everything from collard greens to black-eyed peas. Craving Italian? Make reservations at Talula’s for its creative cocktail menu, divine vegan pizzas, and exquisite desserts.


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Get your caffeine fix
Caffeine is a must if you plan to stay up and partake in Asbury’s nightlife. Saunter on over to the bohemian area of town for an incredible soy mocha at Cafe Volan. This laidback coffee shop also carries an assortment of vegan pastries. If you’re on the boardwalk or downtown, seek out one of the two Asbury Park Roastery locations. This artisanal cafe offers sweets from the famous Bethlehem bakery Vegan Treats, and of course, excellent coffee with non-dairy milk options.


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Bring on the sweet stuff
There is no shortage of vegan desserts in Asbury Park. Cookman Creamery is a local favorite that offers at least eight vegan ice cream flavors such as Cookie Butter, Almond Joy, and Irish Coffee. The shop also carries vegan soft serve and a medley of sweet vegan toppings for sundaes. Too cold for ice cream? Take home a baker’s dozen of vegan donuts from the popular downtown donut shop, Purple Glaze Donuts. The vegan offerings are extensive, from classic glazed to flavors such as Fluffer Nutter and Chai Me a River. For the widest selection, arrive early, as the vegan options often sell out. While donuts may have taken over the cupcake craze, some of us cannot shake the love of frosting. Check out Confections of a Rockstar for its signature “oREO Speedwagon,” a rich vegan chocolate cupcake topped with Newman-O’s frosting and cookie crumbles. This bakery also offers an assortment of other vegan baked goods on a rotating basis. Scroll through the bakery’s Instagram account for the current selection.


Becky Brooks is a writer, plant-based athlete, and wanderlust based in NYC.


Photo courtesy of Cookman Creamery