The quality of the seafood, much of it sourced from fishing boats docked nearby (Capt.
Bob, Maryanne) is fresh and plentiful, if not always cooked with finesse.
You may well have seen the giant crab flag fluttering high on a bay breeze beside the road and still passed it in a rush to the Wildwood boardwalk.
After all, Hooked Up Seafood is essentially just a red-and-blue shack attached to a food truck beside some picnic tables and a docked fishing boat called Defiance.
Owner and commercial fisherman Bill Bright likely caught your dinner, or it came from a friend or relative, like the littlenecks grown by his uncle that come tender and briny in a garlicky bath of butter and wine.
The food-truck kitchen run by Bright’s wife and children prepares each dish with care, hand-breading all the fried foods to order with a well-seasoned corn-flour crust, grilling those thick fish steaks to perfect medium-rare, and relying on stellar recipes for classics like the New England chowder (creamy and flavorful but not too thick) and crab cake (its lump meat sweetened with claw) that showcase the great ingredients.
The team behind Parker’s has such a solid track record, I still have high hopes. Unfortunately, the hot new place already serving 500-plus diners a night doesn’t really have that luxury.
The unexpected star of our meal, though, was the pork chop creation of the Gattas’ son and chef, Vincent, 26.
This superb chop was lightly breaded, then served over a tangy provolone cream sauce topped with broccoli rabe and a crispy nest of frizzled onions, essentially a South Philly roast pork sandwich re-imagined juicy and tender on the bone.
The newest restaurant kitchens are often works in progress, and not progressing fast enough for our family’s early-season vacation.
Of course, I also found plenty of bright exceptions as I ate my way through a wide range of seafood halls, Italian restaurants, taco shops, breweries, and BYOBs along the coast.