Mildred's Strathmere Restaurant is a Jersey Shore institution: tucked away in sleepy Strathmere, halfway between Sea Isle City and Ocean City, it's been a family-owned beach staple since 1952.
And there are things to love about it: the way families gather there, the generous portions, the honest, no-frills meals.
But on a recent visit, there were misses as well as highlights.
Being steps away from the beach, this Discreet Diner and a deputy went with seafood for appetizers; the deputy opted for the she-crab soup, which was brought out almost immediately.
"It's almost too thick - more like a stew than a soup," deputy said. He pronounced it "good" and "creamy" but thought it might do well with a bit more seasoning. Luckily, each table is set with a dish of hot peppers, and the deputy added one to his soup, loving the results. He kept eating peppers, too, which were a nice touch.
I chose the calamari, which was quite good - well-seasoned, crispy but not overcooked, and served with a nice marinara sauce. The calamari breading could have been lighter, but still, this was a better effort than most versions of the dish I've tried.
Then we tackled salads. Mildred's are lettuce-and-crouton affairs, and come with a Caesar house vinaigrette dressing and crumbled bleu cheese.
For my entree, I chose pork chops, and they came out perfectly, done just right, tender but well-cooked. The chops were large and juicy, and I was glad I made that choice. My baked potato was also a hit, especially given the surprising number of restaurants that manage to under- or overcook that staple. But the green beans were overcooked to the point they weren't worth eating.
My deputy picked the broiled seafood platter - lobster, scallops, shrimp, and clams. We spent $26.95 on what he called the "tiniest lobster tail I've ever seen" and the accompanying array of plain, not especially remarkable sea fare.
The deputy felt the dish lacked flavor, and wished he'd picked something from my column - chops, perhaps, or steak.
With little room left, we nevertheless braved dessert, choosing a homemade lemon meringue pie and two forks. There was lots of meringue, to be sure, and that was tasty enough, but the gloppy Day-Glo yellow lemon filling tasted pretty canned to me. We kind of wished we went the traditional Jersey Shore-dessert route: ice cream on the boardwalk.
From appetizers to dessert, we did have a few unwelcome visitors to our table, and they weren't members of the genial serving staff; we spotted several ants crawling dangerously close to our plates.
Overall, we found Mildred's to be basic hearty fare in an old-school atmosphere (crooners on the sound system, fake red roses on the table, plenty of customers who've been going there since it opened). There are nice touches, to be sure, but also some problems. The diners who began packing Mildred's multiple rooms on a busy summer weekend didn't seem to mind, though.
901 Ocean Dr., Strathmere, N.J. 08248
Hours: During the summer season, opens at 4 p.m. daily.
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Children's menu: Yes