Unpretentious, Modern Vibes at The GOAT by David Burke in Union Beach, NJ

by Tom Lavecchia
The GOAT by David Burke Keansburg, NJ

Step into the heart of Union Beach, NJ, and you’ll find The GOAT by David Burke, a charming 100-seat American bistro that radiates the spirit of a modern trattoria, all while remaining refreshingly unpretentious. David Burke—a Hazlet, NJ  native and renowned restaurateur—took the helm of this space in 2022 (once occupied by Piero’s Italian Restaurant) and infused it with his signature touch.

From the moment you step inside, it’s evident that The GOAT doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its exposed brick walls adorned with paintings of goats in fitted suits create a fun ambiance, one which speaks to Burke’s penchant for injecting fun into his restaurant projects. Inside, you’ll discover a delightful range of dining options, from family tables and intimate seating areas to a vibrant four-sided bar and high tops, inviting you to curate your perfect culinary experience. Head upstairs to the chandelier room, which is available for private parties and special events such as bingo night and Dinner in the Dark. The full event calendar can be found here

What’s more is one of the best happy hours in NJ—which runs daily. When weather permits it, dogs are invited to “yappy hour” on the outdoor patio. And whether it be happy hour, dinner or Sunday brunch, The GOAT’s inviting charm is perfect for your next outing. 

Though a fun, versatile space is exactly what this area of the New Jersey Shore needed, the proof is always in the food—and Burke and his team did not disappoint.

My recent visit to The GOAT kicked off with a trio of appetizers that set the stage for an unforgettable evening. Looking back, the Sandy Hook roasted clams “casino style” combined succulent clams, crispy bacon, and a subtle hint of heat from the peppers, making for the perfect way to start the meal, especially given the restaurant’s geography.

Next were the tuna tartare tacos. Picture this: fresh, succulent tuna bursting with vibrant citrus notes, all cozied up in delicate taco shells. Yeah, I know. You’ve seen this before because tuna tartare tacos have become far too common at restaurants in the last decade. But there’s something to be said for doing it right—and The GOAT delivered. However, what was less common, was the showstopper—lobster fritto misto. The dish is a  medley of tender lobster, crispy calamari, and zucchini, complemented perfectly by a tangy aioli. And to be honest, it set the tone for the meal to come.

The GOAT’s kitchen features a wood-burning oven, which slings out some of Burke’s signature thin-crust pies. The star pizza, which is literally folded into eight points might sound like a divergence from the norm, but the blend of pepperoni, jalapeño, and ricotta along with the odd shape was a perfect nod to The GOAT’s playful sensibility. Spicy brick oven pizza in Jersey? Say no more.

Moving onto the main courses, the pork chop scarpariello was a must-order. The seared pork chop, accompanied by a mix of broccoli rabe, potatoes, sausage, and hot cherry peppers, presented a perfect harmony between hot, savory, sweet and sour. For the discerning meat enthusiasts, you can’t go wrong with the 8 oz filet mignon. Cooked to perfection, the tender cut of beef requires little effort to cut and melts on the palate. 

Drawing inspiration from Piero’s 30-year legacy, The GOAT’s menu features hearty, entree-sized pasta dishes infused with Burke’s artistic flair. The shrimp and orecchiette carbonara, a delightful twist on the classic Italian dish, showcased succulent shrimp, perfectly cooked orecchiette, and a velvety carbonara sauce that proves why pasta belongs on the menu.

Sides at The GOAT were anything but an afterthought. Like the playful decor around the space’s different nooks, they simply elevated the experience. My personal favorites were the parmesan polenta fries (you know the kind: crispy exterior, creamy interior); and the corn risotto, which is seriously one of the most underrated types of risotto.

Burke is no stranger to delivering a fresh and fun atmosphere to spaces that need some attention to detail. But where The GOAT shines, is in its delicious, diverse menu—one that doesn’t forget the 1411 Route 36 restaurant’s roots.

Throughout his career, David Burke has received numerous accolades for his innovative approach to cooking. He is known for pushing culinary boundaries, fusing different cuisines, and creating visually stunning dishes that please both the palate and the eyes. Burke’s signature style is characterized by a combination of inventive techniques, playful presentations, and the use of high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients. Over the years, Burke has opened several successful restaurants, each showcasing a distinct culinary vision (or revision).

The GOAT by David Burke is a haven in Union Beach that captivates diners with its inventive dishes, impeccable flavors, and warm hospitality. A stone’s throw from where Burke grew up, the restaurant’s fare and style packs a punch. With Chef David Burke’s culinary prowess at the helm, The GOAT is undoubtedly a must-visit destination for those checking out the northern Shore Points.


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Tom is a lifelong New Jersey resident, Rutgers and FDU alumni and the publisher of The Digest.

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