Sweeneys Unveil New ‘Gastropub’ Concept at Oyster House

Nov 15, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Restaurateurs Mike and Toby Sweeney now have one full summer season under their belts since purchasing the Terrace Tavern and adjoining Delaware Avenue Oyster House in Beach Haven Terrace from Toby’s parents earlier this year. Now a third restaurant concept is in the works, location as yet to be determined – a new Euro-fusion gastropub for meat-lovers and beer-drinkers, in cooperation with British executive chef Steve Haggert.

In the six months since she and Mike took over the family business, Toby said she has made constant phone calls to her father, Steve Eisenberg, asking for advice. It was a hard, long summer, she said, but they welcome the work and they’re ready for more.

The Oyster House has had a great three years so far, according to Toby, and she and her husband are “excited to offer something new” in the hopes of involving their loyal clientele in the evolving creative process by inviting guests to join the conversation about what works and what doesn’t.

“We’re going to really try and listen,” she said; good decision-making calls for thoughtful analysis. So far, the feedback has been positive. “People are pumped about it,” she said.

Workshopping a new menu at the Oyster House achieves a few different objectives, she explained, by reminding the public “we’re more than just oysters” and helping to shape the identity of the new venture. Name-wise, they’re not nailing anything down just yet, but the Sweeney name and the Irish pub concept, denoted by the shamrock-as-apostrophe in the logo, are a good start.

For now, the new menu offers wintry specials – savory, warming, satisfying dishes, such as grilled tenderloin over mashed potatoes with asparagus and hollandaise. The dishes are inspired by the cuisine of the United Kingdom (try the Scotch egg, hardboiled and wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and fried), Poland (pierogies), Germany (Bavarian pretzel, knockwurst) and France (baked brie), as well as Texas (chili con carne) and New England (clam fries). A real highlight, though, is Sweeney’s smoked rib recipe, complete with secret rub. Handmade jerkies of turkey and venison, too, are on the horizon. The house-cured gravlax, or smoked salmon, a Nordic tradition, proves the correlation between salty meats and finger foods with raw seafood, all of which pair well with beer.

“People are definitely going to want to dig in,” she said.

Appealing to a more sophisticated palate, the menu features more healthful options that are sustainable, responsible, carefully created and, most importantly, accessible.

The beverage selection, too, reflects flavors from abroad and traditional favorites. Hot port or Irish whiskey; Pimm’s Cup, made with Pimm’s No. 1 liquor, muddled cucumber, lemon-lime soda, lemonade; Christmas Collins, which has gin, Campari, muddled cucumber and cranberry, sour, lemon-lime and club; a ginger Manhattan; and “spiked” coffee or hot chocolate.

Their trip to Ireland before the kids were born made a lasting impression on the Sweeneys (“I’ve never had better oysters,” Toby recalled), and they believe they can bring it home to the States in a way their target market will recognize and appreciate. The fishing towns on the coast of Ireland have some incredible fishery sustainability programs, she said, which should ring familiar to residents and visitors of the Jersey Shore.

—V ictoria Ford


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