Make way for a new hotspot at the Belmar Marina
BY SAMANTHA MATTHEWS, NIGHT AND DAY
While Chefs International partnered with the town of Belmar and kept busy opening 9th Ave. Pier and Pier Mini Golf during the summer of 2012, another restaurant concept at the marina began taking shape. Ground was broken in October 2015 and Belmar has been buzzing ever since the new Marina Grille opened May 9.
MARINA GRILLE IS BORN
According to Chefs International owner Bob Cooper, prior to construction there were a couple of different restaurant concepts being considered.
“The first one was going to be far more than we would be able to spend on the site so we had to go back to the drawing board on that,” said Cooper. “We had great cooperation from the town and the powers that be, It’s a great public/private partnership.”
After brainstorming and bouncing around various ideas, the concept took shape for Marina Grille, which caters to the Belmar community year-round as opposed to being open solely in the summer months.
“The tying in with the outside was what was most important to us,” said Cooper. “And then also having an interesting enough space to be busy in the wintertime.”
PLENTY TO OFFER
Marina Grille and 9th Ave. Pier run as complementary eateries, with each bringing its own unique character and offerings to the marina.
“The Pier is the ultimate, laid-back, fast casual service,” said Cooper. “It serves a purpose. It’s a beautiful setting.
“It’s surrounded by water, it almost feels like you’re on an island when you’re down there and it’s meant to be that way,” he continued. “It’s meant to be downlow casual. [Marina Grille] is casual as well, but there is full service.”
There is a much more intense menu offered at Marina Grille courtesy of the professional kitchen the space includes, according to Cooper.
Whether it’s a frigid winter day in January or a blistering hot day in the middle of July, Marina Grille offers great food and entertainment packages, including live music.
Live entertainment is offered seven days a week in the summer and on winter weekends, according to Cooper.
Audiovisual packages are a high priority for Chefs International. From the high quality music system to the video matrix wall that allows patrons to take in their favorite games, audiovisual features are an important amenity at Marina Grille.
The outdoor space also includes a tiki bar and fire pits to extend the island feel of 9th Ave. Pier to Marina Grille as well.
“We feel it’s important to be food first. Good places to drink come and go, but good places to eat stick around,” said Cooper.
“And we want to be both and we strive hard to be both, but we’re really a food-first operation with all of our places,” he added.
Creating menus that attract customers is certainly nothing new to Chefs International which, in addition to Marina Grille and 9th Ave. Pier, operates Anchor Tavern in Belmar; Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty, Jack Baker’s Wharfside and Patio Bar in Point Pleasant Beach; Baker’s Water Street Bar & Grille in Toms River; Moore’s Tavern & Sports Bar and Escondido Mexican Cuisine and Tequila Bar, in Freehold Township; Baker’s American Bar & Grille in Monroe Township; and Baker’s American Bar & Grille in Southampton, Pennsylvania.
According to Cooper, having a very approachable menu was extremely important when deciding on the Marina Grille menu.
“This is a very good seafood restaurant, great steaks, but also casual,” said Cooper. “The same great burger that we make at the Anchor Tavern is the burger here.”
From pizza and burgers to hefty lobsters, fresh fish and a raw bar, Marina Grille’s menu offers something for everyone. According to Cooper, lobster is a big part of the menu and the raw bar is an integral part of the restaurant.
“We fish our own lobsters,” stated Cooper. “Right here off the coast we have our own lobster pound.”
There are two boats that specifically fish for lobster and they are brought directly to the dock in Point Pleasant, Cooper explained.
Freshly made guacamole is also a menu item borrowed from the Escondido Fresh Mexican concept.
Marina Grille’s menu features a tropical guacamole, which is a traditional freshly made guacamole with toasted coconut and grilled pineapple. “With our 10 restaurants we take the best from each one and try to present it here,” said Cooper.
With people flocking to the Belmar marina to catch a glimpse and snap a photo of the breathtaking sunsets, Marina Grille is set against an incredible backdrop.
“Just the physical plant here, with the unbelievable setting behind us, coupled with our experience of running restaurants with the quality of food that we’re producing, I think that’s what’s going to separate us besides our audiovisual package,” said Cooper.
For years the Belmar Marina was a location largely frequented by people who fish or own boats, jet skis, paddleboards, etc,. but the marina now has something to offer everyone.
“Growing up here, a mile, mile-and-a-half, from the marina, I never came to the marina until the 9th Ave. Pier,” explained Cooper. “I didn’t own a boat. My family never owned a boat.”
“Now anybody that wants to come down and enjoy a nice afternoon on the water can come down and enjoy,” said Cooper.
“That’s why I think it was so smart of Belmar to want to do something like this, because look at the people that are going to come down here and enjoy this beautiful resource that was so untapped.”