In May 2021, Chef James Avery announced that he’d be opening a brand-new restaurant in the historic Asbury Park building, the former home of Modine. Since Avery has taken over the space, he’s been building out a concept called the Black Swan Public House.
Ahead of Schedule
While the original plan included an end-of-summer opening, the operation ran far enough ahead of schedule that the Black Swan opened on August 19!
“I got some staff ahead of schedule and we were looking like we’d be able to do some limited food, said Avery. “ So, we said ‘Lets open the bar this weekend and see what happens. Everything was jiving and went very smoothly, so we just opened the doors on Thursday at 4 p.m.”
On Wednesday, August 25, interested customers can expect to order from a 12-item pub menu with a full-service bar to back up the food on offer. While abbreviated, the Black Swan menu has a range of items to satisfy all crowds. The kitchen will offer snacks and starters like bacon cheddar tots and vegan potstickers, as well as entrees like Fish & Chips and chicken tikka masala.
Due to the nature of this opening, the Black Swan will operate on a first-come, first-served basis with a limited menu as well as daily specials. While Chef Avery and his crew have plans to turn on digital reservation capabilities soon, each day will serve as a new test for the restaurant to grow into its own.
“I hate the expression ‘uncertain times’ but we really aren’t sure what’s going to happen after summer,” explained Avery. “Are people gonna come back to work? What’s the supply chain looking like? There are many factors out of my control, and I want to be in the best position possible.”
In a past life, Avery might have done a soft opening, followed by a large grand opening extravaganza. Instead, his plans are to not make plans. Avery and his team will capitalize on the current summer situation—operating in the present rather than relying on the future.
“We’re going to keep it limited and controllable by doing it in stages,” he said. “I’m living in one-week compartments. I’m hiring a bunch of people and trying to see who is working or coming back to work. We’re taking it day by day. There’s a labor crisis in the middle of August. So, it’s just easier to not have plans of grandeur—my current plans span the week, out to three months.”
The Black Swan’s menu consists of snacks, starters, sandwiches, and entrees. The staff is keeping it simple by offering consistent items like honey sriracha buffalo wings and a cheddar cheeseburger. However, this simple menu offers the chance to experiment.
“Over the next few weeks, I’ll offer specials that we intend to become mainstays,” explained Avery.
Without much commitment to a large menu, Avery and his team will be able to figure out the items that customers love most, and ditch those meals that don’t work for the crowd.
Avery attributes the restaurant’s opening to help from his longtime general manager and now business partner, aka “partner-in-dine,” Sebastian Walker. Together, the two strive to continually build a restaurant group (Nicely Done Hospitality) consistent with the success they’ve seen at the Bonney Read.
Customers who come into the Black Swan or the Bonney Read will begin to understand the hard work, skill, and commitment that Walker and Avery bring to the table. Luckily, interested individuals need only walk around the block to try both restaurants.
The Black Swan is a “modern play on an Irish-British pub,” said Avery. “Come to watch a soccer game and have a pint or for a romantic date. It’s gonna be exciting and comforting at the same time. My wife hates sports and there’s no way I’m getting her to go to a Buffalo Wild Wings. But if it’s a nice place that has cocktails and a sexier atmosphere…”
The plan is to satisfy the beer and sports enthusiasts while also catering to individuals who’d rather not dine at a sports bar.
The plan is to satisfy the beer and sports enthusiasts while also catering to individuals who’d rather not dine at a sports bar. The result is a space that has been divided into four different areas. With dark décor and a full-service bar, the pub part of the Black Swan will be a soccer fan’s favorite zone for watching games.
On the other hand, the dining room and team room have a classier, more romantic vibe for dinner and special events like weddings or bridal showers.
Finally, the vault is the perfect place for a cocktail whether it’s before or after a meal. Upon arrival, visitors will immediately notice the care taken to decorate each room in and to establish a beautiful, timeless atmosphere.
Starting this week, the restaurant will be open Wednesday through Sunday on a first come, first served basis. Follow their Instagram account for updates on hours, menus and events.
The Black Swan
601 Mattison Avenue
Asbury Park, NJ