When it comes to passionate business owners who really care about the craft and their community, look no further than Toby Sweeney. In her formative years, Sweeney worked at her parents’ Terrace Tavern—a staple eatery and bar that has been a fixture in Beach Haven Terrace, NJ, for almost 100 years.
Sweeney has come a long way from scrubbing dishes and bussing tables. Since then, she and her husband have acquired the restaurant outright and reshaped both the tavern and the neighboring Oyster House, which was born out of a post-Hurricane Sandy rebuild. Today, both restaurants remain go-to eateries for year-round LBI goers and south end locals.
A Chef-Driven Experience
The Delaware Avenue Oyster House recently made local headlines. The establishment’s all-star Executive Chef Britt Rescigno won LBI’s Chowderfest trophy for her homemade Jersey Chowder. Her standout bowl-full features Garden State-grown clams, tomatoes, long hots, and some tangy pork roll for good measure.
If the chef’s approach to clam chowder didn’t get your mouth watering and ears perked — some of her other signature dishes should.
“Britt rotates specials every week or two,” said Toby Sweeney — owner of the Oyster House and the Terrace Tavern, which is next door. “She’ll take a sustainably sourced item and blow it out. Then it’s on to the next. Like her crab rangoon dip or her crab fried rice: fresh blue claw crab, egg yolk. Just magical for some reason. It’s delicious, entertaining, and exciting.”
The Oyster House is known by customers for its staple menu items as well. The dry-aged house burger is a top seller. Guests love this meatwich with candied onions, gruyere, and Worcestershire dijonaise. Blackened tilefish tacos also make the fan favorite list, as does the Southern fried chicken sandwich with crispy prosciutto, Swiss cheese, horseradish honey mustard aioli, and pickles.
Oysters and Drinks: Perfect Together
When it’s not time for dinner, the Oyster House also serves customers simply looking for a couple of drinks, a few succulent oysters, and an appetizer or two. The bar’s signature cocktails have everyone covered, from standard drinkers to the more adventurous. One popular choice is the LB Township margarita and orange crush, although drinks like House Boulevardier with Angel’s Envy, campari, and sweet vermouth also have a following.
These options, as well as the list of cold beer drafts, pair well with popular provisions like the crispy octopus, whipped ricotta with roasted delicata squash and, of course, oysters. Customers ordering the latter will usually have the choice between local, West coast, or Northern coldwater mollusks.
“We are purists when it comes to oysters,” explained Sweeney. “It’s a little house mignonette — maybe our Jersey blueberry mignonette — we’ll have cranberries soon — oysters from Jersey. We have West coasters, and PEI [Prince Edward Island] oysters. Fresh and cold every time.”
Sweeney’s allegiance to the old, as well as an appreciation for all things new and creative, come through in our chat. It seems her father embodied what it meant to be a mom-and-pop-style business owner. And that includes all the hard work and community building that come with such a role. On the other hand, there’s also a kid in her who will not be convinced that something being done a certain way for decades means that’s the way it should continue.
“I prefer to be original and try things that are cutting edge,” said Sweeney, whose responsibility is daytime operations, versus her husband’s nighttime ops role. “While there are the menu staples, we have a chef who is so hungry to create.”
Sweeney spoke of striking the balance between her emotional ties to the restaurants and getting into business mode. From her days cleaning plates and emptying trash at the Terrace Tavern, to her experiences in education, and technology sales, she jokes that now she’s back to square one. This time, she says, she’s the Executive Busperson.
She truly appreciates having two places. At the Tavern, people can fall back and get a dish they love. At the Oyster House, customers can go to try something fresh, new, and delicious.
Through the height of the pandemic, Sweeney experimented with new concepts, which inspired her staff during a tough time. She’s emphasizes staff equity, and at the same time has rewarded the hardest-working individuals.
“During [the pandemic], I communicated with other restaurant groups outside LBI to see how they shifted and moved,” said Sweeney. “We talked about how the hospitality industry needed to change. Things like equity between front and back of the house, and a higher level of respect from customers.”
Just Getting Started
Toby Sweeney and Chef Britt Rescigno are both products of of rich history, hard work, and innovation. Sweeney is well-versed in the Terrace Tavern’s hundred-year history. She’s happy to explain how it was first known as Ma Reese’s Bar, then Freddie’s after that.
Mr. Eisenberg (Toby’s dad) bought the Terrace in the ’80s and built an art gallery next door that would later become the Delaware Avenue Oyster House, after Hurricane Sandy. Hard to believe it’s been almost eight years since Sweeney and her husband bought the two establishments.
“Now we can do whatever we want,” Sweeney smiled. “We’ve got a great following from the Terrace, and people know our daily Happy Hour at the Oyster House. It’s an open pit and intimate space where we create an outstanding culinary experience.”
“We knocked down a warehouse to make outside seating. Now that pavilion tent is coming down so we can build a permanent A-frame pavilion. That will be getting built over the next six or seven months.”
Sweeney is clearly stoked to keep moving and evolving. And we’re excited to see what’s next.
Delaware Avenue Oyster House
13211 Long Beach Boulevard
Beach Haven, NJ
13201 Long Beach Boulevard
Beach Haven, NJ