The freshest seafood from the ocean and bay.
That was the single most important philosophy from the start and it remains today.
The Tide Table Group consists of Ship Bottom Shellfish, Mud City Crab House, the Black Whale Bar & Fish House, Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, Parker’s Garage & Oyster Saloon, and Bird & Betty’s (529 Dock Rd. on the water in Beach Haven) which will be open for summer 2019. And in each of these successful establishments, fresh seafood has been the key.
It started with Bob and Ginna Nugent, who met in 1977. Ginna’s father had worked the first tilefish boats with Lou Puskas and founded Cassidy’s Fish Market in the mid 70s. Her brothers ran the fish market through their college years. Bob was a surfer and started wholesaling clams in 1979, buying the building that is the current Ship Bottom Shellfish in 1981. Shellfish quickly became part of that bustling section of Ship Bottom, on 19th Street. Like many locals, they found themselves working 16-hour days from May through October. They gained a reputation for quality with the food served in the tiny dining room, take out, and the fish market.
“I just grew up with that tradition of local seafood. That was long before it was a culinary trend. The less time between the bay or the ocean and the plate, the better. When you start with quality ingredients, you just end up with a better product. We’re grateful that people recognize that and have supported us all these years,” says Ginna. One of their long time employees was Eric Magaziner, who started at Shellfish when he was 14. He and his girlfriend (now wife of 20 years) Melanie who worked at the Dutchman’s had serious business drive. The four of them rolled the dice on a property on the corner of Bay Ave. and Marsha Drive in Manahawkin that had changed hands more times than anyone could count. Together, they opened Mud City Crab House in 1999 which was an instant hit. It gave them the ability to host more families, harkening to summer nights in a backyard with a picnic table and a pile of steamed crabs. “That first summer was crazy. We thought we were taking a chance in that location. Who knew that people would travel over from the Island? But we were busy from the start and once we worked out the flow, it’s been such a pleasure to watch it grow. And a lot of the success has to do with employees who have been there for 20 years, since the day we opened,” added Eric.
Ginna’s sister Paula, also had restaurant ownership in her blood and ran Fish Tales on Barnegat Inlet for several summers, with her own creativity and the same focus on fresh seafood before the state turned it into a parking lot. The spot on the docks was eventually sold to Rob Robinson and is still Cassidy’s Fish Market. Paula and her family are still integral to the restaurants today. With Shellfish and Mud City both thriving, the couple took their first foray into the bar business in 2005, buying what had been Romeo’s in Beach Haven and opening the Black Whale Bar & Fish House, named for the famed passenger boat that used to ferry LBI visitors to Atlantic City for nights of fun. Partnering with Bill Burris, the restaurant gave LBI’s South End access to the group’s amazing menu but also a spot with a neighborhood bar feel and their signature Black Whale Ale, a harbinger of the craft beer movement that would follow. In the first several seasons, they began holding events which would lead to the deep involvement in the community that they are known for, specifically their partnership with Jetty and the Jetty Rock Foundation. Today, Melanie’s brother Zach is helping to run the kitchen.
While the three restaurants started to push longer into the shoulder seasons, the group negotiated the sale of the mini golf course next to Mud City. The plan to this gem to the roster was delayed by Superstorm Sandy, which saw significant damage to their restaurants. But while the Island community was reeling, the Magaziners and Nugents threw themselves deep into recovery. They provided food at fund raisers and Mud City became a meeting spot and host during the recovery. “We understand that our businesses are nothing without the community here. Our success has as much to do with local employees and customers as the families that come back each season,” says Melanie Magaziner, “There was no question. Our whole lives became recovery. Of course we needed to rebuild our own homes and businesses but it was just as important to see the Island and Mainland bounce back.”
And bounce back it did. By spring of 2014, the Old Causeway opened its doors for the first time. Not only would this be the first year-round business, but it also marked the involvement of a new generation. Dane and Brie Nugent had become fully involved in the family businesses, and Brie’s new husband, Billy Mehl jumped right in on the bar design of Old Causeway. While Brianna has the reigns on special event planning and operations, Mehl is now full time in the management of all the restaurants. Melanie’s brother, Josh Bedea is a fixture at the raw bar, known in local shellfish circles as “Shuck Norris.” Although Shay Nugent lives and works in NYC, she still returns to work weekends. The work ethic and dedication simply comes with the job.
The Old Causeway has become well known on the Mainland for its extended menu, live music on weekends and happy hour, not to mention the Mud Shuttle, which picks up and gets patrons safely home from the bar. It wasn’t long before the next opportunity arose. In 2017, the group purchased the Boat House on the water in Beach Haven from the Baldini family, again with Burris.. In a previous life, the building had been a dock, engine repair shop and restaurant owned by Ellis Parker, of the Tuckerton/Beach Haven Parkers. The building was reimagined as Parker’s Garage, paying homage to the Victorian age and the baymen of turn-of-the-century Beach Haven. With an elevated feel, it immediately caught the attention of New Jersey’s food writers, celebrated for the amazing dishes and famed Parker’s Sunsets.
As Parker’s has enjoyed rapid success, there has been little time to settle in. Early in 2019, they closed on the building just across Dock Road from Parker’s Garage. As the former Acme Hotel, this legendary venue is one of LBI’s oldest bars, owned for decades by Bird & Betty Clutter. The new incarnation is a throwback to the 1960s and 70s when the Island was alive with youth culture and the Acme was a main hub. Bird & Betty’s, which opened for the 2019 season has four bars, plus indoor and outdoor dining with a creative menu of the same food and craft drinks the Tide Table Group has become known for. The exciting news is that it will retain its reputation as a night spot with local and touring acts as well as a modern version of Teen Nite, one that teens will still enjoy and parents will be comfortable with.
If all of that isn’t enough, there’s more in the works. The Tide Table Group recently acquired Sleepy Hollow in Eagleswood with plans for a new multi-faceted spot on five acres of property that will celebrate the history and mystery of the Pine Barrens. At this point, the operations involve multiple generations. But there are also multiple generations enjoying the food and unique atmospheres the Nugents and Magaziners offer. And it all comes back to fresh seafood.
Provided by the Tide Table Group