Photos By Ann Coen
When food arrives at The Old Causeway Steak & Oyster House, it’s fresh from the sea or farm. The now infamous “OC,” is the fourth restaurant collaboration between the Magaziner and Nugent families. The partnership started when Eric Magaziner and Bob Nugent decided to open a restaurant after Eric had worked for Bob at Ship Bottom Shellfish for over twelve years. Mud City Crab House, which is right next door to the OC, was opened in 1999, a successful enterprise that led to The Black Whale Bar & Fish House in Beach Haven, Mud City Crab Cake Co. in Lacey, and after years of having their eyes on the property next door to Mud City, the OC.
During the construction stages of Mud City, people constantly told the restaurateurs they were crazy to open a restaurant on that corner. Recurring themes of “bad location,” and “most of the tourists eat on the island,” kept coming up, but somehow they knew they were making the right choice. For example, the Nugents and Magaziners knew Beach Haven West was an untouched market. They were right. When they opened the doors to Mud City, they were amazed at the support they received every day. It was only a few short months until they realized how successful they would be. Mud City has been a dining hit for over 16 years now. Rumors of a four-hour wait in the summer are not just rumors.
The OC was a whole new theme with a large bar and even larger investment. It took years to get the plans approved by the DEP. Just when construction was slated to begin, Super Storm Sandy hit. They had to hold off on construction of the OC another six months to rebuild Mud City and The Black Whale. The OC was finally finished and opened Memorial Day weekend 2014, almost five years after purchasing the property. They often refer to Old Causeway as a true labor of love with so many good friends helping on the project, from builder TJ Jansch to family like Billy Mehl (project-mehl.com), who built an amazing bar, and Uncle Russell, who helped with every final detail like the metal touches and benches in the dining room. Matt White from Recycling the Past in Barnegat had the creativity to help bring the vision together.
Old Causeway serves up American Cuisine with a focus on the wood fire grill and raw bar. As with all of their restaurants, the menu and food are a result of collaboration. As owners, they have many years experience in the restaurant business, but a good restaurant doesn’t come without the help of great staff. Their main cook, Ken Piacentino, from Mud City has moved over to Old Causeway and taken on the position of what they call “grill master.” Cooking on the wood fire grill is an art, and Ken has definitely perfected it. He’s contributed a few recipes to the menu including the wings, the OC steak sauce, and Cowboy Kenny’s Meatloaf. In 2015 they hired, Chef Geoff Johnson. Geoff is not new to this industry, and his work in the culinary field includes TV show credits and being voted one of The Best Chefs in America. The Old Causeway family is extremely excited to have him join the team.
We can’t forget our bar manager, Filemon, who has directed the drink recipes and the staffing of the bar, and our front house manager, Jaclyn, who trains and manages every aspect of service. We definitely have to give them credit for the many happy faces we see every day. We could not run the restaurant and we definitely would not have had such a great first year without any of them.
Both of our families have strong ties to the local community and the restaurant business. We pride ourselves to not only committing to our work, but also to giving back to the local area that we love so much. We feel it’s important that we give back as equally to the people in our communities as they give to us. New, family-run restaurants and bars are not as prevalent as in years past, and as chains take over, people are looking for restaurants like ours, where you see familiar faces every day. Hopefully the food speaks for itself: nothing out of a bag in any of our restaurants—everything we serve is made on premise from scratch with love. Nothing goes on a plate that we have not tried. When you come into any of the restaurants we own, we want you to feel as though you are a part of our extended family.