Written by Rebecca Muller
In downtown Barnegat sits Sweet Jenny’s, a family restaurant with something for everyone. The restaurant has mouth-watering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert choices and is known for its family atmosphere and dedication to satisfying customers. Executive Chef and owner of Sweet Jenny’s, Joseph “Joe” Dringus, works hard to ensure that his customers are always happy, and executes his culinary expertise through the variety of dishes on the menu.
Joe often thinks back to his childhood and remembers when the old Hurricane House was located where Sweet Jenny’s now sits and how he joked about one day owning it. “Owning a business is what it is—it’s day in and day out, but when you get to do what you love to do, that’s when it’s fun,” Joe says. He loves to see the expressions on his customers’ faces when they are having “an awesome overall experience...We strive for 110% satisfaction. The most important thing to me is that my customers are treated with the utmost respect.”
Joe and his staff strive to make each day at Sweet Jenny’s special. Through the years, Joe has come to see what he does as more than just cooking. Joe feels that he is in “the entertainment business” because “you don’t just go out anymore to fill your stomach, you go out for an experience.” Joe has been in the restaurant business his entire life and he has watched it change dramatically. “Breakfast is no longer just grab a meal, run, and get out of the door,” he says; it has become more of a “social outing” according to Joe. “We take what we do very, very, seriously and we put everything we have into it.”
Not only is Sweet Jenny’s all about family, it is also run by family. “My entire family is involved,” Joe explains. His wife, parents, and uncle are his colleagues, and some of his management team have worked for him since they were teenagers. “It’s really a family atmosphere and we all work together to create an awesome ambiance for our clientele,” he says.
Something most people would not know about Joe is that he has been working since he was five years old. He credits his father and uncle for teaching him to believe in the motto, “Work hard, play hard.” Joe believes that it is his work ethic that is his “biggest driving factor.” Joe and play with ideas to make his customers happy. “We constantly play with concepts and ideas and we build, and build, and build,” he says.
Joe loves everything on the menu at Sweet Jenny’s but his personal favorite thing to cook is pasta, during the Pasta Extravaganza on Wednesday nights. “It gives me the opportunity to go back to doing what I love to do, which is really cook and see the responses from people instantaneously,” Joe explains. Getting to witness his clients’ reactions is incredible for Joe and “just seeing the overall response from our clientele and how we affect their lives is probably the most amazing part about what I do.”
Joe has expanded his company to include Touch of Elegance Catering, going above and beyond for every event, including extravagant weddings, cocktail parties, sit down dinners, and family parties. Along with his incredible event coordinator, Rebecca Reilly, Joe works closely with clients to visualize and execute the event they have in mind.
From perfecting his family-owned restaurant in Barnegat to becoming a preferred caterer in New Jersey, Joe’s creativity shines through his delicious creations. He believes that you can’t just teach creativity, though, stating, “It’s an ‘it’ factor and you’ve either got it or you don’t.” Take a trip to Sweet Jenny’s to witness Joe’s expertise and creativity for yourself!