By Jay Cook |
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – After a decades-old eatery known for its ribs and southern flair shuttered earlier this year, a restaurateur new to the area has ordered up a fresh vision for a landmark location.
Richard Crocker plans to reinvigorate 67 First Ave. as a welcoming, open air concept restaurant called The Atlantic House to capitalize on the shifting demographic and tastes in Atlantic Highlands. The corner lot was the former home of Memphis Pig Out for over 30 years.
Crocker, a resident of Matawan who worked in sales for 15 years, dipped his feet into the service industry as a partner at Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, Asbury Park, when the German-style restaurant opened its doors in 2015. He plans on bringing some of ideas from that eatery to Atlantic Highlands.
“It’s going to be like a gathering place,” said Crocker, 40. “You can meet up with your friends, go with your wife or husband for a couple drinks and leave the kids at home. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Crocker is partnering with his wife, mother, sister and a business partner for the new venture. His main inspiration came from how he couldn’t think of a place where “a woman can go in by herself to have a glass of wine,” he said.
After receiving approval from the borough planning board earlier this month, Crocker said the project will start to move along next month. He plans to open for business by July 4, 2018.
Crocker believes The Atlantic House’s main selling point will be a designed roof-top open area. He drew inspiration from the Biergarten to have an open space where patrons can enjoy a breath of fresh air. And with the space along First Avenue, they can also take in views from the harbor, he noted.
When construction begins after the New Year, Crocker said he plans on blowing out covered window spaces on the ground level to bring in more light. Following the model of Red Bank’s The Downtown, he wants to have fully retractable windows across the entire restaurant. He also plans to continue on with the brick exterior façade, although using a number of different tones. The brick theme will also extend inside, where Crocker said he will utilize “beautiful exposed beams” which were exposed during preliminary demolition.
The 125-seat, two-story restaurant will have one bar on each level and will primarily serve small, tapas-style dishes, straying away from “normal, restaurant-sized food,” Crocker said.
Instead, “Imagine someone playing acoustic on the deck while you drink your margaritas,” he added.
Crocker said he had been negotiating with the owners of Memphis Pig Out for over six months before it closed down. The business had been owned by couple Connie and Mark Strasburg for 32 years and was known for its award-winning barbeque. According to county tax records, Crocker purchased the 2,700-square-foot building for $585,000.
Crocker’s modern vision for the new restaurant will jive well with a growing millennial population in Atlantic Highlands, said Mayor Randi Le Grice. It will join an epicenter of dining and drinking options situated at the end of First Avenue: On The Deck, Copper Canyon, Harborside Grill, Gaslight and Christine’s are all in the area.
“You have your favorites, but then it’s always good to have something new,” she said. “I think this will inject a lot of energy into our dining scene. It’s different from what we already have in some respects.”
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