Memorial Day 2019
Beachwoods at the Dunes:
A Winning Team Moves into Sea Isle
By Mary Byrne Lamb
Photographs Courtesy of Yvonne Yuen
Executive Chef/Owner Lucas Manteca of Beachwood at The Dunes.
A look at the interior of Beachwood.
Bursting onto the Cape May County dining scene more than a decade ago, chef Lucas Manteca and Deanna Ebner have created one successful, inventive restaurant after another. Now, this creative husband-and-wife team is launching its latest endeavor, Beachwood at The Dunes in Sea Isle City. Taking over the space previously occupied by Doc Magrogan’s, Beachwood will showcase Manteca and Ebner’s signature combination of seasonality, simplicity, substance and style.
As the new anchor at The Dunes residential/retail space, Beachwood occupies a large footprint that is divided into distinct but cohesive areas. “We created three spaces,” Manteca says. “First, there is a really casual bar that is coastal, really clean and bright, with big windows. It has cocktails and really good bar food with a variety of small plates, sandwiches and platters. The menu goes from homemade pasta to grilled fish, steaks and fries, mussels – it’s really a mix of seafood and rustic pub-style food.”
The next area is the dining room, which is separated from the bar area and has a quieter, more elegant vibe. “The dining room is really sharp. It’s a beautiful space to have a really nice meal, whether it’s romantic, or a celebration,” says Manteca. “There will be a selection of dishes from the bar, as well as a more elaborate variety of dishes – so we’re upscaling it slightly.”
Finally, a mellow lounge fills out the sprawling restaurant. “It’s going to be a social space,” Manteca says. “We’ll have cocktails, and a very small menu of small plates so you have something to munch on while you’re either waiting for your table or after dinner.”
In the less busy months, the lounge will be available for social events, weddings, art shows and fundraisers. It is already well-booked.
Pulling all of this together requires a combination of talents. Manteca is the skillful chef behind the food and beverages. Born in Argentina, he opened his first restaurant in Costa Rica when he was 21. Subsequently, he attended the French Culinary Institute in New York and spent time in some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens. A James Beard-nominated chef, Manteca is known for creating fresh takes on classic dishes, inspired by seasonal, local-sourced ingredients. “For me, farm-to-table isn’t a trend,” he says. “It’s a way of living. We take local ingredients and keep them as pure as possible.”
On the style side, Ebner is an artist, designer, and the creative force behind the couple’s distinctly casual chic restaurants. “She takes care of the face of the businesses – the décor, the uniforms, all the aesthetic details. She has tons of experience as well, so she works with all of our managers,” says Manteca.
The couple met in Costa Rica and worked throughout the United States, until a visit to Ebner’s hometown of Avalon inspired them to put down roots. Settling in Cape May, Manteca and Ebner have owned and operated some of the most acclaimed restaurants at the Jersey Shore, including Quahog’s Seafood Shack in Stone Harbor, The Red Store in Cape May Point, and The Taco Shop, with locations in Stone Harbor and Cape May. As their businesses expanded, Manteca and Ebner created the Bread & Butter Restaurant Group as the umbrella organization for all of their projects.
Beachwood represents an expansion of their restaurant group, as they create a new concept that is at once similar and vastly different from their other projects. What is different is the “atmosphere, but not the vibe,” says Manteca. While Quahog’s has that shack dive-bar kind of atmosphere, and The Red Store is coastal-cozy, Beachwood has a more refined tone. But all of their restaurants share the same “fun, hip, and energetic vibe.”
The other similarity sits at the very heart of each of their restaurants: the food. Making everything from scratch, they focus on freshness, simplicity, and locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
“We put a lot of emphasis on the seasons,” Manteca says. “So, starting in the spring, asparagus is featured all over the menu, and English peas, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes and peppers. We move our blackboard specials as we move through the seasons with what’s fresh. We work with local farms from the tri-state area.”
For fish, the approach is the same. “We work with three of four different companies in the area and we’re going to be featuring and highlighting all the local catch, whether it’s tuna, Jersey scallops, fluke, or flounder,” Manteca explains.
Another signature of a Bread & Butter Group restaurant is the inventive combinations on the menu. Taking great pride in creating the dishes and the menu for each of their restaurants, Manteca starts with as many as 200 dishes before winnowing it down.
“I kind of call it my palette of flavors,” he says. “I lay out the products that I want to work with, then I build them into a dish or a recipe. It has a lot to do with the feeling of the place – it’s hard to explain. But that’s why even as we’re growing as a company, this is stuff that we’re never going to lose, and it’s what makes us different. We put our hands on absolutely everything. The menu is extremely connected to the feeling of the space. And it’s inspired by the décor, the building itself, the light that comes into the building. It’s inspired by the shore, of course, and the summer, and our clientele. We finish with a menu that is solid – that is all favorites. We want to make sure that people have a hard time trying to decide what they want to eat because everything sounds so good.”
Server Abbi Graif delivering delicious meals to her tables.
Proving his point, the Beachwood menu includes a little something for everyone including seafood, steaks, pasta and salads. The bar menu features sandwiches such as the Shrimp Po Boy, Lobster Roll and the Lomito, which combines grilled steak with Virginia ham, roasted poblanos, tomatoes, lettuce and provolone. Additionally, there are starters such as empanadas and homemade guacamole and chips, a variety of small plates such as grilled oysters, taquitos and sticky wings, and larger platters such as grilled fish tacos, sticky rice bowl, fish and chips, and steak-frites.
There are children’s menus in both the bar and the dining room. “We have chicken fingers and French fries, and we make everything in-house, which we’re pretty proud of,” Manteca notes. “We have homemade mac and cheese and fried shrimp for the kids in the bar. In the dining room, we’re going to do a kid’s fish and a kid’s beef because we want them to dine. If the families dine, we want the kids to dine. If the family is at the bar, we’ll have bar food.”
Gluten-free options are also bountiful. “We built the menu with tons of gluten-free options,” says Manteca. To that end, they use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs, gluten-free soy sauce, offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches, and have two gluten-free dessert options. There is also a vegan dish that is vegetarian and gluten free.
Like the food on the menu, the beverage offerings at Beachwood are thoughtful and fresh. “At the bar you can get a cocktail the way it’s supposed to be done,” Manteca says. “We built a really good beverage program. You can get a real mojito muddler with fresh mint. We have cocktails that we make with fresh red pepper puree. We do infusions with hibiscus flowers and rose petals. We use really high-quality, delicious, all-natural sodas in our cocktails. We don’t want it to sound complex, but we want to create something that is crafted. We have a lot of respect for what we do.”
With respect, energy and high expectations, Manteca and Ebner are thrilled to open Beachwood at The Dunes this summer. “When people come to our restaurant, we hope that they see that our food is fresh and made from scratch. We don’t cut corners,” says Manteca. “We have a lot of passion for it and we want to bring that to Sea Isle City.”
Beachwood at The Dunes at a Glance
8600 Landis Ave., Sea Isle City | 609-263-3627 | beachwoodsic.com
Bar: Craft cocktails, rustic pub-style fare
Dining Room: Coastal cuisine with unique flair
Lounge: Small plates and cocktails
Hours: 3pm to close (Friday-Sunday through June 9, then Monday-Sunday June 14-Sept. 2)
Located at The Dunes residential/retail complex featuring bar, dining room and lounge.