It’s a Tuesday night and I find myself sitting at a gorgeous Art Deco bar from the 1930s complete with white glass lighting fixtures suspended from a beautifully restored tin ceiling, and a glowing neon bar sign, all from the same era. From the moment I walked through the front door and onto the black and white tiled floor, I felt as if I had stepped back into a time when all bars emanated this level of elegance and warmth. I take a glance at a few of the offerings on the cocktail menu and see a classic Manhatten, a Martinez, a Ward 8, and a Blood and Sand. Now I know I must have slipped through some kind of a wormhole! But no, I haven’t really. It’s still 2016 and I am in Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth on Monmouth Street in Gloucester City, NJ. But is there history here? Yes, indeed there is.
Anyone who grew up in South Jersey remembers the original Chubby’s Steakhouse on the border of Haddon Township and Camden. Famous for its top notch steaks, its elegant cocktails, and its 1 1/2 ounce shot pour, Chubby’s opened back in the 1930s and quickly became a hot spot. It eventually closed in 1995. The decor of the current bar (brought here from Chicago), as well as the cocktail list and signature steak dishes (including a Bone-in Prime Ribeye for 2) invoke the feel of a classic steakhouse of a bygone era. This is even more true if you also select the wedge salad and the baked potato or onion rings as accompaniments! There are also fish and pasta selections on the menu, as well as first courses with portion sizes hearty enough to satisfy you, especially if you order several and share. On this particular Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to try the Tuna Tartare, the Diver Sea Scallops, the Lollipop Lamb Chops, and the Grilled Polpette. All were truly excellent. When I stopped back this week to take some photos for this post, chef Vince Tancredi made me a Snow, Blue Dungeness Crabcake with Americana sauce and chive remoulade. The Americana sauce was a reduction of lobster stock, tomato, crab roe, shallots, and cognac. It was amazing!Both the wine and beer lists at Chubby’s are very good and offer a wide range of choices. I loved the classic listings on the cocktail menu and had trouble deciding what I wanted to order. I finally opted for the Martinez and the Blood and Sand and my husband had the Manhatten. All three were spot on. I can’t wait until my next visit when I can give the Silver Lemon Collins and the French Martini a try. There is also a broad selection of bourbon, rye, and Scotch available, as well as 10 Irish whiskies!
In addition to growing up knowing the original Chubby’s to be such a part of South Jersey history, there’s a personal story here for me as well. The two gentlemen who own the new Chubby’s, Tom Monahan and Tom Page, just happen to be fellow alumni of the grade school that my husband and I attended. Tom Monahan also owns Max’s Seafood Cafe on nearby Burlington Street, another restored building with a stunning bar, and a restaurant that my family and I have been frequenting since it opened 15 years ago. From the moment you walk into Chubby’s, the atmosphere is unmistakably inviting – you just feel good being there. I believe that this is largely due to the efforts its owners have made to pay homage to an iconic bar and restaurant that was well loved by so many people in this area, while returning a building to its original grandeur in a city that holds history for both of them. Call it karma, call it good energy… you’ll feel it the minute you come through the door, and it will make you want to stay, and talk, and reminisce, and enjoy.
Since we’ve been talking about gin all week on the blog, I’ll leave you with the recipe for Chubby’s Martinez, the cocktail that gave rise to the modern Martini.
Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with regular ice. Stir for about 20 seconds with a long handled bar spoon. Strain into a chilled martini glass using a Julep strainer. Garnish with the lemon twist. Enjoy!
*Take a strip of lemon peel (about 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long) and twist into a corkscrew.
Chubby’s 1 1/2 Hearth. 239 Monmouth St, Gloucester City, NJ. (856) 456-CHUB (2482)