Tucked away on Norwood Avenue in Deal, The Bar Room is quietly building a loud fan base with a menu that puts a contemporary twist on what would usually be expected from a hometown bar-restaurant.

After Superstorm Sandy took his 15-year long employment at Mr. C’s in Allenhurst out to sea, Jay Vacchiano, owner of the Bar Room (formerly Otto’s), was in that ‘now or never’ position.  Should he take the frightening risk of doing what he has dreamed of for decades – going so far in 1999 as to draw sketches of his bar – or look for another steady job?

Vacchiano’s brave choice to follow his dream and open a casual, fun, pub-style hangout is now another local Superstorm Sandy success story.

“Jay has his heart in (The Bar Room) and it shows in every dish and drink,” said Todd Rush of Asbury Park, with his wife Janice. “It’s unique and exactly what we needed around here.  He put life and energy back into this area.”

I spoke with Vacchiano, a lifelong area resident, last week.

Jay Vacchiano and Dino at the Bar Room in Deal.

Jay Vacchiano and Dino Fornicola (executive chef) at the Bar Room on Norwood Avenue in Deal, NJ.  The hometown bar is building a large fan base with excellent food, reasonably priced drinks and friendly service.

TBP:  We are sitting in what represents your dream and two years of hard work.

Vacchiano:  I grew up in the restaurant business – my family owned Mike’s Pizza in Belmar for years.  Since I was in high school, my cousin Dino Fornicola (Bar Room’s executive chef) and I would hang out in my backyard and talk about what we thought would be a home-run place for locals to come and eat and relax.  People around here said for years that the neighborhood bar was gone and we wanted to change that.

So I made a modern day hometown bar – one big room – that reflects the type of energy and community this area has now.

The Bar Room serves fresh, really good “homey” bar food with a gourmet twist and great drinks. And the staff are the best group of locals around.

I was adamant about not having a price point where people told their friends “I can’t believe how much I paid for that.”  I don’t agree at all that a fresh hamburger made of the best meat, served with fries or a seasonal salad has to cost $18; or that a great steak has to cost $40.  It’s not right and doesn’t build community.

Mixed drinks and house wine here are $5 and you can get a beer for $3.  All those prices are the same during lunch and dinner.  We don’t raise the prices just because the clock hits 7 pm.

TBP:  You opened in January and your dream has resonated.  I have heard about your roasted cauliflower all summer – which speaks to the greatness of your menu – along with your juicy turkey burgers, tender short ribs, creative fish entrees and kale and beet salads.

Vacchiano:  The spices and cheese on the cauliflower make it incredible for a $6 big plate. Dino has prepared something for everyone here.  Vegetarians come here and tell me they are surprised at how many options there are for them from a hometown bar.

The “everything bagel” crusted tuna is always a sell-out and customers love the lobster risotto.  I could eat the fish tacos every night.  During the fall and winter, we will bring back Dino’s comfort foods – meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, hearty soups.

All our dishes have local, fresh ingredients.  The meat and fish are delivered five days a week.  We have a standard menu but every day Dino surprises everyone with specials that are really special.  When customers can’t stay for a while, we also offer take-out.

The layout and design here is almost like what I sketched out 15 years ago.  I decorated the walls with old black and white photos of my family and other local friends to give it even more of a local, friendly feel.

Superstorm Sandy brought devastation like I have never seen before to our area.  I am thankful to be living my dream now and so it’s very simple here – I want to be happy and I want every one of my customers to be happy.

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