- 207 N. Bay Ave., Beach Haven, NJ, 08008
- Overall User Rating:
- (5 ratings)
- Open 24 hours a day from Memorial Day to Labor Day; open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the off season, which runs from April to Memorial Day and Labor Day to Halloween weekend.
- Official Web Site:
The Chicken or the Egg is, in fact, all it’s cracked up to be.
The Chegg, as it’s commonly known, has a reputation for good times and great food — breakfast, wings and late-night grub, to be exact.
The restaurant, which opened 17 years ago in Beach Haven, has become a local landmark. Whether you want to unwind after a long day or a late night, the appeal is far reaching. The place was packed on a recent Sunday and the flash of a camera a common occurrence.
If you’re visiting for the day, a week or even if you live here,you want to be able to say you’ve been to the Chegg, and a picture’s proof.
How it all started
I couldn't help but wonder where everyone went before a place like this existed. It turns out, necessity is the mother of not only invention but also the Chegg.
Brothers Mark and Craig Cohen grew up in Willingboro, on the Jersey side of Philly, and their parents owned a house in Holgate.
One night during a visit in '91, the brothers and a buddy of theirs set out in search of a late-night snack.
The guys are big wing fans and they couldn’t find what they wanted. They couldn’t find anything.
"We literally went out the next day," Mark said of how the restaurant got its start. "It became apparent to all of us that we wanted to be down here (LBI)."
So, they opened a place of their own. If you ask Mark what came first, he’ll tell you it was the egg.
With little more than $900 to start, they couldn't even afford fryers. And so, a menu of legendary breakfasts was born.
Worth mentioning are the Farmhouse Scramble Melt — scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, ham and potatoes smothered in Wisconsin cheddar with a grilled buttermilk biscuit for $8.29 — and the Goshdarnwich — one egg, bacon and cheese between two slices of thick French toast, served with a side of maple syrup for $6.79.
"You have to eat it with your hands, and you have to dip it," Mark said of the Goshdarnwich.
Their concept — variety 24/7 — got really big really fast and in just two short seasons they outgrew their first small space.
"Wings were huge and late-night was the best thing we ever did," Mark said of their success.
Lovingly kicked out by their landlord, they moved to their current location at 207 N. Bay Ave. in the borough.
"We got in for a song and a dance," Mark said of the building, which was in a bit of disrepair due to the flood of '92.
They took advantage of the opportunity and transformed the site into a restaurant with tons of personality.
Stickers cover a classic Hobie surfboard that hangs near the kitchen. Mark’s son hauled the board, nearly three times his size, out of the trash and donated it to the restaurant. He was 4 at the time.
Since then, locals have taken to decorating it.
"We invite everyone to put stuff on it. It gives them a place to vent," Mark said. "It keeps it local, it keeps it real, and it keeps it off the walls."
That’s not the only customer contribution, though. There are many.
A lampshade adorned with chickens was left to the restaurant in a customer’s will.
"It's crazy," Mark said, referring to the out-of-the-way extremes customers go to show their support.
They buy some stuff, Mark said, and family helps, too. Three paintings hang in the back, all based on famous pieces of art and all painted by Mark’s niece.
As for the menu ...
The menu, also designed by Mark’s niece, is like a box of crayons — very colorful with endless possibilities.
On our trip, we opted to start with a platter of 12 wings topped with Santos sauce. The Santos — a spicy combination of barbecue and garlic — is one of 15 offered. They range from Teriyaki to "name says it all" Ludicrous.
You can get your wings "naked" or breaded; we chose breaded. The wings themselves were among the best I’ve ever had. To say they are meaty is an understatement. There was plenty of flavor and the accompanying bleu cheese and celery were fresh and crisp, just like they should be.
If these are the wings, I can’t imagine what the chicken looks like. It turns out I’m far from original when it comes to thinking that. When I jokingly pondered the question while talking to Mark, he, without hesitation, had just one thing to say.
"They’re pterodactyl wings," he said.
Since chicken’s one of their things, my fiance, Matt, didn’t stop at the appetizer.
For weeks, he had a fried chicken hankering and when he found the four-piece platter on the menu for $9.99, he was sold. The four golden, crispy pieces went a long way to satisfying that craving. Cooked to perfection and nicely seasoned, they’re a well-executed Kentucky-style recipe. The Chegg’s chicken would impress even the Colonel. It came with two sides, he picked mac and cheese and fresh veggies, the portions and taste of each could easily have allowed them to stand on their own.
Like many things on the menu, which Mark came up with while traveling, he added the southern selection after a trip to Hatteras in North Carolina.
"It seems kinda trite," Mark said, "but there really is something for everyone."
For us, the chicken came first, but we’ll be back for the egg.
Brothers Craig (left) and Mark Cohen are the owners of Chicken or the Egg in Beach Haven. Photo by Tom Spader