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Lobster Shanty Gets New Look, Name

Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty in downtown Toms River to sport a new name to go with revamped menu and interior.

Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty in downtown Toms River is no more. The next chapter of the longtime waterfront restaurant will be the Water Street Bar and Grill.

Since January, the Lobster Shanty has been closed to undergo a massive renovation under longtime owners Chef's International.

Bob Cooper, president and CEO of Chef’s International, which owns the Jack Baker’s chain of restaurants, said he and his crew have spent the winter season working on a major renovation of the Toms River Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty located along the town’s namesake river on 4 Robbins Parkway. 

In fact, renovation does not do justice to Cooper’s undertaking. Though the exterior of the aged waterfront building appears business as usual, the interior is a far cry from antique. The restaurant that was once a Lobster Shanty is gutted, the only remnants being old kitchen equipment and booth seats sprawled over what appears to be nothing short of a full scale construction site. 

Framework, rafters and beams are present where barstools, patrons and tables once were.  The amount of work that has yet to be done on what Cooper said will be “a major sports bar” is striking when considering he plans to re-open the doors — as the Water Street Bar and Grill — for business on May 1.

Cooper said the changes to the iconic restaurant were inspired by renovations made last year to the Monroe Township Lobster Shanty, which is now Baker’s American Bar and Grille.  Seeing the success the changes had, Cooper said it felt appropriate to mix up the tried and true Lobster Shanty experience with a blend of cuisine and atmosphere that will appeal to a new generation of patrons. 

“We’re casting a wider net,” he said.  “If you’re looking for chicken wings and a couple of beers to watch the ballgame we’ll have that. If you want a really nice seafood dinner or steak dinner we’ll have that.”

Another major addition to the menu will also serve as the centerpiece of the new-look bar and grille--a wood fire brick pizza open.  Cooper said the inclusion of the pizza oven will not only give the menu much more variety for his patrons but will also act as a form of entertainment for customers, as all the pizzas will be made to-order from the freshest ingredients, by in-house pizza chefs.

“It’s going to be spectacular looking but it also produces a tremendous product,” he said.

In addition to altering the menu and adding a new pizza oven; Cooper also described a revamped audio and visual system, more bar space, a wrap-around porch and live entertainment.  His enthusiasm is infectious as he describes the many alterations to the establishment and his unabashed ambition is a testament to the job at hand and the people he works with to get the project completed.

“I’ve done tons of [renovations] and every single one them makes my head spin,” he said.  “I am the president and CEO [of the company] and I was underneath the floor with the plumber.  Everybody who works within this company is deeply involved in what we do,” he said.

Kevin Mizikar, director of Downtown Toms River, said the renovations to Jack Baker’s Lobster Shanty are nothing but a positive step in the right direction for the area and could be a sign of things to come economically.

"I think the effort they’re undertaking is fantastic it’s really helped to spur additional investment…it can really be a catalyst,” he said.  “It’s a showpiece we can use to showcase the downtown area.”

Despite all the changes to the old Lobster Shanty, Cooper stresses the importance of his long time clients and is keen to reassure them that the renovation is not intended to drive away a valued customer base, rather simply to expand upon it.

“When you’re pigeon holed into doing a certain type of business you alienate everybody else around that,” he said.  “I don’t want ‘boom-boom’ but we do believe we’re going to have customers from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.”

Chef's International, which also owns the original Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty in Point Pleasant as well as Escondido's in Freehold, had a March reopening date on its corporate website originally. The Water Street Bar and Grill is now looking toward a May 1 grand opening.

Claudia March 15, 2011 at 11:29 AM
They not only needed a facelift but they need a new chief and new menu. I tried several times to eat there, the seafood always smells. That's telling me that it's old. SEAFOOD ISN'T SUPPOSE TO SMELL. Your on the water, your by the ocean, there is no reason why you should be serving old seafood. Good Luck to you, I hope the changes your making will be enough.
MIC March 15, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Yet again another place that has needed to be refreshed , and well recieved in the downtown area. Cant wait to see the changes, maybe it'll attract a younger crowd.
BN March 15, 2011 at 12:21 PM
I liked JB's when it opened. However, in recent years the portions became smaller and the prices skyrocketed. I'll give the new place a try.
MIC March 15, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Im hoping for the best on the new place, it'd be great to actually have somewhere downtown to be on the water for a decent meal and a drink. I hope the renovation continue this progress in Toms River. I sure hope the raising gas prices dont squash all that is planned for the summer.
Susan March 15, 2011 at 01:02 PM
I am hopeful as well; for the new restaurant as when people come to town they look to eat on the water (since we ARE a sea-side town) but there has been little to choose from. Just please make the food good. It doesn't matter if it's innovating, it just matters that it's good. People now look for the classics but done right. It is so hard to find a good clams and linguine (white) they have no flavor anymore, restaurants have cheapened it, no white wine, no garlic,no parsley, NO CLAM FLAVOR! And this is an EASY dish. It's very frustrating.
. March 15, 2011 at 02:24 PM
I hope it is better than the last time I was at the Lobster Shanty. My food came out half cooked. If a seafood restaurant can't cook seafood, it is time to give it up. I always liked sitting by the window and looking out at the water.
R P spirito March 15, 2011 at 06:36 PM
I loved the Buffet on Fridays; however, when I Called the Pt. Pleasant restaurant, they had raised the price of the Friday Buffet from $20 to $29.00!! Excuse me?? And nothing was upgraded either. If they think by adding crab claws to the buffet makes a $9.00 difference, they won't be seeing me or my friends there. You can't EAT the DECOR!!
marcy March 16, 2011 at 11:36 PM
We moved back to Jersey 8 years ago. We couldn't wait to try this seafood restaurant right on the river. We were so dissapointed by the dusty atmoshere and mediocre seafood that we never went back in these 8 years. I will give it another try after it is all fixed up. Why can't you get good seafood at the Jersey Shore!! When I left NJ as a teenager many many years ago I had fond memories of wonderful seafood meals down here. What happened???
Frank March 21, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Not knowing that Jack Baker's had closed for renovations, we made reservations to eat there on March 6th. We have friends who come to Toms River once a year and insist on going to Jack Baker's. Our party of nine arrived at the appointed time only to find the restaurant closed for renovation. We called the number back and were told that all Jack Baker phone calls were being transferred to the Point Pleasant location and that was where our renovations where. That is just plain ignorant and one of the dumbest things I have ever heard a business doing. It was pouring rain and no one felt like driving to Point so we ended up at the Office where we had a very satisfactory meal. While we were at Jack Baker's two other cars came in who also thought they had reservations for the Toms River location. As far as the revamp is concerned, what Toms River needs is a great seafood restaurant on the water. Jack Baker's filled that bill at one time. What we don't need is another noisy sports bar. Do they have any idea how many other locations they are going to be in competition with? Just take a ride down Route 37. Now my choice will be to head out of town or to give my guests the option of listening to 18 different games being broadcast simultaneously with a crowd at the bar (if they can be pried away from the other locations) & having to walk the gauntlet of smokers that you find by every door of every such location. This must be the next move in the downgrading of the Toms River downtown.
MIC March 21, 2011 at 04:32 PM
I totally understand your frustration with Jack Bakers, but I don’t believe it will become a full blown sports bar. I m thinking it will be in the direction of the waters edge where you have a little of both. Hopefully it will turn into a decent waterfront Bar/ restaurant on the Toms River. I’m kind of looking forward to a new place to eat and hangout to get away from the main stream bars on RT 37. It'll be added bonus if they can actually cook some good seafood and be supplied by local fisherman. So in my opinion it’s a win - win. It’s a shame the river lady is for sale though.
NicoleL March 21, 2011 at 04:43 PM
trying to figure out what sports bars you are referring to Frank - up and down Rt. 37...I can think of maybe 1 off the top of my head. I agree, we need a good seafood restaurant - but I think it could be both...maybe cut a business some slack (yes, the reservation thing in Pt. was just plain stupid) in this economy = they are trying to do something different and will hopefully be a success. I am looking forward to them opening in May.
Frank March 21, 2011 at 06:47 PM
I can think of at least three between the parkway and the bridge that while fine for a quick bite or a beer while watching the game are not where I want to take people I see once a year or for special occasions. My list includes Tiffany's, McIntyre's Pub and The Office. All fine places for what they are which I have patronized many times. And as I said in my original note, The Office became our fall back after the fiasco at Jack Baker's and no one was disappointed. I am not an elitist but I just want a nice place with reasonable noise/music, a decent menu, wine/beer, clean, view of the river or bay. Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty fit that bill at one time. Fortunately, there are other restaurants in other towns that do fit the bill. I will give the Water Street Bar and Grill a shot when they finally reopen. But I am at best pessimistic.
Susan March 21, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I wonder what they are going to do about the parking? I don't see "sports bar" people feeding meters...
. March 21, 2011 at 08:15 PM
You don't have to put money in the meters after 6 or on Sunday.
arthur anderson March 21, 2011 at 10:25 PM
dtr imoved to downtown toms river 10 yrs ago still waiting for downtown feel .hopeully this will help.concerts in the park will sitting on the water having a beer sounds great.
NicoleL March 23, 2011 at 04:23 PM
"sports bar people" - not really sure what that means. Do "sports bar people" not have change for the meters? Wow, little judgemental no?
Susan March 23, 2011 at 04:37 PM
No, not judgemental at all. My son is a 'sports bar person' but I've never been into sports, so a sports bar would not be my first choice of places to eat. It sounds like you're judgemental in the fact that you have now wanted to make an issue out of something innocently said . The fact is, my son would not be watching a game and run out to feed a meter. Man, I wish everything didn't always have to turn into an issue. People can't comment anymore without someone looking to try and turn it into something it was not meant to be.
Claudia March 23, 2011 at 05:52 PM
I agree with you Susan, no one can say anything without someone always jumping on someone. Does anyone know how to be nice anymore? People aren't happy unless they can make an issue out of it.
Frankie April 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Nothing will change at JB's until they do the following: Hire a new Chef( real one, not somebody who has bounced from restaurant to restaurant for the past 20 years), hire new management who actually knows restaurants(not somebody who has been "downsized" and needs a job), bring the menu into the present day. You can change all the decor and surroundings you want to, but, at the end of the day, people come for the food and the service. Any place that lacks either will just fall into the greatly over populated majority of mediocre and boring places to waste your hard earned money. I rarely go out in this area after managing and owning restaurants for 20+ years because in this area the profession is looked down upon and most people who do work in the business could care less about you as a customer or anything except extorting as much money out of the stupid customer and going home. Good Service is so rare in this state. One place that completely surprised me was the Shipwreck Point. Some of the best service I have ever had consistently.
Claudia April 22, 2011 at 12:09 PM
Your right Frankie, the Shipwreck Point is wonderful and so is their food..they even have a chief by the bar area making apps for you...I wish there were more around here like that. HH is a big draw, and the Shipwreck has it down.
Susan April 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM
I agree, Shipwreck is the best restaurant in the area and the only place I really go now. I hope the area gets more restaurants like this one.
Diane May 02, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Looks like a real smart move by the folks at JB.I fully agree the Chef is the key here.But it's worth the shot to make the changes. You can't give up the the prime location.Lets face it those of us on this side of the bridge will go if the food is done right. I can't wait to see how it looks inside after the renovation. I love the location. Good Luck JB!
Dylan Halle May 14, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Boating is a big part of Ocean County's tourist-driven economy...we need more waterfront activities & this includes restaurants!! Waterfront location, good atmosphere, good food, live music, that's what Toms River needs. Route 37 in Toms River, from the parkway to the Seaside Bridge is a poor example of how a town attracts tourists to spend money in our area. So hopefully the momentum continues, Toms River needs to utilize it's waterfront locations & boost it's economy!!
Sharon Ffreeland May 22, 2011 at 02:45 AM
just came home from the newly renovated Lobster Shanty now known as Bakers Water Street. We were so impressed on how beautiful the renovations were, you would not know it was the same establishment, the wide open floor plan, hard wood floors, bars, brick oven, all was absolutely beautiful. Buuuuutttttt the service was horrible :( we waited over an hour for our food to come out. When i asked for the manager (Lacey) all she did was make excuses saying we just opened 2 weeks ago...i said exactly, when you open the doors for business...it says you're ready to serve the public...clearly that was not the case. We were horribly disappointed in the attitude of managment, but very pleased at the atmosphere. Maybe once they get the kinks out we will try again...MAYBE!
Erin May 22, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Sharon We are sorry to hear about your experience and I would like to speak to you personally about your visit. You can contact me at your convenience at 732-240-4800. Thank You Erin Jackson General Manager
june hearn August 21, 2011 at 07:46 PM
How can you have a menu sent to you
ryanne January 10, 2012 at 12:02 AM
My husband and I just came back from Baker's Water Street and loved it. The atmosphere, the food, the service. I hadn't been there in ages and didn't think much changed when I looked at the outside of the building, but the inside is a wonderful surprise. It is absolutely beautiful and has a lot of energy. My husband had the ribs and thought they were delicious and I had the shrimp scampi which i loved and our guests had crab cakes.....we were all very pleased and plan to go back soon......Water Street is my new place to go to....

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