Water Dog Smoke House approved for additional outdoor seating
January 9, 2020
By Nanette LoBiondo Galloway [ read article ]

VENTNOR – Fresh off a feature story in regional television news, Water Dog Smoke House partner Steve Marchel received Planning Board approvals Wednesday, Jan. 8 for additional outdoor seating at the casual dining restaurant located on the corner of Ventnor and Fredricksburg avenue. The restaurant also received an after-the-fact variance to exceed the limits set for signage.

Following the Planning Board reorganization, which saw no changes in the board’s leadership, membership and professional staff, the board heard two applications and granted each the variances requested.

Twenty-year resident Nicholas Hallowell was granted all the variances needed to rebuild his home at 129 N. Newport Ave., which sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy and was too fragile to be raised. A new house will be built on the narrow lot and conform with the house next door.

According to professional planner Rami Nasser, the new home will exceed current FEMA height requirements, have parking for the required two spaces in the garage, and maintain the same footprint at the existing home. Because the lot is only 18 feet wide, it is considered a non-conforming structure, so the board issued the “hardship” variances required to rebuild, including front, side and rear yard setbacks, building coverage and impervious surface coverage.

When completed the house will match the adjoining property and look like a true duplex, Nassar said.

The board thanked Hallowell for reinvesting in his property.

Representing Water Dog Smoke House, LLC, attorney Chris Baylinson said because the company owns property outside the right-of-way along Fredericksburg Avenue, adding an additional seating for 16 people at four outdoor tables set in motion the need for a parking variance. Current zoning regulations require one parking space for every three seats. The company previously received a variance for parking, although it is one of the only restaurants in the Ventnor business district to have any parking at all, officials said.

Water Dog’s original application granted a parking variance based on having 15 seats, Baylinson said. The property currently has four parking spaces on site. Adding four picnic tables on the Fredericksburg Avenue side of the building brings the total seating capacity to 31, which according to zoning requirements would require 11 parking spaces, necessitating a variance for eight parking spaces.

Residents of Marven Gardens, which is located across Fredericksburg Avenue in Margate, objected to the variance stating it would add traffic to an already congested area, especially during the summer months.

Resident Susan Alice, who spoke for several of her neighbors, requested the public hearing be postponed to allow time for residents to consult with an attorney.

Alice said her neighbors could not attend the meeting on short notice. Notice to property owners within 200 feet of the restaurant was mailed on Dec. 24, 2019, but only recently received, she said.

The board unanimously agreed that the applicant provided notice according to law and that a continuance was not warranted.

Another resident, Irene Greberman said adding additional seating would increase traffic problems and would “take away from the charm” of Fredericksburg Avenue and Marven Gardens.

Additionally, the extensive sign package that identifies the former Sun Bank building as a now iconic structure, was erected without first receiving a variance from existing zoning regulations.

Zoning requires a maximum of 30 square feet of signage on each frontage area. However, the unlighted signage installed covers 117.5 square feet on the Ventnor Avenue side, a portion of which extends 10 inches above the roof line.

Marchel said in consideration of the Marven Gardens residential area, he was trying to be “as least impactful as possible,” and has no plans to erect signage on the Fredericksburg Avenue side of the building.

“I did that to extend an olive branch to the neighbors,” he said. “I contemplated even more seating but didn’t want to be a pig.”

Board members discussed the precedent being set by allowing a menu sign but Baylinson said every application for a variance should stand on its own merit.

Commissioner Tim Kriebel, who was reappointed to the Planning Board, said the smokehouse concept is unique and people may not know all the restaurant offers.

Planning Board Chairman Jay Cooke said the restaurant is helping to build a “more viable city that adds to the economic base” which is part of the city’s Master Plan.

“The signage is part of the architectural façade. It is artistic, proportional and architecturally enhances the streetscape,” he said.

Commissioner Lance Landgraf, who is a professional planner and the city’s designee to the Planning Board, said the relief requested was “de minimis” and would not change the traffic pattern in Ventnor’s commercial district.

Other board members offered their take on justifying the variances, noting the restaurant has become a “destination,” is “quietly successful” and “adds to the summer scene.”

The board unanimously approved all the variances requested in the amended site plan, including relief for lot coverage, sign area, sign projection above the roof line, minimum mounting height and parking.


Alex Around Town: Water Dog Smoke House
Justin “OJ” McCarthy from Ventnor’s Water Dog Smoke House visits Good Day.
January 8, 2020
By Alex Holley [ view website ]

Justin “OJ” McCarthy from Ventnor’s Water Dog Smoke House visits Good Day. Click the link to watch Alex’s Water Dog Smoke House visit.


Here are the top BBQ (and related) food news stories you need to know about this week:
NYC BBQ Weekly #62: December 13, 2019

By Sean Ludwig, Founder, NYC BBQ [ read article ]

  • A new profile in New Jersey Monthly has brought to my attention the curiously named Ventnor City-based restaurant Water Dog Smoked Fish, which includes much more than smoked fish on the menu. I followed up with the owners for more specific details about their barbecue offerings and they told me they serve “baby back ribs that have been smoked for 4-to-6 hours and lightly touched with a hybrid Memphis-Carolina BBQ sauce.” They also serve pastrami burnt ends, delicious sounding bagel sandwiches, and a smoked-and-grilled Beyond Meat burger. (I also approve of their dog-filled Instagram account.)


Water Dog Smoked Fish Brings Seafood with a Twist to Ventnor
December 11, 2019
By Jenn Hall, [ read article ]

When day dips toward dusk, Ventnor’s skies become a study in pastel, pinks giving way to violets. Driving down the main drag, it’s the ideal time to admire the deep salmon-hued exterior of Water Dog Smoked Fish, which opened its permanent digs here this fall after several successful years on the farmers’ market circuit.

This is very much a win for the local dining community. Though the set-up is modern casual, anchored by deli cases and a creative menu of sandwiches, poke bowls, and salads, the food evokes the owners’ fascination with the art of smoking meat.

The playful use of orange in the space offers a nod to the company’s origins. Owners Dan Greenberg and Steve Marchel came to the smoker as a hobby, which also happens to be how they became friends. “Dan used to come over my house when I lived in Longport, and I had this huge smoker in the back,” Marchel explains. “We would just smoke all day and drink beer. It defined what we were doing even before we had a business plan drawn.”

Inspired by his experience on the national competitive barbecue circuit, Greenberg became a fixture on the local food scene, selling barbecue. “The population in the area was really clamoring for smoked salmon,” he says. “We started doing it and Steve and I saw that there was a huge response. Smoking is something we really don’t get around here.” Recognizing that opportunity, the pair turned their attention to crafting super fresh smoked salmon without preservatives, coloring or nitrates.

“Our goal was to come in with a fresher, cleaner product that was less expensive than the stuff that people were used to,” Marchel says, likening their salmon to a Scottish style product, marked by freshness. “The smoked fish that people buy in our stores are literally smoked that week. When Dan and I started this business, we identified a huge gap in the market. Most of the smoked salmon that people consume has been smoked weeks or months before.”

Water Dog—named in memory of Steve’s Portuguese Water Dog Betty, who had a taste for salmon—merges freshness and creativity, offering styles from pastrami-spiced nova to beet-cured salmon. Yet to limit one’s dining to (delicious) smoked fish at Water Dog is to miss out on a creative menu that showcases a creative evolution since then. (Also don’t miss out on their Instagram feed, on which customers’ dogs are often guest stars.)

Borrowing a term bestowed by a fellow local restaurateur, Marchel dubs their brick-and-mortar as a modern riff on a deli. “We try to give the cleanest product with creativity in both what we offer and how we prepare it,” he explains. That includes the poke bar—though the way he sees it, there’s ample opportunity for generations to unite around food. “We want to appeal to the 75-year-old who wants an old-time pastrami sandwich, and then the 25-year-old who wants an incredible clean poke experience. Yet we’d also love to introduce the 75-year-old to poke.”

The menu, Greenberg’s main focus, has fun with that polarity. Diners find everything from New York-style bagel sandwiches with house-smoked kippered salmon to a smoked and grilled Beyond Meat burger on brioche. In some ways, Greenberg says, the barbecue circuit trained him for this next culinary chapter. “Both take an incredible amount of time,” he reflects. “The other parallel is a love of food and sharing with people.”

Response has been strong, which is notable given a seasonal community. Looking ahead, the pair sees room for grown and expansion. For now, however, they are focused on building their foundation in Ventnor and continuing their wholesale business, which ships an array of smoked salmon options nationwide. (Packaged salmon products are Kosher certified, and plans are in place to add several items in the next year on the wholesale side.)

“We’re basically just two guys who love smoke,” Marchel muses. “Here we are a couple of years later selling to on the wholesale side to casinos and specialty food places like DiBruno Bros. in Philadelphia.” If this first retail shop is any indicator, we will be hearing much more from them in the future.


Another New Ventnor Restaurant Coming Soon!
March 1, 2019
By Apex Prime Reality [ read article ]

Part of the Master Plan for the City of Ventnor is to bring more businesses into the area. In particular, they love new dining and entertainment options for year-round residents as well as summer tourists. Some vacant buildings can still be found around town. They are in perfectly good condition, waiting to be scooped up by someone with a good business concept. New businesses like these help the local economy by bringing jobs as well as tax dollars into the area. A brand new “next generation” Dunkin’ Donuts opened up here late last year. And just a couple of months ago, I wrote about Santucci’s Square Pizza renovating the old Arrow Hardware building to transform it into their newest Jersey Shore location sometime later this year. Well, just last month, the Board Planning Board approved the site plan for another new Ventnor restaurant: Water Dog Smoke House.

New Ventnor Restaurant Alert: Fresh Fish Year Round

Water Dog Smoked Fish has operated in Margate since the summer of 2017. They offer high-quality smoked fish from sustainable sources and with no preservatives. The owner of Water Dog Smoked Fish, Steve Marchel, became a partner with the investment group that purchased the old Sun Bank building on Ventnor Ave. Water Dog clients kept telling Mr. Marchel that they wished there was someplace in Ventnor that they could enjoy fresh fish year-round, whether through a market like his or a restaurant. When he moved to Ventnor a little while ago, he thought that a fresh fish restaurant in the same city he lived in sounded like a great idea, too. And the old Sun Bank building near the Margate/Ventnor border provided the perfect opportunity to make it happen.

The new Ventnor restaurant will be a small affair with just 15 seats inside. But Mr. Marchel would like to expand it to include outdoor seating as well. Six dedicated parking spots outside of the restaurant allow more parking than the City requires. Employees would be shuttled from a nearby Margate location. The fish would be smoked off-site and brought in fresh each day. Mr. Marchel said that the restaurant would operate from 6:30 am to 7 pm seven days a week. Their menu would include a poke bar featuring fish provided by Marchel’s Water Dog Smoked Fish facility as well as breakfast sandwiches unlike any other restaurant in the area. Instead of competing against similar restaurants, Marchel wants to provide Ventnor with yet another dining option. And all items on the menu will be available for take-out. They’re hoping to be up and running by summertime.

Ventnor approves site plan for a new concept restaurant

February 26, 2019
By Nanette LoBiondo Galloway  [ read article ]

VENTNOR – Over the objections of neighbors in Margate, the Ventnor Planning Board Monday, Feb. 15 approved a minor site plan for a new casual fare restaurant opening on the corner of Ventnor and Fredericksburg avenues at the city border.

Water Dog Smoke House, LLC, which has been smoking fish on Washington Avenue in Margate for the last several years, received all the necessary site plan approvals to open a 15-seat restaurant in the former Sun Bank building at 7319 Ventnor Ave.

Represented by attorney Christopher Baylinson, Water Dog owner Steve Marchel, who lives just a block away from the restaurant location, required no variances to open the restaurant, but received a waiver for a landscape buffer along the neighboring residential area.

According to Baylinson, no variances were required because a restaurant is an approved use in the Commercial Zone, but Water Dog will need to obtain the approval of the Atlantic County Planning Advisory Board because the building fronts a county road.

The restaurant, which will offer a new concept in casual dining, will be open seven days a week year-round from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., he said.

Marchel, who grew up in Margate, said he started smoking fish two years ago and sold his products at area farm markets and online. He also operates Chido Burrito in Northfield.

“We heard from a bunch of our clients that we wish you had a restaurant or a place we can buy fish year-round,” he said. “I had moved to Ventnor at that point and I became a partner in the group that purchased the bank.”

Marchel said he would ask the Board of Commissioners for a license to have outdoor seating in the right of way like other area restaurants.

The restaurant will have a poke bar – a Hawaiian-themed salad bar that includes Marchel’s smoked fishes, vegetables and other condiments – and unique bagel, egg and crème cheese sandwiches made in a way that will not compete with other breakfast restaurants in the area, he said. The same menu will be offered all day long, and the fishes will be smoked off-site and delivered to the restaurant daily.

“The menu will be different than others in the neighborhood,” he said. “We’ve carved out a niche to fill a void that’s there now.”

The 15-seat restaurant will offer take-out, WiFi and soft music. Employees will park at a location in Margate and be shuttled to the restaurant.

Residents who live in Marven Gardens on the Margate side of Fredericksburg Avenue objected to having a restaurant in their neighborhood mostly because of a lack of parking in the neighborhood.

The property has six off-street parking spaces – more than required by the city’s developmental code, which requires one parking space for every three seats. There is a driveway entrance to the parking lot on Ventnor Avenue and two-way access to the parking lot on Fredericksburg Avenue, where traffic flows one-way south to Ventnor Avenue.

Resident Susan Alice who lives on East Drive in Margate said the site is not a good location for a restaurant because parking is at a premium in the densely populated area.

“Parking is horrific,” she said.

Resident Andrea Week who lives on the Margate side of Fredericksburg Avenue is concerned about property values. She said she wouldn’t have purchased her home if she knew there would be a restaurant across the street. She said she is concerned about parking, noise, litter and smells coming from the restaurant.

“If he wants outside seating, it absolutely cannot be on Fredericksburg.  I’ll have to look at people eating, making noise, trash and parking all over my street. I didn’t buy this house to be across from a restaurant,” she said. “We don’t want people traipsing up and down our street…I don’t want any seating on Fredericksburg, no tables or chairs, or I swear to God, I will kick them over.”

Another resident said Marchel has a beautiful idea, but for the wrong neighborhood.

“It’s not residential,” she said.

For as many people who spoke against the application, there were others who welcomed the concept.

Ventnor Heights resident Marsha Galespie said Marchel is offering a new dining concept, different from the many Italian restaurants, pizza parlors and breakfast restaurants in the area.

“This is something new for our shore town. We all suffer from parking issues,” she said. “Be happy this is something new.”

Ken Cutungo, who has lived on Martindale Avenue for more than 30 years, said the site has far more parking spaces than any other restaurant in the area. He said summer doesn’t start until he gets someone towed.

“I love that they have a place to park and that they are offering something different,” he said. “They are taking an abandoned building and turning it into a great new restaurant. Do you want to look at the bank the way it stands now? No matter what this building is, people will drive to it.”

Chris Brondenberger, who moved to Ventnor from New York City, which offers a plethora of international cuisines, said Ventnor’s restaurant renaissance is the exact reason he and his wife chose to move to the city.

The bank building’s old drive-thru will house walk-in coolers and office space and a trash enclosure will be located next to the bump-out. The existing lighting will be repurposed for the restaurant and existing lighting made to conform with city requirements, Baylinson said.

Board members unanimously approved the application stating another use could be more intense.

“What could be there, as opposed to what is proposed, could be a lot worse,” board member Mike Wiesen said. “A year from now when he has gotten a year of summer business in, people will be happy there’s not a gas station or hardware store, not something bigger than it could be.”

Chairman Jay Cooke said the use meets the intent of the city’s Master Plan and economic plan.

“It’s not to the city’s benefit to have a building abandoned for so long when it is viable and usable,” he said. “The resort-minded business will add some flavor and a zest for life by offering options.”

In other business, the board approved a Certificate of Non-conformity for Ventnor Worldwide, LLC, the developer of the Santucci’s pizza restaurant currently under construction at the old Arrow Hardware site, to maintain two residential apartment units above the commercial space next door. The site previously housed one- and two-bedroom apartments above commercial space, while the property after it is redeveloped will have two, two-bedroom units and a store at ground level.

The board also approved a final site plan for Two Pioneers, LLC to build eight residences on N. Baton Rouge Avenue. Applicants Brian Callaghan and Jon Barnhart previously received approval to sub-divide the property after reducing density from 10 units to eight units with off-street parking.

Callaghan said construction on the first unit would start in spring.

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