The former Ichabod’s in Sea Bright will be soon getting its new occupant: Woody’s Ocean Grill. After numerous expected openings, and delays due to construction, Woody’s is expected to open on August 29, said co-owner Chris Wood. The restaurant has to pass a health inspection this week, and then it can open its doors. Wood doesn’t expect the inspection to be an issue.
The timing of Woody’s opening, the week before Labor Day, means that the restaurant missed most of the summer business. “I’d be crazy to say I don’t care. I wish we could have captured a little more of the summer, but I know we were doing everything right,” Wood said, referring to a complete rehabilitation of the building.
“The whole place had been replaced,” Wood said, including all the electrical and plumbing. “We didn’t expect to have as many problems as we did. I hope to God we’ve eliminated all the glitches.”
Glitches aside, a look around Woody’s shows little resemblance of its former occupant. Booths in bright hues, a large bar in warm tones beckoning customers, and an open floor plan make a cozy, welcoming feel. A fireplace is located to the left of the bar, and with additional seating upstairs, Woody’s can accommodate approximately 105 people. The upstairs will also be available to rent out for parties, according to Wood.
For Wood and his co-owner Peter Forlenza, this is their first restaurant venture. He said he and Forlenza talked about the idea for a few years and first approached the owner of Ichabod’s two years ago. This past year, it fell into place for both seller and buyers, and they closed on the property in April.
Ironically, Wood said he was a bouncer at Ichabod’s in the 1980s, and that job supplemented his income from his full-time job. Now, he finds himself as one of the owners of the building in which he used to work.
Woody’s executive chef will be Ed O’Keefe. Scott Hart, the general manager who formerly worked at Salt Creek Grille, rounds out the staff.
As for the menu, Wood said it is “incredibly unique to the area” and described it as “California Coastal cuisine with Latin flare and with a good dose of seafood.” True to the description, the names on the menu include salads dubbed Laguna, Outer Banks, and a grilled steak salad named closer to home—the Asbury Arugula Mango Steak. Entrees include Shrimp Tequila, Lobster Enchilada, Braised Short Ribs, and Pipeline Pork Chops, to name a few.
Aside from burgers and sliders such as pulled pork and BBQ brisket, Woody’s will offer crab cakes, shrimp and scallops, chicken, pork, shrimp tempura, mahi-mahi, fajitas, and burritos, in addition to numerous other choices.
According to Wood, they will offer a wine list of approximately 50 to 55 wines by the bottle and 15 varieties by the glass. In addition, Woody’s will be introducing the original Woody’s Orange Crush. Other drink specialties on the menu include the Navesink Rita and the Shrewsbury Golden Grand.
On opening day, Wood said, “I think we’ll be bombarded regardless,” adding that “there’s been a buzz about it for a while.” He said that the word of mouth about the restaurant “has been very strong. There’s been a spider web of people, between people working here, the manager and business partners. There’s a buzz!”
And when Woody’s does finally open it will find a former bouncer as its owner. And that, said Wood, is like coming “full circle.”