For good reason, the Hieb brothers — Geoff and David — take much pride in calling their restaurant The Doc’s Place a “family business.” But unlike so many South Jerseyans now running restaurants up and down our coast who grew up in the kitchens of long handed-down establishments, the Hiebs did not.
Raised in Cherry Hill, their father Greg was actually a biomedical engineer who would frequently be forced to leave the family for work, traveling the world to far away places like Saudi Arabia. Never did he dream of owning a restaurant.
Woodbine’s Surf Dog Bar and Grill has declared April to be “Rescue Month.” This popular eate…
But once he was back in the States with his family, Greg and his wife Mary Jo would entertain a lot, often cooking for large groups of friends and relatives.
“People always loved their cooking,” Geoff says.
So when Somers Point real estate developer Randy Scarborough, an old family friend, tossed out the idea to Greg to take over a restaurant at his Harbour Cove property on Bay Avenue, Greg sat Mary Jo down with the boys, then still in high school, one evening to discuss.
It was on that night — 31 years ago — that The Doc’s Place was born.
A family affair
Seeing his parents entertaining and eventually enter the restaurant business was the impetus for Geoff’s keen interest in food from a young age. Brother David, on the other hand, who had played minor league baseball for the Texas Rangers, had “no intention” of ever entering the family business.
Fast forward to today, and both brothers helm The Doc’s Place, tag-teaming kitchen and front of house duties with a staff of dedicated employees behind them, many of whom have spent their entire careers there. Parents Greg and Mary Jo, however, are never far from sight.
“First and foremost, it’s a family affair,” says Geoff, who graduated from The Restaurant School in Philadelphia. “My parents still live upstairs. They’re still a big part of the restaurant.”
“They’re looking over our shoulder 24/7,” adds David, laughing.
If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway
After concluding three decades in the restaurant business at the end of last year, the brothers thought that perhaps some changes were in order. They discovered, however, that not many were really needed for this beloved local establishment.
Some cosmetic changes — a fresh coat of paint, some wine-themed décor and a new mantel hovering above the fireplace — took place over the winter break. The bar, built by Greg, still sits at the main entrance, abuzz with a lively crowd dining or sipping on Doc’s famous martinis.
The dining room is an enigma. It’s energetic, yet relaxed and comfortable, with a warmth that transcends the roaring fire. The year-round deck, enclosed and heated in the cooler months, has been whimsically adorned with string lights.
Geoff claims that a few other aesthetic changes will take place before spring ends, but, he teases, “stay tuned for those.”
The dinner and lunch menus were altered, but “not dramatically.”
Geoff, who spearheads the kitchen and the menu, merely streamlined things, to focus on efficiency and customer service.
Hale and hearty
Remaining on the lunch menu is the very popular half-sandwich with a half-salad or half soup for just $9.25. But the newer menu has the addition of more health-conscious sandwiches and salads. Dinner, too, now even has a non-GMO bone-in roasted half chicken ($24.95), plus vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives.
“In general, when we go out to eat, healthier options are a trend,” David says. “A growing number of customers want gluten-free or vegetarian options.”
Of course, there are plenty of items for those who wish to indulge for one night. If that’s you, a must-try app is the new grilled brie ($14.95) served with fresh fruit and crackers.
You’re thinking, “I’ve had baked brie before.” So have I. But this is grilled brie. And it’s wildly different. The only way to describe it is to envision a roasted marshmallow — charred and flaky on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside with that delectable buttery nuttiness. It’s delicious. The charring adds an unexpected, yet wonderful, flavoring.
Other new additions are the lightly breaded bone-in veal parmesan ($43.95) with a side of fettuccine; grilled chicken a la Rita ($22.25) topped with fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and sautéed spinach; and a lightly fried shrimp with Japanese bread crumbs ($23.95).
The Hieb gentlemen held fast to customer favorites like the penne with a Kobe meat sauce ($26.50); the grilled prime rib of pork ($32.50) that’s dusted with sea salt and cracked black pepper; and the surf and turf (7-ounce filet and 6-ounce lobster tail $52.50).
Geoff says that the lobster tails are slightly smaller than those they’ve used in the past — mainly because they’ve proven to be more flavorful than larger ones. My dinner partner was of the same opinion, claiming the lobster was “cooked to perfection — (has a) good texture, it’s buttery and melts in your mouth.”
Out of the dozen or so desserts ($5 to $10), only a few are made in-house, otherwise they come from The Bake Works in Northfield, as well as a close neighbor who bakes.
The Doc’s Place implemented a new happy hour, which runs 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays. Specials include a variety of $7 plates like the three-cheese meatball, flatbread or sashimi of the day, cheese ravioli and more. Select cocktails are also $7, beers are $4.
Early bird specials run daily from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The menu consists of 10 entrees that range in price from $12 to $16.
If you’ve ever gone to The Doc’s Place on the weekend, you’ve probably heard the easy-listening tunes of Dan Marro, who plays anything from Frankie Valli and Frank Sinatra to Elvis and Elton John from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. — with no break.
Now entering its 31st year of business, The Doc’s Place has carved out a nice niche for itself. So much so, that the Hiebs emit a simplicity and a satisfaction in focusing solely on what takes place within their own restaurant.
“At this stage, you don’t worry about competition,” says Geoff with a confidence absent of any arrogance. “We’ve been down here for so long that we don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.”