When Bill Hurst opened Fitzpatrick's Deli, his entire philosophy was to make a great living serving two meals a day: breakfast and lunch.
Now, 23 years later, Hurst decided to move from his popular location in a Somers Point strip mall to a free-standing restaurant in the same town with about 50 more seats and a third meal added to the menu: dinner.
"Offering dinner wasn't the reason we moved," says Hurst, whose new restaurant boasts 178 seats, hardwood floors and a casual steakhouse/deli vibe. "My lease was up and there were some problems at the other place and I decided to look at my options. So when we got this free-standing building, it just made more sense to offer dinner, too, because it feels more like a restaurant. It turned out doing dinner wasn't the major issue; moving was more nerve-wracking."
Fans of Fitzpatrick's were happy to learn that the move and the addition of a dinner menu would not change the way Fitzpatrick's operated in the mornings and afternoons. The deli still has the same homemade soups, stacked sandwiches made with meats roasted daily at the restaurant and enticing breakfast items such as crunchy Texas French toast ($6.25 to $6.75) with bananas or walnuts and pecans, plus awesome Belgian waffles ($6.95) with strawberries and homemade whipped cream.
In fact, Fitzpatrick fans now have a chance to experience lunch at dinner with the restaurant's Deli @ Dinner option, which is an abbreviated version of the deli menu with Fitzpatrick's favorites such as the Big Fitz Special ($8.50) a whopper of a deli sandwich featuring corned beef, fresh roasted turkey breast or roast beef with coleslaw and Russian dressing on Jewish rye bread served with potato salad, as well as double-decker sandwiches, open-faced sandwiches and more.
"No pun intended, but we realize our bread and butter is our breakfast and lunch," Hurst says. "And the breakfast and lunch menu hasn't changed since the move because we didn't want to create confusion. When people say Fitzpatrick's Deli, they know we still have great corned beef and pastrami and all of that. And when we want to be even more creative with breakfast and lunch, we add specials - as many as six breakfast specials on Sundays. And they now have a choice to have some of their favorites at night, too, which they like."
But the real reason to visit the new Fitzpatrick's at night is the new dinner menu designed by Hurst and his son Bill Jr., a graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing who executes dinner service.
The mostly gourmet dinner menu shows the younger Hurst's passion for food with a creative twist on some deli classics.
Interesting starters include Reuben eggrolls ($7.95), corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut stuffed in a crispy egg roll and served with Russian dressing; Fitz-Minis ($7.50), chipotle chicken with Monterey Jack cheese and cole slaw, short rib with cream cheese and scallions and black angus with blue cheese; pastrami-wrapped sea scallops ($8.95) with a mustard cream sauce served on rye toast points; plus more common dinner items such as grilled spicy shrimp ($9.95), seafood potstickers ($9.95) and mussels ($8.95) in red sauce or garlic butter.
"It was a fun process putting the dinner menu together, but it was also brunch time with the move because we had 500 things to do," Hurst says. "We are actually working on another dinner menu right now with some additions and more steak options to build on what we started. And it's always going to change."
The dinner menu also boasts homemade soups such as roasted garlic crab bisque ($3.25 cup, $4.75 bowl); salads such as the warm spinach salad ($7.95) with grilled portabella mushrooms and house-made bacon vinaigrette; pasta dishes that include Scampi A La Fitzpatrick's ($22.50) and lobster ravioli ($16.95) in a cream sauce with wilted spinach; and seafood entrees offering everything from crab cakes ($23.95) to stuffed shrimp casino ($22.50) to salmon ($19.25) nicely glazed with a maple-pecan glaze on a bed of baby spinach served with three-potato gratin.
"The idea is to have something for everyone but to always maintain a high-quality standard," Hurst says. "Even for the pasta, we are using quality pasta from Voorhees that is delivered fresh a few times a week. Our seafood is delivered five, six days a week, and we use wild as much as possible because we just don't like farm-raised product."
But the real reasons to try Fitzpatrick's are the meats and steaks, which are certified black angus and char-broiled with "special Fitz seasoning."
The most approachable steak is the 12-ounce Mrs. Fitz prime rib ($19.95), with the most expensive steaks, including the signature cowboy steak - an 18-ounce bone-in ribeye - and the 9-ounce center cut filet, both priced at $27.95. Other meat entrees include chicken thigh goulash ($13.95) served over egg dumplings; a 10-ounce veal chop ($27.95) with roasted pepper cream Israeli couscous; Smithfield rib pork chop ($14.95) marinated in honey and bourbon served medium only; and braised short ribs ($13.95) braised in a delicious Bordeaux wine sauce.
"The certified black angus cut offers the best quality we could find for the money," Hurst says. "The marbling is nice, and there's great flavor there. We don't believe in a large inventory. We believe in keeping the meat fresh and rotating it out daily and getting five shipments a week. We believe in freshness and flavor."
The desserts are certainly worth staying for, particularly the funnel cake ($6.95) with chocolate sauce and ice cream.
Fitzpatrick's is doing its best to offer the Somers Point restaurant scene something different, including food flight nights on the fourth Wednesday of every month; special dinners celebrating food from around the world focusing on different regions; and Chefs Tables, where three- or five-course meals are served by the chef featuring a special menu created by Hurst Jr.
Fitzpatrick's has always been a family affair, and it continues in the new location. With Bill Hurst Sr. and Jr. in the kitchen, Bill Sr.'s wife, Pat Hurst, served as director of marketing, PR and special events.
"It's fantastic to have my family here and that we feel like we are part of the community," Hurst says. "We always believed in offering good quality product for a fair price, and that has not changed with the move."