Shore Thing Catering was hatched two years before Shore Fire Grille opened, if you were wondering about that chicken or egg conundrum. They still do a lot of catering.

"People were looking for our food at more than just special events," says Timothy Kohlheim, chef/owner of both businesses. That's how he segued into opening the restaurant.

Kohlheim grew up in Manahawkin and admits he never worked the line in a kitchen until he opened his own restaurant. It was while living in Tampa, Fla., for nine years that he got his business degree then attended culinary school, but didn't finish.

Although the restaurant is a year-round venture, Kohlheim wanted to get it open in time for the summer, basically because they are so close to the shore that a large percentage of the off-site catering business such as weddings and dinner parties occur during the summer. The new restaurant gave him the facilities to help carry out all those events.

Kohlheim is a big fan of social media.

"We do a lot of our specials, any announcements or features that we are doing goes up on Facebook," Kohlheim says.

Shore Fire Grille, which opened Memorial Day weekend, already has more than 600 followers on Facebook.

The concept of Shore Fire Grille's menu is it offers something for everyone: dishes that Kohlheim terms crowd pleasers.

"The items that are on there are things you can eat a few times a week and that you can afford to eat a few times a week," Kohlheim says. "We have a strong following already with some customers that eat several times a day."

Gluten-free options such as their crabcakes also are available.

It doesn't require a special occasion to dine at Shore Fire Grille. All you need is a couple bucks in your pocket and excitement about a good meal.

Popular starters such as potato planks, fried pickles and the nacho platter are all $5 each.

"Our main focus is our burgers," Kohlheim says. "We hand-form all the patties."

It took Kohlheim three weeks of testing various combinations to come up with the right mix of meats, an 80/20 mixture of certified Angus beef that recently won a local reader's choice best burger award.

The five-star patty is completely different, composed of tenderloin, beef brisket and short ribs, ground by a butcher to Kohlheim's demanding specifications.

Burgers at Shore Fire Grille are not only made from beef. Salmon patties are made from fresh salmon and fresh dill, crab cakes are homemade and tuna caught right off of Long Beach Island is used in another burger. Scallops, shrimp and Mahi-mahi are all possible choices.

Wings also are a huge seller and Kohlheim makes them a couple of different ways.

Chicken wings ($5 for five, $9 for 10) can be smoked, fried or both, with a choice of Secret BBQ, Asian, honey chipotle or signature Buffalo sauces.

The sauces at Shore Fire Grille are totally different because all of the sauces and dressings are scratch-made.

Sides such as onion rings are made from fresh, sliced, white onions, hand-dipped in beer batter; baked apples from fresh apple;, and steak fries are hand-cut then baked and grilled to order, not fried, so they are never greasy. Mac and cheese and cornbread are perennial favorites.

Cole slaw is made with a "cool sauce," a mayonnaise-less, cilantro-lime-cream sauce, also served with their smoked poppers and items on the burger bar.

"Some people love it, some are not sure about it. Ultimately, most people appreciate the difference," Kohlheim says.

Kohlheim describes the sweet swine, or chocolate-dipped bacon, as like "eating a hand full of popcorn and a hand full of M&M's at the same time, each ingredient making the other taste better."

It's the sweet and salty effect where the richness and sweetness of the chocolate opens up your taste receptors to the taste of the bacon and the saltiness of the bacon makes the chocolate taste that much better.

BBQ is done differently, too. It begins as the "low and slow" traditional dry rub made with seven to 14 ingredients, an array of different flavors to go with different meats, cooked as tender as can be, yet flavorful, too

Shore Fire Grille features an open kitchen, a product of the layout of a former Chinese restaurant and the inclination of the chef.

"As soon as you walk in the door you are looking straight down the line, basically at myself and my squad, behind the line in action as we are grilling burgers and pulling pork," Kohlheim says.

With everything so clean and fresh and basically done to order, it's great that you can look in the kitchen and actually see your meal being made.

"The only thing in our freezer is the tater tots and ingredients used to make our own stocks, " Kohlheim says.

Everything else, including their seafood, is local and fresh.

As for the dual meaning that inspired both business names, Kohlheim says the Shore Fire Grille is near the shore and that Shore Thing Catering means they are always on point.

Food done differently

Looking for something creative? Try the BCMS ($8), a buffalo chicken meatball sub topped with celery slaw, blue cheese crumbles and ranch dressing, or a classic Cobb salad ($7) made with romaine lettuce, tomato,cucumber, bacon, hardboiled egg, avocado, blue cheese crumbles and ranch dressing. Add portobello mushrooms, pulled pork or chicken for an additional dollar or add mahi-mahi, salmon or shrimp for an additional $2.

What's done best

Kohlheim says that any restaurant can do anything, but not always well. The techniques he does best are listed on his website and include: grilled food, BBQ, pig roast, burgers, salads, chili, jalapenos, smoker, weddings and parties, take-out food, delivery, fresh, delicious, etc.

Grill it up

Expect plenty of grilled and barbecued foods on the menu at the Shore Fire Grille. Kohlheim chooses to use different types of wood such as apple, hickory or cherry for different types of meat. The house-made dry rubs are different, too, using seven to 14 ingredients in each.