When former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski bought his fourth golf course — Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in Galloway Township — two years ago, he had a lot of ideas.
He wanted to build membership as well as daily public play. He wanted to evolve the already impressive reputation the country club already had. But most importantly, he wanted to improve the overall golfing experience.
And a big part of that overall experience was to offer a top-notch food and beverage destination that not only pleased golfers, but also attracted those who may not even consider swinging a club, too.
That came true this winter when Blue Heron debuted 7 Tap & Tavern, a great sports bar, pub and restaurant that certainly has all of the necessary ingredients to achieve the vision Jaworski possesses.
“Seven Tap & Tavern is all about having fun,” Jaworski says. “It is a cool, friendly tavern. We created an exciting place where everyone can come and enjoy themselves: Music playing; TVs on sports; cold craft beers; great menu and drink specials … things that appeal to all groups.”
In typical Jaworski style, the ESPN analyst did not just rename the restaurant, put in a new menu and open the doors.
The bar was expanded to 20 seats, nearly a dozen large-screen TVs were placed around the room, new furniture was bought, new hardwood floors were installed and the entire room was painted. Jerseys hang in the rafters — all with Jaws’ No. 7 that he wore when an Eagle — and include only other No. 7s, including Mickey Mantle, John Elway, Boomer Esiason, Joe Theismann, David Beckham and more.
“Our goal is to evolve into a ‘Cheers,’” Jaworski says. “Happy hour (see sidebar) will bring in the local business community, as well as golfers and the neighborhood every day. It will be the place to be and we will know everybody’s name.”
Blue Heron General Manager Albert Segrest says longtime visitors of the club typically comment about the new bar area.
“The biggest change I think for people is the bar itself,” says Segrest, who worked for Jaworski at Valleybrook Country Club in Blackwood before moving to the shore. “Before, the bar was straight and Ron thought the bar design just didn’t lend itself to being a social atmosphere because everyone was facing the same direction. You couldn’t talk to someone three seats down the bar. So we cut out the center, made it bigger, and now it’s easy to interact. He wants the environment where everyone knows each other and the bartenders know you. When he comes in, he talks to everyone. This is his baby.”
No matter how cool the bar is and no matter how nice the new 7 Tap may be aesthetically, it’s the food that will keep them coming back. And that burden is on Executive Chef Jorge Penagos, a kitchen veteran who has worked in local restaurants including St. George’s Pub in Brigantine and the now-closed The Sound of Philadelphia at the Tropicana Casino and Resort.
“I think our food sets us apart,” Segrest says. “We have some traditional pub food, but we also have some very unique items. Basically everything is fresh and made from scratch from our homemade half-moon mozzarella ($9) that are cut and breaded here to our Caribbean (mango papaya) bruschetta ($6) that features plantains that we smash in the back and fry ourselves. Even our nachos aren’t typical. They are Buffalo chicken nachos ($10) with an American cheese sauce and crumbled blue cheese. You can still get your burgers here, but our offerings are much more diverse.”
Segrest is not exaggerating. Appetizer standouts include a homemade, half-pound meatball ($7 served with garlic crostini) Penagos perfected while working in Italian restaurants here and in New York; Boom Boom Shrimp ($10), a mildly spicy, tempura-battered shrimp dish served in a large margarita glass; Eagle wings ($10), meaty wings tossed in sauces Penagos also tweaked from working in places such as St. George’s; and his signature Buffalo fries ($6), a destination dish that features premium cut french fries tossed in secret seasonings and covered in crumbled blue cheese.
“The secret to that is that I take our Buffalo sauce and put it in a spray bottle and then spray the sauce on,” Penagos says. “So it has a light coating of sauce and spices so they don’t get soggy.”
Diners can choose from four flatbread pizzas ($9 to $11) including spinach and chicken, Margherita, four cheese and buffalo chicken, as well as about a half dozen salads ($7 to $11), including apple walnut chicken, tropical chicken with mango papaya pico and Tuna Blossom, a throwback with beefsteak tomato freshly cut and topped with 8 ounces of albacore tuna salad.
A server described Penagos as the “soup Nazi,” a flattering reference to the “Seinfeld” character who made awesome soups. They change daily, but if a recent cup of cream of crab is any indication of what Penagos can do with soup ($3.50), it’s a good sign. And classic French onion soup ($5) is always available. And the chef says he can’t wait for summer to arrive to make cold soups and gazpacho.
“Around Thanksgiving, we had a pumpkin in the pro shop and Jorge took it and made pumpkin soup and it was unbelievable,” Segrest says. “That’s how much he likes making soup.”
Of course sandwiches, paninis and burgers play a big role at 7 Tap, including the Monster Meatball Sub ($9); the Jaws Dog ($5 with fries); a tuna BLT ($8); cranberry turkey ($10), which is like Thanksgiving on a bun; the chicken and spinach panini ($10.50); and three angus burgers ($11 to $12), including the Texas with beer-battered onion rings, cheddar cheese, bacon and chef-made BBQ sauce, as well as the grilled cheeseburger, which is basically a burger trapped In a grilled cheese.
Penagos is particularly proud of the “Main Event” part of the menu, entrees where he can really show off his skills and the section that Segrest believes sets 7 Tap apart from other sports bars.
Sausage peperonata pomodora ($14) offers penne pasta with mild Italian sausage, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and reggiano cheese; the pork mignon ($19) is a grilled, 10-ounce center cut pork loin topped with a port wine demi served with homemade mashed potatoes and veggies; the pan-seared Pacific salmon ($18) is light, flaky and perfect and served with the same sides; and the filet mignon ($28) features 8 ounces of angus beef in a burgundy wine glaze.
“The amazing thing about working here is that they let me buy great ingredients and they give me the ability to be creative in the kitchen and try new things,” says Penagos, who will change the menu seasonally and offers specials daily. “If I have an idea, I made it and let them try it. And if they like it, it’s on the menu or will be a special.”
Jaworski’s demand for an upscale sports pub is certainly reflected in the food but not the prices. With most appetizers and sandwiches under $10 and an entrée menu that doesn’t exceed $28, with most entrees in the teens, 7 Tap should evolve into a go-to destination for the entire community, not just golfers.
“We don’t want to be just known as a sport bar, even though you can come in here and watch sports,” Segrest says. “We want to be known as for our menu and as the local hangout. There’s often a misconception that since we are a golf club that we are not open to the general public. But we are here seven days a week welcoming anyone and everyone.”
Have a drink at 7 Tap
7 Tap, with the right buzz, can become the place for locals to hang out thanks to its great menu and generous daily happy hour.
Every day from 4 to 6 p.m., patrons can indulge in $2 domestic beers, $5 call drinks and a $5 appetizers menu that includes the one-half-pound meatball (pictured), Buffalo fries, Caribbean bruschetta and the Philly Lineup, which is warm soft pretzels served with three dipping sauces: beer cheese, hot mustard and Boom Boom aioli made with Sriracha.
Despite its name 7 Tap, the bar actually offers 12 taps, with more than half devoted to craft beer, including current sections by Flying Fish, Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat and Harpoon.
There’s also about a half dozen specialty drinks ($8) including the John Daly with Tito’s vodka, lemonade and unsweetened iced tea; the Lynchburg lemonade with Jack Daniel’s, triple sec, sour mix and Sprite; and the Transfusion, the most popular drink with Tito’s vodka, Welch’s grape juice and ginger ale.
Owner Ron Jaworski suggests the “Warm Apple Pie,” a drink Angry Orchard Hard Cider and Fireball cinnamon whiskey.
“It’s fantastic,” he says.”
7 Tap is also proud of its wine list and its exclusive dedication to Cavett wines by the glass, all priced at $6.
“I think the value of our experience extends to our drinks,” says General Manager Albert Segrest. “We know the prices will bring people in who don’t know about us yet, but the experience will keep them coming back.”