It’s hard to believe, but even after 20 years, the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City is the only brewpub in South Jersey.
Owner Montgomery Dahm was really ahead of his time when he opened the doors of the Tun in January 1997. Beer was popular, but brewpubs — restaurants that also brew their own beer — were not nearly as abundant as they are now.
“I saw an opportunity,” says Dahm, whose restaurant is situated below the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel. “Atlantic City was reinventing itself once again around that time. They built the hotel, then the Convention Center and then The Walk a few years later. And I wanted to be in on the action.”
But why a brewpub?
“Atlantic City has great water; it has won national awards for it,” Dahm says. “And great water makes great beers. So with great beer, great food and being attached to the hotel, it just seemed like a perfect fit.”
He’s right. The Tun continues to succeed thanks to loyal beer drinkers and conventioneers looking to grab a bite and taste the only beer made in Atlantic City.
And the Tun is about to get a lot better. It’s already in the process of an overall $1 million-plus renovation that will include doubling its tap handles to 16, installing at least 15 new, large-screen TVs for sports, enclosing its outdoor deck to enable them to do more private parties and installing new floors and wall treatments.
Perhaps the biggest news is that the Tun will add more brewing equipment so it can become a commercial brewery to sell their beer to other restaurants and beer stores sometime this year.
“I believe in Atlantic City,” Dahm says. “When there is a little bit of disarray, there is opportunity. We are always looking to improve and be more successful.”
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The changes at the Tun don’t stop with beer and aesthetics. They also reinvented more than 60 percent of its menu recently after hiring local kitchen veteran Daniel Lynch as executive chef.
“We are always looking to improve and update our menu, but this time we really went at it,” Dahm says. “Dan came in and brought some great, interesting ideas, and the reception has been Tunbelievable. Probably about 60 percent of the menu is new.”
“I think it’s more than that,” Lynch adds. “Not only did we bring in a lot of new stuff, but we tweaked a lot more and made it better. I think if people come in, they will see a big difference in the food.”
Some of Lynch’s creations are clever as well as delicious.
He added a blueberry BBQ sauce to the Tun Wings ($10) roster that also features classic Buffalo, honey BBQ, garlic parm and Inferno.
“There’s also an apple root beer, and I am working on a Dr. Pepper sauce,” Lynch says of the tender wings.
Other “funky” additions include the Piggy Butter and Jelly ($12), a Cajun-dusted burger with American cheese, bacon, pickles, grilled onions, peanut butter and habanero jelly on grilled rye bread that is Lynch’s surprisingly good take on a Patty melt; the PHD (Piled High and Deep, $11), roasted turkey breast, cheddar cheese bacon, lettuce and tomato on a brioche roll with homemade honey mustard; and the chicken pot sandwich ($11), an extremely tasty take on the classic comfort food made with a breaded chicken cutlet, lightly fried and placed on a brioche roll, topped with a béchamel sauce containing peas and carrots.
“The chicken pot pie sandwich is messy but delicious,” Lynch says. “We will keep updating the menu and add more interesting, crazy things.”
Other standouts include the Steakhouse Burger ($12), peppercorn-crusted certified angus beef with homemade horseradish sauce, cheddar, haystack onions, tomatoes and a house-made cabernet sauce; Brew House chili ($9) made with Wagyu beef, onions, Tun Tavern IPA and habanero chilies topped with cheddar cheese and green onions and served with jalapeno corn muffins; and the PEI mussels ($11) with chorizo, whole-grain mustard and ale butter sauce, served with garlic bread.
“The chili has some sweetness thanks to some honey and a bit of chocolate, and there’s just a little kick from the habanero,” Lynch says. “I like to use the Wagyu for a meatloaf special sometimes, and I glaze it with a sauce made from apple cider vinegar, ketchup and brown sugar.”
There’s also a wide array of steaks, ribs, pasta, seafood and salads.
“I think my favorite part of this job is teaching the cooks here how to make all of this new stuff,” Lynch says. “They haven’t had a change like this in years, so it’s been a really positive experience.”
The 20-year anniversary could be another monumental year for the Tun. With a production brewery in the works plus an extensive renovation, the Tun seems poised to go for another 20 years.
“We have an amazing staff and we just keep getting better as time goes on,” says Dahm, pointing out Special Events Manager Diane Tharp and General Manager Danielle Battistone for their contributions. “We think we have made a nice mark in Atlantic City for the past 20 years and keep evolving that legacy.”
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What’s on tap
The Tun Tavern is South Jersey’s only brewpub, meaning the only restaurant that makes its own beer. While their tap handles rotate regularly, here are the eight homemade concoctions currently on tap.
Tun Light: Tun’s most popular beer, this golden ale is crisp and light with low hop aroma. One of the best light beers you will find and just 3.9 percent ABV.
Irish Red: A red ale with medium hop bitterness and flavor with no hop aroma and a medium candy-like caramel sweetness and medium body that is 5.1 percent ABV.
Devil Dog Pale Ale: An American pale ale with floral, citrus hop character, medium to high hop bitterness and low maltiness and easy to drink at 5.2 percent ABV.
Leather Neck Stout: An oatmeal stout with pleasant, full flavor and smooth profile. Taste the caramel-like malts and coffee-like roasted barley. It’s a full-bodied beer but only 4.5 percent ABV.
Pumpkin Spice: A limited brew rich in pumpkin flavor and accents from autumn spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger.
Oktoberfest-Marzen: A lager with rich, malty flavor, medium body and low clean hop bitterness.
All-American IPA: Our favorite Tun creation is perfectly hoppy with a strong malt presence. It’s a great introductory IPA and is about 6.5 percent ABV.
Wee Heavy Scotch Ale: A dark, strong ale with a hint of peat smoke that is overwhelmingly malty and copper in color. It also packs a high ABV.