Montgomery Dahm is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, not an ex-Marine.
"Nah, not an ex-Marine; once a Marine, always a Marine," he says.
So after he got out of the service and decided to open a brew pub in Atlantic City about 15 years ago, he gave it a name dear to his heart: Tun Tavern. If the name sounds familiar, that's because it's the place where the U.S. Marine Corps was formed in 1775.
Plus, there's the beer tie-in.
"The provincial word tun meant measured keg or cask of beer," Dahm says. "Back in the day, when they displayed a picture or board of a keg, it meant 'good beer made on premises.'"
The original place every Marine learns about - built in Philadelphia in 1685 - burned down about 100 years ago. But the Atlantic City reincarnation offers at least eight options of "good beer made on premises," plus popular brands.
Conveniently located near the Atlantic City Convention Center, the pub does a brisk business at lunch as well as dinner. The menu is eclectic, including American pub fare such as its pub burger - a top seller - alongside various cuts of steak and seafood, salads and wraps.
About a month ago, Dahm hired chef Mike Maguire, a Cape May native who'd just got back from Florida, where he'd been helping a friend open a restaurant. That eatery offered even more adventurous options than the Tun Tavern, including sushi, an addition Dahm and Maguire are discussing now.
"He's very involved in the kitchen, we converse a lot about the food and specials. He's very hands-on, which I appreciate as a chef," Maguire says of his new boss. "He has a fantastic crab soup recipe, and the blue claw fries - with crab meat and cheddar over top - that's his recipe."
The guys are having so much fun playing with their food, they came up with a favorite burger - just in time for National Burger Month. The burger doesn't have a name, but features crispy, Cajun-seasoned bacon, onions caramelized in Tun Tavern beer, gruyere cheese and truffle butter.
This combination is popular with customers who order the build-your-own burger, although the Tun's pub burger - a simple 8-ounce certified Angus beef patty topped with bacon and cheddar on a brioche roll from Formica Bros. Bakery - remains the restaurant's big seller.
"Gruyere is just one of the best cheeses out there," Maguire says. "And the truffle butter is very flavorful. It's a distinct, very potent flavor that complements the brioche roll."
Maguire serves the burger with blue claw fries, but if he was contributing to a backyard barbecue, he says he'd take his dad's pasta salad - tuna, pasta, salt, pepper, garlic and mayo - because it holds better. He recommends washing this burger down with a heavier Tun draft, such as a stout, but Dahm likes the Irish red his full-time brew meister makes.
The pub burger usually is ordered with the Indian Pale Ale.
Maguire says the trick to getting crispy, good-looking bacon is to bake it slowly so the strips don't dry out, but still get crispy. Maguire sprinkles brown sugar, cayenne and paprika on his bacon just before baking it, to give it an extra kick of flavor. But he's a bit of a purist when it comes to burgers; using just Montreal steak seasoning and grilling it just medium rare to highlight the meaty flavor.
Maguire uses 80 percent lean pure angus beef, saying Tun Tavern offers more of a "steak-burger." He heats the grill before adding the fresh meat patty - made daily on premises, all 6,000 to 9,000 sold per month - to seal in the juices and char the outside for a perfect American staple.
But even if you like your burger medium-well, as some guests at Tun Tavern do, it still will come out juicy, Dahm says. In fact, they slice their Formica rolls extra thick on the bottom for just that reason.
Contact Felicia Compian:
•2 pieces bacon
•1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
•Pinch of cayenne and paprika
•8 ounces 80-percent lean certified Angus ground beef
•1/2 teaspoon Montreal seasoning
•1 Formica brioche roll
•2 slices cheddar cheese
•1 leaf lettuce
•1 slice of tomato
•3 to 4 red onion rings
Special brew burger
•1 ounce onions
• 1 teaspoon oil
•1ounce Tun light beer
•1 tablespoon butter
•1/4 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
•1/4 teaspoon truffle oil
•2 pieces Gruyere cheese
Preheat grill on high. Start by slow-baking the bacon sprinkled with the brown sugar, cayenne and paprika at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Shape ground beef into a nice round patty, season lightly with Montreal seasoning and grill to desired temperature, preferably medium rare.
If desired: Caramelize the onions by heating oil in pan, then sweating the onions down until you start to see color. Add Tun light beer, let reduce until golden in color.
For the truffle butter: whip the butter until soft, then add garlic and truffle oil, mix well.
Spread truffle butter on roll and lightly grill to golden brown.
Melt the cheese on the patty and place the bacon on top of the melted cheese burger. Assemble the rest of your chosen ingredients and serve with blue claw fries.
Blue Claw Fries
•Oil for frying
•5 ounces french fries
•1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
•2 1/2 ounces blue claw crab meat
•3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Heat frying oil to about 375 degrees, or until rapidly boiling. Place fries in fryer until gold brown and season with Old Bay immediately after taking out of the oil. Place seasoned fries on pan or oven-safe plate, topping them with blue claw crab meat and shredded cheddar cheese. Place in oven or grill with lid closed to melt cheese, about 2 to 4 minutes and serve with burger of choice.