Tyson Merryman, owner and chef at the Tuckahoe Inn in Beesley's Point got his first taste of the Jersey shore when his parents were transferred from their jobs at Boeing in Kansas to the plant in Delaware County. Merryman liked it.
Since those early days, Merryman has greatly expanded his resume, spending time as the executive chef on the Mississippi Queen riverboat out of New Orleans and a combined 13 years at various Atlantic City casinos - Golden Nugget, Tropicana, and Harrah's among them.
As his interest in cooking grew, Merryman began taking continuing education classes at professional schools such as the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and the Cordon Bleu and the Ritz-Escoffier, both in Paris, France.
Eventually, Merryman leased the dining room at the Anchorage Tavern in Somers Point and began to get the bug for a place of his own.
When his lease was up at the Anchorage, Merryman began talking to Peter Harp, the owner of The Tuckahoe Inn, about a possible sale.
Merryman's sister, Vicki, came to see the place and simply said, "We're buying the Tuckahoe Inn."
An agreement of sale was signed in 1996, and after closing and gutting the building, the Merrymans reopened the restaurant in 1997.
"We are still an American, Jersey shore restaurant," says Merryman. Along with clams casino, his menu includes stuffed flounder, and a few items that have a New Orleans "tilt" to them.
Merryman describes his chowder as very unique, neither Manhattan, nor New England.
"We feature local oysters from Delaware Bay for our Rockefellers and Cape May Salts for oysters on the half-shell," says Merryman. "Our clams come out of Pleasantville and Cape May."
The menu today is as local as possible with beer selections from local breweries in Tuckahoe and Cape May. Entertainment is offered six nights each week.
"We are really big on holidays like Easter, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day," says Merryman.
For St. Patrick's Day, just around the corner, expect corned beef and cabbage and lamb stew to serve as specials.
The recipe for clams casino has been on the menu since the very beginning. "We've been making it that way here for about 20 years," says Merryman.
A variation on the recipe he used when he was the chef at the Anchorage in Somers Point, a customer suggested chopping the clams instead of leaving them whole.
Merryman, always the smart businessman, made the subtle change.
Clams Casino has been among his most popular dishes ever since. "It's a huge seller," says Merryman.
Tuckahoe Inn Clams Casino
•24 top neck clams
•1 medium green pepper, fine dice
•1 medium roasted
•red pepper, fine dice
•1 medium Spanish onion, fine dice
•4 stalks celery, fine dice
•1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
•4 ounces bacon, chopped
•4 ounces bacon, 1 inch cuts
•Juice 1/2 lemon
•1/2 pound butter
•2 tablespoons Louisiana
•Salt and black pepper
Steam top necks until open. Remove meat and rough chop. Wash shells.
Cook chopped bacon until crisp. Add vegetables cook until tender. Cool slightly. Mix vegetables with butter, lemon and hot sauce until butter melts. Fold in chopped clams. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper
Fill 24 of the clam shells with the mixture and top with cut bacon. Bake until bacon is crisp.