SEA BRIGHT: HARRY’S LOOSENS ITS TIE
Harry’s Lobster House owner and chef Lou Jacoubs gives PieHole a lesson in lobster anatomy. The patio is open to the street, below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
By SUSAN ERICSON
Is it possible for a restaurant open since 1933 to keep its jacket-and-tie reputation while loosening its style?
Lou Jacoubs, owner and chef at Harry’s Lobster House in Sea Bright for four decades, is asking himself that very question.
A classic French dish of broiled lobster smothered in buttery croissant bread crumbs served in the Provencal style. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
It took a couple of catastrophes to get Jacoubs to make changes he had been thinking about for a while.
“After the financial crisis in ’08, my customers died or moved away,” he said. “We starved — and then came Sandy.”
But just six weeks after the 2012 hurricane that knocked out every business in the borough, Harry’s reopened, the first restaurant downtown to do so, and “people started to come around again. More people, more business, more money,” Jacoubs said.
In the process of starting over, “we decided to make it more affordable. No jacket and tie,” he said.
Jacoubs hired Lynne Szwede to tend bar, but it soon she was running the show — literally — hiring local bands to bring in more customers. An outside patio and bar now offers a low-key, comfortable beach vibe surrounded by sunflowers and tropical plants.
The menu changed, too. New additions offer more modestly priced options in the form of bar food such as burgers, quesadillas and crab cakes. But you can still get the classically prepared French meals that Harry’s is known for.
Jacoubs tells us the place was always called Harry’s, named for it’s founder. His parents bought the restaurant in the 1950’s, when the family lived in Red Bank. They had their own tragedy to overcome: the restaurant, and the supermarket it was located next to, burned down in April, 1963.
After graduating from the Peddie School in Hightstown and studying accounting in college, Jacoubs went to France to learn to cook at La Varenne, and then at the Culinary Institute of America. At his mother’s insistence, he returned to the restaurant in Sea Bright, where he’s remained for 40 years.
In his antique kitchen with THE enormous black Vulcan stoves that survived four-and-a half-feet of water from Sandy, Jacoubs demonstrates how he likes to cook lobster. He removes the claw meat and tail from its shell, and broils it under a coating of buttery crumbs from croissants he also made.
Now, he’s decided to impart some of his cooking knowledge to others by offering classes in the kitchen starting on September 10. Educated and experienced in the art of pastrymaking as well as basic French cooking methods, Jacoubs has a lot to offer would-be chefs and foodies. His stories run the gamut from tame to salty, and the class comes with a complete meal.
For more information about the cooking classes call the restaurant at 732-842-0205. Harry’s Lobster House is open seven days a week 5 to 11 p.m. The patio is open Friday through Sunday at 11 a.m.