Since 1993, the Chicken or the Egg has been frying up wings so large and legendary that folks flock from all over the state to consume them by the platterful. The Chegg, as the Beach Haven restaurant is known, literally never closes from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Anything on the breakfast, lunch or dinner menus can be ordered 24/7. But it’s not just the wings, eight varieties of egg sandwiches or the Southern-style chicken and waffles that have made the Chegg the Shore’s leading wee-hours haven.
“Our first location was right next to a nightclub, and we’d see people leaving at two in the morning with no place to go for food,” says co-owner Mark Cohen. “We decided we wanted to be that place.”
The scene revs up between 11 pm and 2 am, when the local bars close (3 am on Saturdays). Until then, the Chegg is BYO; after that, the law allows no alcohol. Doesn’t matter. A line forms outside as the music is cranked up inside. Suddenly the place teems with revelers gobbling wings, moving among tables, trading stories, singing along to cheesy pop songs. One night a young man in Elmo pajamas worked the room, giving hugs while bouncers kept their distance.
“It’s like an extension of the nightclub,” says Cohen. “On the weekends, you’ll see people hanging out sometimes till five or six in the morning.” For fuel there’s always wings—with a choice of 16 sauces, including ultra-spicy Ludicrous. It’s an apt name for the scene that never sleeps.
Photos by Marc Steiner/Agency New Jersey:
So which came first: Chicken or Egg? The name dates back to the Chicken or the Egg’s original location, which opened Memorial Day weekend, 1991. “We did a lot of breakfasts, but we couldn’t sell wings at the first location because it only had a flat grill,” says co-owner Mark Cohen, right. “But I knew we’d eventually start making wings. That’s when I thought of the name. You’ve got eggs for breakfast and chicken for later on. The best of both worlds.”
It’s not unusual to wait an hour outside for a table. “If you’re gonna see trouble, that’s where it usually happens,” says Chegg bouncer Rich Dry. “When we started, people would do stupid things, like throw newspaper vending machines into the street. So we keep an eye on that stuff and stop anything before it starts.”
The Chegg is packed on a typical midsummer night. “For as crazy at it gets around here, everyone’s respectful,” says co-owner Cohen. “[Customers] like having us on the island, so they don’t abuse it. We’ve established ourselves as a place where you don’t screw around.”
On this summer night, Samantha Conoscenti, right, and her friend Jackson Downey drove 13 miles from Manahawkin to get in on the action at the Chegg. “Whether you’re drunk or sober, you know it’s going to be an amazing time,” says Conoscenti. “The food is incredible and the people are just…wild! I’ve seen girls get up on the tables and start dancing. Sometimes you’ll see someone fall asleep in their food. The scene’s hilarious. It’s just bumpin’. Always bumpin’.”
By day, Rich Dry, right, works as a ward assistant at a hospital. At night he helps police the after-hours fun at the Chegg. Sometimes things get strange. He recalls one patron dressed as Jesus walking around blessing everyone’s wings. Dry, who is trained in jujitsu, and the rest of the security team, have one iron-clad deal-breaker. “We keep an eye on people who are too intoxicated to come in,” he says. “If they can’t stand on their own power, or if they keep telling me the world is spinning, that’s when I suggest they get some takeout instead.”
Kelly Chasmar, 23, lives in Barnegat and attends college in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Thursday nights in the summer, she and her friends drink at the Shell. When it closes, they head for the Chegg, which is nearby. “It’s a giant party,” she says. “You know everyone, and you sometimes see crazy stuff go down, like a guy throwing his drink on someone. I saw that once. But it’s usually all very cool. A little wild, a little crazy, but definitely cool.”
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