The first thing most folks will notice when they walk through the dining room and onto the deck of McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links Pub & Restaurant is the sensational view, highlighted by a sprawling pond, rolling hills and a pristine fairway of the course’s 18th hole.(tncms-asset)8f5d064a-7e6d-5f3c-940b-1fd09bdb6144(/tncms-asset)
“And the best part of the view is that after the first group gets in, they can heckle their friends as they come off the course,” jokes Ken Klein, executive chef and director of food and beverage at McCullough’s Pub since the fall 2016.
McCullough’s Pub is quite a bit more than what many golf-course clubhouses offer — those where bets are often settled and revenge sworn over burgers and beer. The ambiance is exceptional in all three of the pub’s components, including a spacious bar area as one enters from the parking lot and a cloistered room for more intimate dining between the bar and the semi-enclosed deck, which can be accessed by a staircase coming off the course.(tncms-asset)b5c95c2f-670d-58b1-8b4f-6085cac16b91(/tncms-asset)
The pub menu is impressive and reasonably priced too, which could account for why a typical day may find many more sorts than just the hackers who finished a round.
“Families, couples, golfers — it’s kids and millennials to parents and grandparents, we get them all here,” Klein says.
Baptism by fire precedes formality
Part of the pub’s popularity can be traced to Klein’s reputation in the kitchen, which long precedes his arrival in EHT. He is a formally trained chef but his roots are in the school of hard knocks, and his interest in the culinary field began with admiration for his mother’s skill at cranking out quality meals for large groups.
“I come from a large family — I’m one of eight kids — and I’d always helped my mom in the kitchen and during Thanksgiving and big family functions,” says Klein, deemed best chef at the 16th annual South Jersey Men R’ Cookin’ competition last winter — an event benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Atlantic City. “So I call my style ‘comes from the heart.’”(tncms-asset)c6c2f206-6b10-11e7-93a4-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Klein created an appetizer called Tuna Taco Tapas for McCullough’s Pub that includes sesame-coated, soy ginger marinated ahi tuna over a bed of Asian salad in a wasabi shell. That concoction won best appetizer and earned Klein a second trophy at the Men R’ Cookin’ event.
“When I’m cooking I feel like I’m cooking for family and friends,” he says. “I try to give each dish a personal touch even if I don’t know who I’m cooking for personally.”(tncms-asset)b170a928-6a59-11e7-a5ec-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Born and raised in Ventnor, Klein confesses to lying about his age to get his first restaurant job — washing dishes at the bygone Margate Fishery at age 13. He worked his way into cooking for well-known area names like the late George Naame, longtime proprietor of Maloney’s of Margate, and the Sutor brothers of the Sailfish and Owl Tree restaurant fame. All his on-the-job training gave way to an eventual 1992 graduation from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
“And at 30, I was easily the oldest in my class,” Klein says.
Nightly specials, summer salads
The pub’s regular menu spans the gamut and is adjusted seasonally. Some of the warm-weather dishes that are big sellers, Klein says, are the Summer Salad, blackened chicken breast, crumbled blue cheese, candied walnuts, fresh peaches and a warm raspberry peach vinaigrette; and the Tsunami Tsalmon Tsalad, grilled Atlantic salmon, mixed greens, shaved cucumber, shredded carrots, pears and figs in a champagne vinaigrette (each $18.75).
The pub also offers nightly specials throughout the summer that include 50-cent wings on Mondays; $2 sliders on Tuesdays; u-peel-em shrimp, crab claws or clams on the half shell specials on Wednesdays; a 1 ½-pound lobster special for $24.95 on Thursdays; and a prime-rib dinner special on Sundays.(tncms-asset)8dabee2a-68b1-11e7-b6b5-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
McCullough’s Pub has a daily happy hour 3 to 6:30 p.m. that features $2 domestic drafts, $4 well drinks, $5 wines and an extensive list of menu items such as edamame, home-made kettle chips in buttery blue cheese, pierogies or Caesar salad (each $4); Irish nachos, Philly cheesesteak spring rolls, popcorn shrimp parfait or a chicken quesadilla ($5 each); buffalo tails or roasted red pepper hummus ($6;) and baked stuffed mushrooms, crab cake, bacon-wrapped scallops or wings with a choice of four sauces ($7).
The pub opens at 7 a.m. and includes a $6 breakfast menu with choice of two eggs any style with bacon or sausage, potato pancakes and toast; a broccoli-and-cheese or ham-and-Swiss quiche; three pieces of French toast; or a breakfast sandwich with fried egg, bacon or sausage and provolone.
The deck is a local hot spot on weekends in the summertime, according to McCullough’s Links General Manager Tom Sullivan, with bands performing nightly. Banquets, parties, wedding receptions and reunions can all be accommodated.
“We can dress it up or dress it down, depending on your event,” Sullivan says.(tncms-asset)b680a536-6af8-11e7-a6cb-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)