This is one of the grandaddies of South Jersey seafood restaurants, having opened in 1882. Servers here know the menu and take good care of their customers. It’s usually crowded but worth the wait.
“To have staff working here for 40 years isn’t unheard of ,” says Al Schettig, fifth-generation operator of the 425-seat establishment within site of Townsend’s Inlet.
Longevity and quality go hand-in-hand at Busch’s, where bartenders hand-squeeze fresh oranges, limes and lemons into cocktails.
Don’t leave without sampling one of the signature soups: There’s a she-crab soup personally made by Schettig using special pots and utensils, and a robust Manhattan-style clam chhowder whose recipe goes back 35 years. Of the 1,000 or so chowder recipes at the Shore, this one is the best. With bread, it’s a meal.
Entree-wise, our favorite is the fried Jersey Shore dinner, a $26 collection of deviled crab, deviled clam, scallops, shrimp, flounder, petite lobster tail, french fries and slaw that comes piled high on an oversized platter.
Busch’s recipe for deviled crabs is so hush-hush that no more than six people have prepared the delicacy in 90 years. Is there any wonder deviled crab devotees stream here?
There are 14 other combination platters and a dozen other seafood meals either fried, baked or broiled.
Meals average $22, which means you’ll need in the vicinity of $65 to impress that special somenone with dinner and a couple of extras.
by Bill REINHARDT
May 2000, Courier-Post
In the lore of secret recipes, Busch’s deserves special mention — and not just because this 117-year-old seafood house at the southern tip of Sea Isle City has a few of them to keep. But boy, does it have them.
How about that rich deviled crab, coyly cayenne-spiced and baked in those neat crab-shaped crocks?
“I wish I could tell you, but I can’t,” says Al Schettig, the fifth generation (by marriage to Kim Phillips) to operate this classic seashore haunt. “I’m the son-in-law that isn’t going to screw up the family business.”
OK, Al. I wouldn’t get you in trouble with the ancestor spirits still watching over the sprawling, dimly lit 425-seat dining rooms, their red Naugahyde booths, and the hodgepodge decor of shark teeth and family portraits.
It suffices to say that there’s more to the enduring flavor of Busch’s secret recipes than something written on a piece of paper. (Though there is that, too, passed from one 40-year employee to another, and then finally to Schettig.)
It starts with a committment to fine ingredients that is rarely mentioned in such old-time restaurants, from the homemade blue cheese dressing to the deeply brewed stocks that infuse the dark snapper soup, to the enormous soft-shell crabs fried to perfection for the Eastern Shore platter, to the sweet, fresh lump crabmeat that finds its way into all of Busch’s best dishes.
Of course, there’s a special Busch way to fold that beautiful crab into bechamel sauce — and it’s done with a special spatula. There are even special women in the back, Schettig tells me, who’ve done nothing else for 30 years.
And then there’s the Spoon, which Schettig keeps in a safe. It’s a century-old antique calibrated specifically for the seasonings used in Busch’s extraordinary sweet and creamy she-crab soup served in all its glory on Sundays and Tuesdays.
And if Schettig does his job as keeper of the flame, the food will taste exactly the same in 25 years, when his two sons are old enough to take over. The family secrets, no doubt, will be safe with them, too
by Craig LaBan
Inqirer Magazine, 1999