For many in the food service industry, COVID-19 has been a nightmare. It’s meant a massive loss of revenue, much of that due to the state-imposed limitations, and at times outright banning of indoor dining. Many restaurants had to transform overnight into takeout venues, often losing much of the essence of what people enjoyed about the experience in the first place.
But for a spot like Stir It Up in Egg Harbor Township, business boomed. Why? Well, mostly because takeout was the main concept of their business anyway. Amy Manzione and her husband John opened up shop in their current location at Heather Croft Square a little over two years ago, in the space formerly occupied by Sublime Seafood. The duo quickly went to work as a hybrid retail shop/catering business, with the retail side serving a laundry list of eclectic and mostly healthy to-go dishes and baked goods made from scratch, filling in what appeared to be a gap in the local takeout scene.
“We wanted to give the community a nice option for good quality food for people who want something quick, but something a bit healthier and higher quality than the kind of stuff you might find at you’re your average pizza or Chinese takeout place,” Amy says.
And COVID just meant more people were seeking out meals that could be picked up quickly and brought home.
“We got a lot busier in the spring than we had ever been as far as the retail side of the business,” she notes. “We met a lot of new people through the Atlantic County Take Out page (a Facebook group launched by Greater Atlantic City Chamber President Michael Chait aimed at supporting local restaurants during the pandemic) because nobody was eating out at restaurants at all for a while, which made us busier. And it helped us expand our options, adding things like family meals, which we had not done before.”
Tucked inside a corner space in a mini mall off Tilton Road, Stir It Up seems like a well-guarded secret, at least in the physical sense. Once inside, the layout might remind you of an Italian deli or a seafood market, with menu boards up top, colorful dishes on display and the standard self-serve drink fridges, which the Manziones keep stocked with tasty and hard to find beverages like Boylan’s sodas.
And though the space is small, there are actually a number of tables inside Stir It Up, meaning patrons can pop in for a quick lunch if they prefer not to take their meal on the road. The large glass display case gives customers a chance to ooh and ahh at the many culinary options, a fun way to select a meal, but be forewarned: You may have trouble choosing just one.
The menu changes weekly at Stir It Up, but those seeking to provide a heathy option for themselves or their family will be pleased to find a slew of choices no matter when you stop in. Recent soups included tomato basil and a roasted chicken that available with or without noodles should you be looking to cut down on carbs. And entrees such as turkey burgers with caramelized onions and spinach, lemon-herb chicken breasts, honey-sriracha salmon and sweet potato black bean burgers burst with flavor without bursting with fat or sugar-based sauces, a nice touch for the health-conscious. Much of the sides follow suit with tasty and craveable options like sesame-roasted green beans, roasted broccoli with cippolini onions and sweet bell peppers and some truly fantastic pesto sun dried tomato “zoodles” that will satisfy your pasta cravings in a hurry.
Of course, that is not to say that a few indulgent choices haven’t made their way onto the menu as well.
“We try to keep it at an 85/15 ratio — 85 percent healthy to 15 percent comfort food,” Amy says. “You gotta have mashed potatoes sometimes.”
Those looking to forget about the scale for a bit should head directly to the homemade savory hand pies. They come in a variety of fillings. We recommend the brisket with wild mushroom and gorgonzola. Though the filling is amazing, the crust is actually the star of the show. It’s flaky and as buttery as buttery gets – a true work of decadent perfection. Beyond the pies, Stir It Up makes a killer Maryland-style crab cake, well-seasoned and not loaded with filler, as well as a hearty mac and cheese and a revolving door of weekly specials.
And all of this is before you have even thought about dessert.
“We pride ourselves on complete scratch baking, all of it made in house,” Amy promises.
Try the mini pies, available in Key lime and peanut butter varieties, or the mini chocolate mousse cake or ricotta cheesecake, all of which are big enough to share. An assortment of cookies in classic flavors like chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and double chocolate walnut can make for a sweet takeout treat, and the chocolate peanut butter protein balls even provide you with a health-based excuse to give your sweet tooth a workout.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!