Ritzi Farhaan didn't much care for his meal at the Red Hen in small-town Swedesboro, in Gloucester County.

"Death is a preferable outcome than to eat here," he wrote on the mom-and-pop restaurant's Facebook page.

"Food was horrible staff was horrible," Dean Adcock matter-of-factly added.

But what are the odds that Adcock — who lives in Florida, according to Facebook — has ever visited Swedesboro?

The staff at the Red Hen restaurant said they have been hit with a wave of criticism ever since a similarly named restaurant in Lexington, Va., gave President Trump's press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the boot on June 22.

Confused social media users and telephone crusaders swarmed dozens of innocent Red Hens across America, including the one in Swedesboro.

"We thought the first call was a prank. It was just so bizarre," said Elizabeth Pope, managing partner and co-owner of the Red Hen. "The second was just really aggressive, and from then on the phone never stopped ringing."

Tommy Smith, host at the Red Hen in Swedesboro, N.J., gets a friendly phone call from a supporter on Sunday, June 24, 2018.
Elizabeth Robertson
Tommy Smith, host at the Red Hen in Swedesboro, N.J., gets a friendly phone call from a supporter on Sunday, June 24, 2018.

The calls were nasty, she said, and the messages deeply disturbing, including death threats.

"One person said they wished my children get raped," Pope said. "It got really ugly."

Angry Sanders supporters raged against the restaurant on social media. Pope worried that the fallout could cripple the business.

"They've destroyed my ratings online," she said. "We get a lot of Shore traffic and they Google, they Yelp, they go on Trip Advisor, so are they going to join us for lunch or not?"

In fact, the restaurant has only had two reviews, five- and four-stars, on Trip Advisor since the frenzy began. Its Yelp page saw more activity, but Yelp began a "cleanup" to remove posts that appeared to be motivated by political news rather than customer experience. On Facebook, hundreds left reviews, some negative and misinformed, but the overwhelming majority were five-star.

While the restaurant's Facebook page buzzed with activity, Red Hen regulars and the Swedesboro community rallied to its side.

"Several people did come in here to support us. There was one table that actually left a tip for everyone working," said bartender Andrew Corr. "Business has actually seen a slight increase."

When the Red Hen set up shop in 2012, the area around Swedesboro was in the midst of rejuvenation, diners said. The restaurant quickly asserted itself as a prominent regional watering hole and center of the community.

"It's a real shame they got roped into it," said Maureen Conneen of Logan Township while waiting for milkshakes with her friend and their three kids. "The community has really rallied around [the Red Hen]. It's a real family town."

Five-year-old Aria Licidonio of Logan Township drinks her Freak Shake at the Red Hen of Swedesboro, N.J., on June 28, 2018.
Elizabeth Robertson
Five-year-old Aria Licidonio of Logan Township drinks her Freak Shake at the Red Hen of Swedesboro, N.J., on June 28, 2018.

Pope and her co-owners opened the Red Hen's "older brother," Tavro 13, in 2012 as an  old-fashioned, upscale chophouse in what for years had been the Old Swedes Inn. Realizing they were onto something, Pope and the team converted the lounge area into the Red Hen, then turned the garage next door into a laid-back seating section with an industrial feel.

The Red Hen's owners recently opened Lick, an ice cream parlor, in what used to be a private dining room to sell their "bubble wraps," a Hong Kong-style take on waffles and ice cream — no cutlery needed.

The building that the Red Hen occupies at 1301 Kings Highway was built around 1756 as an inn, Pope said, and like venerated buildings the world over, it came loaded with myths, including reports that it was haunted by the ghost of a young girl.

Beyond a supernatural attraction, regulars are pulled in by a diverse local beer selection and friendly environment. "The beer's cold, the Phils are on, and it's the only bar in the area that fills up a growler," said frequent visitor Alan Willox of Woolwich.

"This is just a laid-back place, and it's a disgrace that they got tied up in all this," he added. "It's unbelievable how quickly people reacted without doing any research. Unbelievable hatred."

Even amid the animosity, Pope was able to find a lesson: "We need to learn to respect each other's differences, and we need to embrace that we're different."