Following a great run at Sunset Island with Island Time, Rick Vach and his Longboard Café are sitting prettier than ever year-round in Ocean City — and he and his staff are poised to make the hotspot a resort-dining staple
Rick Vach starts his days at Longboard Café around 8 a.m., when he and his crew are making everything from scratch: sauces, salad dressings, seeing to daily deliveries of fresh fish. “Nothing’s out of a box; nothing’s out of a jar,” he says with pride.
Now in his third year of business, owner/operator Vach says his Longboard Café is experiencing exponential growth. But it’s not just how Vach and his staff approach the menu that’s bringing customers in the door at the 67th Street Town Center. It’s attitude.
“We feel like our food ranks with anybody in Ocean City, “ he said, “but we have a little more of a pub approach. We’re not stiff. The place can get loud. We’re not white tablecloth, snooty waiters. People have fun. We’ve gotten very popular and we’re thrilled. We’re having our best year.”
Vach says the aesthetic and the menu at the 2,500 square foot Longboard Café are directly influenced by his time living in Southern California, in the San Diego area. The place lives up to that with a laidback, tropical décor, not to mention some killer fish tacos.
He came to the Town Center location after six years operating Island Time, a casual restaurant and pool bar operation located just down the street in the massive Sunset Island neighborhood at 67th Street. The Town Center developer, Peck Miller, offered Vach an opportunity to move his operation into a brand-new facility, running the business year-round instead of seasonally. He couldn’t turn it down. Still, Vach credits residents of his old stomping grounds with helping keep Longboard in business after he opened his doors.
“Without Sunset Island, that first summer would have been really tough, because we’re off the highway a little bit, and it’s a small restaurant.”
Vach says the summer of 2014 became his “breakout party” with the addition of key staffers and a retooled menu.
“We did a tremendous amount of business last summer; this summer, we’re beating that by a whole lot. We’re so busy, we’re turning people away. It’s crazy busy.”
His Ocean City pedigree goes back many years. Vach cut his teeth in the restaurant business in the 1970s and ‘80s at his parents’ restaurants, the Quarter Deck and the Wild Goose Chase. It’s long gone now, replaced by condos, but the Quarter Deck at 55th Street was an Ocean City destination back in the day. The 450-seat restaurant was known for hosting past-their-prime musical acts like The Drifters and The Platters. The Wild Goose Chase, an octagonal building that Vach said his father built, is today the Lighthouse Club hotel on the Fager’s Island property at 56th Street.
As good as they’ve had it for the 2015 summer, Vach already is preparing for the offseason downturn in business. He has plans to reinvent Longboard “to make ourselves more relevant in the wintertime,” he says. That includes weekly specials like Fajita-Rita night on Thursdays and servings of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on Comfort Wednesdays.
“We’re coming up with new stuff all the time. We’re just going to keep having fun and experimenting. We sit around at night and say, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to do this? What if we made it with this or that?’ The next day it shows up on a plate, and 99 times out of 100, I say, ‘Go sell that,’ and we get rave reviews. We’re just foodies in the restaurant business.”
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