“We have fun with our guests and we have fun with our food” is the kind of sentiment we enjoy hearing when interviewing local restaurant owners. Of course, we are fully aware of the serious nature of restaurant life and running a small, local business, but we also know that when chefs have creative freedom and when a staff is enthused, the result is a convivial atmosphere, welcoming vibes, and inspired menu offerings. Such is the case when dining at Longboard Café in Ocean City, which boasts a unique and playful menu, a relaxed, casual atmosphere, and plenty of off-season specials to warm your soul straight through the holiday season.

‘We’re always refining the menu and trying new things,” explained owner Rick Vach. “We get ideas and try out new things and typically they turn out great and it ends up on the menu. We like to have fun with our food.”

We should note that as we were happily chatting with Vach, plate after irresistible plate was being paraded from the kitchen to be photographed for this piece. The word ‘mouthwatering’ has never rang so true, particularly since we were positioned front and center to view the array of dishes off of the Sunday Brunch and off-season specials menus, which just so happened to include the Comfort Food Wednesdays lineup. Again…mouthwatering.

If you’ve never been to Longboard Café, it is best described as ‘casual but refined.’ Kid-friendly but featuring a fantastic bar area, not a fast-casual establishment but devoid of the stuffiness of fine dining. It’s casual…but refined. Take the menu offerings for example: Famous Wrinkled Green Beans, Crab BLT Tacos, Ahi Nachos, or Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms. It’s everything you expect from a restaurant at the beach, but with a welcome twist.

Another welcome twist are the off-season specials, which include Fajita-Rita Night (every Thursday), Comfort Night (every Wednesday), and Sunday Brunch. We’ll start with the heavy hitter, Comfort Night. What arrives is a massive half rack of ribs slathered in Rude Boy BBQ sauce, paired to perfection with a helping of homemade mac n’ cheese. Or, opt for the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, the chicken pot pie, or the spaghetti and meatballs. It’s essentially all of the down home cooking you crave when the temperatures drop and the sun setst 5pm. Well played Longboard, well played. For Fajita-Rita Night, expect a massive spread of steak, chicken or shrimp complete with veggies and all the usual fixings (beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, etc…).

For Sunday Brunch, come prepared to indulge. Waffles & Gravy, Crème Brulee French Toast, Baja Shrimp & Grits…we quickly realized we would need several Sundays in order to eat our way to a favorite menu item (challenge accepted). The French Coast French Toast (pictured below) is French Toast amplified with Frangelico laced banana and cream cheese stuffing. Longboard Steak n’ Eggs (also pictured below) showcases sliced tenderloin, poached eggs, fried green tomato, lump crab, and hollandaise on English muffins served alongside hash browns. According to Vach, the Eggs Sardou has been a big seller so far, with a delicate balance of creamed spinach, artichoke bottoms, poached eggs, hollandaise, and hash browns.

For burger lovers, the lineup consistently delivers, with each hand pattied 8-ounce burger composed of a custom blend of chuck, brisket and short rib. The house favorite, the Longboard, is a massive tower of spicy-sweet bacon, provolone, horseradish crema, lettuce, red onion, and a medium fried egg. For a Pacific inspiration, order the Waimea, which is topped with grilled pineapple, Applewood bacon, Swiss cheese, and teriyaki.

Whether you want to face the holiday music yet or not, the holidays are coming. For party planning this holiday season, we suggest including Longboard in your short list. With space for up to 80 guests and a completely customizable menu, the venue is ideal for office parties and holiday celebrations. Also, be on the lookout for the annual Longboard holiday party, as well as their New Year’s Eve celebration, which includes an ‘it’s 10 o’clock somewhere’ countdown at 10pm for the earlier partiers, followed by a full night of revelry and live entertainment to ring in the New Year.

Hungry yet? Good, because it’s the off-season in Ocean City and eating our way to next summer is precisely how we plan on spending it. See you all Wednesday for Comfort Night!