Michael Carmody spent 14 years as executive chef at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point — a lifetime in the restaurant business. But like many chefs, he always longed for a place of his own.
“I wasn’t really looking to leave Greate Bay,” says Carmody. “The Cafe got destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and it closed.”
The owners were planning on selling and Carmody, a surfer, thinking the Cafe was a neat place, decided to take it over.
After many discussions with his wife Deb and son Michael, the Carmodys decided to make the OC Surf Cafe a family place in more ways than one. Daughter Kaitlyn, who is also in the business, returned from Pittsburgh to lend a hand.
“We really started from ground zero,” Carmody says.
The building owners provided the major reconstruction — Carmody and his family did a ton of work in the kitchen. Just as they got everything together, it was time to jump into the summer season.
The Cafe has been busy since it opened and the family has gotten through all the hurdles so far, together.
“We’ve been trying to catch our breath sometimes,” Carmody says.
Now, diners are greeted by colorful chairs outside, a plethora of surfboards and a young, friendly staff.
“A chef is only as good as his crew,” says Carmody. “And I’ve got a great crew.”
Carmody also says that opening the cafe has given him the chance to reconnect with many old friends who stop by to visit.
“Giving up a paycheck is a tough thing to do, but I really wanted to own my own place,” Carmody says. “It’s been great, I’ve been having fun with it.”
The emphasis at the OC Surf Cafe is on using lots of fresh fruits, Jersey tomatoes from local farmers, and all local seafood Carmody believes in supporting the local economy.
The menu at OC Surf Cafe offers all of the recognizable breakfast choices, with eggs any style served with home fries and toast ($3.95) to Mexican style eggs ($6.75) served on a warm tortilla with black beans, salsa, and melted cheddar jack cheese.
Carmody likes to give classic dishes his own twist.
Old Salt ($6.95) is a grilled Philly soft pretzel topped with creamed chipped beef and his version of traditional eggs benedict ($8.25) that can also be ordered with lump crab meat ($10.95).
French toast is made using the thicker Texas toast and is served several different ways including one version called Red, White, and Blue ($6.95) topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas.
Pancakes come with many toppings such as chocolate chip and banana nut, and are also available Red, White, and Blue ($6.75) or as a short stack for ($5.95). Waffles ($6.95) can get the same fresh treatment.
At lunch and dinner, the corn and crab fritters ($7.95) are among the most popular appetizers. The light fritters are made with a sweet batter, fresh corn and crab meat, served with a lemon garlic aioli sauce.
Fresh salads include the fresh tomato salad ($6.95), a Caesar salad ($6.95), and the popular OC Summer salad ($7.95) with mixed greens, candied pecans, craisins, fresh strawberries and blueberries, all served with a light raspberry vinaigrette.
“Dinner is really heavy on fish tacos, beef tacos, pork tacos,” says Carmody, who makes everything from scratch.
Dinners usually include a printed list of specials, which change frequently (see sidebar).
“I try to touch on what surfers eat and people at a casual summer place would eat,” Carmody says. “We’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback.”
Michael Carmody's Recommendations
OC Surf Cafe Chef/Owner Michael Carmody has put a lot of work into making his new restaurant the eatery he always dreamed of. Here are some of his recommendations: For lunch: the B.L.A.T. ($7.95) — his take on a B.L.T., made with applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, avocado, and Jersey tomato on whole wheat toast with lemon basil mayonnaise; and the Uncle Chris ($7.95), a grilled marinated chicken breast served on a pub roll topped with sauteed spinach, roasted Jersey tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella with a pesto drizzle, a tribute to a chef friend. For dinner: fish and chips, shrimp scampi, baby back ribs and a sirloin strip steak are among recent specials ranging in price from $8.95 to $15.95.