OCEAN CITY - Judging from the name, we would have expected Captain Bob's restaurant to be awash in nautical bric-a-brac. The decor inside was more like Surfer Bob's, with nine, count 'em, nine long boards hanging from the ceiling and other assorted surfer paraphernalia gracing the walls.
We landed at Bob's when a trip to Strathmere saw our intended restaurant closed on Tuesdays. It was a fortunate wind that blew us into Ocean City from the south, where we found a gem of a little family restaurant.
The dining room wasn't that busy but the kitchen and the telephones were. Several customers picked up large take-out orders for hungry families anxiously waiting back home while we waited for the kitchen to play catch up. We commiserated over the dearth of old-style takeout seafood restaurants that kept so many families satisfied with broiled and fried seafood for generations.
While we waited, a young girl was kind enough to offer to bring us butter. It was a few minutes later that a loaf of warm, sliced Italian bread appeared to go with it.
We began with an appetizer of fried calamari ($6.75), a good-sized portion of lightly floured fresh squid rings, perfectly deep fried and served with a thick tomato sauce, heavy with lots of tomato paste. The soup of the day was Jersey clam chowder, but even at this early hour there was not enough left to give us a full cup. Our server gave us all that she had left. We were not charged for the partial portion of cream based potato, corn, bacon and clam chowder.
Later, we overheard the server /hostess/phone responder tell another table the chef made everything in small batches and that the New Jersey clam chowder sold out so quickly there was not enough for their order either. For our entrees, we began with the broiled seafood combo ($16.75) with shrimp, flounder, scallops and a crab cake.
Since so little is done to a broiled plate, the seafood has to be fresh and this was. The crab cake, lightly breaded with panko crumbs, was loaded with chunks of crab meat and little, if any, filler. The seafood diablo ($16.75) with shrimp, little neck clams, crab meat and scallops was served over linguine in a red sauce with quite a spicy bite.
The seafood was all fresh and perfectly cooked, and the only misstep was the little muscle still attached to the scallops that most kitchens automatically remove before serving because it is too tough to eat. Our meal was very good, the portion sizes were perfect and the prices were more than reasonable. Our server was personable and friendly but was the only server in the room, stretching her talents a bit too far. The busgirl, a daughter no doubt, was eager but still learning the trade.
An offer of cocktail sauce or tartar, and an offer of a bag for the our two boxes of food were both forgotten in the rush. Never promise to bring something to the table then not come through on it.
Captain Bob's definitely had the feel of a family run restaurant, and that is not a bad thing. We miss those old-style family run places. We heard several customers at tables and also while picking up orders banter with the server, like family or at least very regular customers. The dining room had no music and little personality. And we could only imagine what the wait would be like on a busy summer weekend.
Captain Bob's is the kind of place everyone looks forward to visiting year after year during their vacation at the Jersey shore. And the best part of all was, that Captain Bob can cook!
(C.C. Hoyt is the pseudonym of a southern New Jersey food writer. Write to Hoyt c/o Food Editor James Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Restaurant-ratings guide: 4 stars, extraordinary; 3 stars, excellent; 2 stars, good; 1 star, fair; 0 stars, poor.)
55th Street and
Hours: Dinners from 4:30 p.m. daily (breakfast and lunch also served)
Liquor license: Not permitted
Credit cards: Cash only (ATM on premises)
Disabled access: Steps
Price range: Appetizers, $4.50 to $8.25, entrees, $11.50 to $16.75
Our bill for two: $44 plus tip