Much of today’s breakfast culture seems obsessed with the concept of speed. Convenience stores, donut shops and fast food drive-thrus all appear entrapped within the mindset that this beloved early-morning meal should be completed in as little time as possible. Somehow, over the last few decades, folks seem to ignore the fact that shoving an Egg McMuffin down your throat while you floor it to get through the intersection before the light changes is not exactly an enjoyable way to consume a meal.
Such is not the case at Ready’s Coffee Shop in Ocean City. Things are a little calmer here and a lot more relaxing than much of the current breakfast culture in this country.
Ready’s opened up in 1962 and everything about it seems frozen in that time period (or in the case of the milkshake machine, even earlier.) “When I took over, the owner felt comfortable selling to me because he knew I wasn’t going to change anything,” says Doug Wing, who bought Ready’s in 2006 from the Corrocio family. “The wheel was not broke. Why would we fix it?”
The space is small and quaint and the staff seems to know just about every customer who grabs a booth or bellies up to one of the stools at the old-fashioned counter. While it doesn’t take a long time to have a meal here, it’s clear that the emphasis is more on enjoying a simple delicious breakfast or lunch —with a bit of friendly banter — as opposed to racing to clear your plate.
As we sat at the counter several patrons stopped in their tracks just to let me know what a special place Ready’s was for them and how wonderful the staff was. Most have been coming for years, including one particularly notable customer, Dick Richards, drummer for Bill Haley and his Comets. Richards will turn 95 in February and though he still performs live with Haley, when he is not on stage he can often be found seated at a booth right at Ready’s with his daughter Denise Boccelli. “I’ve been coming here forever, he says. “ The people are great, the food is great, I love it.”
Ready’s isn’t going to blow you away with obscure ingredients or innovative plating. But at a spot like this that stuff would feel out of place anyway. They aren’t being “ironic” with their presentation, nor are they packing extra kitsch in for a hip “throwback” concept. This is simply how the place has been since it opened and it will probably stay this way until it closes. But hopefully that won’t be anytime soon.
The menu is filled with traditional breakfast and lunch items that you would expect to find at most diners. Think eggs, pancakes and omelettes for breakfast and a mix of burgers, club sandwiches, fries and the like for lunch. This is about as Norman Rockwell Americana as a restaurant can be.
A bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin made for a good start, perfect for those who prefer to go with something a little less bready than your traditional hard roll or bagel sandwich. Omelette lovers will rejoice as options are plentiful here and considered a house specialty. From the griddle, the corn fritters make for a buttery treat that you won’t find on many menus.
The turkey club stands out amongst the lunch items as Ready’s opts to skip the cold cut version, instead roasting and slicing their own turkey, thus making for a truly delicious sandwich. Their cheeseburger skips all the gimmicks — it isn’t a three-pound monster, it doesn’t come with some fancy aioli on top, and you don’t get a T-shirt for finishing it. Instead it opts for simplicity, with just lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo combining to create one of the tastiest and best-kept burger secrets in all of Ocean City.
If you manage to save room for dessert, we can’t think of a finer setting to enjoy an old-fashioned milkshake, which gets hand-spun on their vintage Hamilton Beach mixer that has stayed in the same spot on the counter for more than 50 years. It’s not going anywhere, and as far as we can tell, thankfully neither is Ready’s.
‘Ready’ for a heartwarming story?
Just in case you needed further proof of what great people run Ready’s Coffee Shop, try this on for size: Owner Doug Wing recently switched all of his straws to biodegradable paper straws. Why? “I saw a picture of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose. I thought to myself ‘That straw could have come from Ready’s.’ So we switched over to paper.”