Under hundreds of firefighter helmets and among walls of retired patches, it’s hard not to be in awe when you walk into the Firehouse Tavern in Wildwood. “We are a tribute to America’s heroes,” says Linda Maier, co-owner.

Wildwood Honors America’s Heroes

“My husband, brother-in-law and their friend bought the bar 22 years ago from a couple of retired fireman. We liked it and wanted to continue to honor our first responders,” Maier says. To this day, retired firefighters and their families bring in their helmets and patches along with those of loved ones that have passed. “Customers that have hung their helmets here come in and like to sit right under their helmet,” says Bill Cieslinski, Jr., manager and bartender.

The Firehouse Tavern will take retired gear from anywhere. They take a picture, then find the perfect placement for it. “There is another couple, their son was killed in combat and was also a volunteer firefighter, they hung their son’s helmet here. They come in regularly and they always salute their son’s helmet when they leave,” Cieslinski says.

Old Friends

There are no customers at Firehouse Tavern in Wildwood, only friends. Within minutes the bartenders know your name and welcome you with jovial conversation. “We’re a family here, we joke around with each other. But you can’t be too thin skinned if you come here,” jokes Maier.

The roots run deep at this tavern. While the building has been the Firehouse Tavern for nearly 50 years, according to lore, it has been a bar since Dec. 6, 1933 — the day after Prohibition ended. During Prohibition it had been a grocery and deli, although the bartenders and regulars surmise that it was probably a speakeasy. “I mean it became a bar, the day after Prohibition ended,” Cieslinski says.

During the winter, there is a single center bar, that can seat about 40 and makes for easy conversation. “We have about 10 more seats along the wall, but everyone likes to sit around the bar,” Cieslinski says. There are five TVs spread throughout the space, along with an enclosed patio for smoking. In the summer there is an outdoor deck area with an additional 10 to 12 umbrella tables.

The Firehouse Tavern also has a shuffleboard and dart board. “Every Sunday and Monday, we have inhouse shuffleboard tournaments. We just make teams out of anyone that’s here,” Cieslinski says. During the winter, they sponsor two firehouse dart teams that compete every Tuesday night.

Bargain-loving Friends

At Firehouse Tavern you will get the friendliest service around, and you won’t have to pay through the nose for it either. “Our whole approach is to have the friendliest bartenders, exceptional service and the most affordable prices all year long,” Cieslinski says.

Their fried seafood platter ($8) includes a fried fish fillet, three fried shrimp, two fried oysters, French fries and coleslaw. One of the most popular items on their menu is the roasted pork sandwich ($7.75) and their chicken cutlet sandwich ($6.50) with spinach and provolone. Maier makes the chicken cutlets from scratch herself.

The tavern is open daily, 365 days a year. There is a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. with discounted prices on everything.

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Associate Editor, At The Shore/ACWeekly

Freelance reporter for At The Shore/Atlantic City Insiders from 2011-2015; Editor in Chief, MainStreetMarlboro.com,2014-2015; Writer for Zagat, 2013

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