OCEAN CITY – Positioned on the bay off of Route 54 in Fenwick, Del. sits the latest installment of the chain of SoDel restaurants. SoDel’s latest success, Catch 54, is reviving the classic Eastern Shore fish house, bringing classic recipes with a modern twist to visitors and locals alike.
SoDel is a restaurant group that has brought four restaurants to the Delaware shore in just three years. Fish On, of Lewes; Bluecoast Seafood Market & Grill, of North Bethany; and NorthEast Seafood Kitchen, of Ocean View precede the most recent addition, Catch 54.
Owner Matt Haley explained while he is thrilled with the quick and successful expansion, he has no intention of stopping with Catch 54, hinting that he will be expanding to Ocean City in the future.
Haley, originally from Washington D.C., learned to cook at an early age. From there his love for cooking blossomed, combining it with his dream of one day opening restaurants. “The restaurant business always intrigued me,” he said.
The most recent installation, Catch 54, follows in the tradition of Haley’s other restaurants, offering fresh seafood and a comfortable atmosphere. “Always fresh, always affordable,” is how Haley aptly defined the concept, as he explained the inspiration behind the menu.
Haley pinpointed the main goal of the menu as creating options for the customer. “People can come here two to three times a week and have a different experience each time,” he said.
Although Catch 54 has only been open since May, Haley is more than pleased with the results thus far. “I knew this would be a hit, but we are way surpassing our expectations,” he said, “and we set very high expectations.”
Joining Haley were two employees, Chef Phil Mastrippolito and General Manager Mike Dickinson, whom he trusts to not only get the job done, but to run the entire restaurant as well. Dickinson, has been with the SoDel group for nearly two years, and has worked at all of the SoDel restaurants. Mastrippolito has also been with the group for two years.
“There’s not much that I don’t enjoy about it,” Dickinson said of the restaurant business. Mastrippolito agreed that although the hours can be stressful, he couldn’t imagine making a living any other way. “It’s rewarding to see all your efforts shining through,” he said.
Although they play an integral role in the restaurant, the two attributed the success of the restaurant to the entire staff.
“There is an expectation of mediocre service in restaurants at the beach,” said Dickinson, explaining that it can be difficult in an environment of seasonal employees to find people who are dedicated to the business. In terms of the food, Mastrippolito explained people come on vacation to the beach with the intention of eating all of the staple shore foods such as shrimp and crab cakes. What Catch 54 does is take those familiar, staple foods, and adds their own unique flair and flavor to the classic recipes.
One favorite dish mentioned were the ribs, a classic recipe that they feel they’ve mastered. “I can honestly say we have the best ribs,” Mastrippolito boasted as he described the ribs that are slow cooked for four hours and fall effortlessly off the bone.
Included on the menu is a wide variety of bar food. “Even if you’re just here for a beer and snacks, you’ll be blown away,” Mastrippolito said. “We go for a wow affect every time.” Catch 54 is open for lunch or dinner, seven days a week. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. daily and is served downstairs, inside or outside. Dinner is served upstairs and down, inside and outside. The restaurant also offers a mini-brunch on Sundays, which includes Bloody Marys, Mimosas, frittatas, and fresh fruit and veggie salads. Happy hour is also a favorite, occurring from 4 to 6 every day, all year round. The $5 fresh sangria and mojitos and the $4.95 appetizers are just a few of the specialties offered.
Lunch, dinner, and happy hour are not the only things that Catch 54 has to offer. Weddings, reunions, cocktail parties, cookouts, and other celebrations can be held at Catch 54, or catered at an off-site location. Dickinson explained that they could cook for a party of 15 at someone’s home, or set up a delicious spread of food for a reunion party of 115 on the beach.
Whether it’s lunch on a sunny afternoon, drinks after a long day on the beach, a romantic dinner for two, or a fun family reunion, the atmosphere is conducive to any occasion. With the spectacular view and option of inside and outside seating, Dickinson described the atmosphere as open, airy, and bright.
He added that the atmosphere was designed to match the menu and the theme of the restaurant.