Upholding Jonah’s Tradition A Top Priority For Owners

T.K. Dickerson

Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY – Whether you
are looking for a trip through maritime history, or simply a meal to please
everyone’s palettes, you need look no further than Jonah and The Whale, an
all-you-can-eat seafood buffet on 26th Street in Ocean City.

The interior of the
restaurant, with its wooden tables, enormous whalebones and murals of stormy
seas, is reminiscent of an “18th century whaling tavern,” says
co-owner Chris Ruppert. He and his partner, Steve Osbourn, took over the
restaurant in 2007.

Though Jonah and the
Whale was started in 1977 and has seen several different owners, the seafood
buffet has always been the restaurant’s claim to fame. The owners like to
consider the business an original because of its 33 years in operation.

Perhaps the reason for
the restaurant’s longevity is due to the variety in its buffet.

“There’s something
you’re bound to like,” remarks Osbourn.

The buffet boasts over
50 items, including typical seafood dishes such as crab imperial, snow crab
legs, mussels, salmon and clams casino.

Also offered is a raw
bear, where the oysters and clams are shucked fresh to order. A pasta bar
stands near the raw bar, where customers can choose their pasta, sauce and seafood.
For someone who isn’t a seafood fan, there is turkey, macaroni and cheese, and
even tacos. “For the price of the buffet, we offer the biggest variety,” adds
Ruppert.

So far this summer,
Ruppert and Osbourn have been able to offer a special buffet price of $21.99,
the cheapest it has been in years. Though the catastrophe in the gulf is making
seafood prices skyrocket, the owners are still trying to keep their prices
reasonable.

Despite the low prices,
the owners emphasize the quality of their food, saying that the kitchen staff
takes a lot of care and pride in the food they produce for the buffet.

Ruppert and Osbourn say
that their business is propelled by tourists and especially by return tourists.
Whether it is the variety in food or the relaxed atmosphere, the owners seem to
be as dedicated to the restaurant as their patrons. “We’ll be here until they
tear the building down,” says Ruppert.

Though Ruppert and
Osbourn may be first-time restaurant owners, they are in no way new to the
business. In fact, Osbourn’s first job was at Jonah and the Whale, where he
worked as a bus boy when he was just 12 years old.

Ruppert worked as a
manager for the Riptide Pool Bar, which is a part of Jonah and the Whale. When
the previous owner, Frank Bryan, chose to pass on the restaurant to two of his
managers, Ruppert said the “transition from managers to owners was fairly
easy”. Osbourn adds that Bryan taught them “the nuts and bolts of how business
runs”.

The two owners’
familiarity with the restaurant and pool bar helped them take over the
restaurant seamlessly and allotted them time to make improvements as they saw
fit. Though they kept everything almost exactly has it had been since the
restaurant started, Ruppert noted that they made “minor upgrades” throughout the
restaurant, including offering more preparations for the fish and giving
“customers more bang for their buck”.

For big eaters, a buffet
is incredibly appealing. However, the owners recognize that variety and quality
is what has kept the loyal patrons coming back to Jonah and the Whale for more
than 30 years and upholding the traditions of a relaxed atmosphere and menu
diversity is their first priority.

 

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