OCEAN CITY – General’s Kitchen’s tradition at its current site will come to a close at the end of the year, leaving the “house of chipped beef” searching for a new home.
In August, General’s Kitchen, located within the Beachmark Motel on 74th Street and Coastal Highway, was informed by the property owner its lease will not be renewed.
General’s Kitchen boasts 45 years of tradition in Ocean City. Owner Robert Noll’s stepfather, Gus Bollas, and his first wife, Mary Bollas, opened the restaurant in the George Washington Hotel on 10th Street and the Boardwalk where it received its name in honor of General George Washington.
When there was discussion of demolishing the hotel, General’s Kitchen moved to its current location on 74th Street in the early 1980s. Previously, it was home to a bank.
Bollas later remarried to Noll’s mother, Angela Bollas, who took over the restaurant when he passed away in April of 2000, and when she passed away this past December, the family business was passed onto Noll.
“General’s Kitchen, if I have it my way, will remain in Ocean City. I am not going to abandon Ocean City. This is a tradition that started in Ocean City, and I am going to honor my stepdad’s wishes. Even my mom, in her last months when we renewed the lease made it known to the property owner … her son was going to keep it going for her family. She considered the employees her kids, her family and she wanted to look out for them to make sure the tradition kept going. I am committed to that,” Noll said in an interview last Friday.
According to Noll, the property owner did not inform Noll until August that the lease would not be renewed, leaving him only four months to find a new location. Noll even recently completed renovations to the restaurant with permission from the property owner.
“He just said it is time for a change,” Noll said. “His idea of a change is he is going to allow another restaurant to come in here, which will be run by a personal friend of his.”
The restaurant’s lease is up on Dec. 31. Noll and his long-time manager, Law Adkins, who has worked at the restaurant for 22 years, are currently seeking a new location in Ocean City. He hopes to remain between 33rd and 139th streets but has not had any luck finding a space that will seat over 84 guests, which is the space he currently serves.
“In the summer time, there is not a day you won’t see a line down the street, and sometimes it will even come around the building. A lot of those people are repeat customers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York or all over who say they come for General’s Kitchen. It’s all about the tradition and the food. There are not that many restaurants in Ocean City that have been here more than 45 years,” Noll said.
General’s Kitchen has become a tradition in Ocean City for many residents and visitors, both new and returning, as they open their doors at 6:30 a.m. serving home-made breakfast and lunch recipes, such as the famous creamed chipped beef and Spanish sauce that Gus Bollas created himself. The original recipes have lived on as the current cook, Reine, has worked at General’s Kitchen for over 20 years and was trained by Gus Bollas himself.
“We offer quality food. You don’t leave here hungry. You leave here happy and satisfied,” Noll said. “We don’t cut corners. It is always the top of the line.”
Not only can guests depend on General’s Kitchen’s menu but also the restaurant’s familiar and friendly staff.
“My main concern is my employees. A lot of my staff has been here for over 10 years. This is their source of income, and they support themselves and their families. To sit down and tell them what was happening on Labor Day weekend some of them started crying not knowing what they were going to do. I am not going down without a fight,” Noll said.
Noll, who has retired as a lieutenant from Ocean City Police Department after serving 35 years, has carried on Gus Bollas’s philosophy to serve the public, especially those in uniform.
“Gus had that philosophy going back to when he served in World War II with the military … and when he came here to Ocean City his philosophy was to treat the people right and to feed the people, make sure they come in for a healthy breakfast or lunch, and they don’t leave hungry. We are here for the people and that tradition will live on,” Noll said.
Noll has taken his stepdad’s philosophy further by designing the 9/11 Memorial at both the Public Safety Building and General’s Kitchen where the pictures of all the firefighters and police who lost their life on that day is on display. Many have visited General’s Kitchen because of the memorial or are taken by surprise walking in to find a loved one on the wall.
Noll reassured the search will continue for a new location if General’s Kitchen has not relocated by the end of the year.
“He is the [property] owner. It’s his decision. He has every right to do what he wants. I would have rather had him tell me in January and I would have seven months extra to look but right now it’s very hard,” Noll said. “Customers have come up to me and I have heard them talk to the waiters and waitresses. They are all in disbelief that the property owner will not renew our lease. They have all said, ‘Wherever you go, we will go’.”
Adkins, who began working at the restaurant in high school as a bus boy, is hopeful the change in the end will be a good thing.
“It’s tough. I have been here so long. It is going to be a transition. It has potential to be a positive thing but we need to find some place,” Adkins said.