OCEAN CITY – Often noted for its eclectic, casual fine dining atmosphere, Marlin Moon Grille has developed into one of the area’s favorite restaurants over the past nine years, promising classical dishes with a unique twist.
Marlin Moon Grille owner Gary Beach debuted the restaurant nine years ago as the Reel Inn Grille. After two seasons of what Beach deemed a “critical success”, Beach decided to buy out his partners, with the agreement to change the name of the restaurant. The following season, Marlin Moon Grille was born. Beach spent one more year at the original location before deciding to move to a new building.
At the end of Beach’s third season, he was approached with an offer to move Marlin Moon Grille to the Francis Scott Key Motel on Route 50 in West Ocean City. Beach jumped at the opportunity, but there was a catch, the restaurant needed to be up and running by a specific date, in time for a wedding.
“We moved in and we re-opened the restaurant in three days,” Beach said, describing the hurried move into the new building.
With the new location essentially a blank palette, Beach and his staff had the opportunity to create the eclectic, casual fine-dining atmosphere that so many customers enjoy today.
“The restaurant really took off from there,” said Beach.
After nine years, the restaurant and its reputation have grown, but many of the favorite, mainstay menu items remain.
“It’s pretty much the same menu since we opened, but we’re always tweaking it, trying to give our guests a better experience,” he said.
Balancing favorite menu items with new dishes is a challenge, as the desire to create something new melds with the demand for menu favorites.
“We try to do some things different, but there’s always outcries from the guests,” explained Beach.
To insure a balance of new and accustomed menu items, Beach and his staff maintain a core menu along with daily specials that provide for new options.
The core menu changes with the seasons, with two to three menus throughout the year that evolve with the in-season food selections. Many of the popular menu items are seen year-round, such as the Seafood Pasta, which provides a delicious mix of shrimp, Backfin Crab meat, sea scallops, zucchini, yellow squash and diced roma tomatoes in a light garlic sauce tossed with mafaldine ribbon pasta.
Also popular is the Seafood Combination, featuring three different types of seafood. “That’s our number one seller,” said Beach.
Daily specials give the chefs an opportunity to test new recipes and ideas.
“We have fun with our specials,” said Beach.
A salad, soup of the day, three appetizers, blue plate bar special and four to five entrees are chosen almost daily for the specials menu, giving customers new options each week. Like the core menu, specialty items catch on quickly among the customers and as a result, many specialty items are repeated.
Beach described the restaurant as “eclectic, casual fine dining,” a description that aptly describes both the atmosphere and menu selection at Marlin Moon. Menu inspirations range broadly from Asian to Italian to Eastern Shore influences. “We try to do stuff that’s classical, but with a new taste,” Beach said.
Of course ingredients are important as well, said Beach. “We use only the best of the best ingredients. We try to buy as many local ingredients as we can,” the proprietor said.
According to Beach, the key to the restaurant’s success over the years is a consistent staff.
“Over the last four or five years, there’s been a consistent staff, so we’ve gotten things to where we want it to be,” said Beach, noting several employees who have been with him since the first night. “Most people don’t leave, which really makes a difference, especially in the kitchen.”
Beach noted that a driving force for staying open year-round is to maintain a quality staff.
Lately, rumors that Marlin Moon Grille may be closing its doors have been circulating, causing concern for many customers over their favorite restaurant. Beach set the record straight, promising that Marlin Moon Grille would be open for business at its current location for at least two more seasons. However, with the lease coming to an end in October 2009, a new location is a possibility, said Beach.
As for this summer, Marlin Moon Grille will remain in its current location, promising the classic, summer menu items, a great staff, and casual, fine dining ambience.