WEST OCEAN CITY — On the heels of its one-year anniversary last month, The 19th Hole Bar and Grille in West Ocean City is gearing up for a strong second year including an expansion into catering and a new menu, all under the leadership of new General Manager Lillian Saldana.
Coming onboard three months ago, Saldana admitted that she had originally been looking for a job in an unrelated field but was persuaded to take the helm on 19th Hole after witnessing its smooth operations.
“This is just a great local hangout,” she said. “I’ve been in and out of the business for 30 years.”
While Saldana stressed that 19th Hole was running well before she took the reins, she has begun to implement some changes she feels will help the restaurant grow in its second year.
“The biggest thing we’ve done is changed the menu,” said Saldana.
Emphasizing that “everything is made from scratch,” Saldana said that a new, incredibly eclectic menu was trotted out three weeks ago. Featuring local produce as well as homemade recipes and dressings, the new menu features seafood and includes bar food with a focus on breakfasts, which Saldana claimed 19th Hole is traditionally famous for.
“This place has such a history for breakfast,” she said.
According to Saldana, the menu is proving popular among customers, even the grille’s regulars. Keeping those regulars happy, many of which returned to 19th Hole last June when it took over the building from Dr. Unk’s restaurant, is a driving goal for the owners and staff.
“There’s just a real sense of comradery here,” she said. “It’s like Cheers. Everybody knows your name.”
Saldana described the atmosphere as “casual, kind of family-style,” and noted that, besides a healthy local business, 19th Hole brings visitors across the bridge on a regular basis.
“While they’re visiting, this is their place to eat,” she said.
Besides the new menu, recent additions like a weekend brunch program are helping the young restaurant establish its identity. Things are further expected to take off with the move into catering, mentioned Saldana.
She summed up her goals by quoting Bill Cook, who co-owns 19th Hole along with Roberta Hennessy.
“Bill’s whole philosophy is to have people come in for a good meal, take some food home, and leave with change in their pockets,” said Saldana.