OCEAN CITY – Who better to bring English-style fish and chips to the Ocean City area than a family with a rich industry history dating back to the 1920s?
Andy Markopoulos’s grandfather, Tony, arrived on the shores of Ellis Island as a Greek Immigrant and joined the U.S. Navy to become a citizen. After serving and marrying in Greece, he returned to the U.S., landing on the docks of Erie, Pa., where he opened his first restaurant, Tony’s Fish Lunch.
“Being right on Lake Erie and having Lake Erie as his playground, the fish that was available to him was right at his front doorstep,” Markopoulos said in an interview last week.
Tony’s Fish Lunch thrived through 43 years of business. In 1962, Tony’s son and Andy’s father, Nick, took over the business. He eventually decided to take on a new business venture and in 1972 he brought the first up and coming fast food franchise, Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips, to Maryland. Eventually the Markopoulos family had 12 Arthur Treacher locations in the Baltimore/Annapolis/Delaware area.
Andy Markopoulos separated himself from the fish and chips industry for 12 years while he worked in the banking and insurance network. However, six years ago, he decided to return his focus to fish and chips. Throughout the time he was away from the business, he had continued to research and perfect the process of making the finest original English style fish and chips and has mastered his secret recipe.
Markopoulos opened his first location, Original Fish & Chips, in Middle River, Md. Now the second location, Olde English Fish, Chips & Chicken, will be opening in Ocean City, front and center in the new OC Towncenter Midtown Boardwalk on 67th Street and Coastal Highway.
The Towncenter caught the attention of Markopoulos and his wife, Marianne, last summer while they were vacationing on 67th Street. At that time a vacant lot lied where the now almost completed Towncenter stands. The couple couldn’t help but notice the amount of people ordering fish and chips while on vacation here and observed how the meal was prepared and the final result.
“I said, ‘Andy, this is a sign. You need to be here … this is where we need to be’ and everything seemed to fall into place from there,” Marianne said.
Markopoulous said they had been planning on opening a second location it was just the matter of finding the best place to do it, and by September he had contacted the Peck Miller, the Towncenter’s developer.
“It is good to start from the bottom when you create a concept, or expanding your business … we signed our lease in January so it has been a race, and we are still racing to get this place open,” he said.
Markopoulos explained it’s the ingredients that will set Olde English apart from the rest.
“We have been able to find the finest in North Atlantic Cod, which is rarely found around here,” he said. “It goes back to the old tradition of English-style fish and chips. Cod and Haddock are the two most favorites, ask any English person … because they are white, boneless filets that are very mild in taste,” he said. “The batter that we use is a recipe we used in the early days of our former business, except I perfected it … in the end that creates a very crispy, non-greasy bettered dipped fried product.”
Olde English’s menu offers North Atlantic white fish, boneless chicken tenderloin, butterfly shrimp, popcorn shrimp, crab cakes and clam baskets, all come with chips, of course, the English term for fries. The menu also has a variety of sandwiches, fish or chicken tacos, family value meals, combo meals, jumbo Haddock and chips, a Krunchdog and chips that is an all-beef battered hotdog, a kids menu and desserts.
Ode English’s chips are Canadian steak cut fries that come out to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
“They are very popular,” Andy Markopoulos said, adding the hush puppies are a must have as well. “Hushpuppies are either a hit or a miss because it takes special care and preparation for that item. People like a sweet, light and fluffy hushpuppy.”
The restaurant prides itself on serving the finest English Style Fish and Chips cooked in a Peanut Oil blend with zero trans-fat, cholesterol, MSG and preservatives.
Olde English is shooting to be open by mid-June. A ribbon cutting with the Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce is scheduled for June 22. The restaurant’s summer hours will be 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. It anticipates being open year-round.
“My whole goal is to franchise our business. In my opinion, there is no better place to take a concept and introduce it to the world. There are people here from all over the world, it is just amazing,” Markopoulos said of Ocean City.
The plan is to take his fish and chips concept across the mid-Atlantic region, recognizing Ocean City has become the founding base for many restaurants turned franchises, such as the Greene Turtle and Bull on the Beach.
“I think it is a great place to get a hold on that and launch the concept into a franchise,” he said. “We want to serve the community here at large the best food we can. We are also preparing to present to investors the concept of fish and chips in their own communities.”