New Restaurant To Take Over Phillips Crab House Property

New Restaurant To Take Over Phillips Crab House Property
Union Chesapeake Seafood House is expected to take over the former Phillips Crab House property. Photo by Bethany Hooper

OCEAN CITY – The owners of an uptown eatery are looking to make their mark with a new operation at the old Phillips Crab House property.

Nearly a year after opening Fast Eddie’s Corner Bar & Grill, co-owners Frank Raffo, Jon Latta and Eddie Johnson are setting their sights on a second business venture – Union Chesapeake Seafood House. Located at the former Phillips Crab House property, the operators say they hope to open the all-you-can-eat seafood and prime rib buffet before Memorial Day.

“We’re not going to veer too far from what Brice and Shirley Phillips started,” Raffo said.

Raffo, Johnson and Latta are no strangers to the local restaurant industry. With decades of experience among them, they joined together last year to open Fast Eddie’s, located in the Ocean City Square Shopping Center off 120th Street.

And while they plan to continue operating that business, they say they are eager to install a new restaurant at the 21st Street property.

“Myself and Jon are going to be down there running it, with Jon as the chef …,” Raffo said. “Eddie will be staying here and operating Fast Eddie’s. His name is on the building.”

The operators say the chance to open a new establishment at the Phillips property was nothing short of a miracle. With the help of a friend, the trio was connected to the property’s new owner.

“The guy who bought the property didn’t want to knock this building down, and he doesn’t run restaurants, especially not large ones …,” Raffo said. “That’s why I say it’s God that made this happen. Somehow it got to us nobodies, and within five minutes I was on the phone with him. From that point on, it just clicked.”

Latta said Union Chesapeake will continue what Phillips Crab House started.

“They were really the ones who started the dining scene here,” he said. “Ocean City is about seafood and crab, and they were the ones who really put it on the map for people to come here.”

The operators say the new establishment will start upstairs with an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring seafood, prime rib and steamed blue crabs, among other things. Later this summer, the downstairs will open as an a la carte and seafood restaurant, with crabs by the dozen, steam pots and other Maryland seafood staples.

“It’s going to be heavily focused on crab and seafood,” Latta said. “Down here, crab is everything. That’s what people come down here for every summer … But we will have other stuff, like steak and chicken.”

Raffo said Union Chesapeake will also do its part to support small restaurants in Ocean City. Using QR codes on the restaurant’s menus, the operators say they hope to direct patrons to other local eateries.

“We have each other’s back and we’ll do anything to help each other …,” he said. “And now that we’ve been blessed and we’re getting one of the biggest restaurants in the state of Maryland, we are going to attempt to pay it forward.”

With the opening of Union Chesapeake fast approaching, operators say they are now hiring all positions. Employee housing is available, and those interested should contact [email protected].

“The one thing we do have is a ton of employee housing, and we haven’t rented any of it yet,” Raffo said. “I think there is over 200 beds – two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom apartments and even dormitory housing.”

Officials say they are also in the process of launching a Facebook page and website. They encouraged everyone to stay tuned for opening dates.

“We are going to put in all our effort, so that when customers come in it’s as good or even better,” Raffo said. “And we’re going to work our butts off to earn it.”

Raffo acknowledged Paul McKinley and the Phillips family, who made it possible for Union Chesapeake to open.

“They left everything turnkey for us,” he said. “The Phillips crew has been unbelievable, and Paul McKinley has been a godsend. He’s run that company for a very long time and has helped us tremendously. He wants us to be successful.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.