By Maddy Vitale
Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Ocean City isn’t a typical shore restaurant that ushers people in and out for a quick bite.
The owners try — and succeed — at creating a tasty, memorable experience for customers.
The proof is in the residents coming back day after day and vacationers year after year.
The service is friendly and speedy because the owners recognize the eatery is just a stop along the way to the beach or other summer activities for families.
The business is owned by the O’Haras, who have plenty of experience in the restaurant world to do it right.
The O’Hara family owns eight Uncle Bill’s Pancake House locations, two in Ocean City, one at 21st Street and the other at 40th Street, and the others in Strathmere, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Cape May, North Cape May and Wildwood.
“My father opened Uncle Bill’s in Ocean City in 1990. We are all family owned and operated,” said Pat O’Hara, owner and manager of both Ocean City Uncle Bill’s restaurants. “All of the kids in the family run the restaurants. It’s a real family tradition.”
O’Hara and his wife, Lisa, have four children, ages 13 down to 20 months. While they have their hands full, they efficiently manage both Ocean City locations and have a good time doing it, with the help of quality staff and longtime, friendly customers, Pat O’Hara explained.
“I love it. It’s fun. It’s tradition,” O’Hara said. “We’ve had entrees people have been getting every year when they come to Ocean City. People are not just paying for the food. I want to give them the best service every year, with a smile, so people can come in, get a good meal and go to the beach.”
The cooks whip up a variety of favorite foods. Some of the top picks on the breakfast menu, which is served all day, are French toast, chocolate chip pancakes and pancakes made with plump Hammonton blueberries.
“In the summertime, the Hammonton blueberries are delicious, and everyone loves the French toast,” O’Hara said. “The other day we had an order for eight servings of French toast all from the same table.”
In addition to some of the breakfast favorites, there is an array of other entrees to choose from, including waffles, eggs any way customers like, including a host of omelets, and a variety of meats.
O’Hara pointed out that Uncle Bill’s is not just for breakfast.
The lunch menu has a large selection.
“I call it the best-kept secret,” O’Hara said of the lunch menu. “A lot of the locals know about it, though, and come in from October to May.”
Two of his favorite dishes are the crab cake sandwich and a Texas Tommy, a hot dog stuffed with cheese and bacon.
Uncle Bill’s also is accommodating to special dietary needs. There are gluten-free pancakes and a lighter side with fruit cups. The restaurant may be adding some more vegetarian choices to the menu in the future, O’Hara noted.
Once the summer rolls around, O’Hara said it really bustles in all of the Uncle Bill’s Pancake House restaurants.
But vacationers aren’t the only ones who enjoy Uncle Bill’s for all it has to offer, in addition to great food.
Uncle Bill’s is open year-round in the 21st Street Ocean City location, Avalon and North Cape May.
Nancy Tetley, a year-round Ocean City resident, is one of many longtime Ocean City customers.
“I’m here almost every day since it opened,” Tetley said of the 21st Street Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.
That was back in 1990
“I come here early because I have to work and usually get breakfast,” Tetley said. “It’s usually scrambled eggs and bacon. And it’s always good.”
Sometimes, she mixes it up.
“I’m having grilled cheese and tomato and fries today,” she said.
What she enjoys even more than the food is her comfort level that she attributes to a kind staff.
“I come in alone mostly, and everyone is so friendly,” Tetley said.
Then there are the longtime employees who aren’t members of the O’Hara family but have become like family over the years. Pat O’Hara credits them for rounding out the success of Ocean City’s Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.
Chef Willie Hicks has been with the O’Hara family cooking up delicious dishes for so long that he couldn’t recall whether he started with Uncle Bill’s in 1991 or ’92.
But, Hicks said with a laugh, whose counting?
“They are good people. They take care of you no matter what and basically, I am like family to them and they’re like family to me,” Hicks said.
Lois Battle, of Ocean City, has worked at Uncle Bill’s for nine years. The server, known for her warm smile, called the eatery a great place to work at and summed up why Uncle Bill’s Pancake House is so special.
“I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants. The O’Haras have created a great place to work,” Battle explained. “The atmosphere is friendly. The cooks do a great job and the customers are happy.”
For more information visit http://www.unclebillspancakehouse.com/