Tequila Frogs

Tad Dmuchowski (pictured), senior manager at Tequila Frogs, said the new restaurant on 54th Street, has no intention of trying to operate at the same level as nearby party spots like Seacrets and Macky’s. Rather, he and owner John Natoli envision a place that serves more as a pit stop for partiers on their way up and down Coastal Highway and a spot that patrons looking for a more family-friendly atmosphere will enjoy.

Any establishment between Seacrets on 49th Street and Fager’s Island on 60th Street knows it’s located in one of Ocean City’s most bustling party spots.

The owner and managers of the 290-seat Tequila Frogs on 54th Street, in the former Ky West restaurant and bar, want to be that stretch’s pit stop for weary travelers between all that area’s locations.

“We’re going to be the quicker option (in the area),” said senior manager Tad Dmuchowski. “Our capacity is nowhere near Macky’s, Seacrets, Fager’s Island … We know we’re right here in the middle of the big party district of Ocean City. Between Seacrets and Fager’s, this (stretch) is a nonstop parade of drunken partying. We understand that we’re in there. We want to get people fed, get a couple drinks in them and have a great night on their next stop.”

Tequila Frogs, which opened three weeks ago, is owned by John Natoli, with Dmuchowski and Ted Basili serving as his senior managers. Natoli’s most recent experience in the restaurant industry was cofounder and part-owner of Union Jack’s, a regional restaurant and bar chain in the DMV area.

“I quit the company I cofounded 16 years ago,” Natoli said. “We did real well for quite a while … but covid did a number on some of the stores. I was thinking that now would be a good time to make a change.”

Natoli brought Dmuchowski and Basili in from their home area of Montgomery County. Dmuchowski said he’s been “in and out” of the restaurant industry for years, working most recently as a general manager, while Basili has been in the industry for the last 30 years.

“This is a newer foray for us,” Dmuchowski said. “This is what we’re doing because we feel it’s what Ocean City needs right now.”

The menu’s theme, as may be inferred from the establishment’s name, is Mexican.

“We’re doing tacos, enchiladas, bowls and fajitas,” Dmuchowski said. “We’re trying to keep it authentic Mexican without mixing in the Tex-Mex or too much of the American influence.”

Natoli said he got the idea for the restaurant’s theme by traveling to Mexico.

“There were a lot of places that had a boisterous atmosphere that were just fun, music was playing, occasionally you’d see a mariachi band walking by,” Natoli said. “I wanted to bring that to Ocean City. I wanted to bring that atmosphere from Mexico.”

For the first year at least, there won’t be live music at Tequila Frogs, based on a Worcester County Liquor Board ruling. The board didn’t outright tell the restaurant it couldn’t have live music, but it did rule out amplification, which virtually means no live vocals. The compromise didn’t seem worth it, but Dmuchowski said they will be able to reevaluate next year.

Like many restaurants in Ocean City, the labor shortage has affected Tequila Frogs. The waitstaff has good numbers right now, but Dmuchowski said it’s been a struggle to find enough dishwashers and cooks.

Currently, Tequila Frogs is open Wednesday to Sunday. Hours are 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., except for Sunday when it operates from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The goal right now is to be a year-round establishment.

The key to the Tequila Frogs experience, Dmuchowski said, is to be an accessory to the party scene while offering options for everyone.

“We’re trying to do a tequila-forward, Mexican-themed, fun atmosphere,” he said. “We have it so the high-tops are set up (further from the bar for) kind of a more energetic bar feel. On the other side, we have big booths which are good for families looking for a quieter, family-friendly experience.”

This story appeared in the print version of Ocean City Today on June 11, 2021.

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