(March 22, 2019) Large helpings and a casual beach atmosphere are just two of several selling points at Caribbean Joe’s Bar and Grille in West Ocean City, on 12614 Ocean Gateway.
Joe Albero opened the beach-themed bar adjacent to The Alamo Motel well into the offseason in late January, a bold move for a restaurant in the resort town.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t open up in the winter … you’re going to lose money,’” Albero said. “We didn’t care about that. We wanted to open up before we hit the heavy season and make sure that we’ve got all the kinks taken care of before we do hit the heavy season. We’ve swung the doors [open] here in the wintertime and we’re in the black. It says a lot to be able to open up a business and not be digging into your pockets real deep to survive.”
Albero first took over the restaurant portion of the motel when the owner of The Alamo, Mark Odachowski, asked him to participate in a partnership with him. The two-acre property began undergoing renovation last August.
“We wanted to network together because we really believe a lot of people in Ocean City don’t want to come over the bridge to West Ocean City – and people from West Ocean City don’t want to go over the bridge into Ocean City – and that’s part of the impact of why you’re seeing so much growth here,” Albero said.
“Everything I’ve done business-wise has always been from the ground up … and I’ve been really good and successful at it,” he continued. “Here was the biggest challenge. This place was really, really bad.”
The Alamo Motel has a long history with the Town of Ocean City. The Alamo sign in front is recognized as the oldest neon sign in Ocean City. However, the motel had fallen onto hard times and was in disrepair for many years.
When Odachowski and Albero first tackled the project of making the establishment hospitable again, it took more than 74 dumpsters to completely remove all the broken and unusable pieces from both the motel and the restaurant portions, Albero said.
Albero, who owns a restaurant in Crofton, Maryland, knew he wanted to create an atmosphere that was comfortable for all of his patrons.
“I’ve done this with my businesses in the past; I want to make it extremely comfortable for women, but not uncomfortable for men,” he said. “We wanted to make it more like home than it would be going to a local [or] commercial bar.”
The inside of the bar is filled with bright, beach colors and holds seven flat screen TVs, which shows several different sporting events at any given time. The bar will also feature outdoor seating once the weather improves, and can hold approximately 98 people inside and out.
Currently, the restaurant serves bar fare including wings, nachos, hamburgers, tacos, potato skins and quesadillas. Recently, he added a pulled pork sandwich to the menu. A larger menu is being planned for the summer season.
Albero prides his establishment on the quality and size of his food. For instance, Caribbean Joe’s sells chicken, beef and fish tacos for $1.50 each.
“You won’t leave hungry … you will walk out with a carryout,” Albero said. “There’s all kinds of food on our menu that that you’ll want to keep coming back [for], and people do.”
The chicken salad sandwich boasts a pound of chicken and is two inches thick. Also large in portions are the hamburgers, which are offered with half-pound or quarter-pound patties.
Albero purchases his supplies from local businesses, including many female-owned and carrying organic products, to support his establishment. He intends to continue obtaining supplies primarily from the Eastern Shore.
The Caribbean Joe’s owner plans on expanding the establishment further, with a pool bar planned for the summer. The poolside bar would be the only one in West Ocean City, Albero said. He also plans on creating a second bar in the back, where there will be a volleyball court and two horseshoe pits set up.
“The back bar will have all you can eat crabs and shrimp,” Albero said. “Our goal is to give you all you can eat crabs for $25 dollars per person. It’s kind of our entrance way into West Ocean City saying, ‘here we are.’ If I do it at $25 dollars a head, it’s going to draw a ton of people here and it’ll allow us to give them the experience of the whole establishment.”
Albero is currently waiting for approval from the liquor board to go forward with the pool bar. The outside bar will provide live entertainment as well, with a large stage being built in anticipation of live acts. Right below the stage he has plans to install a slushie bar filled with 12 different kinds of Caribbean rum.
The ideas do not stop there. The Alamo Motel will be hosting several J-1 students during the summer season, and Caribbean Joe’s Bar and Grille plans to have an international food dish suggested or even cooked by the tenants once a week.
“The intent is one day a week … to hire one of these J-1’s to come in and cook, and have their home cooked food as a special for that evening,” Albero said.
More employees will be needed as the summer season draws closer, as he intends to hire a waitstaff for the pool bar and a lifeguard for the pool.
Currently, the restaurant is open Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Starting in April, Caribbean Joe’s will be open Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. By Memorial Day, the restaurant is expected to be open seven days a week.
For more information, visit the Caribbean Joe’s Bar and Grille Facebook page or call 443-664-8509.