(May 21, 2021) The owners of Fast Eddie’s — Eddie Johnson, Jon Latta, Frank Raffo and Marc Ginsberg — may be new to restaurant ownership, but with over 70 years combined experience working in Ocean City’s service industry, they’re bringing a sense of familiarity along with their own branding.
The 200-seat restaurant, located on 120th Street, is aiming to have its grand opening on Thursday after a few soft openings this weekend.
Fast Eddie’s will feature live music and a diverse menu, but the selling point Johnson drives home is swiftness.
“We wanted to make a menu that delivers to all varieties,” Johnson said. “We’re going to offer seafood, we’ll have steamers … we’re going to have great sandwiches, a great variety of entrees — of everything. (Our menu) is designed to (have food) come out fast. Even with the bar, we want things to come out and the customer (in disbelief) that it came out that fast and that fresh.
“We want to change the game a little bit and that’s what we’re going to try to do and I don’t see any doubt with that.”
Johnson cut his teeth in the Ocean City restaurant scene working for various Taustin Group-owned restaurants, including BLU Crabhouse and the former establishments Embers Restaurant and Mad Fish Bar and Grill, where he said Raffo took him under his wing and showed him the ropes of restaurant management.
All four owners have a history working in the industry with Taustin Group restaurants and it’s how they met. Starting just before the pandemic hit, the four of them began leaving those jobs, which would, in turn, lead to the idea and opportunity for Fast Eddie’s.
“I’ve known and worked with these guys a long time,” Latta said “It’s pretty exciting to be doing something on our own together and get away from working at other places. It’s that time — we’re at that age and we’ve been doing this such a long time, so I’m pretty pumped there”
The first thing a patron will notice about the restaurant upon walking through the doors is the stark wood finishing that scales the walls, which Johnson said came from a lucky connection through a carpenter that knew someone selling the wood at a great price.
With a bar, dining room, stage and outdoor seating, Fast Eddie’s looks nothing like the buffet-style eatery that occupied the space before it.
“It was a turnkey (operation) when we got the place, but we made it our own,” Johnson said. “We’re known in town and this is our baby, this is our first project. We want everyone to know this is our baby, that we put our heart and soul into this and this is our best. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be a great product.”
Johnson said they replaced the larger sound system for something much smaller to ensure that the noise emanating from the restaurant doesn’t penetrate the adjacent neighborhood on the other side of 120th Street.
The year-round schedule isn’t firmly decided, but Johnson said Fast Eddie’s “will not just be May to September, by no means.”
“This town is only getting more year-round,” he continued. “More people are coming down here to live here year-round. It’s a great opportunity (for us).”
An expected summer surge will also help get the restaurant off the ground.
“I think it’s going to be pretty busy this summer,” Latta said. “With covid, I think everyone is ready to get out and just turn loose and have fun. We’re seeing it on the weekends already. The town is packed when anything is going on or the weather is just nice.”
When asked what will set Fast Eddie’s apart from the competition, Johnson settled on the atmosphere and the mix of locals and out-of-towners he expects.
“It’s going to be that spot,” Johnson said. “This is what we’ve been building towards all these years, the master plan. We put our brains together and we know — the atmosphere and service will carry you when a lot of people are running away from (this industry). People want it to go back to normal and we’re going to give them that. We’re going to give them great service, top of the line atmosphere and make it a place you want to come to when your friends are in town — ‘Oh, we gotta go check out Fast Eddie’s.’ ”
Fast Eddie’s will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.