Kessel's Korner: Breakfast Might Be Its Best-Kept Secret
If you thought Kessel's was just for milkshakes and cheeseburgers, think again. Some people go for breakfast, then back for dinner—it's that good.
Kessel's Korner is known for its cheeseburgers and milkshakes. But one of Ocean City's best-kept secrets might be that it serves up a heck of a breakfast, too.
Blueberry pancakes, massive omelets and crispy bacon are all fan favorites.
I learned all this before I even set foot in the place by chatting up a group of locals and visitors outside on the sidewalk.
Rich and Sharon Garland of Ocean City had just finished breakfasting on a recent morning with friends Jeanne and Jim Neidermyer from Pennsylvania and Enrique “Henry” Carboza from San Francisco.
“These people tell us this is where the locals go, so it must be good,” said Jeanne Neidermyer, who was taking half of her omelet home with her.
“I'm a blueberry pancake person—it fills the plate,” Sharon Garland said.
“We couldn't understand why she was ordering just one pancake until we saw the size of it,” Jim Neidermyer said.
“The bacon—extra crispy,” Carboza chimed in.
“Sometimes we're here twice a day—breakfast and dinner,” Rich Garland volunteered.
Endorsements don't ring much louder than that.
Once inside Kessel's, you can't help but be charmed by its bright, friendly décor—black and white floors, bright red booths, counter reminiscent of a an old-fashioned soda fountain.
A gaggle of young ladies in town for a bachelorette weekend (bride-to-be Danielle Sweeney of Memphis, TN, is getting married Oct. 1 in Nashville, TN) didn't mind a bit when I asked if I could photograph their dishes – after all, one of their own, Laurie Noblit of Nashville was doing the same to document their fun.
“These are the thickest pancakes I have ever seen,” Noblit said after she put down her camera and dug in.
Kessel's owner Dave Young had to be coaxed out of the kitchen, where he apparently spends just about every waking moment from March to October.
“I don't think there's a worker in Ocean City who works harder than he does,” commented Joy Geller, Kessel's server of 10 years. “I think it's a mental problem; well, not a problem, necessarily.”
Young started working at Kessel's as a 15-year-old dishwasher in 1985. Walt and Mildred Kessel opened the neighborhood luncheonette in 1973. Some 22 years ago, the Kessels asked Young if he wanted to buy the eatery, as long as he would leave it much the same. The rest, as they say, is history.
“No one even knew it changed hands,” Young said. He did make a few additions—a take-out window, two big round booths that seat six to eight—and breakfast.
“My parents owned a meat company in Pennsylvania Dutch country and that's where we used to get our meat,” Young said. Now, the bacon comes from a local supplier, but it still is the noticeably thick and crispy kind that customers seem to love.
The blueberry pancake ($6.75)—full of and topped with fresh local blueberries when Young can get them—is by far the most popular breakfast item. Three-egg omelets, served with homefries and toast, are huge, tasty and reasonably priced at $6.95.
Three specials—“Marietta's Creation” ($4.95), bacon, egg and cheese on a round roll with home fries; “Morning Melody” ($5.95), one egg, pancake, home fries and choice of meat; and “Mac's Stack” ($6.95), two fluffy pancakes, fruit medley and choice of meat—are named after Young's three children, who live above the 70-seat eatery with Young and wife Amy.
French toast and Belgian waffles round out a complete but not overwhelming menu. And more than a few people have been known to order Kessel's famous thick milkshakes (22-ounce for $4.95 or malted for $5.25)—made with Breyers ice cream—for breakfast.
Young does little in the way of advertising; even though he's an engineer by trade, he keeps Kessel's decidedly low-tech. But, hey, it all works. Dan Skeldon, NBC40 meteorologist and local celebrity, lives about a block away and counts Kessel's as one of his favorite Ocean City spots.
“The food is good, the price is right and the girls are pretty,” said Philip Byowitz of Northeast Philadelphia, whose wife Marybeth said they had been coming to Kessel's for 20 years while on vacation.
“The thing about Kessel's is we have about 100 customers and they come 100 times a day,” Young said. “That's the thing about Kessel's.”
WHERE:2760 Asbury Ave.
WHEN: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days, breakfast served until 11 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. Sundays
GET IN TOUCH: 609-398-1170
OTHER STUFF TO KNOW: Cash only, ATM on site. Counter or dining room seating. Take-out. Free street parking.