Who's On First Serves Neighborliness, Scones and More
In the first of an occasional series about Ocean City coffee houses, take a look at the 1st Street cafe's 'legendary scones.'
Almost three years after Jennifer Bailey moved her near-legendary scones to First and Asbury from her previous location on 4th Street, there still is a little confusion about, well, Who's On First–which happens to be the name of Bailey's coffee bar and lunch spot.
A recent casual Internet search for the phone number of 4th Street Cafe led an unwitting caller to Who's On First. The barista who answered the phone explained that Who's On First was owned by the former proprietor of 4th Street Cafe.
And, by the way, the coffee is "way better" at Who's On First, volunteered Eric Mason, the barista who answered the phone there.
Of course, if you live in the area of one of these two cafes, you probably already know all this. If not, stay with us, as it gets a little confusing. The site where Bailey operated 4th Street Cafe, at Fourth and Atlantic, now is Positively 4th Street Cafe (also the name of a Bob Dylan song), run by Sharon and John Szabo.
Hmmm, the caller wondered, do we smell a rivalry brewing? Coffee wars in Ocean City? Naw, there are plenty of caffeine-seekers to keep several cafes hopping. This is the first in an occasional series of profiles of Ocean City coffee shops, where neighbors meet all year long.
On a recent blustery December afternoon, customer traffic is steady at Who's On First. Some patrons eat and drink coffee in the funky 16-seat dining room, where they are surrounded by colorful walls of bright green and yellow and original burlap-bag paintings by Red Bank artist Monica McCall. Some young adults have lap tops open and make use of the cafe's WiFi.
Other customers take their lunch and coffee to go. They chit chat with each other about books, the weather and other neighborly tidbits as they wait for their orders.
It's clear Bailey has carved a niche. The Fourth Street location might be three blocks closer to the beach, but parking is a lot easier in this quiet residential neighborhood, she noted, and she has a following of locals, part-time residents and visitors alike.
"Ocean City doesn't die in the winter," Bailey explained. "There are people who want to go out for coffee and out for lunch. We want to be a neighborhood place. This is a year-round restaurant, a destination."
Mornings, people flock in for Bailey's scones in all sorts of flavors, muffins and granola–and, of course, delicious coffee and espresso drinks. The lunch board always has a soup, sandwich, salad, focaccia and Thai noodle bowl. Summertime, Bailey serves delicious dinners on sidewalk tables.
"Our menu changes all the time, it's always evolving," Bailey explained.
On this day, sweet potato is the featured scone. Crispy and golden brown on the outside, the inside is moist and dotted with subtle morsels of sweet potato. Other flavors are Mexican chocolate, butterscotch, express chocolate chip. Blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, pear. Orange pecan, honey walnut, lemon pine nut.
Typical lunch offerings include such choices as grilled steak noodle bowl; grilled cheese with figs, goat cheese and apple chutney; and organic chicken salad. The focaccia this day has pablano peppers, tomato, red onion, cheddar cheese and chipotle.
"Fridays, we have crab cakes; we're known for them," Bailey said. "They are Maryland-style crab cakes, a recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle cookbook. It's mostly jumbo lump crab meat with very few other ingredients."
Make sure to stop back in the summertime for dinner. The menu typically includes Barnegat Bay scallops with tomato relish and polenta; organic salmon with sweet chili glaze, snap peas and coconut rice; grilled free-range chicken breast with jasmine rice cucumber relish and spicy dipping sauce; and organic New York strip steak.
Baily said Who's On First is the only place in Ocean City that sells LaColombe coffee and espresso, which is simply delicious, as is Dean's Beans, an organic offering. Many customers are devoted to Corsica, the house coffee, and buy it by the pound.
"It's a dark roasted bean, low in acidity with a nice strong coffee flavor," described Mason, the barista whose remark drew us here in the first place.
Who's On First is open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Cash only. Call 609-399-0764 or check out www.whosonfirst.com.
Next up in What's Brewing: Positively 4th Street Cafe