A great menu, sunny weather, waterfront location and outdoor seating have O'Maddy's Bar & Grille on pace for a record year in 2011. The Shore Blvd. restaurant has been around for more than 20 years and is now entrenched as a Gulfport landmark.
Joe Guenther is the general manager and his wife Maddy is the owner. He explained that many years ago she wanted to open an Irish pub so she simply put an 'O' in front of her name and went into business. That was 1989 and the location had been in her family for years before that. One side of the building was formerly a snack bar and a gas station stood at the the corner building.
“Business is very good,” Guenther says. “We're on track for a record year this year. January wasn't so great, we had a really good February and a record March and a record April.”
Good weather usually means good business at O'Maddy's, perched at the end of Williams Pier in prime real estate for visiting boaters and tourists. A few years ago the owners decided to take better advantage of the location and take down the walls on the corner of the building.
“This building used to be all enclosed,” he says of the exposed side of the building. “We were open and operational but when we knocked the building down and opened it all up it made a night and day difference in the amount of volume that we do because of the view.”
There's a dinghy dock and five boat slips off The Casino pier providing a destination for boaters to make their way across Boca Ciega Bay to O'Maddy's. Guenther warns that the waters are rough for power boaters but that most boaters are careful and responsible.
“We get a lot of business from the boating community as a whole for sure,” he says. “We get a lot of people off the water, Stetson College students, people from Town Shores, Pasadena Yacht & Country Club; a little of a mix of everything.”
The signature menu item at O'Maddy's is the “Famous Beef on Weck - The RBK!!!” as it is listed on the menu. It is a thin sliced London port roast beef on a Kimmelweck roll with au jus and horseradish. The Kimmelweck – sometimes spelled Kummelweck – is similar to a Kaiser roll and comes from an old German recipe later made famous in Buffalo, New York. It is baked with kosher salt and caraway seeds on top, distinctively rich in flavor and texture.
“If you go to Buffalo, roast beef on Kimmelweck is everywhere up there,” Guenther says. “It's one of the most popular sandwiches in Buffalo today. My grandfather was the very first person to serve that sandwich in Buffalo. That's where that sandwich originated from but he brought it over from Germany.”
Popular in Gulfport too, O'Maddy's sells about a thousand RBKs each month.
The menu is huge. Chef Wade Parrish has loaded it with a wide array of appetizers, salads, pastas, steaks, pork, chicken and seafood as well as sandwiches, vegetarian dishes and a kids menu.
Another staple is Bubba's Buffalo Chicken Dip in honor of local radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. It's a chicken wing on a chip, originated by Bubba himself. As for drinks, O'Maddy's serves a “Bo-Tikitini” in honor of Maddy Guenther's “Bo-Tiki” store in Gulfport. It includes Smirnoff Blueberry Twist vodka, Triple Sec, cranberry, lime juice and simple syrup.
Maddy Guenther is a Gulfport native and Joe is originally from Connecticut but grew up in Sarasota. Both have been long been active in town, involved with organizations such as the Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Board, Gulfport Merchant's Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
Most of the restaurant staff of about 30 have been with them for a long time and it's a cheerful place to be, as evidenced by the smiling faces during the bustle of activity on a recent morning as they all prepared for the lunchtime rush. Joe Guenther likes the casual atmosphere and assures it's is a fun place to work.
“Absolutely. I wouldn't have it any other way,” he says. “The view, the location and the great people. The mix of the crowd that we have that comes in here is sometimes amazing. It's a diverse community for sure and absolutely a lot of fun.”
As for the future, O'Maddy's may expand to a second floor over both sections of the existing structure.
“That's been a goal of ours for a while,” Guenther confirmed. “Before we bought this property we had plans drawn to build a second story and we got approved. Then the opportunity came up to buy this property and we ended up buying it and kind of going sideways instead of up but that's still our long term goal.”
O'Maddy's is open from 8 am to 3 am every day (Sunday at 11 am) and can be reached at 727-323-8643 or via its Facebook page.