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The Chatterbox in Ocean City roars back to life under new ownership

The Chatterbox in Ocean City roars back to life under new ownership

By Ryan Loughlin, Press of Atlantic City

Ocean City is a town where memories tend to stick around. Families pass down the traditions of annual week-long vacations from generation to generation at this beloved seaside resort, which means a restaurant like The Chatterbox – which has stuck around since the 1937 – is going to have a lot of memories built into it.

Of course, memories come in both good and bad varieties, and the beloved pink building on the corner of 9th street and Central avenue has had its ups and downs, changing ownership numerous times over its 85 year history, with varying results.

But there is reason to be excited about the current state of The Chatterbox, as it was recently purchased by William Bonforte, Stephen Slaughter and Andrew Zuccarini, the trio of South Philly-based partners behind the hugely successful Green Eggs Café, a popular mini-chain of Philadelphia-based breakfast eateries.

Bonforte bought the building and his team opened up The Chatterbox this summer with a limited, but impressive menu of sandwiches and salads and a brunch menu that is available on Saturdays and Sundays only. Plans are in place to expand offerings over the next year.

So how did a bunch of guys so entrenched in the Philly dining scene end up at the Jersey Shore?

“We’ve always loved the area,” Slaughter says. “We had previously done a pop-up concept for Green Eggs at Keenan’s in Wildwood, but we really wanted a brick-and-mortar space where we could do it all on our own. We always felt that our Green Eggs concept would really take off in that environment, and we always had our eye on Ocean City. Brunch is very family friendly and that’s the atmosphere in this town.”

The Space

Though the iconic pink building may be its most famous visual calling card, the decor inside The Chatterbox is equally memorable. Stepping inside is like going back in time, as the restaurant was beautifully restored to its original 1930s glory only a few years ago.

Decked out in tones of white with deep green accents, tiled floors and pressed-tin ceilings, the entire space feels like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Though booth seating is abundant, the gorgeous marble counter serves as the focus of the room, boasting a vintage Coca-Cola soda fountain that practically begs you to grab a pair of stools and split a duel-strawed milkshake with your summer crush.

The Food

Chef Luis Acosta is the main man in the kitchen. He’s been whipping up a variety of creations that are bringing folks in and generating buzz throughout the town in recent months.

As of now, the main menu, which is served from 2 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, leans heavy on salads and sandwiches, with a bonus menu of ice cream and shakes.

A trio of salads sets the stage, with the most interesting of the bunch being their crab cake salad ($17), a blend of arugula, baby spinach, lettuce, tomato, red onion and mandarin orange that’s tossed in a citrus vinaigrette and topped with an 8-ounce crab cake with Old Bay aioli.

The sandwiches run the gamut from classic cheeseburgers and grilled cheeses to not-so-sandwich-y dishes like seared tuna tacos ($16). And though some of the more basic items like the cheesesteak ($15) may not seem particularly groundbreaking, it’s the little details that help elevate this kind of dish at Chatterbox. While most steaks you’ll find on the Boardwalk are offering the basic cheese options like provolone, The Chatterbox opts for Cooper Sharp on theirs – without question the best American cheese available today – paired with the standard sautéed onions and a side of cherry peppers for some kick.

Milkshakes take up the lion’s share of the ice cream section of the menu, and they are the highly visual, over-the-top variety that has become so popular in recent years.

Highlights include the Cookie Monster ($13) – a delightful blending of blue vanilla ice cream, whole milk and Oreo crumbles served in a mason jar rimmed with frosting and crushed cookies and topped with whipped cream and an ice cream sandwich; or the Sweet Mermaid ($15), a non-dairy option consisting of layers of bubblegum and cotton candy sorbet topped with a slice of cotton candy cake, whipped cream, pink pearls, cotton candy crumble and a mermaid tail.

Though it’s currently only available from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Sundays, the brunch at The Chatterbox may just be the single best reason to stop in.

The brunch menu is divided into two main sections – one for egg dishes and one for sweet dishes, as well as subsections of sides, beverages and specialty coffee drinks. But if all that sounds rather ho-hum, we assure you it’s anything but. The egg dishes go far beyond your basic scrambled eggs and omelets – although you can get those too – but our favorites are all of the benedict variety, including the standard eggs benedict ($13); a short rib version made with braised short rib and two poached country eggs served on cheddar hashbrowns topped with a horseradish hollandaise sauce ($16); and a truly stunning chicken & waffles benedict consisting of a southern fried boneless chicken breast and two poached eggs on buttermilk waffle half with maple syrup and hot sauce hollandaise ($15).

On the sweet side you’ll find a lineup of Instagrammably delicious treats such as cookie dough stuffed french toast ($16), red velvet pancakes ($15) an apple pie french toast served with fresh cinnamon apples, caramel sauce, chantilly cream and vanilla streusel ($15); and a crème brulee french toast consisting of sliced challah bread in vanilla bean custard topped with berry compote, vanilla anglaise, maple syrup, chantilly cream and fresh berries that is one of the most perfect breakfast dishes we have ever tasted.

What’s in a name?

Though it’s not technically being called Green Eggs Café – they all agreed that The Chatterbox was too much of a legendary spot to simply change the name on a whim – The 2022 version of The Chatterbox is based very much on that concept, particularly from a culinary perspective.

But Slaughter acknowledges the challenges in overcoming the somewhat shaky reputation the space – and the name – had acquired in recent years.

“We heard all the horror stories about how The Chatterbox had been inconsistent and in some cases downright terrible, and that’s why our main goal is to show everyone that we are new owners and that things have changed,” Slaughter notes. “And our name speaks for itself. Green Eggs has a very strong following. Our dishes are beautiful and they look great on Instagram, but ultimately people come back because of the consistency and high value that we offer. We make everything from scratch and all of our ingredients are of the highest quality. As long as our food is fantastic, the people are gonna come back again and again, and they are gonna tell other people about it.”