Growing up in a place whose charm and character long preceded them, Terry Teplitzky and his brothers, J.T., Howard and Victor, loved living in South Jersey’s Atlantic City, where betting and beaching and bathing beauties were the norm. To the boys, this was a place where people came to have fun; to ride the Ferris wheel, swim in the sea, check out Miss America contestants, take a gamble on their dreams, catch a headliner concert, and watch a horse dive off Steel Pier into the drink.
They also came to eat comfort food—the kind that tastes better at the beach—by the barbecue or around the family table. This was submarine sandwiches, Philly cheesesteaks, pizza, pop and boardwalk fries. They can taste it like it was yesterday.
Terry’s affinity for food, both fine and fun, developed through his family’s eponymous hotel and restaurant business in Atlantic City, a passion he pursued in established restaurants and hotels across the country, which brought him to Monterey’s Sardine Factory, where he served as executive chef. Ultimately, he launched his own catering business and deli café, Michael’s Catering, and Wild Thyme in Marina.
But the Teplitzky boys never let go of their roots nor the notion of opening a restaurant that featured food from their growing-up days in Atlantic City. After losing Victor and their mother two months apart last year, Terry, Howard and J.T. were even more determined to make good on their dreams.
“My brothers and I talked about doing this for 20 years,” says Terry. “We finally decided, either we do it, or we don’t talk about it. So, we’re doing it. We spared no expense. We want to turn people on to what we’re doing here and give them a taste of the past we are so passionate about.”
They spent several months working on the design and menu of Boardwalk Sub Shop on Alvarado Street in Monterey until the joint was exactly as they remember from their days in Jersey. It opened on September 19.
“We’re going to serve our comfort food from way back, which has stood the test of time,” says Terry. “Everybody knows or thinks they know what a Philly cheesesteak is. We’re talking about the real deal, which means a soft roll, with meat sautéed on a griddle, heaped wit or witout—we don’t say the “h”—fried onions, and real Cheese Wiz from the can.”
First we cut the bread open, says Terry, then we throw the meat on there and maybe some onions. We grab an icing or palette knife, dip it in the cheese, and slap it on the bread, then put it on a piece of paper and slide it through the window.
“Except we’re actually making our own cheese sauce,” he says.
Working with stainless steel and reclaimed wood in designing the restaurant, the brothers have introduced elements of their legendary eastern seaside setting. Vintage black-and-white photographs of Miss America contestants, Steel Pier, and folks strolling or riding in carriages along the wood planks offer a glimpse into the early days on the boardwalk. A large silhouette of a downward-facing horse with female rider is painted on the wall at the entrance to the restaurant, with the words “Woah Nellie” referring to the daring dive off Steel Pier. The unconventional spelling of “Whoa” adds to the kitsch of the whole concept.
Back in the open kitchen, the Teplitzkys and their staff will be cooking up variations on their theme, with the Northeastern Philly cheesesteak—onions and sweet bell peppers hot off the griddle and then chopped into the meat and provolone cheese, and served on a soft roll. The Jersey cheesesteak is sirloin on the griddle, topped with fried or raw onions, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, and a certain hot pepper, chopped almost like a relish.
A lot of the menu choices are based on the brothers’ preferences or family favorites.
“If you know anything about the East Coast and submarine sandwiches,” says Terry, “you know there are many variations. We’ll serve meatball, sausage, and turkey subs. All cheesesteaks can be made with chicken breasts. We’ll offer chicken cacciatore, eggplant and chicken parmesan, and our regular sub—our number-one seller at Wild Thyme—with smoked ham, spicy capicola, mortadella, and Genoa salami. You can also get single-meat subs.”
Eventually, the brothers plan to expand the menu and add specials and maybe even a secret menu to their repertoire. For now, they intend to get their main menu down and, as they say, start “bangin’ out what they have.”
What they have includes hand-cut French fries, made from Kennebec potatoes, twice cooked, and then flash fried to create that perfect balance of crispy and creamy. East Coast crabby fries refers to special Old Bay crab seasoning, not crab, and duck fries means the addition of a little duck fat and duck confit, tossed with a touch of truffle oil. Loaded fries come with a Philly cheese steak on top.
It wouldn’t be “boardwalk” without soft pretzels, soaked in lime water before baking and served with salt, and cheese sauce by request.
“And we’ve got to have dessert,” says Terry. “Growing up, after we had our subs, we had Tasty Cakes. Victor’s favorite was lemon pie, so we’ve got ‘Vic’s lemon cake,’ plus white cake with peanut butter mousse and chocolate ganache; white cake with strawberry jam and butterscotch icing; and a chocolate cake with cream filling and chocolate ganache. And we’re thinking about some banana pudding; it takes us back.”
Beverages, in keeping with tradition, are beer and wine, both on tap, plus filtered water and cane- sugar sodas. When patrons pay their bill, they’ll get a piece of salt water taffy. Of course they will.
Boardwalk Sub Shop will open at 10:30am every day, and close at 11pm; 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. If Terry finds he needs to stay open later, he will.
“We closed the Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar and Taphouse one night,” says Terry, “and stood out on the street. The place was still hoppin’. People are staying up and out, and we’re going to be there for them, with a taste of Atlantic City.”
Boardwalk Sub Shop – 740 Alvarado St. Monterey – www.boardwalksubshop.com
A fifth-generation Northern Californian, Lisa Crawford Watson has enjoyed a diverse career in business, education and writing. She lives with her family on the Monterey Peninsula, where her grandmother once lived and wrote. An adjunct writing instructor for CSU Monterey Bay and Monterey Peninsula College, Lisa is also a free-lance writer, who specializes in the genres of art & architecture, health & lifestyle, food & wine. She has published various books and thousands of feature articles and columns in local and national newspapers and magazines.