Five years is a milestone in this business of eating
I’ve always cherished the old saying, “Time flies when you’re eating good pancakes!” And nowhere is that truer than at the unassuming Goolee’s Grille at the corner of First and Wilmington in downtown Rehoboth. George Stakias (aka Goolee – more about that later) is celebrating five years in Rehoboth Beach – an accomplishment on many levels.
Goolee used to work for Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore as a Greek interpreter and patient representative. In 2003, he rewarded himself for his accomplishments by buying a little beach house. But food service has a way of running in families, and George’s dad (for 36 years the owner of the Penn Restaurant on Pratt Street in Baltimore) knew that his son would be good at it. So 17 years ago, dad told him that there was an available restaurant spot in Ocean City, Md. George says he’ll never forget those fateful words that changed his life: “Sure, why not.” Next thing you know, “Sure, why not” became Goolee’s Grille at Baltimore and Second in Ocean City.
The off-season in Ocean City - especially downtown - can be rather lonely, and George yearned for the year-round feel of Rehoboth. When he heard that Irene and George Vrentzos’ Corner Grille in Rehoboth was up for grabs, he decided to bring his popular breakfast/lunch spot northward. The beach is all about breakfast, and like the Corner Grille before it, Goolee’s Grille has that vacation indulgence covered. You will not leave hungry after Pappa’s Breakfast Special: two fluffy pancakes, two eggs, and two - count ‘em, 2 - meats with home fries, toast and jelly. Mamma’s Breakfast Special is a bit lighter, without the home fries and toast. And like Pappa’s above, you can fork over a bit of change and they’ll add a pile of french toast. (Re-reading this paragraph, I can’t believe I used the word “lighter.”)
George is a pretty self-effacing guy (rare in this business). When I complimented his pancakes, he said, “Oh, it’s just plain ol’ pancake mix.” Well, (1) I don’t believe him, and (2) there’s more to cooking than just the mix! He keeps the grill very hot, so when that “just plain ol’” batter hits the surface, it puffs up into a moist, yeasty cake with a dark and slightly crispy exterior. One of the best stacks I’ve ever had. So when he says something’s “just plain ol’,” remember that it’s all about the cookin’.
George’s stuffed french toast is layered with cream cheese, his own strawberry filling and topped with whipped cream. His legendary coconut french toast is grilled up with Texas toast, so it is quite a production - especially after some time on that hot grill. That one’s a don’t-miss.
Another don’t-miss is the reservations-only Greek Night. On the first Saturday of each off-season month, mom and dad (in George’s words) “schlep down from Baltimore” to resurrect the Penn Restaurant with a three-course prix fixe Greek feast. You can wash it down with Greek wines and perhaps a shot (or two) of ouzo. “My dad cooks for an army,” Goolee says. “And mom is a family cook. So it’s a bit of a floor show there in the kitchen!” Want some made-from-scratch Greek cuisine? Call Goolee at 410-365-0333 and he’ll hold a table for you.
Another classically Rehoboth floor show is Goolee’s Drag Brunch. On the third Sunday of each month in the off-season, he combines brunch with a hilarious drag show. Bloody marys and mimosas kick off the multi-course feast interspersed with performances from some of Rehoboth’s most popular performers. Between shows there’s a DJ, and communal seating ensures that you’ll make new friends.
This Saturday and Sunday, George is celebrating his fifth year in Rehoboth with a weekend-long celebration, anniversary cake, drag performances and other goodies. As of this writing, it was well on its way to being sold out, so call the number above to join Goolee in commemorating his milestone in Rehoboth Beach.
By the way, you might be wondering why a nice guy like George is called “Goolee.” The Greek name for “George” is Giorgos, roughly pronounced “yior-gos” or affectionately, “yior-gee.” Try as she might, one of the family kids simply couldn’t wrap her tiny mouth around the word, and it came out “Goolee.” George liked it and it stuck.
Seventeen years as a sole owner is no small accomplishment. George explains, “People ask me how I can work seven days a week. As an owner, you have to be there, and you’ve got to love what you do. And I love what I do. I jump out of bed at 5 a.m. thinking about going to the restaurant and feeding people. It’s your child; it’s your spouse; it’s your mistress; it’s everything. And unless you have that kind of commitment, you will fail.”
Words of wisdom! Σuγxaρηtἡρia (congratulations) on your five years in Rehoboth, Goolee!