Saturday, January 29, 2011

Breakfast at The Surfside Restaurant, Wildwood, NJ

We found it by accident, driving out of Wildwood after the 50's Doo-Wop Hot Rod & Antique Car Show weekend a lotta years ago. I was driving my '56 Buick Century Wagon, already 40 years old but runnin' strong and lookin' good under the neon lights Wildwood. All of a sudden we see this crazy place, all decked out with a very 60's-looking pointed roofline, sitting there among the mid-century mod hotels and souped-up rods. I swung the Buick around fast and roared into the parking lot.
The Surfside in the 1960s...more elegant than touristy back then.
"Get a load of this joint," I said to my then girlfriend, soon-to-be wife Colleen. I'd been going to Wildwood for years and had never seen it. Of course, that was pre-internet days when you had to rely on scant advertising or word-of-mouth to find places like this. (Or you could find them just driving around.)
We went inside and were hit by the yellowest yellow I'd ever seen. The place was bright and sunny, in fact it even had paintings of smiling suns as part of the decor, and still had that very 1960's look to it with the original booths and crazy Sputniks hanging from the ceiling. They were playing 50's music which added to the feel. It was, like many other experiences in WW, like going back in time.

This is how I remember it. A little cheesy, but lots of fun.
We ordered eggs and coffee. I remember they weren't exactly cheap, but then again not much in Wildwood ever was. I'm pretty sure we got served coffee in those 60's style plastic mugs with the throw-away plastic inserts, as if they never changed that style in 30+ years. The food was good, the place was packed, and we had a great time. 

We were lucky enough to get back a couple of times before they finally closed. I don't know the whole story on the closing, but I remember hearing a group of Wildwoodians were trying like hell to buy the building and keep it from getting wrecked.

A couple of years later I was doing online research for my book, Murder Behind The Closet Door which takes place primarily in the Wildwoods. I typed in Surfside Restaurant, expecting to see pictures of it being demolished...but instead I found the Wildwood Doo Wop Preservation League's site, and man was I glad I did. These coolest of cool kats and kittens actually did it...they saved the building, had it relocated and turned it into a museum showcasing some of the best of WW's past. What a fantastic thing they're doing, keeping the old memories alive even now as "progress" turns the island into rows of condos with no personality. 

To the heroes of the Doo Wop League goes a very special thank you for caring enough to keep the past alive, and to save that 1962 architectural masterpiece, the Surfside Restaurant. Bravo, kids.

-Christopher Pinto, author of Murder Behind the Closet Door, the Wildwood Paranormal Murder Mystery.


  1. Fantastic photo of the Surfside Restaurant exterior at dusk. Had to have been taken by Douglas Hunsberger. No one photographed the Wildwoods better than Doug. And probably no one will.

  2. It's from an old post card. If Hunsberger did commercial photography, it probably was his work.