Many miles from the nearest railroad, two train cars still work long into the night in Ocean View. The Salted Rim restaurant has nine months under its belt as Ocean View’s late-night Tex-Mex spot, open daily from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and accented by two restored rail cars.
Opening in July of 2013, the Salted Rim operates under owner Karen Fritz’s belief that “you can do anything on a train car” and that there is a great need for Mexican food on Route 26.
“We saw the train cars. They sat the empty for so long,” she said, but she believed the restaurant could only fully work with a bar. So she found a way to make a “waiting bar” work within Ocean View’s town code. It’s within the main restaurant area, with the two train cars used for additional seating.
The first 1930s train car is still decked out in rich red and gold fabric, gilded trim, shiny ceilings smart white tablecloths and lace trim.
“People love the Victorian feel of this room,” she said, noting that the Royal Zephyr logos are actually the name of the original rail service in which the cars were used, not just leftover from the previous restaurant of the same name.
Previous restaurants made the first-class car available to adults only, but Fritz said all ages are welcome at the Salted Rim.
“I love their fish tacos. They’re very good,” said resident Rose Orlando, who can’t remember actually ordering anything besides the various fish tacos, including mahi and grouper. “They just taste so good.”
Fritz agreed that fish tacos seem to be the house specialty, along with margaritas. With a Mexican cook in the kitchen, patrons can enjoy authentic food made from scratch, such as molé, pico and other sauces. At slower times, the guacamole is made to order. In busier times, it simply flies out the door.
The Monster Burrito holds a special place in Fritz’s heart. With chicken, cheese, black beans, grilled peppers and onions, the platter comes out sizzling under melted queso, lettuce, pico and salsa.
Enchiladas, tacos, bowls and fajitas are the base of the menu, but there’s always room for hamburgers, wings, fries, quesadillas, hotdogs, crab dip and more.
Desserts and a kid’s menu add to the dining options.
“The food is good. It’s a fun atmosphere,” Fritz said. “It’s a novelty with the train cars, and we’re doing things with it.”
The Salted Rim has been turning heads with family-friendly train-based events. Thomas the Tank Engine has rolled into Ocean View, every night until April 27.
Families, and even daycares, have brought children to the second train car, which is decked out as Thomas on the outside and in vibrant spring colors inside. They can enjoy a dinner buffet on the famous blue engine.
Dinner aboard Thomas the Tank Engine was inspired by last winter’s Polar Express events. After just a few people saw the movie and were served dinner and hot chocolate by “elves,” Fritz said, Facebook “went crazy.” Word-of-mouth recommendations for the magical train experience made them double the number of planned December showings, from around 70 to more than 150.
Children showed up day after day, many in their pajamas, enthralled with the experience.
“It was dead silent in here. When you looked down the hallway, the little kids” were glued to the film. Later, they joyfully rang their parting gifts: bells.
“It’ll make you believe in Christmas again,” Fritz said.
Just one month of wintertime events brought people from several hours away, some even booking hotel rooms.
That helps the entire local economy, Fritz said, when a visitor stays to visit other restaurants and attractions.
“Our goal is to be known for special events,” such as birthdays, bridal showers and anything else. Guests can decorate, or Fritz can help.
“You have to be excited about what you’re doing … and I love it,” she said.
People seem to enjoy it, too. They don’t spend a lot of time staring at cell phones when they’re on the train car.
Nightly specials include food, drinks and entertainment, including Monday Trivia with D.J. “Bump.” For Wednesday “Quickie-Okie,” people sing or play instruments, accompanied by Brant Quick on acoustic guitar. Fajita Friday features buy-one-get-one-half-off specials. Quick returns for an acoustic set on Saturday nights.
Sunday Speed Bingo is a weekly hit at 1 p.m., with D.J. Sharon getting the whole crowd excited, and discount shots when B1 is called, creating “one big party by the end of it,” Fritz said.
The entire Cinco de Mayo weekend will be a block of food and drink specials. Mother’s Day will be a classy affair on the first-class car.
People can visit the trains anytime, but most people are eating in the dining room at this time of year, Fritz said. They can also grab a drink at the bar area, colorful with glass decorations and entertaining with diverse sports programming on TV. There are several outdoor tables, which Fritz hopes will increase. People can visit the large pond and fountain, complete with several toads in residence.
With 35 years of beach restaurant experience and an eye for décor, Fritz plans to remodel the second car, which is simpler when not covered in pastel streamers and Easter balloons. She may also expand the restaurant to take over a neighboring conference room, she said, making room for 50 more seats and another small kitchen.
This summer, more Mexican and American dishes will join the menu. The drink upgrades will include margaritas and mojitos.
“We’re listening to … the customers’ feedback,” Fritz said.
The Salted Rim is located at 27 Atlantic Avenue and is available online at www.SaltedRimDE.com or by calling (302) 537-7373.