(May 17, 2013) Jay Ball spent several winters working in restaurants in the Caribbean and he has infused those flavors into some of the items on Café Mirage’s menu.
In mid-March, Ball and his wife, Krista, took over the unit formerly home to Café Mirage in the Montego Bay Shopping Center on 128th Street. The restaurant, which has been closed for a few years, featured a Mediterranean and Greek-type cuisine. Ball said they decided to keep the name, Café Mirage, but create a new menu and atmosphere.
The couple painted the restaurant, installed new lighting and updated the outdoor seating area, which overlooks Northside Park.
The new Café Mirage opened May 2.
Ball, who started cooking in restaurants at the age of 14, describes his menu as American fare with some unique twists. Now 39 years old, Ball is excited to have his own restaurant.
“It’s always something I wanted to do,” he said. “I felt like this was a good opportunity and a good time.”
Ball, who has lived and worked in Ocean City since 1996, will do most of the cooking. His food has already enticed patrons to return. He has a number of regular customers.
“I’m proud of my little menu,” Ball said. “I enjoy cooking. When you enjoy something, it doesn’t seem like work.”
One of the top sellers is the grilled mahi-mahi wrap. The fish is accompanied by cabbage, pickled onions and Ball’s secret Mirage sauce, which he compares to a spicy mayo.
Ball makes several other sauces from scratch including the Thai peanut sauce. He also pickles his own onions, roasts pork at the restaurant and smokes salmon.
“Everything is fresh and made to order,” he said. “It feels better to make it fresh. [The food] has better texture and flavor when you make it yourself.”
A variety of appetizers and salads are available, including fried green tomatoes with grilled shrimp, spinach and artichoke dip and “Jason’s famous” house-smoked salmon dip.
The grit cakes are combined with smoked gouda, which when cooked come out “crispy and gooey,” Ball said. They are topped with chorizo and grilled shrimp.
An assortment of sandwiches and wraps are featured on the menu. Choices include Thai peanut chicken with pickled slaw; hand-carved pit ham, smoked gouda with crunchy apples and dill honey mustard; homemade chicken salad with Craisins, apples and sage; sliced steak with roasted red peppers, provolone and chimichurri; and grilled caprese tomato, mozzarella and basil tapenade.
Dinner is served after 5 p.m. Some of the entrees include jumbo lump crab cakes; grilled pork chops topped with pineapple chutney; chef’s choice steak with chimichurri and fresh fish.
“I want people to feel comfortable if they’re sandy and still wet right off the beach, to come in here and get a good meal,” Ball said. “We offer something for everyone.”
Wine and beer is also available.
The dining room seats about 46 patrons. The outside dining area can accommodate about 25 people.
Daily specials will be posted on the restaurant’s Twitter (@CafeMirageOCMD) and Facebook pages.
Cafe Mirage will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21-22. Starting Thursday, May 23, the restaurant will be open seven days. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.