Newcomers are sometimes unsure what to expect at Boardwalk Billy's, even though it's been at The Shoppes at University Place for 10 years.
That could be because Boardwalk Billy's is blessed with multiple personalities.
“We're a restaurant all day long, until around 11 p.m.,” manager Jamie Jenkins said. “Then we take on more of a bar atmosphere.”
It also has a fast-turnover shift: Customers move in and out quickly when they order $5.99 weekday lunch specials. There's jerk rotisserie chicken, a cheeseburger or Southern barbecue pork sandwich, a Buffalo chicken wrap and salads.
Appealing to so many different customers is a lot to pull off, Jenkins said, but it's been fun building a nearly all-day operation.
Today, the restaurant occupies a space triple its original size. It didn't move far, but now customers have a lakefront view, a deck and walls of windows that help the restaurant live up to its image as a boardwalk attraction.
Owner Jeff Van Dyke hired chef Dave Withee five years ago. Withee has helped build clientele by making more menu items and ingredients in the kitchen rather than buying them.
The restaurant draws customers from nearby businesses, as well as shoppers and others, Jenkins said.
Music, tropical drinks and flavors from the coast to the Caribbean set the scene.
Want to see the football game? Arrive early to get a seat for the NFL Sunday Ticket, when all National Football League games show simultaneously on 30 screens starting at 1 p.m. Parties of eight or more need a reservation.
The restaurant has plenty of appetizers, including chicken nachos, Crab con Queso, coconut shrimp, calamari and Smothered Fries.
Specialties are seafood and slow-cooked baby back pork ribs with sauce and two sides ($18, or $12.99 for a half rack).
To keep it light, consider the oyster bar. Oysters on the half shell are served by the dozen ($10.99) or get a pot of 15 steamed ($14.99).
Other options are the Low Country Boil ($14.99) and Alaskan snow crab legs ($21.99).
The scene and the menu change around 11 p.m., when Billy's boardwalk hosts a crowd that feasts on Buffalo-style wings, chicken fingers, shrimp and rock music until 2 a.m.
“We get our third wave of the day, and we get busy,” Jenkins said. “People are shoulder-to-shoulder. We're lucky to attract a varied audience.”