Things have been happening at Riley’s on Second and owner Mike Ellis has been busy during the stay at home order. Ellis has a new business partner, former PGA player and local golfing legend John Mallinger, who lives in Spinnaker Bay and plays out of Virginia Country Club.
Friends and family agree the two have a business synergy that will build upon the success of the local pub and allow it to evolve into an eating establishment that attracts more of the local community. The two say they have been busy overseeing the extensive remodeling and painting at the popular pub and discussing potential improvements in the business.
“We plan to add a kids' menu and we are working with our cooks to offer new items," Ellis said. "In addition, we are looking at presentation and plating. The entire ambiance will be enhanced. Riley’s will be more sophisticated — but we aren’t changing the culture.”
Mike Ellis cut his teeth working in management for Yard House, a chain that now boosts more than 80 restaurants, and is known in the industry as a trail blazer in offering craft beer paired with fusion dishes.
For the past 14 years, Riley’s has been the go-to place for a juicy burger, a cold beer and plenty of TVs.
“Belmont Shore is almost like Mayberry — our retail businesses and food outlets have remained the same for too long," Ellis said. "In a downturn, more creativity is needed. We hope to lead the way in the resurgence of Belmont Shore.”
Instead of just one mentor, Ellis has almost a kitchen cabinet of friends, family and business associates who he can go to with ideas off.
Ellis said they have already been brainstorming about serving customers in the social distancing future. The reduced capacity will impact them, and he said he is hoping that folks will be excited to get out again and there will be no slow nights. Just this week they started offering take out.
Over the years, the restaurant's space at 5331-3 E. Second St. has been the Two Dollar Steak House, where on weekends steak and eggs were only a buck; Sahara Lebanese Cuisine, with belly dancers performing on Friday and Saturday nights; and a short-lived health food restaurant called Vegetable Garden.
Last week, a mother and daughter duo stopped by and reminisced about the mid-1970s when their family owned Aladdin’s Delight, located where Riley’s is now. They shared stories with the Riley’s team, about running a Mom and Pop business, where their daughter would do her homework in the back and frequently fall asleep waiting for closing time when the family could head home. They promised to bring Ellis some photos and menus.
When Ellis was asked what keeps him up at night, he said, “My ideas,” because Mallinger ‘s approach to golf has always been, “Nothing is unattainable.”