Abbey Burger Bistro
12601 Coastal Hwy
Ocean City, Md. 21842
Abbey Burger Bistro is the first true “Burger Bar” to open in Ocean City, Maryland and I say welcome. ABB has its mother restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland where they were voted “Best Burger Joint” in Maryland by U.S. Today. The Ocean City property is located off Coastal Hwy at 126th St. overlooking Northside Park. The parking lot is shared with the hotel it is attached to and getting in and out can be a little loopy at first but after your initial visit you will get the hang of it.
The restaurant itself is a refit of an old Italian restaurant and when you walk in you get the distinct impression that ABB is still a work in progress. The entrance is open and barren with the large bar area directly ahead and the dining room to your left. Of the two the bar is the preferable location; it is a large space with a U-shaped bar and plenty of high-top tables around the perimeter. There are a number of wide-screen televisions around the room and at the back there is a view of Northside Park and access to an outside deck area. The dining room is a good size space but it is totally devoid of atmosphere. The minimal pictures seem to have been a second thought and the tables are nice varnish tops but they are covered with butcher paper that is not fitted to them and hangs off with ragged edges. The butcher paper slides around and while it gives kids something to draw on the same could be accomplished with paper placemats. I realize that the word “Bistro” is in the name but that word is defined as a “small café; serving modest, down to earth food and wine”; you don’t need butcher paper to make your case. The bar area, while warmer, also suffers from a lack of atmosphere but with all the TV’s you don’t notice as much. The impression I get is one of a business that does not seem invested in its location and is ready to move at a moment’s notice and I sincerely hope that is not the case because the food is actually quite good.
The appetizer section is large, as would be expected in a Burger/Sports Bar. The standouts are the Waffle Fry Nachos which are served with a very nicely spiced cumin and coriander chili and black beans and covered with large slices and hunks of Avocado, Jalapenos and Tomatoes and that is covered with Jack Cheese and a spicy Crème Fraiche. The Alligator Bites were surprisingly moist and the beer/tempura style batter makes them nicely light, my only suggestion is to increase the seasoning. Alligator is a very mild meat and needs to be seasoned more aggressively, just ask any Cajun. The Crab Tots are also very good; with the tots being beautifully crisp and hot and the crab dip and melted cheddar cheese giving them a nice creaminess. Finally; the Abbey Wings and large and meaty with a moderately spicy Buffalo sauce that gives them a nice zip and the kitchen will make them juicy if you would prefer them not so crispy. Unfortunately, the Crab Mac’n’Cheese was a disappointment; the macaroni was luke warm and much too heavily salted. It was so salty that the crab meat flavor was lost which is very sad because they are generous with the crab meat and it is a good quality.
Now we get to the nitty gritty, the burgers, after all the name of the place is Abbey Burger Bistro. The burger meat itself is ground from locally raised Roseda Beef and it is delicious. The Burgers are available in either pre-arranged combinations or you can build your own from a myriad of choices in toppings and meat. At any one time ABB has choices in meat ranging from Venison and Wild Boar to Bison and Duck. The named burgers were my choice and I was very happy with all of them. The Harry’s Bistro Burger is served with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cheddar Cheese and a Sunny Side up Egg and was perfectly cooked and yummy. The Santa Fe Burger came covered in Guacamole, Jalapenos and Pepper Jack Cheese with the house Spicy Crème Fraiche and was a delicious mess to eat. Now is a good time to tell you that if you have a choice get all the burgers on a Pretzel Roll because while the Soft Rolls and very good they do not stand up structurally to the burgers and toppings, they sort of just melt away. The Peanut Butter Burger was an interesting choice and some in my party liked it very much and others did not so order at your own risk. My favorite burger turned out to be the Bison Burger; it was moist and flavorful and the Bleu Cheese and Onion Ring were a nice combination. Now for anyone going to ABB and not wanting to order a Burger (I am unsure of why but) The Chicken Burger was a very pleasant surprise. The ground Chicken was moist and well seasoned with the toppings making it a very good alternate choice.
As far as the sides are concerned my only choices have been the French Fries and the Onion Rings; both are well made but suffer from a lack of salt. The rule of thumb for anything coming out of the fryer is to salt it immediately, this allows the salt to stick to the food which is not possible once it gets to the table. A word to all cooks and restaurant owners; the secret to good food is adding the proper amount of salt! No one will complain about a salted French Fry, they would not be ordering them if they did not like salt.
I would be remiss if I did not say a word about ABB’s beer list; in a word Dizzying! I believe there are 18 beers on tap and then pages of beers in a bottle and cans on their list. I and my friends have had great fun trying beer after beer and I am sure you will too. ABB offers a great Happy Hour with discounted beers and appetizers so that would be a great time to give them a try.
Abbey Burger Bistro serves an excellent Burger and with a little added attention to the atmosphere and the little details in the kitchen it will become a very popular destination for all Burger lovers in Ocean City.