Ocean City, Maryland is a vacation destination steeped in tradition and our visitors have, more often than not, been coming to this beach since they were kids and are now bringing their kids. I remember back in the 70’s when I was a teenager we would come down and we had a set place to stay and set places we would always go to eat on the Boardwalk. For example; my traditional “walking the Boardwalk” dinner/lunch was Thrashers Fries, Dayton Bros. Soft-shell Crab Sandwich, Loves Lemonade and Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard. My mouth still waters at those memories and most of those food vendors are still in operation so, I have also taken my children to them to build more memories. Now, obviously my tastes have expanded since I was 17 years old and I am in no way saying that Ocean City Boardwalk food is gourmet in any way but, it was never meant to be. Boardwalk food was always meant to be fun, satisfying and easy to eat and there are a good many vendors that fit those qualifications quite nicely. Therefore, what follows are a few of my favorite places to eat and drink on our Boardwalk so see if your go-to place makes the list.
Let’s start at the inlet and work our way up the Boardwalk with Harrison’s Harbor Watch. Harrison’s is a full service restaurant with a great view of the inlet and they serve your typical, average Eastern Shore food, you know lots of seafood covered in Crab Imperial and lots of fried items. Where Harrison’s really shines is at their Raw Bar where they serve high quality Raw Oysters, Steamed Shrimp and an exceptional Oyster Stew. They usually have 3 or 4 different types of fresh oysters and while the shrimp are a bit small for my liking they are steamed perfectly. The Oyster Stew is made to order, at the bar, in individual steam-jacketed kettles and is rich with cream and full of fat fresh oysters. If you are looking for a more casual environment there is also The Red–Eyed Frog, which is in the same little shanty house shopping center as Harrison’s. If you are facing Harrison’s front doors just turn to your right and keep walking until you see it. The Red–Eyed Frog is very small but they have a great view of the inlet and they serve cold beer and some very nice sandwiches.
Moving further up the Boardwalk is Thrashers Boardwalk Fries and they are the grand-daddy of all Boardwalk Fries. They only serve their Fries cooked in peanut oil, taken out hot and salted, where the customer then pours malted vinegar on them to their hearts content. If there is a true classic Boardwalk food item then these Fries are it and anyone coming to Ocean City should make the pilgrimage to Thrashers, but be warned “There Is Always a Line”! In the same block is Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard. For those that have never had frozen custard it is similar to soft serve ice-cream only infinitely richer and airier. My favorite is the swirl mix cone of vanilla and chocolate. Across the Boardwalk from Kohr Bros. is the Atlantic Stand where you can get pretty much any food grilled or fried but the real secret is their Fried Chicken. Fresh and fried to order so there is a wait but always crisp and juicy.
As you move up the Boardwalk you should be getting hot again and there is nothing better to cool down with than a water ice from a Polish Water Ice stand. The Polish Water Ice stands are always giving away free samples and I dare you to sample a flavor and then not get one. But if frozen custard and water ice are not your cooling dessert of choice here comes Dumser’s Dairyland with some of the best ice cream I have tasted on the Eastern Shore. Dumser’s has been making their ice cream since 1939 and believe me when I tell you they have it down pat. The final three food stands, in this area, that I want to tell you about are The Wrapper, The Fractured Prune and Piezano’s Pizza. At The Wrapper everything comes “wrapped” in a soft pretzel and I mean everything. They have breakfast wrappers, meat and cheese filled wrappers and dessert wrappers and they all have a choice of dipping sauces you can use. My kids love this place and I am not too ashamed to say that I have been known to indulge as well. The Fractured Prune is a donut shop but with a great twist. The Fractured Prune makes all their donuts to order and then they hand dip them in your choice of a mind boggling number of combination flavors. This means that your donuts come to you still piping hot and they literally melt in your mouth. Finally, Piezano’s Pizza is NY/NJ style pie with a thin crust, a minimal amount of sweet and tangy tomato sauce and lots of stringy cheese. The slices are hot and oily on top and perfect to kill any possible remains of the night before.
Further up the Boardwalk, past 2nd Street comes another group of food stands and bars. Conner’s Beach Café (in the spirit of full disclosure Conner’s is owned by family members but that just means I am more critical of them than anyone else) serves Boardwalk Fries that rival Thrasher’s and you will not have to stand in line for half an hour to enjoy them. Conner’s also serves a Soft-shell Crab Sandwich that is one of my favorites in Ocean City. But the true gem of Conner’s is their 2nd floor Deck Bar which overlooks the Boardwalk and the Ocean. You cannot beat the view especially in the late afternoon and evening. Next to Conner’s is the original Bull on the Beach where they serve a Baltimore classic know as Pit Beef. The Beef is flavorful, juicy and tender and served on a soft roll with some spicy horseradish sauce and absolutely delish. They also have Turkey and Ham with the Ham and Cheese being my go-to favorite. Finally if you are in the mood for a fun Irish Bar then walk up the Boardwalk a little more and step right into Shenanigan’s Irish Pub. Great beers on tap (of course a perfectly pulled pint of Guinness) and some very nice bar eats are available. You can dine inside or out on a front deck and there is usually a band playing in the evening.
Those are my favorite places to eat and drink on the Ocean City Boardwalk but that does not mean they are the only good places to eat. That is the beauty of a place like the Boardwalk, the sense of discovery, so walk the Boards and find your own traditions. You may find yourself coming back year after year.
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