When you think food in Ocean City, Maryland you traditionally think of crabs, seafood, pizza, and subs. These have been staples for locals, tourists, and businesses for decades; but the culinary landscape is quickly changing, thanks, in part, to a group of Baltimore restaurateurs whose annual visits to the beach spurned dreams of relocating here. Those dreams eventually evolved into a five year business plan designed to make them become a reality. Spring 2012, however, while sitting at Harborside Bar and Grill, watching Orioles power hitting phenom Chris Davis pitch his team to an extra innings win over the Boston Red Sox, the group of friends/business partners responsible for The Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill decided they couldn’t wait any longer and opted to expedite the process of migrating east.
Initial efforts at expanding their enterprise gave the group a chance to take over the old La Hacienda building on 80th Street, but it quickly became evident the restaurant was too small and lacked the growth potential sought by the ambitions would-be owners. Enter the vacant Olive Tree on 126th St, bayside. After an afternoon of visualization and conceptualization, the large 300 seat restaurant, with it’s enormous kitchen, outside deck, and room to grow outward as well as upward, was deemed a perfect venue for the group’s Ocean City aspirations. The more they thought about it, the more they realized the OC food scene had a serious void that could be filled by bringing their prized Baltimore City concept to the beach, and the OC Abbey Burger Bistro was born.
The original Abbey in Federal Hill was founded in 2008 and quickly asserted itself as a Baltimore Burger institution. Its gourmet burgers are known for fresh ingredients and innovative options, and are renowned not only across the city, but across the state. In the spring of 2013, on the eve of their Ocean City expansion, The Abbey outlasted 15 other burger joints to win Baltimore’s Burger Bracket Championship, as voted on by readers of City Paper. Less than a month later USA Today dubbed The Abbey as having the best burgers in all of Maryland. These same award winning burgers are now being grilled on 126th Street.
The Abbey’s acclaimed concept is simple: gourmet burgers at reasonable prices served in a casual, yet classy, environment. To say the menu is impressive does not do it justice. Not only does The Abbey offer all the burger variations you’d expect, but also many you would never think of. The main dilemma facing hungry patrons is deciding between one of the delicious menu items or creating their own specialty burger from The Abbey’s expansive list of ingredients (see adjacent photo). Whether you opt for a regular beef, chicken, or turkey burger, or something more exotic like kangaroo, bison, or Kobe, you can rest assured your patty is handcrafted from meat that is ground on premises. Frozen products? Forget about it. The Abbey relies on daily deliveries from local farms to ensure the freshest burgers in existence. But the quality doesn’t end there. The buns are freshly baked, the produce is local, the fries are hand cut, the sides are made from scratch, and the innovative, hand-spun milkshakes are spiked for an adult take on a childhood favorite.
Gourmet burgers are the star of the show, but they have quite a supporting cast. If there is a better combination than burgers and beer, it hasn’t been discovered yet. Sharing this sentiment, The Abbey’s owners are as dedicated to their beer list as they are to their menu,. The spacious bar houses 48 taps of the finest craft beer from around the region and over 100 bottles of local and national favorites.
Ocean City may be a tourist town, but The Abbey is committed to the local community. Not only are they sourcing the finest local ingredients and offering them at fair prices, but plans are for a year-round operation that caters to local tastes first and foremost. The bar will feature local brews from Burley Oak, Shorebilly, Evolution, Dogfish and other favorites (including Natty Boh) and it’s abundance of high definition televisions will be tuned to Orioles games throughout the summer. When fall hits, The Abbey will embrace it’s roots by transforming into a gameday hotspot for Raven Nation.
While (im)patiently waiting for football season, the OC Abbey Burger Bistro will offer live entertainment six days a week, including performances on the scenic outside deck and as well as inside their gorgeous restaurant. It also features an arcade and game room to keep the kids occupied while mom and dad enjoy the ultimate burger and beer experience.
Great burgers, great beer, and great service in a family friendly atmosphere, The OC Abbey Burger Bistro has a recipe for success that should yield years of longevity and certainly will leave your mouth watering for more.
Move over crabs, you just got some serious competition.