By Logan Dubel
Have you visited an all-you-can-eat buffet since the pandemic began more than two years ago? Although many skepticized the cleanliness of smorgasbords before the Covid-19 outbreak, there is now nearly universal agreement that they simply aren’t your safest bet.
When the Taustin Group shuttered the doors on the iconic Embers Buffet at the start of the pandemic, they never imagined that they would not see the local staple in action ever again. However, as maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols challenged the restaurant industry amidst the slow reopening process, the Taustin management team knew that the habits of diners across the world were changing. In fact, the resort’s other well-known buffet, the downtown Paul Revere Smorgasbord, never reopened. For better or worse, many would never feel comfortable eating at a buffet-style establishment again.
So, while the members of the Taustin team were quarantining, they searched for new options for the vital 24th Street property. Now, a new era will soon begin at the old Embers site, with construction in progress on a massive three-story building that will house countless new businesses, offering retail, food, and entertainment.
Among the occupants are Jay’s Café and Trading Co. and The Other One Brewing Co. on the first floor, and a reincarnation of the Embers Restaurant on the third floor. The second floor will offer experience-based activities for families.
Management hopes that the new building provides something for everyone. “Throughout the pandemic, we explored what this property could offer the community for tourists and locals alike, said Kyler Taustin, Director of Marketing. “We searched for a property model that would excite our loyal patrons of the Taustin Group but also bring something different to the Town of Ocean City.”
The new site will maximize its outdoor space with a full-scale courtyard shared by all the businesses on the property.
Jay’s Café will serve as a convenient morning stop for many visitors, with delicious coffee and pastries, but will also have sandwiches perfect for taking to the beach.
Plus, as craft beer continues to make its mark on our coastal community, The Other One Brewing Company promises to offer an adventurous experience. The new site will have a rotating tap list as well as beer-inspired snacks and cocktails. Plus, unlike many other local breweries, staff will be able to brew throughout the day, with customers even having the chance to take a peek at the process.
Founder and Head Brewer Nathan Todd is no stranger to brewing on the shore. On the contrary, he spent the past decade working for Backshore Brewing on the Boardwalk, which closed at the end of last year. With countless experiences under his belt and a lifetime of passion for craft beer, he cannot wait to get to work.
For Todd, this is a dream decades in the making. “This space will allow visitors to see and experience every aspect of beer, from watching the brewing process to trying new drinks and enjoying times with friends while listening to good music. Over the past ten years, I have had the chance to talk with people all across the Boardwalk and love the chance to share my passion and education about beer with them,” he said. “This is something that I love and can’t wait to share with people. It is important to me that we don’t focus only on a flashy look, but an authentic experience that provides Ocean City with a place where beer is truly made unique to our town.”
Above the brewery, the reincarnated Embers will have an entirely new open concept kitchen and a relaxing bayside ambiance, paying tribute to the rustic sheik lounge-style origins of the Embers on 9th Street in the 1970s. Most menu items will flow through massive brick ovens, with the new restaurant specializing in Neapolitan pizzas with seasonal flavors.
These changes are not the only thing happening lately on the 24th Street block. The Taustin Group has not skipped a beat during the pandemic, making major adjustments to BLU Crabhouse and Raw Bar.
With recent updates, the restaurant now maximizes its outdoor space. The beach bar remains open, but there are elevated outdoor spaces with picturesque views. Additionally, the team incorporated some of the old Embers building into BLU, allowing the restaurant to also take advantage of indoor components and continue serving diners year-round. BLU now holds many more events and tastings during the shoulder seasons.
Finally, Embers Island Miniature Golf on 23rd Street continues to welcome patrons, adding yet another excursion to the all-inclusive site.
“Seeing the evolution of this property and watching the dreams of so many people all come together is very special,” Taustin reflected. “This is exactly what my family has hoped for this property to become for so long – for people to be able to come to one spot and get the full Ocean City experience.”
Jay’s Café and The Other One Brewing Company expect to begin welcoming customers by June, and the remainder of the building will open on a rolling basis. Stay tuned for additional updates.