Well, the 2014 Spring and Summer Season are upon us and Oceancity.com has just posted its Best Of Ocean City® 2014 awards. In keeping with this spirit, and as Oceancity.com’s resident restaurant reviewer, let me throw in my two cents worth. First of all let me say that 2013 was one of the most active seasons for Ocean City restaurants in recent memory, with the closing of old established properties and an influx of new blood into the Ocean City area. All this movement is good for any city, especially a resort city, and I welcome anyone who wants to try their hand at one of the most difficult businesses there is. This past season we saw openings of new breweries, burger joints, tap houses, ethnic restaurants and upscale properties. Some are very good, some are mediocre and some will probably not be around very long, but that is as it should be.
Before I begin with my favorite list let me give you a few of the prerequisites and standards I use to base my picks. First of all is the consistency of the product- the item or property must supply a quality product, time after time. Next is a consistently good level of service fitting the style of property; meaning I judge burger or ice cream joints differently than a full service restaurant, but both must meet service expectations. A couple of final notes: first, my “Best Of” list is not limited to Ocean City as I have included properties as far west as Easton, Md. and as far north as Lewes, De. Secondly, I have renamed the category of “Fine Dining” restaurant to “Up-Scale”; mainly due to the fact that there really are no fine dining properties in this area. That is not to say there aren’t very good, cutting edge restaurants; it is just that “Fine Dining” denotes a certain level of service and ambiance that does not really occur in our casual, beach resort atmosphere of the Eastern Shore.
Ok, enough foreplay let’s get down to it:
Best Burger: The Longboard Café on 67th St. and the Bay in Ocean City is a new property this past season but they are making a splash with a proprietary blend of ground meat burgers that will wipe you out.
Best Subs: This category splits two ways with Devito’s Italian Deli at 143rd St. for classic cold cut subs and Fat Daddy’s for every other type of sub.
Best Breakfast: The Satellite Café is my go to for a stack of pancakes, sausage and sunny-side up eggs.
Best Pizza: Mione’s in the White Marlin Mall is the dictionary definition of a consistently good product. Try their Pasta Pizza.
Best Crabs: The Crab Bag on 130th St. in Ocean City is the place where I take anyone who says “I want to eat crabs” enough said.
Best Crab Cakes: In a town where every restaurant “claims” to have the best my two favorites are The Captains Table in the Marriott Courtyard on 15th St. and The Shark on the Harbor in West Ocean City both are made with jumbo lump crab meat delicately seasoned and are excellent.
Best BBQ: Sorry Ocean City but the best BBQ on the Eastern Shore is hands down the BBQ Joint on Dover St. in Easton Md. The Ribs are amazing and the Brisket is without equal this side of Texas. Just writing about it makes me want to get in my car and drive to Easton.
Best Ethnic Food: While this is much too broad a category I have two selections. The Satellite Café (see breakfast) becomes a Thai “fusion” restaurant for lunch and dinner and the Pad Thai is authentic and amazing. Taqueria La Sierra is at 58th W. Church St. in neighboring Selbyville and walking in you will be transported to Mexico. Beautiful Tacos, Tortas and daily specials.
Best Seafood Restaurant: Again, too broad but two restaurants come immediately to mind. First is an Ocean City standard and a Grand Dame, the Captains Table in the Marriott Courtyard. Their kitchen produces the finest quality and freshest seafood prepared simply. The second choice is Hooked at 82nd St. on the Bay Side. Again, excellent quality but at Hooked the preparations are more interesting and bolder in presentation and flavor.
Best Desserts: Baked Desserts in Berlin, Md. is hands down the best bakery in the area. They hand make everything from scratch with organically and locally sourced raw products. Try their Cro-claire.
Best Bar: Ok, my definition and yours of what makes a great bar may be different so let me explain. My Best Bar is a place where the mixers are all made from scratch, interesting beers on tap and in bottles, interesting and delicious home-made cocktails, knowledgeable bartenders and interesting music. With all that in mind Hooked in Ocean City and 14Global in Bethany Beach stand out.
Best Margarita: Anyone who has read my column knows that I am a Margarita fanatic so believe me when I say these are the best around. The margaritas at Papa Grande’s in Fenwick, De are classically prepared and you can’t beat the view. Agave in Lewes, De. is a longer drive but again delicious margaritas and the Mexican food is amazing, but be prepared to wait.
Best Pub: This is probably my favorite category and I cannot emphasize how much fun and how good the Pickled Pig Pub is at 18756 Coastal Highway in Rehobeth De. Unlike many “brew pubs” the Pickled Pig has exceptionally good, hearty food with many interesting choices from Appetizers, to Sandwiches and Entrees but the glory is in the beer selection. The bar does not have 50 plus beers on tap in the “shatter shot” technique favored lately by many bars but has a well selected array of balanced brews sure to satisfy most any beerphile. Don’t forget to ask what the daily Randall is!!
Best Family Restaurant: Barbley’s Family Restaurant is what classic Eastern Shore “soul food” is all about. I start with an Oyster Fritter and then work my way into the finest Fried Chicken in Maryland and then finish with a slice of home-made pie, simply delicious and satisfying. Barbley’s is only open Thursday thru Saturday from 4pm to 8pm so plan accordingly.
Best Sushi: I am giving this type of restaurant it’s own category because I love it so much. Without a doubt Misaki Sushi in Bethany Beach, De. is not only the best sushi restaurant on the Eastern Shore but it is also one of the best I have eaten in anywhere.
Best Up-Scale Restaurant: There are two contenders in this category and for different reasons. The first is a(Muse) Restaurant at 44 Baltimore Ave. in Rehoboth De. a(Muse) is a small casual looking establishment that hides a cutting edge and adventurous menu behind its simple front. Amazing treatments of food and drinks so go with an open mind and feed your head and soul. The second is Nage Restaurant at 19730 Coastal Highway also in Rehoboth De. Nage is also small but the menu is more accessible in both food and beverages. The service is friendly and knowledgeable and they also have a killer Sunday Brunch. Both are well worth a visit.
Well, that’s my list for 2013. I hope it gives you some new places to try and I look forward to this year’s season to try out some newer establishments. Maybe I will see you there!