Since the category “Best Mexican Food” was created for the Best of Ocean City® voting in 2017, Mother’s Cantina has always been the winner. They won the title in 2017 and 2018 and now, in the 2019 voting, they’ve got a slight lead over their consistent runner-up, Tequila Mockingbird.
To most, Mother’s winning status won’t come as a surprise. As one Alabamian who visited Ocean City for last year’s film festival wrote, “The food was perfect, and I was a little upset about the fact that Alabama is closer to Mexico, yet I’d never had a house-made tortilla before… Mother’s Cantina has amazing food, amazing bartenders, and amazing drinks. Great place to try your first Orange Crush.”
At first glance, the Best of Ocean City voting, especially in the food-related categories, can seem like a bit of a popularity contest. Thrasher’s always wins Best Fries, Fisher’s wins best Caramel Popcorn and Dumser’s has won Best Ice Cream since the contest’s inception in 2014. After five-plus years it begs the question, are these really the best businesses for their respective snacks, or do they just have the greatest name recognition?
Truth be told, from a local’s perspective, the answer seems to be that it’s unavoidably a little bit of both. Thrasher’s, Fisher’s and Dumser’s do have some of the greatest brand name recognition in town, but there’s a reason for that to begin with: The product they put out holds up to even the harshest criticism, and people genuinely enjoy it. There’s always the possibility that an underdog will sweep the competition away in any of these categories, but based on quality alone, it’s no surprise who the winners usually are.
But Mother’s is not nearly as old as Thrasher’s or Dumser’s, and its name has only recently begun to catch on as a synonym for good, local Mexican food. The competition in the category includes Tequila Mockingbird, Plaza Tapatia, La Abuelita and Guido’s Burritos, all highly-rated and locally-beloved cantinas in their own right. The voting category for “Best Mexican Food,” which replaced the catch-all “Ethnic Food” category in 2017, is one that seems to be based purely on quality of food and the overall experience alone. Mother’s earned its title.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a good Happy Hour that all the locals have memorized. Every day from 4-7 p.m., tacos are $1.75, house margaritas are $3.50 and draft beers are $1.50. This also makes them a tough competitor in the “Best Happy Hour” category, where they’re currently in second place following long-reigning champion Coconuts Bar & Grill.
In addition to their famous taco-friendly Happy Hour, Mother’s Cantina is also known for being an “ocean friendly restaurant,” a designation they first received in 2017 from the Surfrider Foundation. That designation can be attained by restaurants who meet all five of the following criteria: They don’t use styrofoam containers, they follow proper recycling protocol, they don’t offer plastic bags for takeout, they only provide straws upon request, and they provide only reusable tableware for onsite dining– disposable utensils for takeout are provided only upon request. Mother’s Cantina was the first ocean friendly restaurant in Maryland and they’re currently only one of two, along with Pickles Pub.
Mother’s owner Ryan James participates in beach cleanups on 28th Street, and he also ensures that all recyclables at the restaurant are brought to the recycling drop-off center near Walmart on Route 50, as the Town of Ocean City offers no curbside recycling pick-up. (90% of the Town’s waste is instead routed to an incinerator in Pennsylvania.)
Guests who sit at the bar will find, instead of plastic straws, biodegradable blue-striped black paper straws placed neatly by the napkins awaiting patrons’ environmentally-sustainable use.
They’ll also find, among decorative sugar skulls and t-shirts for sale, local craft beer on tap and weekly food specials in addition to the daily Happy Hour deals. Mother’s Cantina earned its title as Ocean City’s Best Mexican Restaurant in 2017 and 2018, and time will tell — when the 2019 voting closes on Memorial Day — if its winning streak continues into this upcoming summer.
Best Of Navigation Cast Your Votes for The Best of Ocean City® 2019! Last year’s polls saw nearly 60,000 votes cast, and this year is expected to yield an even bigger turnout! Voting for the Best of Ocean City runs from Memorial Day to Memorial Day each year.