By Logan Dubel
When Embers closed its doors at the start of the pandemic, the Taustin family said they did not imagine a new era on the horizon for their longtime restaurant. But three years later, the former buffet reopens as an upscale dining experience in the brand new 24th Street Embers Center.
“The pandemic gave us a moment to reflect on where we’ve been, where we wanted to go and where the town was headed,” said Kyler Taustin, director of marketing for the Taustin Group. “That gave us this inspiration for the third-generation-vision of the Embers.”
The reinvented restaurant officially opens this weekend, taking the local brand to both literal and figurative new heights. Located on the building’s third and top floor with an open-concept kitchen, high ceilings and an outdoor deck featuring waterfront views, the family said the new Embers elevates the Ocean City experience.
“I’ve walked through the space hundreds of times now, but I still think about what we’ve done. We were meticulous in choosing our chairs, tables and tiles and went down to the nitty gritty,” said Cole Taustin, the group’s CEO. “We have yet to have a person walk through the door that hasn’t said, ‘This is so much better than I expected.’”
WATCH: OceanCity.com Explores the New Embers Restaurant
Embers’ reopening marks the completion of the two-year project, which also included an overhaul of BLU Crabhouse and Raw Bar and the additions of The Other One Brewing Co. and Jay’s Café and Trading Co.
Surf’s Up Arcade and Ocean City Axe Throwing fill the second floor with entertainment, complementing the pre-existing Embers Island miniature-golf course.
“The joy of this property is that rain or shine, there is somewhere to eat and something to do,” Kyler Taustin said. “It’s hard to find another block in Ocean City that can say that.”
Although the revamped Embers represents a broader shift in the restaurant industry, the family said longtime patrons will feel at home.
“While we are playing with unique proteins like octopus and dry-aged fish, our flavors are familiar — they’re just elevated and intensified,” Cole Taustin said. “One of Ocean City’s greatest selling points is its accessibility to major cities, and people have developed a higher expectation in the restaurant industry. Nationwide, restaurants are stepping it up, and it’s high time we stay on pace with our neighbors.”
The restaurant also utilizes massive brick ovens to prepare many menu items, including more casual Neapolitan pizzas.
“For those who loved Embers the way it used to be or for anyone looking for something more comfortable, that also exists in this venue,” Kyler Taustin said.
Glenn Irwin, former executive director of the Ocean City Development Corporation, said the reimagined restaurant represents the Taustin’s next chapter.
“Seeing another Ocean City family staying and taking over shows the sustainability of a family business,” Irwin said. “People will recognize the name Embers and if they did not eat there, their parents probably ate there, and I think it’ll turn out to be a very popular place.”
The new Embers carries on the vision of Cole and Kyler’s great-uncle, Sam Taustin, who opened the original restaurant on Ninth Street in 1945 and then passed the business along to their father, Jay. While the restaurant now trades in buffets for bayside views, the family said it carries on 80 years of Taustin traditions.
“We have been evolving, it’s in our blood,” Kyler Taustin said. “It’s part of our family’s history to be at the forefront of what Ocean City has to offer.”
After two years of construction, the Taustin brothers said they feel ready to get on with the show.
“We are excited to show off all of the work, effort and yes, some struggle, that we’ve gone through,” Kyler Taustin said. “I’m a theater artist and it’s like you’ve been rehearsing for months, and the audience has arrived.”