5 new restaurants in Ocean City to eat and drink like a local

Change is slowly coming to Ocean City, where a favorite ice cream shop dates back to the 1930s and the city’s signature French fries stand opened in 1929. Tradition is part of the draw for summer visitors to the city, who dive into their vacation there like wrapping themselves in a favorite cozy sweatshirt.

Yet there is something new about the salty sea air; a young generation of entrepreneurs are opening restaurants on the boardwalk and beyond, shaking things up with flavors from around the world.

Some business owners are Ocean City natives who left home, only to return years later. Ask Mickie Meinhardt, who returned to Ocean City in 2020 after more than a decade in New York. Following the death of her mother, she decided to put down roots in her hometown: “I wanted to be closer to my community afterwards. After spending several months here, I also wanted to give back to him.

So she opened The buzzed worda natural wine store and bookstore that offers a slice of Brooklyn in a North Ocean City strip mall.

“We sell what we like here,” says Meinhardt, a writer who hand-scribbles the literary descriptions affixed to wine bottles. After picking up their next great beach read, guests can order canned fish and caviar from the bar, or attend a wine tasting class.

At The Buzzed Word, the focus is on female authors and winemakers, as part of a feminist ethos embedded throughout the company. Meinhardt describes The Buzzed Word as “women-owned and women-led. Most of the staff are also queer.

In the toilet, Meinhardt has a framed photo of The Pepper Tavern, a rowdy dive in Ocean City that closed a few years ago. Although The Buzzed Word is a quieter affair, it’s similar, Meinhardt said, in that it’s “a place that’s there for the locals.”

11805 Coast Road, Ocean City. 410-520-4542. thebuzzedword.com

Providing a new perspective on a destination as beloved as Ocean City isn’t easy, but Spanish wine bar, on the top floor of Hotel Cambriadoes exactly that.

Consider it the perfect place for an Ocean City date. The rustic-modern interior features a marble bar, gold chandeliers, and brick archways. The servers and bartenders look like they just came out of modeling gigs. Happy vacationers sip espresso martinis or signature cocktails like “smoke on water,” served with a blowtorch.

The food menu is oriented towards tapas and cheese and charcuterie boards to share, as well as a few starters such as paella and a whole fish of the day. Although I couldn’t finish an overly sour gazpacho, I couldn’t fault a huge piece of sheep’s cheese from Spain’s La Mancha region.

But who can think of food when you have this view? The main selling point of the restaurant is a circular balcony that offers stunning views of Assawoman Bay and the bridge that connects West Ocean City to “the Island.” We want to applaud the sunset.

13 St. Louis Avenue, Ocean City. 410-520-4541. spainwinebar.com

Restaurants that serve local seafood are ironically hard to find in Ocean City. The few exceptions, such as West Ocean City Shark in the harborhave naturally become foodie favourites.

Another option is At Braddah Barney’s, a modern Asian fusion cafe near the Shark in a mall that also houses a surf shop and thrift store. Although it opened its doors a few years ago, it is still far off the radar of many tourists.

Inside, find the freshest poke this side of Hawaii. I was practically licking the dish after finishing my spicy poke bowl, with a huge helping of locally sourced sparkling tuna along with perfectly cooked sticky rice and cucumber namasu, a refreshing side of pickled cucumbers.

Just as appealing as the food was the laid-back vibe that practically demands guests get into the spirit of the seaside town. During lunch, a surfer came to discuss the day’s waves. “Good job, kitchen staff,” a satisfied bar patron shouted to the two cooks inside as she paid her bill, promising to return tomorrow.

12703 Sunset Avenue, Ocean City. 443-664-7741. braddahbarneys.com

OC regulars are delighted to discover the Taustin Group’s The Other One Brewery, soon to be open to the old Ember location. While this place should satisfy beer snobs, I bet parents with young children will embrace the Taustin Group Pier 23a new beach bar and restaurant that bills itself as Ocean City’s “first waterfront container food port.”

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It’s casual and spacious, the kind of place you can bring the little ones without having to apologize for the mess they’ve made. There’s a sandy area that will keep toddlers entertained while parents whip up fish tacos and Italian sausage subs. Plenty of parking spaces are available just across the street. Taharka Brothers ice cream is sold at a stand. A sunset cruise takes off across the way; passengers are sometimes recruited at the bar. I was in no rush to leave as I munched on my lunch and watched the yachts dock at the pier.

Open for only a few weeks, Pier 23 is still fine-tuning its menu, which can be random. The redfish in my tacos was juicy and well seasoned, but the shells were stale, not crispy. But the staff are friendly and professional and seem eager to welcome guests. Even the little ones.

12817 Harbor Road, Ocean City. 410-289-3323. pier23oc.com

One of the highlights of my 24 hour stay in Ocean City was breakfast at Casita Lindaa family run bakery and cafe one block from the boardwalk that serves everyone from beach tourists staying at the hotel upstairs to city hall employees neighbour.

Owners and married couple Linda Barragán and Steve Kolarik met while attending Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin. Helping in the kitchen: Barragán’s mother, father and little brother, who serve home-cooked meals like those served in their native Irapuato, central Mexico.

At Casita Linda, it’s the little things that make the difference: handmade clay plates used to serve hearty breakfast chilaquiles, the smoky tomatoes that go into the salsa, the fluffy scrambled eggs. Frozen horchata is prepared according to a family recipe that is several generations old. The pastries are freshly made each morning: I loved the fluffy concha with a sweet strawberry crumble on top. Call it an Ocean City tradition in the making.

218 N Baltimore Ave., Ocean City. 443-664-5993. casitalindaoc.com

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