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2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

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  • 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

    After 3 summers away from OC we returned this year for a great 11-day stay. Just to be clear we weren't avoiding OC for any reason these past few years it's just that we had different priorities.

    I'm (in)famous in previous years for long-winded dining reports and I'm not going to do that to you all this year. First of all since we were away for a few years we revisited a lot of our favorite spots and mostly hit places that have already been discussed here. But I thought I'd share a few dining highlights and observations.

    BJ's on the Water has been a long-time OC favorite mostly for the seafood skins and the atmosphere in general. We got there a few times during this visit and the skins were as good as we remember and service and staff were good and friendly. Had a few drinks at the bar another night and despite an overall purplish crowd we enjoyed the visits.

    We love Coins, have never had a bad meal nor a bad experience there and this year was no exception. Three of us had the crabcakes and another had the stuffed flounder. We all left happy and full. While on the crabcake subject we did Crabcake Factory and Coins on back to back nights and while I've waffled on this in the past I give Coins the nod this year. Both put out great cakes but I think the Coins crab cakes were formed and cooked just right. I think the factory over-browned theirs this time and packed them a little tighter to almost a crab ball. Can't go wrong with either and I know others have their favorites. But this year we give our vote to Coins. I think the Factory lost points for too much purple d├ęcor and too many pictures of crows on the walls – odd, I thought this was a Redskin bar???

    The Harborside served us a couple really good meals again this year. I remember when we used to go there only for the crushes and the fun (and the T-shirts) but now it's a food stop too. I had blackened scallops that were flavorful and cooked just right and the wife had a scallop pasta dish that she enjoyed as well. We both love their crab dip appetizer.

    Speaking of Crab Dip appetizers, I think Harpoon Hanna's does a nice job with theirs. In addition I had a good seafood medley and the wife enjoyed a well-prepared rock fish special. For some reason we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table here despite a very light crowd. I think the wait is just part of the HH tradition??

    Having put aside the crab cake debate for the year we moved on to the cheesesteak for lunch decision. Sampling both Billy's (78th) and Tommy's (29th street) we give the nod to Tommy's – overwhelmingly. I know this will offend many as Billy's is the OC traditional favorite. And I know there are other places in OC that lay claim to the best cheesesteak and I also know that neither of our choices serve a traditional Philly cheesesteak. But, we're from Pittsburgh so that's fine by us!

    We hit the 45th
    Street Taphouse for some beers and steamed shrimp one evening. Great location – it's hard to believe that wonderful view has been hidden from OC for all these years. This place had some great beers to enjoy and the shrimp were quite tasty too. Despite a pretty big crowd for Bike Fest the service was good and friendly. We timed our visit for sunset and had a great view. We sat on the deck at high-top table but in the most uncomfortable bar stools imaginable. They were small, hard to get into and once you got into them you couldn't swivel or move them on the deck. A number of tables were laughing and joking about about this and wondering who would be the first to tip over. Very odd to focus on the chairs in a mini review but these deserve some ridicule. I've grown used to sitting in hard plastic chairs while paying $120 for dinners in OC but this stood out, even in a town full of uncomfortable chairs!

    Based on recommendations in this forum we ate at the Lobster Shanty and both had the lobster roll. They were quite good and we enjoyed them and the views/atmosphere. But, to be honest, I felt odd eating at this New England themed place – this is OC after all. The mug of Quahog chowder made me forget my objection though as it was quite tasty.

    We made it to Fish Tales and without the summer crowd this place is really nice, relaxing and puts out a good meal. I had the soft shell crab sandwich and my wife had a very interesting panini sandwich that was good but we were never really sure what the waitress was describing – but if you put rasberry sauce on anything you have a winner!

    For breakfasts the Bayside skillet was good, as always; Fractured Prunes can't be beat and Uber Bagels were quite tasty albeit a bit over-priced (I think the cream cheese spreads did me in). As an aside it's kind of interesting to see a number of folks in Harley gear dining under pink, fuzzy umbrellas at the Bayside.

    Our daughter and her boy friend joined us for the weekend and one of those nights we got a half bushel of steamed crabs from Bahama Mama's (North) and picked away while watching Notre Dame crush Michigan State. A very enjoyable night in all respects.

    On our way down we were well ahead of check-in time so we stopped in St Michael's and had some excellent mussels in a garlic sauce at Foxy's on the water. Could have spent some more time there (both the town and the bar) but we were not that far ahead of check-in!

    Just a couple non dining notes: This was the first time we ever visited OC post Labor Day and we loved it. Much quieter and laid back. We were there during the Bike Fest weekend and that made things a lot noisier around town and more crowded but all-in-all we found the Bike crowd to be a non issue and even had some fun looking at the bikes etc. This was also our first year renting a condo and we made a great choice and will go back to this place again – I know the owners frequent these forums and I thank them again and recommend their place highly.

    OK, so this wasn't sucha short note after all.

  • #2
    Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

    Excellent review! Nice write up and thanks for sharing feedback. It sounds as though you had a great time and that's good to hear, I enjoy the shoulder seasons as well especially in the fall.


    • #3
      Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

      Dave, that might not have been short, but as lbo said "Excellent review!" As you well know, this boars always slows down a bit after Labor Day, so reports like the one you gave are refreshing... By your choice of restaurants it would seem like you and I have similar tastes, and I tend to agree with most of your observations. I love the Taphouse, while I agree the stools are a bit odd, I'm guessing they were going more for durability (outside in the salt air?) vs. comfort. Also as one who's wrote a few favorable reviews of The Lobster Shanty, I was glad to hear you it was too your liking. Thanks for taking the time to post.


      • #4
        Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

        Nice review. The only thing I'd add is that next time you decide to hit Harpoon Hannah's, you need to get their seafood skins. They put BJ's to shame in a big way and are absolutely delicious.


        • #5
          Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

          Dave, thanks for the wonderful review. Good to hear that many of your favorites were still up to snuff. I'm a big fan of BJ's as well, love their seafood salad. I'm looking forward to checking out the crabcakes at Coins, thanks for the recommendations.

          Nice to hear as well that you found a great place to stay <grin>!


          • #6
            Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

            Originally posted by dctech

            Nice to hear as well that you found a great place to stay <grin>!
            I knew it!


            • #7
              Re: 2012 September Dining -- Our Return to OC!

              I saw the Seafood Skins on the menu at Hanna's. They were flagged as "New" so I was a bit skeptical but now I know to try them next time.

              Surprised you've not tried Coins before, dctech, but based on some of your other favorite places I think you'll be happy when you do. Just don't pay too much attention to the bar crowd on your way in.

              We got to most everyplace on our list this year with the notable exceptions of trying out the non frozen, non gray patties at the Frog (which everyone here makes sound so good) and a return to the Sunset Grill. It just never worked out time or location wise to get to either place. We also were thinking of getting to the Shark this year but did not. I think I was waffling between the Shark and Just Hooked based on reviews here and ended up getting to neither.

              We stopped at Jive one night for drinks but the inside was packed and the outside was too cold (or so my wife informed me) so we moved on down the Highway. Judging from the local political bumper stickers on most of the cars in the lot Jive must be a popular hangout for the locals.