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2014 dining report

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  • 2014 dining report

    Here is my yearly summer take, on our dining experience in O.C. As many of you know who have been reading my reviews over these many years, with each passing summer our family dynamics seem to change a bit, at one time I had 5 little kids - now days our trips are mostly just my wife and I, along with our 10 year old son. On this particular trip, our 20 year old was able to join us, with his girlfriend. It was looking like that might not happen as he's in the U.S. Coast Guard, and stationed in Va. beach - right in the path of the hurricane, but luck was on our side, and he was able to get leave for a few days... but nobody really cares about any of that, so....Here is my review.

    Juy 3rd, (lunch) The Angler - We got into town earlier for a change ... I have a very good friend of mine, who's a TRUE OC local, and every time I come to town we make an effort to get together. We decided to meet for lunch today, and seeing how she was already in town, awaiting our arrival, I felt it only fair that SHE choose the place. I was surprised when I got the text saying "Meet me at the Angler!" ...Don't ask me how, but in all the years of going to Ocean City, somehow we managed to overlook this place. It's hiding in plain sight, bay front on Talbot st. We were lucky that our friend arrived earlier, and was able to score us a table outside next to the water... Sitting in the shade, with the cool breeze coming off the bay, I didn't think it could get any better than this - that is until we ordered a round of Goomsday Smashes! ~ Our food came out promptly, we enjoyed some great, fresh shucked oysters on the 1/2 shell - of course they were delicious, but when paired with the sweetness from coconut rum in our drinks, it balanced out the briny flavor of these mollusks in an unexpected, yet extremely successful way. The grouper fingers, that my son ordered were lightly battered, and seasoned just enough to enhance (not over power) the delicate fish. Calamari? yeah, it Is sorta a "cop out", I know, but we still wanted it - nothing extra ordinary, but quite good, and it hit the spot. Even though we all just shared some appetizers, I have to say that - not only was I full when I left, but I was also all I was highly impressed!

    July 3rd (dinner) Ocean City Brewing - When we got to take a tour this place back in April, it was under construction,and still weeks away from being anything that even remotely resembled a Brew Pub ~ so, when we walked back into those doors 3 months later, not only were we blown away to see the finished product, but restaurant was running on all cylinders! The place was busy but we had our choice to sit at one of the communal tables that they made from recycled wood, from the original hardware store that once resided there, but we decided on a 4 top, as the bulk of the crowd occupied the long tables. The heavy crowd didn't seem to overwhelm owner Josh in the least, as he found time to step out of the kitchen to make good on his word, and take us through another PRIVATE tour of his now finished brewery!
    We started our meal off with 2 flights of beer, each flight has 3 samples, all were good with me! My wife and I have been together for over 15 years and I could count on one hand, how many egg rolls, we've ever eaten together, (we just don't like em) BUT they are one of the signature items on the menu, and after they came out not only did they open our minds but our appetites as well! My wife ordered the "Local" egg roll, filled w/ crab, tater tots, Parmesan cream sauce for dipping...when you read the description it sounds preposterous, BUT I can tell you that biting into this roll is like biting into the eastern shore itself! Believe me I know it sounds crazy, but this thing works on all levels!!! Josh told me his favorite is the BBQ roll (so ya know I had to try it!) filled with pork & carolina slaw, along with some of the very best tangy bbq sauce, this guy has ever eaten - it's a tomato based vinegar sauce that got a perfect balance of sweet, heat, savory, that when paired with smoked pork = pure heaven! These were just the 2 rolls we chose, there are plenty more, and all are fried in RICE oil, which serves a dual purpose (1) it makes them lighter than traditional egg rolls (2) it's healthier - that's why I ate all of mine & half of hers! My 10 year old ordered the boneless wings, he liked them so much he got a 2nd order, my other son got the Pub Burger, this meat is never frozen, & trucked in from Va. I was told it's a special grind made specifically for the brewery - in case you haven't figured it out the owner is a "foodie" and all about fresh & healthy ingredients. If you're looking to try a new restaurant, Ocean City Brewing IS the place to go! Absolutely EXCELLENT!!!

    July 4th (lunch) Harborside - This place is an old stand by of mine, because it's simply consistent. Great food, love the laid back atmosphere, and to me it's the embodiment of everything I want in an eastern shore restaurant. While the chef's here do occasionally put their own spin on some of the classics, the heart & soul of the menu is still rich in traditional Delmarva cuisine. since I've written so many reviews on this establishment over the years, I'll do my best to try & cut to the chase here, The calamari is always fried to absolute perfection, tender, and just lightly dusted with the herb & spice breading mixture, I simply love the way they serve it topped with banana peppers and the shaved Parmesan, the trick is to first lace the entire dish with the lemon juice, get all 3 of these components together either on a fork, (fingers work too) so the trinity can work it's magic ~ the inherent sweetness of the squid provides the perfect base, then you get the nuttiness of the aged Parmesan, that helps smooth out the heat from those briny peppers... and when you dip it into the marinara, the acid from the lemon juice just makes the red sauce come alive on your tongue! It's one of those things I just can not stop eating! The crab cakes were on point as usual. Filled with jumbo lump crab -and not much of anything else- broiled to a golden brown, with the perfect amount of spice. The burgers were borderline embarrassingly huge, and done just right - 2 hands are suggested! The fish tacos were messy, but if you have taco that's clean and neat, you're probably doing it all wrong ! Once again, everything lived up to the standard that we've come to expect here, and the Orange crush cake is always a home run... The most unbelievable thing about this meal, was that it was just a "LUNCH"! ... Also worth mentioning - the waitstaff here is always very friendly!

    July 4th (dinner) Abbey burger - When this place first opened I gave them a pass on a lot of things, but it's been long enough now - while my kangaroo burger tasted fine, I'm perplexed as to why it came out in the shape of a meatball? I mean seriously, this thing tasted good enough but was difficult as heck to eat! I know they can do this better. How do I KNOW? Well, my son ordered the same exact thing and his was actually flat ~ ya know... like a PATTY? And the homemade chips?? Well, first off, I didn't even get em, they came out with my wife's burger... The saving grace here was that her Black Angus burger with the thick cut smoke house bacon was off the charts good, and by far the best burger, that I tasted at our table. Oh, and remember those chips I was supposed to get,that she ended up with? They were more like crumbs! Seriously I'm not trying to be difficult here but these chips were disgraceful, & when I brought it to the attention of our server, her response was - "They should've never sent them out like that" -- No Kidding!?!? So what did she do to correct it you ask? Absolutely NOTHING.... and no, she's not "new", same waitress we had back in Dec. I'd have probably left here a little let down, if the ice cream over the homemade cookie served up in the cast iron skillet hadn't sweetened (literally) the deal in the end. Definitely, will go back,and try it again, because the things that the do right are VERY right, but they absolutely have some things to work on too...

    July 5th (dinner) 45th st Village - for the evening of the 5th, we wanted to play it low key, My older son & his girlfriend took our 10 yr old with them to the inlet to watch the fireworks. This gave the wife & I an evening out alone, however we probably over did it earlier at Coconuts bar, back at our hotel, so we really didn't do much this night to write about... walked up to Seacrets, crowd coming in and out of there was enough for us to pass on going in (didn't really think we were going to do it when we walked up there in the first place) instead, we just bar hopped a lil at the 45th st Village, Shallow Waters, Drunken Noodle,Tap House, OC Steamers all are owned by the same people that own the Sunsations - they own everything in the plaza. The food, at these places is average at best , and not worth going into detail over, but to give you an idea I spent $16 on 2 CUPS of Crab soup, that consisted of warm red liquid, sporting a few thin slices of some sort of vegetation, I think they might have made the soup in a pot that might have been used once or twice to steam crabs in or something??? basically a broth, with an UN-Godly amount of salt and old bay... there was nobody here, & I think I might have an idea why.... Although I'd take an empty place over the over served, fall down drunk, F-word spewing crowd, that was at the Tap House any day....

    July 6th (lunch) Barn 34 - Stopped in the night of the 4th for some drinks, kitchen was closed but sat and talked w/ Frank the bartender, he went into great detail explaining the new direction they were taking the restaurant, gourmet burgers with fresh local beef, wings with a local sauces, ect. ect. So we decided to go the very next morning for breakfast/lunch - we got there at 11:50 am, and was told there would only be a 20 min wait. WELL, let me tell you that slowly turned into a 30 min, that turned into a 45min, to now over 1 hour before we sat down! Now, keep in mind we are not alone here others are also trying to get in here, AND (here's the kicker) there are MULTIPLE EMPTY TABLES IN THERE THE ENTIRE TIME! I can honestly say that I've never seen anything quite like this in my life... People were flipping out at the hostess station, some woman who manages the front of the house is getting in the face of customers, people are leaving, people who got seated, never got waited on, I watched several families get up in disgust and walk out after being sat! One guy was in there for 15 mins (his family left him) trying to get his change back, arguing with the girls that he gave her a $100 bill, and needed his change back.. I'm telling you this place was a real life asylum!!! So now we finally get waited on after 1:00pm and (get this) they don't want you to order lunch! They printed up a sheet of paper with 3 lunch items to choose from, a plain burger, fish tacos, and that's it! I asked if I could have the Burly Oak sauce on my burger -Nope! My son wanted the burger topped with the fries - Nope! "we can make you fries and you can put them on top of it yourself" (are you freaking kidding me?) My wife was safe because she just ordered the Capt Crunch French toast. the food took forever to come out, and when it did our med/rare burgers were a solid grey through and through. I felt especially bad for my son, his burger wasn't over cooked as much as it was just flat out incinerated!!! Poor kid sat there and ate it because he just wanted the whole ordeal to come to an end... the French Toast came out ok, but nothing could offset the complete disaster that was our meal. The waitress told us that everyday has been like this, and that she comes in and starts prepping food at 6 and ends up staying till 6! In my opinion they've bitten off way more than they can chew, they got some great ideas, but they can't execute them... They would be better closing after breakfast & reopen later for dinner, maybe this would give them time to transfer over from breakfast, and give em time to prep for other dishes? I don't know, but what they ARE doing surely doesn't work. COMPLETE FAIL

    July 6th (dinner) Captains Table - Since we didn't stay on the boardwalk this time around, We wanted to do a boardwalk night, and since this restaurant is located on the boards at 15st we figured we could kill 2 birds with one stone. Started the meal off with some raw oysters that were a bit small, but $12 for 6 is a fair price, and they tasted delicious so no complaints. I'm not wild about the Caesar they serve here, so opted for the tossed salad, which they do a very good job with. my wife ordered the lobster tail, it came out resting on top of the shell, and was broiled to perfection. Some times you can get a tail that seems like it was vulcanized, but that was definitely not the case here. She didn't have to fight with it to eat it, she was able to simply cut it effortlessly with the side of her fork. The best part was the taste the butter didn't mask the flavor instead it brought out the natural sweetness of this king of the crustaceans. Equally as satisfying was the Halibut that I ordered, it came out thick an moist through out the entire cut, the mash potatoes needed some salt and pepper, as did the green beans but other than that the food was back to the way it was years ago before they rebuilt the restaurant. Only complaint was that it took an extra ordinarily LONG time to get our food, it was an hour just for appetizers soup, and salads to come out ~ and no, they weren't very busy at all. My guess would be understaffed.

    July 7th (after check out) Joe's Shrimpboat -This little Gem is one of my favorites from last year. They make the joke as they give you your free sample of shrimp, that this is the only "free" thing in O.C. - Sad, funny, and true all at the same time! After sampling the fresh & plump "head on" shrimp -that I always have to decapitate & clean for my wife- we placed our order, and in no time at all our food was brought out. The crab cake I ordered was full of crab, with very little filler, I like my crab cakes much more spicy than this, so even though it was a good cake, I'll probably order something else next time - maybe the steamed clams I had on my last visit? The lobster roll that my wife got was full of lobster meat, and even though it's tossed in a mayo dressing it still retained a very light and fresh taste. My son' liked his boneless wings, but didn't finish em, as I believe he was setting up his next move of dipping into the box of Layton's donuts we got for the drive home! This little shed is nothing fancy, but the seafood is always fresh, the owners are friendly, a great way to end our 2014 summer OC trip!
    Last edited by DeanM; 07-10-2014, 07:37 PM.

  • #2
    Great report. Can't wait to try the shrimp boat. Can't go wrong at Harbor side. Thanks for the heads up on Barn 34. Might even give OC brewing a try too. Do they do tours for everyone? Are children allowed?


    • #3
      Great report as always, Dean! I have to say, I actually think the "Local" egg rolls at Ocean City Brewing sound amazing. I might have to stop there, if only to try those. Captains Table always seems to impress. I hope to make it there this year as well.


      • #4
        I just checked out Ocean City Brewing Company's website.....I will definitely be going there.


        • #5
          I am very surprised to here about your experience at Barn 34 Dean. Our family ate there over air show weekend and had a great breakfast. Of course we were there at the butt crack of dawn so there was only one other couple in the whole restaurant but our food was great. I am guessing they have an all new out of town and out of country staff which could be hurting them. Hopefully they get their stuff together after this rookie season. Thanks for the review.


          • #6
            We're considering going to the Angler this year for dinner so I was glad to hear that your food was good -- even if it was only for appetizers. My Mom has mentioned going for dinner and the boat ride one night that we are there.

            OC Brewing looks very promising as well. It is definitely a place for us to consider. We'll have a 2-year-old with us (we go in September). Is there any reason taking her there wouldn't be a good idea?

            Thanks for taking time to do the reviews!


            • #7
              Dean -
              Thanks for the (as usual) excellent and comprehensive report. I look forward to your report every year as I always am headed down to OC a few weeks after you. Since you and I seem to have very similar tastes, I've always benefited for your insights. Sorry to hear about Barn 34. I was there in May and had a better experience, although they were a little slow. Glad to hear Captains Table has picked it up a bit. I've been really looking forward to trying OC Brewing, and your report has only increased that urge - great to hear the food and the beer are both solid. I went to Abbey Burger last year and was somewhat underwhelmed, despite solid reviews I heard from others. I may give it another try sometime in the off season, but I also tend to avoid burgers in OC. Planning to try to get to the Shrimp Boat this summer - consistent positive reviews make it a must try.

              Thanks for the great writeup!


              • #8
                Thanks for a great report. I have to admit, I'm always nervous when someone tries a place I recommend or have reviewed because I would never want anyone to have a bad experience. I'm so glad Shrimp Boat was good again, we'll be hitting it at least once or twice this trip down in July. I'm going to give one of your places a try this year with the wife. I'll let you know which and how it was.


                • #9
                  Thank you everyone!

                  PlainsPricey, I was invited to attended the original tour, before the brewery was open, as part of a GROUP function, I believe the owner anticipated the progress to be further along when he gave the original tour ~ hence the reason for the private one, but really you're not missing anything behind the scenes. Go take your kids, eat, drink (responsibly!), and relax!

                  OCMike, I forgot to mention that there is shrimp also along with the crab in the Local Roll

                  Kirk, I know Barn 34 is one of your favorites from way back. I hate to write reviews like this, and I REALLY hope you weren't offended - Believe me the very last thing I wanted to do was have a bad experience here - After talking to the bartender the night before, I was really psyched! I was wanting to try those wings, he went into a long story about the guy who makes the sauce going to college with the owner yada, yada, yada, long story short I was looking forward to it, but in the end, it turned out to be one of the single worst experiences I've ever had... I forgot to mention that after we were standing there for 50 mins they took a group of collage guys ahead of us, when I asked why the hostess told us "they called ahead", funny thing was I heard them talking as they came outside & they were talking about how long the wait was & were contemplating where else to go, next thing ya know they go back inside and talk to the hostess, and suddenly they are sitting down after we were already waiting 30 mins PAST the time the told us we would be waiting!!! The other stuff I could probably get past someday, but THIS was ridiculous! and will probably prevent me from ever giving it another try...not only did the hostess lie to me, but the manager lied and told me one of the cooks called in sick today, when I asked the waitress about it she said "no, it's just been like this for weeks"... - I'm going to call there tomorrow get the bartenders email, and shoot him a copy of this review.

                  Brookie, I really liked the Angler and the atmosphere, the brand new decking is beautiful, and it just provides a very comfortable setting. YES absolutely Ocean City Brewing is kid/family friendly~ so much so that the owner has HIS OWN KIDS (both under 10) in there working, busing tables! He started his own business when he was 9, so he makes them all earn their keep!

                  OCGuy, I agree, seems as if we like a lot of the same kind of places, and it's a 2 way st. you've turned me on to some pretty cool places too! As far as Barn 34 goes, if you did as Kirk, and got there at opening time, or as you in the early season, it was probably VERY different - I believe the problem stems around the merger from breakfast, to lunch, and handling a larger crowd - but that IS summer time in OC. As far as the Captains table, yes the food was more than satisfactory, but the wait is a problem. They had one waitress working 7 tables! Yes, do yourself a favor and give the brewery a try, I like craft beers, I'm not wild about stouts, or I.P.A.s but the others were good to me, they have a lot more beers that they will be making in the future too. I think you'll dig the shrimp boat too!

                  John, the shrimpboat discovery belongs to you! If you make it down this year, you should consider giving J&J pizza (that we talked about last year) a try it would be a perfect fit for you staying over that way.


                  • #10

                    I always look forward to Dining Reports, but you are the KING of these reports. Everytime I read you're reports, I feel like I was at the meal with you. Are you sure you are not a food critic. If not, you missed your calling.

                    By the way, reading your description of the Local Egg Roll at OC Brewing Company actually made my mouth water as I read it. It's a definite "must have" this year when I go down in August.


                    • #11
                      I want to know what a "communicable" table is. I have an idea you meant a "communal" table where everyone sits together rather than privately. That one threw me.
                      Good report Dean. As always.
                      Ask an OC Insider


                      • #12
                        Dean, is J&J Pizza the brickoven place on 50 West just past Baja Amusements? If so, we ate there last year on a rainy night. Very affordable and good food. If not, I'll look them up and give them a try.


                        • #13
                          Hey Dean. I just got an update on Facebook from and they mentioned your thread "Dining Report" Just wanted to give you a heads-up, you're famous now. Better get an agent.


                          • #14
                            Britt, you make me laugh -Thank you for the kind words!

                            John, yes that's it! We talked about it on here, after I wrote about it last year - I didn't remember you saying you got around to trying it though... And yes I seen it on FB! (very cool) Thank you for the heads up!! --- Maybe it will drive some more traffic to our forum?

                            Z, thanks for pointing out my spelling error, Whenever I type these reports out, there are ALWAYS are a number of typo's, and I wait till the very end to go back through and correct them (so as not to break my train of thought). So when doing spell check, in this manner sometimes it just gives the word that it thinks is closest, and even though it maybe spelled right, it could just be the wrong word - As was the case here I'm guessing?

                            ANYWAYS... thank you for pointing it out, so I could correct it, before it went too far all over FB!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Z06RL View Post
                              I want to know what a "communicable" table is. I have an idea you meant a "communal" table where everyone sits together rather than privately. That one threw me.
                              Good report Dean. As always.
                              Paul Revere has communicable tables....