While I’ve been looking at art in Qatar, living the lush life in Bahrain and glamming it up in Dubai (not really!), the summer season has opened back at my favorite Maryland beach, Ocean City. It seems we all have our opinions—strong ones—about the best stuff to do and see in Ocean City. Thanks to a recent, carefully calibrated and highly scientific survey (thank you, Twitter and Facebook), here’s a list of what some feel is the greatest stuff in OC, in no particular order. If you’re a Maryland native, these will probably all ring a bell. If you’re planning a trip for the first time, let this list be your jumping-off point. And please understand, this just barely, barely scratches the surface of possibilities in Ocean City.
Of course, no OC checklist would be complete without Jamie August. (Yeah, here’s the sell, but I mean it with all my heart!) I'm burning the candle at both ends to make sure that the paperback edition of Ocean City Lowdown is ready by the time the kids are out of school and everybody's looking for a little somethin'-somethin' to read at the beach or poolside. Soon, soon! The audio version will be available on Amazon within a couple of weeks, too. Listen to that after you’re over the Bay Bridge and can no longer get WRNR on the radio, okay?
Here comes the list:
Quintessential Ocean City summer treats: Thrasher’s fries; steamed crabs; salt water taffy; frozen custard; chocolate-covered strawberries; popcorn; soft serve ice cream; local beers
AKA “House of Creamed Chipped Beef,” this diner has a homey appeal. A great breakfast/brunch menu, but if you haven’t already, you’ve got to try an order of their claim to fame, chipped beef on toast. If you’re a fan of Scrapple, the wait staff will be happy to serve it up with your choice of ketchup or syrup.
A family-owned restaurant known for its bull steaks and steamed shrimp. Try their gravy fries!
Make a quick trip out to Berlin, MD for some seriously local beer: even the barley for malting is grown on the Eastern Shore! Cool atmosphere with live music on the weekends.
Hands down, the best homemade fudge on the east coast!
A must-visit in North OC if you love crabs. Show up hungry, because their crab feasts are all-you-can-eat, heavy steamed crabs plus some very distracting fries, coleslaw or chips. The seafood appetizers are fantastic. The deck is set up with picnic tables, which are always packed in season.
This historic ice cream parlor (the original was established in the 1930s) will take you back to the “good old days.” They have a lunch and dinner menu, but the ice cream is the best part, with sundaes, milkshakes and ice cream sodas.
Everett Fisher founded Fisher’s Popcorn in 1937, specializing in caramel popcorn. (Oh my, yes.) All of the products are made by hand with natural ingredients.
Ridiculously good doughnuts; get there early and get in line. Ever try a Margarita doughnut? They’ve got ’em. Yum!
You’ll love the gorgeous vista of Assateague Island. Nicknamed “Brew with a View”, this is a nice place to chill with a summer cocktail and appetizers.
An Ocean City standard for generations, Phillip’s has a range of choices on the menu that includes filet mignon, Maryland fried chicken, and mouth-watering lobster tail. Oh, and crabs. Of course! Very cozy atmosphere with a rustic bar.
French Toast is the big deal at Layton’s, in my book. They have a gluten-free menu as well. They also make their own doughnuts. So the big debate is, Fractured Prune or Layton’s? The only way to settle this is to try them both.
The Baltimore Sun declared they have “the best steamed crabs in Ocean City.” No argument here. It’s a charming little midtown shack, with heavy wooden picnic tables and friendly staff. They also have delicious fried oysters.
A funky mix of stuff goes on at this midtown restaurant. They make a great cappuccino, and they have a full breakfast menu. Plus Thai food. Somehow it all works.
Looking for a fun night out? Seacrets has great live music and the atmosphere to go with it. The night club holds special events every week, and during high season there’s something happening every night. Check out local and regional musicians of all kinds: Blues, Jamaican, Folk, Rock, and more.
The boardwalk’s best fries. Don’t bother with imitations—and there are some. Douse yours in vinegar, have a seat on a boardwalk bench, and eat your way to the bottom of the bucket.
Sadly, I will not be back to Ocean City this summer. So get on down there if you are anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region, and have a blast, hon! I'm spending the summer in the Arabian desert, so please hoist a cold one for me.