The friendly Mid-Atlantic resort town of Ocean City, Maryland, is home to less than 7,500 folks year-round, but during the summer it welcomes about 350,000 hungry visitors — all spoiled for choice among hundreds of local restaurants.
To first-timers, choosing where to eat in Ocean City can prove more challenging than planning their entire trip along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Focus on these five beloved standbys, though, and you’ll spend your vacation days stress-free, happy and satisfied. And if you’re visiting in an off-season, enjoy special deals and menus during the bi-yearly Ocean City Restaurant Week, held in late April/early May and early to mid-November.
A Raw (and Delicious) Deal
Set on the far southern end of the Ocean City Boardwalk, historic, family-owned Harrison’s Harbor Watch Restaurant & Raw Bar offers one of OC’s best bay views — as well as its most sustainability-focused raw bar, with fresh, locally harvested shellfish and wild-caught Texas shrimp.
Try the Chincoteague Salts, a naturally salty Eastern Shore oyster, and freshly shucked Virginia middle-neck clams.
Even if you skip Harrison’s raw bar, you can still feel a sense of eco-virtue. Menu items like day scallops and seasonal soft-shell crabs are also locally sourced, and produce for salads, sides and sauces comes from the area’s largest farmers market.
Rise and Shine
Served amid groovy, Grateful Dead–themed décor, the extensive breakfast offerings at Sahara Café will turn you into a devoted diner.
Pair bottomless cups of dark roast coffee with fried-egg breakfast sandwiches, signature “overstuffed” omelets and bacon-filled waffles, or indulge in the Joe Smooth A Go-Go, a Maryland/Philly mashup of a biscuit-based cheesesteak served with onions, mushrooms, peppers, fried eggs, crabmeat and hollandaise.
Early risers will feel especially blissful here, as Sahara Café opens daily at 7 a.m.
A Summer BBQ, Any Time of Year
The on-site wood smoker at 28th Street Pit & Pub works overtime to slow smoke tender whole and half chickens, beef brisket, and pulled pork and ribs, all served with vinegar-tangy, Carolina-style barbecue sauce.
Don’t miss their spicy chili served with house-made cornbread or your chance to win a free Pit & Pub T-shirt by finishing the $30 Pig Out special (a rack of ribs, half a chicken, a brisket sandwich, french fries and slaw) in 25 minutes or less.
There’s a second location of the Pit & Pub in Northside OC, and unlike other BBQ spots in Ocean City, this local haunt stays open year-round.
Have Your Crabcake and Eat It, Too
Crabcakes made from Chesapeake Bay crabs are the official delicacy of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and Ocean City’s most popular version is local chain Crabcake Factory USA‘s five-ounce “World Famous Crabcake.”
Made in the classic lump style, these pan-fried ‘cakes are generous with jumbo crabmeat and light on filler like egg and breadcrumbs. If you’re hungrier than the average bear, try to tackle the half-pound “Crabcake Bomb,” named Best Crabcake by USA Today.
On the Waterfront
You can either sail or stroll up to Fish Tales, a laid-back dockside pub at Bahia Marina, where you can kick back on the sprawling deck with a cold beer and watch fishermen bringing in the day’s catch.
Lunch favorites include steamed mussels and crispy fries; a shrimp, crab and scallop burrito; and a black bean–avocado burger on a salt and pepper bun. Dinner service begins at 4 p.m., bringing surf and turf platters like a half-rack of ribs with a mojito-lime shrimp cake.
This is one of the most family friendly eateries in Ocean City, with an adjacent playground featuring a pirate ship/jungle gym surrounded by a soft bed of sand.