A schooner is a multimasted ship, so Schooners is an apt name for the multifaceted restaurant and lounge in Ocean City's beautiful new Princess Royale hotel. The oceanfront eatery -- which is open for three meals a day -- offers an extensive and varied menu that for dinner includes steak, chicken, seafood, Italian and Mexican specialties.
A schooner can also be a pint-sized beer glass, and the restaurant offers about a dozen imported beers as well as "Schooners' Original Lager Beer" ($2.25). Over the tall, dark and hearty brew, we perused the lengthy menu and took in Schooners ocean view.
The restaurant is large but split into manageable sections that make it seem more intimate and provide a buffer from the raucous atmosphere of the bar, where sports scores flash on an electronic sign. Outdoor dining is available on the Princess Royale's duneside lawn, while inside, bleached wood, pink neon and sea scenes on etched glass set an upscale, friendly tone.
When word gets out about how good it is, I expect Schooners to be bustling every night, but the crowd was so small the night we were there that the restaurant seemed all dressed up with no place to go. That's one of the drawbacks of opening a new establishment.
We started our meal by following our capable waitress' recommendation of the fried mushrooms ($3.75) and were pleased with the result. We received a share-ably large plate of mushrooms that were hand-dipped in a light, crispy batter with ranch dressing on the side.
Our other appetizer, New Orleans gumbo ($4.25), does its hometown proud. Served in a small crock with the rice on the side, the spicy soup was thick with vegetables, shrimp and sausage and had an eye-watering zing to it.
For his main course, my dinner companion ordered the seafood platter ($11.95). Again, the kitchen proved deft at fried food, producing a large plate of fresh scallops, shrimp and flounder that were crisp with a light and never-greasy bread-crumb batter. The dish included tasty curly-cut fried potatoes and a runny, strange-tasting cole slaw that was the only thing we didn't like at Schooners.
My entree, the filet mignon ($13.95) was thick and juicy. Though it was charbroiled nearly black on the outside, the inside was a little more pink than I thought "medium" should be. Nonetheless, it tasted great, and was accompanied by a large baked potato and dark, tender asparagus.
For dessert, the waitress had more good advice: Share the Chocolate Overdose ($3.95). We should have listened. Instead, I settled for a light, creamy New York style cheesecake ($2.95), leaving my companion to fend for himself against a huge, hard-chocolate wedge filled with three scoops of rocky-road ice cream and topped with whipped cream and fudge sauce on the side. Two lessons: Schooners' Chocolate Overdose is tempting enough and big enough for at least two people, and listen to your waitress when she has a good track record.
At the Princess Royale, 91st Street and Coastal Highway, 524-7222.
L Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily (dinner served until 11 p.m.).
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Reservations: Accepted for groups of eight or more.
Features: Varied menu.