Tomorrow is Labor Day, and if you're like us, you're probably wondering where the summer went. As the kids head back to school and vacationers return home to a routine existence, we decided to look back over the restaurants we had reviewed during the past season. Here's what we found from Memorial Day till now:
Schooners at the Princess Royale, 91st Street and Coastal Highway, 524-7222.
One of Ocean City's newest restaurants lived up to all our expectations. How can you go wrong with an ocean view and great food? Appetizers such as fried mushrooms and New Orleans gumbo got us off to a good start. And we certainly weren't disappointed with a seafood platter filled with scallops, shrimp and flounder.
Located in a restored 1895 hotel, the restaurant oozes turn-of the-century charm. We reveled in a pleasantly flavored snapper soup and delicate seafood sausage in a pool of lemon dill sauce. Entrees were wonderful: tournedos au poivre finished off with Scotch orange butter and a blackened tuna loin with a sweet pineapple salsa.
Key Largo, 120th Street and Coastal Highway, 723-4200.
Key Largo is turquoise and peach and ceiling fans and palm trees -- a great place to go for a flavorful meal. Appetizers range from a tasty shrimp and crab casino to an intriguingly spicy Manhattan-style clam chowder. The restaurant boasts "the best prime rib east of Chicago" and we can vouch for its credibility.
Angelo's, 28th Street and Coastal Highway, 289-6522.
Angelo's claims to be "Little Italy in Ocean City," and it's an honest claim. For starters, try the peppers Angelo with sweet red peppers, the attractively arranged antipasto or the vegetable-laden minestrone. Entrees didn't miss a beat. The eggplant parmigiana was one of the best we've ever had, and the fish of the day (orange roughy) and the chicken cacciatore were highlighted with a rich tomato sauce.
The Victorian Room at the Dunes Manor Hotel, 28th Street and the ocean, 289-1100.
There's nothing especially Victorian about the decor, but the restaurant does provide fine dining in an elegant setting by the ocean. Entrees showed the kitchen's potential with dishes both light and lavish. The grilled tuna filet was fresh and delicious, and the veal Oscar was an apt version of the dish. Too bad they both were served lukewarm.
Harrison's Harbor Watch, the boardwalk at the inlet, 289-5121
There are two reasons to visit this boardwalk restaurant -- for its view and its fresh seafood. The seafood chowder was a hearty mix of shrimp, clams and scallops. We found our main dishes -- stuffed flounder topped with a ball of crab imperial and chicken Chesapeake smothered with ham, crab lumps and Swiss cheese -- tasty but were slightly discouraged by the golden rings of grease accompanying them.
O.C. Sneakers, at the Ocean City Health and Racquetball Club, 61st Street and the bay. 723-DINE
O.C. Sneakers offers fine food in a tasteful brass, wood and mauve setting. Our appetizers -- hot crab dip and stuffed mushrooms -- were rich and filling. We couldn't resist the mouthwatering black diamond steak, "a Sneakers tradition, marinated with 43 spices." The blackened tuna, though, was flaky but not hot enough -- either in temperature or spiciness.
Fager's Island, 60th Street and the bay, 524-5500
Fager's has been a mainstay on Ocean City's restaurant scene and its professionalism shows. The service is top-notch, the food well-prepared and the sunset glorious. The entrees were simply superb: The prime rib was a huge slab of tender beef and the moist tuna fillet was coated with a tangy Dijon mustard sauce.
Ocean Club, 49th Street and the ocean, 524-7500
All the ingredients for a great meal were there -- ambience, ocean view, innovative menu and perfect service. Too bad the mix wasn't harmonious, at least in the food category. Oh, there were pluses, but these didn't diminish the problem of weak appetizers and entrees. Warm raw oysters, tough shrimp and charred veal just aren't satisfying. Stick around for dessert, though. We loved the strawberries Chantilly and the English lemon cake.--S.B.
David Twining's Nantuckets, Atlantic Avenue and Route 1, Fenwick Island, Del., (302) 539-2607 or 250-2770
Experienced Ocean City chef David Twining opened a new restaurant this summer with distinct New England influences, and the food is terrific. We thoroughly enjoyed the Sconset scallop pie, scallop and quahog chowder, scampi and chutney entree with its sweet cranberry chutney and plump crab cakes.
BJ's South, First Street and the bay, 289-7555
We had been to BJ's South several times to sample the fantastic seafood potato skins. This time we decided to try other offerings. From the crispy fried clam strips and a tangy Maryland crab soup to the delicious stuffed breast of chicken and shrimp and scallop dish in lemon butter and garlic sauce, everything was a hit.
La Hacienda, 80th Street and Coastal Highway, 524-8080
We were skeptical about this Mexican eatery's success when our appetizers arrived: The gazpacho was spiceless and the nacho supreme's shredded cheese tasted like bland, processed cheese food. We fared much better with our entrees -- the deep-fried chimichanga, filling shrimp fajitas and Pueblo enchilada combo.
Phillips Crab House, 21st Street and Philadelphia Avenue, ,, 289-6821
In a town where seafood eateries abound, people line up around the block to eat at Phillips. The food isn't always perfect, though. We started with a cream of crab soup that was bland and a shrimp cocktail that featured six jumbo shellfish -- some not deveined, which was disturbing. The crab imperial is the house specialty and rightly so. It was bursting with fresh crab meat and topped with melted Cheddar. Our other dish, the broiled filet of flounder almandine, was tasty but a little dry.