Maybe it's the precious brevity of vacation, but people don't seem to stay still for very long in Ocean City -- except maybe to bake on the beach. At meal time, many people want good food to go, and luckily, Ocean City restaurants can really deliver.
You can get pizza, subs and fast food in just about any city, but where else can you have hot steamed crabs brought to your door? Or get a fancy Italian meal in a carryout container? Or have dinner in one restaurant and, beverage in hand, hop a water taxi to another place for dessert?
C7 Here's a brief guide to Ocean City's movable feast:
Though their attractive settings are part of their allure, some of Ocean City's finest restaurants also recognize diners' occasional desires to pick it up and go.
"Once they come in and see the place, they usually say, 'Oh, let's stay here and eat,' " says Dora Korell, manager of the Ocean Club, which serves many of its eat-in meals on a deck overlooking the ocean. "But they do have the option."
As with most of the better restaurants in town, the Ocean Club (524-7500) doesn't have a "paper" menu you can take home to call in an order. Instead, Ms. Korell invites those craving good seafood, steaks, veal or chicken to stop by 49th Street on the ocean. Place an order and it will be prepared while you wait.
A light fare menu is available from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and the dinner menu is available for carryout from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
You'd have to be pretty antsy to not sit still for a sunset at Fager's Island. But if you must munch on the move, Fager's will prepare any item on its light fare menu for takeout. (The dinner menu isn't a takeout option there.)
"Just come in and order it," offers managing partner Charlie Smith. Fager's Island light fare, usually served on the deck, includes deli sandwiches, salads and desserts. The restaurant (524-5500) is at 60th Street and the bay.
Angelo's has quaint Italian travel posters and waiters who look as if they might really speak Italian. But if you're not in the mood to linger over cappuccino, anything on the menu can be prepared to go.
The restaurant is at 28th Street and Coastal Highway. Pick up a paper copy of the menu when you're in the neighborhood. If you call ahead (289-6522), your meal will be ready when you arrive.
Charlie Chiang's has a beautiful dining room; this is not your basic strip-mall Chinese carryout. But if you prefer your Sichuan spice from a cardboard carton in front of the TV, Chiang's will gladly accommodate you.
Selections include crispy lemon chicken ($8.95), fresh broccoli in garlic and ginger sauce ($4.95 at lunch; $6.25 at dinner) or Lamb of Two Seasons ($12.95).
Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; thereafter, you get the dinner portion and price. Call 723-4600 or stop by at 54th Street and Coastal Highway on the bayside.
Tio Gringo's has the colorful, smoky atmosphere you'd enjoy in a good Mexican restaurant. But it also serves upscale Mexican food you can take home. It's at 53rd Street and Coastal Highway (524-6244).
The menu includes big chicken enchiladas (for $11.50 an order, best to properly call that Enchilada Supremas de Pollo); pork adobe ($12.50); and enchilada de jaibas (that's the one with crab meat, $14.95). Call ahead and your meal will be waiting.
"People order pizza when it's raining or when they come off the beach," says Keith Lodowski, owner of Griffin's Seafood Market. "We figure people really want seafood, but they don't want to get caught in traffic downtown. So we deliver."
Griffin's delivers steamed or soft-shell crabs, shrimp, fresh fish and other seafood specialties. Delivery is free if you're staying anywhere up to 45th Street; it's $1.50 from there to 90th Street, and $3 north of 90th to the state line. Call 289-7775.
If heavy traffic doesn't deter you, of course, there's Phillips. The phenomenally successful crab house (21st and Philadelphia, 289-6821) and seafood house (141st and Coastal, 250-1200) both offer an extensive selection of seafood specialties, and both have carryout service. Call ahead, and as you tote away your dinner you can smile at the long line of people waiting to be seated for theirs.
Many of the seafood restaurants around Ocean City's busy commercial harbor will prepare your dinner to go. One way to enjoy them is to hop the Irish Rover, Ocean City's new water taxi.
You can pick up your steamed shrimp from, say, Capt. Bill Bunting's Angler at Talbot Street and the bay (289-7424; it's preferable to call ahead). Before heading home with your aromatic entree, take the water taxi to the Captain's Galley II in West Ocean City (289-2525) to pick up a couple of slices of peanut butter pie for dessert.
Other restaurants on the Rover's route that offer carryout: BJ's on the Water (289-7555), the Marina Deck (289-4411), Something Fishy (289-5299) and the Flyin' Fish Saloon (289-9005).
Of course, there's always pizza. Domino's, Pizza Hut, Pizza Tugo's and other chains are well represented in Ocean City, and they'll bring the pies to your door.
If you'd like casual Italian food other than pizza, try Tosti's Italian Deli and Carryout (250-1736) in the Bayside Plaza on 137th Street. Tosti's menu includes calzoni, fried dough and antipasto salad. Two hungry people could have their appetites satisfied with one of Tosti's Italian cold cut sandwiches ($3.85), with Genoa salami, capocollo, prosciuttini, mortadella, provolone and Italian dressing on a virtual loaf of crusty bread.
On the subject of ethnic fast food, don't ignore Bandito's (524-2946), a new Mexican carryout that just opened on 78th Street and Coastal Highway. It's got an extensive menu, including veggie burritos, chimichangas and the "Sloppy Juan," their own version of a sloppy Joe. And Bandito's delivers.
So does Alan's Deli (524-3777), if you're staying between Route 90 and the Delaware line. If not, you'll have to stop by the deli in the Oyster Bay shopping center on 116th Street. Alan's offers a wide selection of your basic carryout fare, as well as breakfast specialties like fresh-baked bagels.
And if you're hankering for some home cooking, try Weitzel's (524-6990) on 51st Street. Its family menu includes full entrees such as lightly dusted fantail shrimp ($9.35) and hot turkey with gravy ($6.75), as well as sandwiches, subs, desserts and breakfast. (By the way, did you ever see a town as big on creamed chipped beef as Ocean City?) Call ahead and Weitzel's will have your order ready when you arrive.
One more idea
Suppose you're sailing to Assateague and want an elegant picnic to eat as you watch the sunset. Before you board the boat, stop at Victoria's Gourmet Shop at 104 25th St.
"I have the largest selection of cheeses on the Shore, imported and domestic," boasts owner Victoria Stagmer. "I carry four different types of pate, including vegetarian."
Other ietms she might stuff into your yupscale picnic basket: a selection of sandwiches with homemade incredients, her special recipe salsa and blue corn chips, marinated organic vegetables (grown without pesticides in her garden), imported candies or cookies, natural sodas or a bottle of wine.
Victoria's Gourmet (289-7910) is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.