O.C. Sneakers provides an agreeable, tasteful gustatory workout


O.C. Sneakers is located atop the Ocean City Health and Racquetball Club. But the restaurant offers fine food in a tasteful brass, wood and mauve setting, and you can't even smell the chlorine from the club's pool. So forget where you are, relax and don't worry about lifting anything heavier than your water glass.

warmed up with the hot crab dip with pita ($5.95), which featured eight grilled wedges to dip in a blend of back fin crab, horseradish and cream cheese. Our first impression was that the dip wasn't thick enough, but dipping deeper yielded big, delicious chunks of crab. Our waitress even offered to bring more pita so we could finish the dip.

The stuffed mushrooms ($6.50) were great. Five caps were stuffed with crab imperial and topped with pimentos and a slice of provolone cheese that was toasted to a tasty crispiness.

For dinner, we tried the black diamond steak ($11.95), which is billed as "a Sneakers tradition, marinated with 43 spices and then grilled." Our waitress graciously deflected my companion's teasing request that she recite the 43 spices, and brought a strip steak that was mouthwateringly tender and done medium-rare, exactly as ordered.

Tuna was one of the evening's fresh fish offerings, grilled and topped with a citrus sauce. Since other fish on the menu were offered blackened, we asked if we could have the tuna that way. No problem was the quick reply, although the execution was just a bit disappointing. Though the tuna filet was flaky and generous, it was not hot enough -- either in temperature or in spiciness.

For dessert, O.C. Sneakers offers a tray of tempting Ms. Desserts cakes, as well as homemade ice cream (the flavors vary nightly) and a fruit-of-the-day flambe.

We ordered rocky road ice cream -- a sweet, chunky chocolate success served with a wedge of sugar cone on the side -- and the strawberries flambe, which was more fun to watch than to eat. Tableside, our waitress filled a skillet with butter, brown sugar and lemon juice, added strawberries, and topped it off with strawberry liqueur and rum before lighting it. As other diners stared and the flame died down, she poured the mixture over a big dish of homemade vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately, the ice cream quickly became more like strawberry soup, a mushy letdown after the dramatic buildup.

O.C. Sneakers

At the Ocean City Health and Racquetball Club at 61st St and the bay, 723-DINE.

Hours: Dinner served 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diner's Club.

Reservations: Accepted.

Features: Seafood, beef and veal, poultry and pasta.

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