Ocean City’s local food scene steals the show at area restaurants
The art of food has been an important tradition in Maryland’s kitchens for generations, stemming from family dinners centered on freshly-caught seafood and recently harvested veggies and evolving into culinary masterpieces which still feature local faire as the main attraction. Chefs understand that vacation is the one time of year that you can get away without having a care in the world. Because of this, they want to make food and your dining experience in Ocean City memorable.
Juicy, red tomatoes, cool, crisp cucumbers and plump blueberries create a delicious rainbow of flavor when proudly displayed at a local farm market. If you’ve visited during the summer months, perhaps you’ve visited one of the farmers markets in Ocean City and Berlin and possibly even stopped to snag some of the precious bounty provided by area growers. Here you’ll see an abundance of fresh goodies, including vibrant yellow squash, zucchini, sweet corn, okra, butter beans, grapes, luscious watermelon and cantaloupe, peaches, an assortment of berries, herbs and so much more.
Ocean City’s “Shore Fresh” Farmers Market is open May through October, and the Berlin Farmers’ Market is open all year-round, allowing visitors to sample all sorts of local treats that burst onto the scene well after summertime. Some of the favorites here are sweet potatoes, acorn and butternut squash, pumpkin, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, collards, kale and wild mushrooms.
Let’s not forget the main attraction that draws folks from all around to Maryland’s shores: the fresh bounty of seafood. Blue Crab, the pride of Maryland and tasty menu item sought out by tourists and locals alike, is mainly available from April through December. The season for the soft shell variety ends a few months earlier, in October. That means during the summer months, you’ll find crab on almost every menu in Ocean City, in an infinite array of presentations. The classic way of cooking crabs, which gives them their signature flavor, is to steam the crabs in large pots with water, vinegar and Old Bay seasoning. Many restaurants will substitute or add ingredients to give their crabs a unique flavor.
Striped bass, or rockfish, is another Maryland legend. As the official state fish, striped bass is a deliciously moist fish that area restaurants can cook up in a multitude of ways. The mild flavor is usually complemented by added spices, herbs or sauces and grilled, blackened or broiled. While you’ll probably find striped bass on the menu all year, the best season for the popular fish is during the fall and winter months, when they migrate south from New England.
Tautog is often plentiful in the areas surrounding Ocean City, and because of its lean, firm and tasty meat, it is a popular menu item and choice for the “Catch of the Day.” Find the fish served baked, basked with butter and covered in crumbs or rubbed with spices and grilled. The main fishing season for tautog is May through September, but anglers still manage to reel them in year-round.
Another popular fish in Ocean City is flounder, which is found in the bay during the summer (June through September) and in the ocean all year long. Flaky and delicate, flounder is a mild fish that can be prepared in a myriad of ways, but for the most part, you’ll find this tasty fish pan-fried to perfection.
During the summer, you’ll find many other fish on the menu or specials board, including Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Of course, Ocean City menus also feature seafood favorites like shrimp, oysters, clams, lobster and salmon.
Area chefs use their creative license to create delicious dishes you could never dream up on your own, combining seafood and fresh ingredients from local farms, so jump on the slow food movement and savor a meal you’ll never forget.