There have been small but noticeable changes on the beaches of Maryland and Delaware this year.

Several new restaurants open on the beaches of Maryland and Delaware every year at the beginning of summer, and this year will be no exception.

Over the dunes, in Rehoboth Beach, they hope to knock off your slippers as soon as you climb the stairs.

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The second floor of a restaurant on the corner of Wilmington Avenue and the Rehovet Boardwalk.

WTOP/John Domain

Above the dunes overlooking the beach.

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BJ’s in Ocean City gave way to the Atlantic Beach House restaurant.

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The Atlantic Beach House restaurant will be located further from the water to allow for more outdoor dining on the shores of Assavumen Bay.

WTOP/John Domain

The finishing touches are being put on a new restaurant called Union Chesapeake Seafood, which will replace the Phillips Crab House on 21st Street.

WTOP/John Domain

Union Chesapeake Seafood promises to host the largest seafood buffet in the state, where you can eat anything.

Embers from Ocean City changes everything from scratch.

WTOP/John Domain

As the popularity of the buffet declines, Embers is being reimagined.

WTOP/John Domain

This is part of WTOP’s coverage of Delmarva’s beaches ahead of the summer season. Read more.

Several new restaurants open on the beaches of Maryland and Delaware every year at the beginning of summer, and this year will be no exception.

Ocean City

Chances are, if you’re an Ocean City, Maryland fan, you’ll be surprised to see some of your favorite places closed.

For decades, BJ’s “On the Water” neighborhood on 75th Street has been a favorite in Ocean City. But last year, the longtime owners decided it was time to retire. A group of restaurants behind Ropewalk, a popular destination for families as it has a playground, has bought a property and is building the Atlantic Beach House restaurant.

“They were a great tradition in Ocean City,” Mayor Rick Meehan said of BJ. “But over the course of time over the past decades, we’ve seen businesses, some coming and some going.”

The new restaurant will be located further from the water to allow for more al fresco dining on the shores of Assavumen Bay. The plans call for more than 350 seats outside.



Also this year, he left the Phillips Crab House on 21st Street. The finishing touches are being put on a new restaurant called Union Chesapeake Seafood, which promises to host the state’s largest seafood smorgasbord, owned by the same group as Fast Eddie’s.

“It’s exciting,” Meehan said. “Hopefully they can continue some of the traditions, start new traditions that we see every year in Ocean City.”

Another restaurant in line for a big change is Embers, known as one of Ocean City’s endangered buffets. The group behind this restaurant is reinstalling everything from scratch.

“We made it,” said Cole Tautin, CEO of the Tautin Group, which owns Embers. “The buffet was a phenomenal business.”

But even before COVID-19 hit, it was clear that the popularity of buffets was declining.

“The pandemic has just accelerated that transition,” he said. “We thought there was still time. This, of course, was not inevitable. But the pandemic just pushed back the timeline.”

The BLU Crab House, which is also owned by the Taustin group, is still open. But construction is underway around it all the way to Coastal Highway, where a new restaurant complex is being built, including a reimagined Embers.

“We will have brick ovens that will produce most of our food,” Taustin said.

“You get a pasta dish cooked in cast iron that comes out of an oven that cooks at 600 degrees. You get wings that will be roasted in the oven instead of deep fried.”

A small cafe and a new brewery are also being built on the site, which Tostin hopes will be completed by the end of July. Bad weather and a lack of materials delayed construction.

The Taustin group also opened a new restaurant in West Ocean City. Pier 23 is where the Mad Fish Bar and Grille used to operate until it was destroyed by fire in 2019.

“We came up with a very interesting idea for a restaurant built almost entirely from containers,” Tostin said. “For the most part, our entire kitchen and bar is built from a container. Even our giant built-in refrigerator is a giant 40-foot container.”

Rehoboth Beach

There are only a few new restaurants in Rehoboth Beach. But Above The Dunes hopes to knock your flip-flops off as soon as you make your way up the stairs.

“We sit right on the ocean — it’s the only restaurant in town that’s actually on the ocean,” said Mike Venanzi, co-owner of Above the Dunes.

It is located on the second floor at the corner of Wilmington Avenue and the boardwalk, where Greene Turtle used to work. Venanzi and his partners decided to end the franchise and start something completely new.

The new establishment opened in April and seats 65 people on a balcony, most of them facing the ocean; the rest require only a 90-degree head turn. A huge wall of windows inside provides almost as good a view from the dining room and bar.

“We are made for everyone who loves seafood,” Venanzi said.

Fans of tuna ahi bowl, crab cakes, steaks and good bourbon will enjoy it, he says, and it’s still a simple restaurant serving hamburgers for lunch.

“We have completely reinvented this whole place,” he said. “The whole place is a whole new concept.”

The popular food truck in Rehoboth, Taco Reho, now also operates in a general store. You can find them on the Coastal Highway north of Highway 24.

Fenwick Island

Holidaymakers on Fenwick Island no longer need to travel to Bethany or Lewis to stay at Matt’s fishing camp. Matt’s fans anywhere might want to check out the new concept, as no three restaurants are exactly the same.

“Matt’s brand is chef-driven,” said Scott Kammerer, CEO of SoDel Concepts, which operates three restaurants. “I would say that about 70% of the menus are the same, and then the chefs really promote what they like and what they do.”

At Matt’s in Lewes some of the dishes had a slight Asian twist, while a restaurant in Bethany added some southern flair to some of the dishes. The new Matt’s in Fenwick will also have its own style.

The chef is from Philadelphia, and Kammerer said he worked at some of the best restaurants there.

“It has more of a cosmopolitan flair. So it’s interesting to see how different chefs express their opinions,” said Kammerer. “And that’s why we got into this business. We didn’t come into this business to cook the same food over and over again. We wanted to try different flavors.”

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