Savvy travelers know that the best restaurants are the ones where the locals eat. So when the fam and I took an off-season trip to Ocean City, MD, the good folks at the Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites had two very appealing recommendations for us: Embers Buffet and 28th Street Pit-n-Pub BBQ.
- It’s Ocean City’s first and largest all-you-can-eat prime rib and seafood buffet.
- The family that owns Embers has been operating restaurants in OC for over 70 years.
- The buffet offers dishes that include locally sourced ingredients and features snow crab legs; a raw bar with local clams and oysters; peel and eat shrimp; chicken, prime rib, ham, seafood, and pasta dishes; vegetarian items; Asian and Italian dishes; kids favorites; southern and southwestern specialties; a salad bar; soups; fresh fruit; and desserts, including cakes, pies, cookies, and a soft-serve ice cream/topping bar.
- Embers has hosted fundraising events for a variety of local community groups and charities, including the United Way, the Coastal Hospice & Palliative Care, Children’s House by the Sea, the Art League of Ocean City, and Diakonia Inc.
- Embers has several employees with long tenures, including cooks who have been with the restaurant for over 20 years since their arrival in the U.S. from Haiti; a late sous chef who had worked there for over 30 years and whose younger family members have joined the Embers “family”; managers who began working as teens during summers; and a server who just celebrated her 50th year working at the restaurant.
Here are several delectable Embers dishes from their massive buffet menu that we really enjoyed:
- Embers description: “5 different liquors and an arsenal of tropical juices guarantees a delightful night for those who complete the task.”
- Our reaction: We completed the task and our night was quite delightful - thanks to this light, delicious, and subtly potent concoction.
Fried oysters (and clams/shrimp) - tender, plump, and lightly breaded.
Monkey bread - hot and gooey, with a sweet pop of cinnamon.
Steamed clams/mussels - mild, buttery, and excellent fresh texture.
Peel-and-eat shrimp - fresh and pleasingly seasoned with Maryland seafood spice.
Seafood medley - tender, buttery, and packed with big chunks of shrimp, crab, and calamari.
Crab legs - big and meaty.
Here are even more delicious items that we enjoyed from the Embers' buffet.
Embers is clean, well-lit, and huuuge: it can accommodate 800 customers at one time, and has multiple dining rooms - the largest of which has hosted parties, local fundraising events, and weddings. The decor shifts a bit from room to room, but the overall vibe is warm, woody, and welcoming.
Here are more pix of Embers' interiors.
- On our first trips to Embers’ buffet stations, each of us filled our plates with our personal cuisine preferences. Back at our table, we not only ate what we had taken, we also tasted delicacies from each other’s plates that we had missed or didn’t have room for on our own plates. This sharing/sampling process was a lot of fun.
- Even though Embers is a buffet restaurant, we still needed occasional table service to clear our used plates and to order drinks. Our server was fast, friendly, and helpful. She also gave us useful tips on how to successfully navigate the crab leg cracking process (we were making a huge mess prior to her cheerful guidance).
- Because of the massive choices of appetizers, salads, sides, and entrees, it’s impossible to not find a whole lot of dishes that will wow the taste buds of everyone in your family or group, and also give them plenty of healthy options. (NOTE: my teen daughter Diz actually thought that the quality of Embers’ offerings was better tasting and more appealing than the fare at some of the fancy sit-down restaurants that she’s been to.)
- Thanks to the attentive staff, everything on the buffets was well-stocked throughout the evening. Even the most popular items were never empty for more than a minute or so before they were replenished.
- Each of the buffet selections looked enticing. Everything that we ate was fresh and delicious. The buffet area was organized and well-lit.
- If you’ve been unsure about whether a buffet dining experience is right for you and your family, Embers will eliminate any hesitations. The quality and diversity of the dishes, the cleanliness, and the superb service made it one of our most memorable vacation meals.
28th STREET PIT-N-PUB BBQ
- Opened in 2010, it’s O.C.’s first sit down barbecue restaurant as well as its “only real smokehouse restaurant”.
- During the summer months, Pit-n-Pub’s menu includes dishes made with locally sourced produce and seafood.
- Along with conventional barbecue entrees that are prepared in the Carolina style using sauces made of vinegar and spices, Pit-n-Pub also offers unique menu items, including chicken and dumplings, pot pie, and smoked meatloaf.
- Pit-n-Pub’s barbecue, wings, and chili have been award winners in local competitions.
Here are some Pit-n-Pub menu gems that truly rocked our domes:
Steamed shrimp - subtly seasoned, firm, and fresh.
Smoked wings - meaty, saucy, and justifiably voted “Best at the Beach” by the Baltimore Sun.
Mahi Mahi (with collard greens and beans) - the fish was thick and meaty; the collards were fresh and spicy with crunchy mouthfeel; and the beans were smoky and sweet.
Pig Out (featuring a rack of ribs, 1/2 BBQ chicken, a brisket sandwich, french fries and slaw) - a mammoth portion of sensational Pit-n-Pub favorites. The meats were tender (and its homemade sauce was tangy), the mountain of fries was addictive, and the non-dairy slaw had excellent snap with a savory bite of vinegar.
Orange Crush - A delicious brew of orange-flavored vodka, triple sec, OJ, and Sprite. Light, fruity, and lethal.
The Pit-n-Pub’s interior is airy, colorful, and fun. In one section of the restaurant, vinyl album jackets cover the ceiling, and distressed wooden booths line the wall. In the main dining room, eclectic memorabilia (Orioles and Ravens stuff, vintage beer signs, a wild boar’s head) looks down on the room while long strings of colored ceiling bulbs add a party vibe. There are rows of picnic-type tables well as high top tables, and the bar has plenty of stools for customers.
- While Pit-n-Pub isn’t a sports bar per se, watching Baltimore’s teams is a big component of an adventure at the restaurant (the main dining room has lots of screens to follow the action). From what I learned, Pit-n-Pub is the spot in Ocean City to enjoy Ravens games, and the fam and I can validate that notion: by the time we finished our dinners, the place was packed with raucous Ravens fans who were cheering on their team against the Browns.
- The Pit-n-Pub wait staff is extremely friendly, the crowd is there to have fun, and there’s even a wee souvenir shop with a variety of cool restaurant-related merch for sale.
- We’ve chowed down on some serious BBQ at top shelf spots up and down the East Coast, and Pit-n-Pub’s fare is straight up legit. The portions are big, the taste is superb, and the appearance of all of our dishes inspired wide smiles and happy eye pops.
- The restaurant’s vibe is laid back and unpretentious, with a down home, neighborhood feel.
- Whether you’re dining solo or with a group that wants to get loud, loose, and enjoy an amazing meal of authentic O.C. BBQ, Pit-n-Pub will serve up the good stuff that will stoke your taste buds, splatter sauce on your cheeks, and deliver a fantastic lunch or dinner that will rock your inner meatavore.