MD/DE Beaches Odds & Ends

Offseason is an excellent time to hit the beach (area).

Just got back from our annual Thanksgiving weekend pilgrimage (ha!) downy oweshun, hon. We’ve been visiting the beach on TG weekend since the kids were small, and during that span the Ocean City/Rehoboth Beach corridor on Thanksgiving weekend has gone from semi-ghost town to mega-packed. The bloody battlefields of the tax-free outlets make Braveheart look like a Disney film.

Here’s some of the new discoveries we’ve….uh…discovered, good and bad.

LODGING

This time out, we decided to try the brand new Hyatt Place in the middle of Dewey Beach, DE (1301 Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach, Delaware Tel: 302 864 9100 $130 nt + tax). This three story ultra-modern monster is art museum slick, and sits in stark contrast to the old school, salt worn down-hominess of Dewey.

Frankfurt Germany would be proud.

Frankfurt Germany would be proud.

Hyatt Place is thoroughly 3rd millennium both inside and out, with a glass & chrome design that feels more Frankfurt, Germany than mid-Atlantic beach town. Our room was large and well-appointed, with HD TV, mini fridge, sitting area, and a unique frosted glass slider leading to a bathroom that was snazzy enough to star in a Daft Punk video.

That’s about it for the good news.

The hotel sits on the bay side of Route 1, but has seriously limited views of anything bay-related. Plus, it’s pretty clear that they cut design costs when it came to noise suppression. The place is LOUD. We were awakened at 7am this morning by random continuous banging from an undisclosed location (we were on the top floor, so it wasn’t above us, either), and the people across the hall seemed intent to see just how loud they could slam their room door–repeatedly–all morning long. So much for sleeping in and taking advantage of the 12 noon checkout time. In all, it felt very Days Inn, and not at all what we’ve come to expect from a luxury brand like Hyatt.

Other weirdness? There’s no non-emergency staircases, so apparently the Hyatt wants us all to be fat and slovenly. The place only has three floors; we’d prefer to walk up. Instead, two small elevators are the only way to get vertical, and when we headed down for breakfast this morning, we found a good 30 people clamoring in the lobby to go back up. Total cattle drive; not well-conceived, and totally unnecessary.

In all, Dewey’s Hyatt Place was mostly a swing and a miss. Decent rate for a holiday weekend, but the property felt like a cheaply-made, entry level subcompact by a luxury automaker that was long on pomp and short on execution. Our advice: spend the extra coin and book at Rehoboth Beach’s Bellmoor Inn instead. Infinitely more quiet and intimate, service that’s far more personal and less Best Buy, and a complimentary breakfast that’s miles ahead in both quality and delivery.

MORE LODGING

Back in September, we had a last minute chance to spend a warm weekend in Ocean City, and we did. As it was still summertime, all of our favorite places to stay were already booked solid, but we found vacancy at Bonita Beach (8100 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City), a small sand-colored hotel in north midtown on Coastal Highway. The mere fact that this property still had rooms available was a red flag on its own, but a bad day at the beach still beats a good day at home so posterity dictated that we go for it.

We bet this place was stellar in 1992.

We bet this place was stellar in 1992.

We never did find out what year the place was built, but it was probably quite the showplace back in the early 90s. Bonita Beach sports a true Melrose Place-era decor, but these days it’s aging and sagging, looks like its best days are behind it, and smells like stale menthol cigarettes–a lot like Keith Richards.

Mrs Bunny and I managed an ocean view room with two queen beds and a small balcony for us and the two youngins. The ceilings were stained, half of the Liza Minelli bubble light bulbs in the bathroom were burnt out, and the tub’s poor drainage led to back-flow gray water enveloping our feet when we showered. But the best moment was when we were walking through the main floor parking garage under the building, and a big, nasty dollop of air conditioner condensation slopped from the ceiling above us and right into my son’s latte (bloop!). Legionnaire’s Disease, anyone?

FOOD                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Here’s some other standouts down at the beach that we’ve never touched upon but are worth checking out.

Mother’s Cantina (2812 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City 410-289-1330 ) is small and less than gorgeous, and resides in a small and less than gorgeous strip center on the main drag, but serves up excellent margaritas and Tex Mex home cooking that gives uptown rival Tequila Mockingbird a real good run. If you like things truly spicy, the Red Hot Burrito is mouth-watering (and mouth-melting too). Their En Fuego sauce packs serious friggin heat–you’ve been warned. If you visit Mother’s on a weekend, be prepared to wait. But that’s cool; the bar is long and the drinks are good.

Fresh ingredient margarita. Take a sip.

Fresh ingredient margarita. Take a sip.

Finbar’s Pub & Grill (316 Rehoboth Ave, Rehoboth Beach 302-227-1873) is a fairly authentic Irish watering hole (for a beach resort) that does a solid job across the board. When we found our that their trendy next door neighbor Dogfish Head Brewery had a 35 minute wait last night, we gave Finbar’s a shot and we’re glad we did.  Their Whiskey Wings were a potent combination of spicy and sweet, with a fantastic house made sauce featuring fresh ginger, chilis, and Jamison Irish Whiskey. They were so good, we ordered a second round. Likewise, the Maryland Crab Chowder had a thick, chunky tomato base, and was well-stocked with crabmeat.

If you’re jonesing for Dogfish Head brews, don’t stress. Finbar’s has them, draft and bottled. And guess what: they’re less expensive than they are next door.

Don't bother going next door to Dogfish Head.

Don’t bother going next door to Dogfish Head.

The entire Getaway Bunny team wishes you and yours a very happy and festive holiday season!

-GB

GB Quickie: Day Trip to Ocean City

“Goin downy owshun, gon’ git me some Fisher’s cairmel papkern n’ some taffie.”

Yeah, sometimes this job is just plain brutal. Poor, pitiful me. I’m writing this post while sitting in the sun and sipping a Rumrunner that’s strong enough to strip paint at Fish Tales, with the dark blue waters of Assawoman bay so close I can taste the marine diesel. Woeful.

This is the first of many quickie runs downy ocean that we’ll make this warm season. It’s one of the main reasons we moved to the Eastern Shore in the first place (sure ain’t the sushi or hi-tech movie theater options), and we love to take full advantage of it.

Here’s today’s report card:

WEATHER: A+

Amazing sunshine, cloudless sky the color of the royal crest, warm offshore breeze. Mid-Atlantic June is the poster child for perfect weather.

 

WATER: C (for c-c-cold)

65 degrees of cold, to be precise, which is too chilled to do much of anything, really, besides kick back on the beach Pacific-style and turn brain off.

 

LUNCH: F-

Not sure what possessed us to believe that Big Pecker’s (7301 Coastal Hwy)  was worth another shot after our last debacle, but we were hungry (& lazy), and there it was. And yep…still sucks. It’s expensive, it’s dirty, and our waitress had all the warmth of Siberian steel (she was visibly annoyed when we ordered iced teas instead of adult bevs). When our lunch arrived (listen to this), we were served chips even though we’d both ordered fries instead. But when we pointed this out, she became defensive and said that she “didn’t hear us” and that we’d now have to order a $4 basket of fries if we wanted them because she “couldn’t make the change in the computer now”. Er….wha? So we ordered the $4 basket of fries, and deducted the $4 from her tip. (Sorry. Wonder if she heard THAT?)

In all, nearly $50 for two sandwiches, a shared app of forgettable wings, the infamous fry basket, and a couple of iced teas. Our advice: Pick something else. There’s over 250 restaurant choices in OC; you’re almost certain to find a better one, even if you’re blind, drunk, and don’t speak English.

 

HAPPY HOUR: B+

So, after a few hours of vegging on the beach, exposing pasty body parts to sun rays and lulling to the sound of waves crashing, we felt that we’d earned some proper nourishment. (Plus, we still had the stink of Big Peckers on us). So we slipped on over to the back deck at Fish Tales (22nd St on the bay) and said hello to a Rumrunner or two. On in-season weekend afternoons this place is more over the top than a WWE bachelor party, which is just fine by us on the right occasion. But it was easygoing and un-busy this time, which was just fine too.

For munchies, we gave their conch fritters a shot. About on-par with other fritters we’ve had outside the keys: 90% breading 10% chopped conch meat, didn’t touch the cocktail sauce, adequate for the moment, especially given the Rumrunners (side note: best conch fritters we’ve ever had were at the always amazing Seafood Festival in Marathon Key, held every March. Served by the Florida Watermen Association, loaded with fresh conch, and fry-kissed by the gods).

Where Fish Tales really shined was in the service dept. Our waitress was fun, funny, and a tad clairvoyant, which is always a monster 1-2-3 combo in our book. She was quick on refills, had an amazing laugh, and even sat with us for a bit to shoot the you-know-what. On the way out, my wife wanted to go back to Big Peckers, grab that server by the hand, bring her back to the Fish Tales waitress, and say “watch her and learn!” Instead, we grabbed a couple of waters and headed home.

 

CROWDED FACTOR: A+

photo credit: psycrothic

Yes, the weather was amazing, but weekday afternoons in June are sublimely devoid of mass personnel. We drove freely, parked easily, and sat wherever we wanted, wherever we went. Where July 4th in OC feels like a football team shoved into a tool shed, today felt more like a a golf foursome shoved into….let’s say….Montana.

 

Overall, a fine and decent start to the beach run season. After all these years, Ocean City is still Ocean City, just like Ozzy Osbourne is still Ozzy Osbourne. It’s got its speed bumps, and it’s never gonna be accused of being too sophisticated, but the rock-steady consistency hasn’t wavered for generations. And in travel, that’s a definite selling point.