OCEAN CITY — You’ll always remember your first crush; at least, that’s what they say at Harborside.
The waterfront restaurant and bar overlooking West Ocean City’s commercial harbor has been known for its signature drink, the Orange Crush, since the mid-1990s. Nineteen years after opening, Harborside is still a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.
“The food’s been awesome every time I’ve gone,” said Ocean City resident Daina Kazmaier, “and I’ve been going there for the past eight years or so.”
To better serve its boating customers, the bar recently expanded its deck. Although it took more than two years to get the necessary permits, what used to be a three-foot walkway is now a 13-foot, wooden expanse between the restaurant and the water.
A wooden rail runs down the middle, marking what co-owner Chris Wall calls the “county side” and the “state side.” He explained that the rail was required for county zoning reasons and that Harborside can sell drinks on the Worcester County side of it.
“We can serve up to the rail,” Wall said. “People are allowed to wander where they like with their drinks as long as they purchase them on the south side,” he said.
The addition of 18 boat slips along the deck — where before there was just a straight bulkhead — is designed to make parking easier for visitors arriving via boat.
“It’s much safer and cleaner for patrons coming by boat,” said Wall, who owns Harborside with Lloyd Whitehead. “People are utilizing it.”
Wall, Whitehead and a third partner opened Harborside in the former location of the Stumblin Inn in 1993. Since Wall and Whitehead bought their partner out a couple of years later, the business has gradually grown.
Wall is proud of the way Harborside’s food developed a reputation. He credits the restaurant’s staff — which is 50 year-round and grows to 90 in the summer — with much of the establishment’s success.
“We pretty much used to be a bar that served food,” he said. “Now it’s a restaurant.”
Kazmaier said she loves the way Harborside changes its menu seasonally.
“My favorite dishes there are the new salads they come up with,” she said. “This year the salad topped with scallops has become my new go-to lunch.”
Wall said he also loves the restaurant’s scallops, as well as the New York strip.
“I’d put our New York strip against anybody’s in town,” he said.
And in spite of the focus on food, the restaurant’s drinks have not suffered. Kazmaier says in addition to the classic Orange Crush, she likes the John Daly, a drink based on sweet tea vodka.
Wall says what keeps people coming back — whether they’re tourists or locals — is Harborside’s atmosphere.
“We’re not pretentious,” he said. “You can come as you are.”