Taste of Ocean Beach Highlights Local Restaurants

More than 300 residents and visitors participated in a restaurant crawl through downtown Ocean Beach on the afternoon of Saturday, June 3. Titled Taste of Ocean Beach, it was the first such event hosted by the Ocean Beach Community Fund, a nonprofit that sponsors projects and events to benefit the community.

Ocean Beach Community Fund board member standing with the iconic “totem” that directed Taste of OB diners where to go.

“What a great afternoon,” said Community Fund President Holly Etlin. “Homeowners and their guests and visitors from neighboring communities and Long Island all gathered together to enjoy our first Taste of Ocean Beach.” The Community Fund board had been planning the event for several months, securing funding from Cernilli Remodeling along with raffle items from an assortment of local businesses. A total of 12 restaurants participated, each serving a signature food and drink item that were included with the purchase of a $50 ticket.

I spent the afternoon with two friends who were new to Ocean Beach, making our way from east to west. Matthew’s Seafood House offered two options for diners: either a martini with crunchy breaded fish tacos or a Bloody Mary with shrimp. The fish taco, a special not normally served on the menu, was my friend’s favorite dish of the day, while the martini was my personal favorite drink.

The vadouvan curry shrimp with rice served as a small plate at Castaway Bar and Grill was among the most flavorful food items served and is normally available as a full-size entrée. The dish was paired with a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale.

We stopped next at the Hideaway, enjoying dainty baked clams topped with bacon as we took in bayside views and sipped on the Local, a signature drink featuring cucumber-infused vodka. A variation of the clams with shrimp stuffing had been served earlier in the day and were a favorite of several members of the Community Fund board. Next door, Houser’s Bar and Grill served their signature Zippy coolers, along with generously sized fish and avocado sandwiches.

Crowds had gathered at the Island Mermaid on the bay, but the staff kept diners moving with buffet-style service. The Mermaid’s perfectly crispy calamari is probably my favorite appetizer served in Ocean Beach, and the kitchen did not disappoint. Paired with zesty homemade marinara sauce and a refreshing High Tide cocktail featuring Gray Whale gin, lemon juice, and sparkling grapefruit, the calamari at the Mermaid was among the best dishes offered.

We had sampled the Landing’s fare while checking in, so we skipped next to CJ’s Restaurant and Bar. No trip to Ocean Beach would be complete without a Rocket Fuel from CJ’s, which was served with pulled pork sliders. The Sand Bar dished out delicious mini steak sandwiches and thick, chocolatey mudslides while a live band performed – the only live music featured during this daytime event.

Our eighth stop was at Rachel’s, which featured chocolate chip and butter cookies along with spiked iced coffee. As a non-coffee drinker I passed on the coffee, but my friends thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace at Rachel’s, which is famous for its baked goods and breakfasts.

Although the directory for the event listed pork tacos at the Albatross, beef tacos were instead offered, and we were pleasantly surprised. The restaurant normally serves fish tacos and beef burritos, with the beef tacos being prepared as a special for the day. The Greyhound, with Tito’s vodka and fresh-squeezed grapefruit, is a popular cocktail at the Albatross and also was served.

After enjoying a chicken taco and margarita at Taco Beach, we reached our last stop at Maguire’s Bayfront Restaurant just in time to enjoy their fall-off-the-bone ribs. Other diners had similarly traveled from east to west and some commented that the best was saved for last, suggesting to Maguire’s management that the ribs be added to their regular menu. A refreshing Bubba’s Five Rum Punch was the perfect capstone to an afternoon of the best food and drinks the community has to offer.

“The OBCF would like to thank all our village restaurants and Cernilli for their wonderful support of this fundraiser for the recreation program,” said Etlin. “Our fundraising team is now hard at work on our Main Event with Karin Ward, scheduled for Aug. 5.”

Community Fund Co-chairperson Rita Silver wished to thank Kevin Hennessy and Kevin McCarthy for constructing a totem pole that was placed in the center of town directing attendees to the participating restaurants. The piece became a meeting point for guests, many of whom posed for photos with the pole and bay as a backdrop.

There is talk of Taste of Ocean Beach becoming an annual event. My two friends said they got a feel for the community and what it has to offer and can’t wait to return, so this writer thinks that would be an outstanding idea.