Somers Point—named for the Somers family, English Quakers who settled it in Colonial times—is today a thriving borough three miles from Ocean City across Great Egg Harbor Bay. Somers Point has developed one of the Shore’s most vibrant and varied dining scenes, with restaurants ranging from fine dining to funky/casual—several with dramatic bay views. Here are 16 picks to consider.
823 Bay Avenue
On the National Register of Historic Places, this 1888 taphouse makes up one leg of what locals call “the Beermuda Triangle” (along with Charlie’s and Gregory’s). Chef/owner Don Mahoney rides herd on everything from the affordable wine list ($12-$34/bottle) to the sprawling menu, including the $23.95 crab-stuffed flounder with Gorgonzola sauce Guy Fieri flipped for on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Seats on the covered veranda overlook the bay.
Back Bay BBQ
135 Longport-Somers Point Boulevard
Brothers Len and John Dagit run this Wednesday to Sunday haven of smoked meat, seafood and classic sides (mac ’n’ cheese, cowboy beans) perched on a strip of land in the marsh beneath the bridge to Longport. Barbecue ribs, chicken and pork share the menu with Shore fare like roasted corn and skewers of grilled shrimp and scallops. At day’s end, grab a patio seat under the striped umbrellas and bask in the sunset.
998 Bay Avenue
Opened in 2011 by chef/owner Edward Bonsignore in the former Bay Shores dance club, this spacious bayside spot just north of the bridge to Ocean City features grilled fish and meats, each with several tempting house sauces to choose from. Italian and Shore favorites round out the varied menu. Many customers come to sip Baia’s playful martinis and frozen cocktails on three separate decks and dance to live bands. Musicwise, every Sunday is Reggae Sunday.
Bay Avenue Sushi
718 Bay Avenue
This BYO, modest from the outside, offers a modern dining room and fresh, appealing sushi, with hand rolls starting at $4.50 each, and traditional cooked dishes such as tempura, teriyaki and udon noodles. Try for a seat on the patio and catch the bay breezes.
Caroline’s by the Bay
450 Bay Avenue
If you want to hang with the locals, visit this 18-year-old favorite, open year-round. Mary Mathis, whose daughter Caroline is co-owner, books the bands that play the patio bar and puts up with their penchant for closing the last set with the inevitable “Sweet Caroline.” Caroline’s is mostly about whooping it up, but the grub is decent and plentiful, from bowls of oyster chowder ($12) to chicken parm ($9.95).
800 Shore Road
When the Thomas brothers—Jeff, 40, and Jim, 37—took over their family’s 72-year-old tavern in 2006, becoming fourth-generation proprietors, they stuck with the proven pub menu (wings, steamers, fried shrimp, chicken parm). But they upgraded the decor, installed 18 flat-screen TVs and instituted a beer program. Now more than 16 taps pump drafts. For sheer value, it’s hard to beat the all-day happy hour special ($2.50 pints of light Bud/Miller/Coors), or for sheer vivacity, the occasional live music.
Clancy’s by the Bay
101 East Maryland Avenue
Three years ago, restaurateur Joe Villari scooped up the former Harry’s Inn next to the Longport bridge and turned it into the latest of his family-friendly pubs, which already rock in Ocean City, Brooklawn and Sewell (the original). With more than 30 flat-screens, Clancy’s bills itself as the area’s biggest sports bar, but beer and music are also on tap—at 8 pm, the large dance floor near the back deck opens. The breakfast-through-dinner bill of fare has you covered at all hours.
The Crab Trap
Beneath the vaulted ceilings of the Wallace family’s bayside giant (more than 400 seats), time stands still. Opened in 1967, the Crab Trap stands on part of the property bought in Colonial times by John Somers. Unless you count the popular prime rib, there’s nothing Colonial about chef Rick Kern’s menu, which includes clams casino, crab-stuffed flounder and chicken piccata. For a more modern vibe, hit Crabby Jack’s, aka the outdoor deck, for snacks, burgers, sandwiches, beer, wine and cocktails from the Crab Trap bar.
10 MacArthur Boulevard
Founded by the late Joe DiOrio in 1950, this bar, restaurant and liquor store is now run by his son Dennis, who hews to the same philosophy: Provide enjoyable food, drink and fun that’s easy on the wallet. The wings are killer, the beers are cheap, and if you’d rather skip the Tuesday night trivia game and aren’t up for shooting pool, you can always find something to watch on the seven big flat-screens.
The Doc’s Place
646 Bay Avenue
Proud matriarch Mary Jo Hieb still watches over the bistro and fine-dining mainstay on the water in Harbour Cove, which her family took over in 1987, but she relies on her sons to make sure everything runs smoothly. David Hieb takes care of the front of the house—with wainscoting that extends to the covered 20-seat patio—and Geoff Hieb runs the kitchen, which puts out a huge variety of nouveau American fare. Doc’s is equally good for sipping one of the more than two dozen martinis or holding a family celebration with pasta, lobster and steaks ($18-$40).
Gregory’s Restaurant and Bar
900 Shore Road
A neighborhood gathering place since 1946, the Americana food at this old-school lodge got a jolt of innovation when fourth-gen owners Paul and Joe Gregory assumed control. Both graduates of ACCC’s Academy of Culinary Arts, the brothers’ varied menu ranges from Sriracha-doused fish tacos ($10) to pot stickers ($8.50); from Italian panini to patty melts ($9-$12). The quiet dining room has a separate entrance from the rollicking bar, which hosts live bands and trivia nights.
Manco and Manco Pizza Too
319 Bethel Road
There aren’t quite as many seats, and you’ll have to pick up your own food at the counter, but the inland outpost of this Ocean City mainstay outshines its sibling in one key way: It’s legal to BYO. Pies are exactly the same—thin crust, swirled-on sauce, splotches of melted cheese ($16 and up)—but unlike on the boardwalk, where’s it’s all pizza, all the time, there’s also a selection of munchies-style apps, from poppers to wings to cheese fries.
Sal’s Cafe & Coal Fired Pizza
501 New Road
Three years ago, Albania native Blair Pira sold Margate’s summer-only Pierre’s Pizza to a friend and dove into year-round, all-day hospitality at this spacious strip-mall BYO with seating for more than 100. He and his nephew—restaurant namesake and co-owner Sal Pira—stoke the 1,000-degree fires to turn out crispy, 12-inch Neapolitan-inspired pies ($9-$12). They also offer regular pizza in four sizes, plus sandwiches, under-$20 dinner entrées and diner-style breakfasts.
Sandi Pointe Coastal Bistro
908 Shore Road
Seven years ago, the giant neon lobster that used to beckon Shore-goers to Mac’s Restaurant got an attractive sibling: The mermaid that announces the spacious pub is now known as Sandi Pointe. Owners Dan and Sandi Anderson contributed their own touches to the modernized bar, adding a dozen taps, high-end cocktails and an upgraded tavern menu (you can still get wings or linguini with clams, but also beef carpaccio, roasted duck in the fall and Barbados-style BBQ chicken). The chill, welcoming atmosphere? That’s as it ever was.
Smitty’s Clam Bar
910 Bay Avenue
Hardly anyone uses its official name—the Clam Bar, which is at Smith’s Marina—but after 43 seasons, the nickname for this bayfront shack is more than acceptable. Families pack the dining rooms and intrepid couples squeeze onto stools along the raw bar, forgoing comfort for a chance to scarf down freshly shucked clams, steamers, fried clam strips ($7.99), baked fish filets and the famous red or white chowder ($3.49). After what’ll likely be a sizable wait for a table, service is top-notch; it helps that the joint is owned by Peter Popovic and his wife, who used to work there, their nephew and another former staffer.
18 MacArthur Boulevard
What do you get when a Greek family devotes two generations to running a giant restaurant space? A “more-than-diner.” With their parents, Steve and Virginia, brothers Stratis and Dimitri “Jimmy” Tiniakos make sure travelers headed over the Ocean City bridge have easy access to everything from pancakes and eggs for breakfast to burgers, kabobs and sandwiches for lunch, and a wide range of steaks and seafood for dinner (try the Land & Sea to get both at once).