OCEAN CITY – A new family legacy has been born in the Blu Crab House and Raw Bar on 24th Street and Coastal Highway in the shadows of its its famous predecessor, The Embers Restaurant.
The Embers Restaurant Inc. Vice President Cole Taustin said in 1945 his great uncles, Sam and Irv Taustin, opened the Embers in Ocean City and at that time it reflected a fine dining atmosphere with white table clothes and jackets required.
“As the town started to change, so did we,” Taustin said during an interview last week.
As Ocean City became a bright and colorful family-friendly beach resort, the Taustin family found it necessary to test out other dining atmospheres in the early 1980s to see what best fit the visitor.
“They tried different things, like they would do a seafood night, an Asian night, an Italian night, and basically what they did is figure out what the most popular one was and that was the seafood, so eventually they started to do it all the time and in 1985 it went into full swing, a seafood buffet,” Taustin said.
Where Blu stands now is where The Embers previously had storage area, retail space and employee housing. As the property was in need of renovations, a collective decision was made by Cole’s father, Jay Taustin, Director of Operations Frank Raffo, and Cole to start new, hiring an architect and coming up with the “grand plan” to start a new restaurant.
“My dad always wanted to get into crabs, and Frank and I always loved the idea but we also wanted to diversify a little more to into a really neat interesting menu with interesting food, so we combined the two and that’s what we’re doing now,” Taustin said.
On June 15, Blu Crab House and Raw Bar opened its doors. Blu is located on the west side of the Embers and upon entering a paradise atmosphere greets guests.
“One of the things we really love is that we wanted to bring together all the really neat parts of going out in Ocean City, being outside on the water with palm trees and a comfortable bar with good food in a relaxed environment. We’ve got all that, and then on top of it you are getting the traditional Maryland meals,” Taustin said.
The All You Can Eat Crab Feasts include cheddar bay biscuits, corn and mac and cheese wedges starting out at $19.99 and can be upgraded to include steamed shrimp and roasted barbeque chicken for $27, or snow crab legs and roasted barbeque chicken for $29. Medium, large, or jumbo crabs are also available by the dozen at market price.
Besides blue crabs, the menu includes a variety of steamer pots, raw bar items, appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, subs, burgers and entrees.
“We have fresh fish coming in all the time, the chef is always coming up with new and interesting things,” Taustin said.
The Embers and Blu have two different kitchens, but share Executive Chef Jon Lalla and Sous Chef Jeffrey Katzer, who created Blu’s menu offerings.
Taustin pointed out a few popular menu items, such as the Salt and Pepper Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna that is thinly sliced and served with cucumber wasabi sauce, and fresh Maryland Crab Cakes with lemon zest mayo.
The latest addition to the menu is the different steamer pots, the snow crab, blue crabs or clam bake, that are accompanied with shrimp, little neck clams, mussels, sausage and red potatoes. These have become a big hit, Taustin said. He added that in the next few weeks as the season changes lobster will become a regular menu item served in a variety of ways.
Happy hour is offered daily from 3-6 p.m. and includes $4 crushes, $2 domestic drafts, specials on mixed drinks and half-price appetizers and sandwiches.
Taustin said as long as weather allows Blu will remain open on the weekends into the off season and will be offering football specials while featuring the games on Sundays. The Embers traditionally closes after Thanksgiving and re-opens in February, and the Taustins plan to have Blu re-open by April.
“We are going to make the fall fun,” Taustin said. “It’s the time for the locals to get out there, and we want to show them what we have been doing all summer.”
The Embers evolved throughout time as a largely family project, but Blu has become what it is so far through a collective effort of the family and entire management team.
“Everyone contributed,” Taustin said. “We will take the year to make ourselves better and take the best of what we got before we start doing anything else.”