BERLIN – Just out of reach of Ocean City and all that
takes place in the resort is the relatively new establishment serving up big
meals from its little kitchen alongside a vast selection of brews capable of
making any lager lover weak in the knees.
Since its doors opened in June of last year, Assateague
Island Oasis, located on Stephen Decatur Highway and just four miles from the
Assateague Island National Seashore, has been plugging away to make a name for
Mike Sand, who owns and operates the restaurant, said he
is looking forward to completing his first year in business and hopes to
capitalize on the first, full summer season.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Sand moved to the area almost
18 years ago. Always wanting to have his own restaurant, Sand said he has put
17 years into the hospitality industry, an investment that stems back to
college when he worked in his school’s cafeteria. Along the way, jobs at
Shenanigans, Phillips Crab House, The Shark, and even Chili’s for a little
corporate experience, have constantly prepared Sand for the last year.
“I had always made it a point that whatever restaurant I
worked in to work in every area of that restaurant so that I understood it and
so if I ever was a manager then I could feel comfortable asking someone to do a
job that I knew I had done myself,” he said.
This type of mentality allows Sand to wear numerous hats
with ease but it also brings with it a group of people who have seen that
mentality in action. Sand said most of his success so far stems from his staff,
many of which all hail from the same area and have worked under him before.
“It’s not often that a person can start a business and
bring on a trained staff that’s works well together, that’s as trustworthy,
loyal and dedicated as the staff I have,” he said.
Sand said his style of management is like that of a coach
for s sports team.
“You have your players and your team captains and you know
what they can do and you give them the plays,” he said. “You have your weekly
meetings, you say this is what I expect to accomplish and then you let them run
with the ball.”
Inside, the restaurant has an air of familiarity and
comfort that lends itself to the quiet, back roads of Berlin and boasts a
classic Eastern Shore décor. Its menu focuses mostly on seafood that ranges
from specialty sandwiches and wraps to fresh fish and crab cake dinners.
But seafood isn’t the only thing Sand specializes in. When
an owner has a hunger for hops, only the sky is the limit when it comes to the
types of brews to be served. According to Sand, with the help of the attached
packaging store, Assateague Island Oasis boasts approximately 250 different
types of beer.
“I always said if I ever had my own place I’d try and have
the most beer I could have,” he said. “I like a lot of different kinds of
Having so many beers allows Sand to stand out in the sea
of seafood restaurants that litter the shore. Already the establishment has
held two successful nights of beer pairings where a five- to six-course meal is
served alongside brews chosen specifically for each platter and one manager
even has plans for a beer club for returning patrons.
As with any establishment still getting their feet wet,
ideas for future plans are always on the mind of Sand and his managers, but
will have to wait for the time being until Sand is happy where he is.
“I’m a big fan of getting what you do right first before
you expand,” he said. “I had a lot of plans this year and I couldn’t justify
bringing any of them to fruition until we got other things under control.”
Like previous eateries that held their own here in the
past, Sand is looking at bringing breakfast back. However, that is something
that will come over time. More immediate plans include developing more on what
Sand said he already has and expanding on the dining experience outside.
As of now, Sand said he prefers the off-season a bit more
since it allows him and his staff more time to reflect on everything they have
done as well as be more personable with the guests, comprised mostly of locals
who he says are always the toughest critics.
“I tell my staff, if you can convince the customer they’re
enjoying themselves and they don’t see any problems you’re doing your job,” he said.
“If they hear your complaints and see the bumps in the road, then we aren’t
doing our job and then we got to figure out what to do to make that better.”
By doing this, Sand said this allows is restaurant to be a
low-key place where families can come to escape the hustle and bustle of Ocean
City and the traffic that comes along with it.
when we’re full we’re not a loud, hectic place,” he said. “I’m not trying to be
a theme park here, I’m trying to be a place where you can go and get a good,
quality meal and enjoy yourself.”