OCEAN CITY — An Ocean City landmark will be resurrecting an old tradition this summer when ownership adds a second restaurant to the property.
The Embers Restaurant on 24th Street and Coastal Highway will be expanding its offerings this summer when it adds the Blu Crab House and Raw Bar to its location.
“We’ve always wanted to do blue crabs,” said The Embers Vice President Cole Taustin during an interview this week.
Taustin’s family has owned The Embers since it first opened in the 1940s. After a brief stint on the Boardwalk, the family moved to its current site off Coastal Highway. With the new location in the 1960s, came a new way of operating, according to Taustin.
“We changed our concept,” said Taustin.
Originally, The Embers was an a la carte-style (according to the menu) restaurant. In the 1980s, it made the transition to a buffet layout, which is how it operates today and subsequently built a loyal following and strong reputation.
Back then, Taustin noted that the increasingly family-friendly atmosphere of the resort town encouraged a transition to a buffet-style establishment, a decision that Taustin said his family is still very happy with.
However, he revealed that the notion to “get back to [Embers’] roots” with a la carte dining has been on the table for years.
“We’ve always wanted to diversify … It basically started as a really small idea,” Taustin said.
That idea came to fruition this year with Blu, which Taustin described as a crab house and an a la carte restaurant that he believes will stand out from the crowded field in Ocean City on merit through a focus on the quality of food and a unique atmosphere, most of which will be outside.
“We’re taking an old concept and putting a new twist on it,” he said.
Blu will feature around 300 seats outside, which will bump up the total between the two restaurants to about 1,200. According to Taustin, that’s a big leap from the original Embers.
“The restaurant used to seat 300 in 1960 but now seats 900,” he said.
The new restaurant will also mean the creation of new jobs.
Taustin said that Chef John Latta, formerly of the Marlin Moon Grille, has been selected to head the new kitchen. On top of that, Blu will have additional managers as well as a large number of seasonal employees.
According to Taustin, The Embers already hires roughly 100 seasonal staff members during the summer season, and he expects that Blu will mean significantly more hires. He guessed that staff could grow by as much as 60 percent, though he explained that real numbers won’t be concrete until the crab house is closer to opening.
While The Embers and Blu will both be owned by the Taustin family, he said that they will operate individually and offer very different experiences.
“The outside concept is an entirely different restaurant,” he said. “This will be two unique atmospheres.”
Even with the large-scale additions, Taustin promised that everything patrons like about The Embers will remain unchanged. It will offer the buffet just like it has for the last several decades, he said, while adding a whole new restaurant on the same property for diners looking for a different experience.
“We’re going to have something for everyone … If we change anything, it will only be to make it bigger and better,” stressed Taustin.
Though the majority of the current construction on the site is for Blu, The Embers’ building will also be seeing some renovations this season. It will re-open for business at the end of March while Blu should be ready for customers in May. Other expansions over the years have added hundreds of parking spots and a miniature golf course to the property.