Oyster House Eyes Fenwick Island Opening In Early June

OCEAN CITY – Ropewalk, a Fenwick Island oyster house, will be opening its doors in the beginning of June, bringing a Baltimore tradition to the area.

The original tavern, to later become Ropewalk tavern, is located in south Baltimore dating back to pre-prohibition and is situated on one of the oldest streets in Federal Hill, Ropewalk Lane. The street is where 18th and 19th century shipbuilders twined ropes for ships.

In 1995, William and Marc McFaul began renovating a collection of spaces on the street. Today, Ropewalk Tavern has become a popular location for bar hoppers looking to play pool and drink some of the 155 beers that are available, as well as enjoy the tavern fare and changing specials.

“The Ropewalk Tavern started as a small 1,000-square-foot bar … over the years we have grown and now Ropewalk Tavern is over 10,000 square feet,” Executive Chef Frank Campanella said. “Originally, they steamed shrimp on hot plates behind the bar before they ever had a kitchen.”

Chris Reda, who is a co-owner with the McFaul brothers, explained they all have been vacationing in Ocean City/Fenwick Island for the past 25 years, and while in the area at dinner one night they became aware a restaurant located at 700 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island was for sale and they immediately went to track down the property owner to make an offer. Ropewalk took over the restaurant around Thanksgiving of last year and began reconstruction in January.

The previous restaurant operated out of the first floor and rented out offices on the second floor. Ropewalk has gutted the entire building turning the first floor into indoor seating with a new kitchen, and a new 40-foot marble top bar and raw bar. The second floor will feature indoor and outdoor seating on a front porch and a horseshoe shaped bar. The new restaurant will seat over 200.

The décor is all new giving the building a classic oyster house feel. The inside walls have been covered in old distressed barn wood with tin stamped ceilings. Behind the marble bar is intricate wood work and mirrors lined in a gold design. The restaurant has mural work inside and out, with the largest piece of art work on the outside wall facing north depicting several different scenes found on the East Coast, including a mermaid looking over Coastal Highway.

“We are going to appeal to a wide range of people where you can come get a nice meal and bring your kids and not feel out of place,” GM/District Manager Patrick Leonard said. “It will be a fun environment with a play area for the kids while mom and dad relax.”

Out front sand has been laid down with benches along the fence line to serve as a waiting area and a play area for the kids. There is a playground shaped into a ship with a rowboat and sharks head, along with a shark hanging from the tail to accompany Ropewalk’s sign, all providing a great photo opportunity for guests.

“This is going to be more of a dining destination compared to the Baltimore location that is more of a tavern,” Campanella said. “We have a very creative menu. We like to play with ingredients and what’s fresh in the area.”

Ropewalk will be featuring fresh seafood and local produce as well as placing a modern twist on classic dishes. Some highlighted dishes are the Fenwick Oyster Pot with steamed clams, mussels, shrimp, snow crab legs, Andouille sausage, potatoes and local corn, It will come in three different sizes — single, double and a family portion.

Other dishes are a Seafood Cobb salad and a steak and cake salad referred to as the Patrick Henry, a fresh crab guacamole as an appetizer, and mini Mahi tacos. There will also be homemade soups, such as oyster stew and seafood gumbo.

“We are going to have eight different types of oysters fresh every day from different parts of the East Coast,” Campanella said. “We actually have our own oyster bed in southern Maryland where they are harvesting oysters exclusively for us.”

Following the dinner crowd, Ropewalk will be open for night life and never closes early. Their drink menu features frozen cocktails and fresh fruit crushes with signature cocktails like a frozen Bellini made with kiwi and strawberry puree and a blueberry mojito.

Ropewalk plans to be open year-round, and will join the local hot spots for locals and visitors alike to cheer on their favorite sports teams with a total of 16 TVs, as well as offering their famous wings. Ropewalk in Baltimore is known for its wings as their recipe and Victory Wing Sauce has won the Baltimore Wing War title. There are nine flavors of wings in total.

The restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. this summer and is planning to schedule acoustic entertainment to play on the deck in the evening hours.

“Our big focus has been getting along with the community, we would rather fit right in instead of become competition,” Reda said.