WEST OCEAN CITY – A new West Ocean City restaurant will soon join a growing portfolio of Taustin Group enterprises.
After more than a year of construction and several delays, the Taustin Group is eager to announce the opening of its newest restaurant, Pier 23. CEO Cole Taustin said Ocean City’s first container food port – located along the West Ocean City Commercial Harbor – will begin serving the public this summer.
“It’s completely unique to the area,” he said. “Ocean City doesn’t have anything remotely close to it.”
In 2017, the Taustin family purchased the former Captain’s Galley site with plans to develop a new restaurant, Mad Fish Bar & Grille. But after a year of operation, the business was forced to close when an electrical fire destroyed most of the building.
“It destroyed all of our storage, all of our kitchen, and the smoke destroyed the entire second floor,” Cole Taustin said. “The entire building was also doused with water that was pumped out of the harbor.”
Starting over with a blank slate, Cole Taustin said design work soon began on Pier 23.
“We centered our whole methodology on where we were going to take the property,” he said. “And then the pandemic hit.”
Like many resort businesses, Cole Taustin said the company was forced to redirect attention to its other businesses.
But Taustin Group representatives say the pandemic also gave them an opportunity to explore new concepts. After talking with friends in the hospitality and landscaping industries, they soon settled on the idea of using shipping containers to create Pier 23.
“Out of the pandemic came a lot of innovation and creativity in terms of the operational component of our restaurants, across the entire industry,” said Taustin Group Marketing Director Kyler Taustin. “And I think a unique location, in conjunction with the unique way of interacting between our staff and customers, creates a really unique environment for both the way it looks and the experience that you’ll have when you arrive.”
Construction on Pier 23 began last spring, following site plan approvals and permitting.
Reflecting the industrial feel of the surrounding harbor, officials say the restaurant will feature three separate concept kitchens, each crafted from shipping containers. Once seated, the customer will be able to select food options from the grill, the taco kitchen, or the deli.
“One of the greatest innovations that came out of the pandemic was the ability to use technology to serve your customers, so our service model is unique in that our customers will have the ability to help manage their own pace of service by placing their own orders via their phone or tablet …,” Cole Taustin said. “It’s a contactless ordering model where they can produce their own choices, modify the food, order drinks – alcohol and non-alcohol – and then we will have servers who will bring everything over to you. Everything is driven by a QR code.”
Officials noted that Pier 23 will also feature a bar, courtyard seating and live entertainment five afternoons a week. Support staff will also be on hand to help patrons navigate the menu.
“You can still have an interaction with a server if you need it,” Cole Taustin said. “But this just reduces the labor impact for us as a restaurant, and it reduces the need for waiting.”
Officials say menu items will include unique twists on traditional foods such as tacos, burgers, deli sandwiches and more.
“It’s a taste of Ocean City but with a twist, both in the way it looks and the way it tastes,” said Kyler Taustin. “You can get the things you love when you come here on your beach vacation, but you can get it in a different way and in a different environment.”
Cole Taustin added that Pier 23 also offers a great grab-and-go option for boaters.
“One of the advantages to being in such close proximity to the boat ramp and the marina is that boaters, with contactless ordering, can actually place the order online and either drive over once they’ve dropped their boat in the water or drop their boat in the water and float our way to pick it up,” he said. “We do also have an off-premise beer and wine license if they want to pick up to-go beverages.”
Taustin Group officials encouraged the community to visit Pier 23 when it opens in June.
Details on the restaurant’s opening date will be posted on its website, pier23oc.com, and on the Pier 23 Facebook page in the coming weeks.
“We really see this as a beautiful space that allows people to come by sea or by land and get a little something for everyone,” Kyler Taustin said, “a collective array of different types of food, as well as a destination for entertainment and wonderful cocktails.”
Taustin Group is a family-owned collection of businesses. Other Taustin enterprises include BLU Crabhouse & Raw Bar, Embers, Embers Island Miniature Golf and Jay’s Café & Trading Company. Additional information on any Taustin Group business can be found on each company’s website.
“Pier 23 is a great collaboration between what we are doing in West Ocean City and what we are doing in town,” Cole Taustin said.