This year's been a big one for beach restaurant openings.
As a general rule, I don't have high expectations for restaurants at the beach. Compared to Baltimore, the food generally seems overpriced and sort of meh and the service is often spotty. But recently, that's changed.
The entire country has stepped up its culinary game - including beach towns. The opening of places like the "hooked" restaurants in OC, Bethany and Fenwick is a great start.
Ropewalk Oyster House is another great addition to the beach scene. Located on the bay side in Fenwick in the old Capt Pete's space (RIP), Ropewalk hits all its marks.
I'm a fan of Ropewalk's Federal Hill outpost, though I have to admit it's been years since I've been there. I also can't remember if I've ever actually eaten there...but I can vouch for their ability to hand me Miller Lite bottles as quickly as I can drink them (note: I don't actually drink very quickly but their bartenders are good).
The Fenwick restaurant is a completely different animal: family-friendly with a sandy playground in the front, oyster-y with a bunch of varieties available, and definitely more restaurant than bar. But it does have one thing in common with the Fed Hill bar: a Ronald Reagan on the menu (the Gipper burger).
We've been to the Oyster House twice now: once with Cooper's parents over Labor Day weekend and again last Sunday with our friends Audrey and George and their kids (we were celebrating George's very successful completion of the Bethany Beach Triathlon).
Both times, the service was impressive and the food just right. During our first visit, the place was slammed - we waited over an hour and a half for a table - but the service was still nicely timed, attentive and friendly. Last weekend, we were the first people at the restaurant and had great luck with a super-fun waiter named Greg.
The menu isn't overly ambitious but it has its moments - simple things like fish tacos and scallops over risotto are seasoned well and constructed with care and a few flavor twists.
Ropewalk also has a decent list of oysters available on the half shell, including Bay oysters harvested just for them. With George and Audrey, we took down a couple dozen of those; they were salty and lovely (but I am, generally, a fan of local oysters).
Anyone with kids will also appreciate the little playground in front of the restaurant. If you've ever had to wait for a table, or just wanted to sit and have another drink after finishing your meal, you know how amazing a playground can be. Ropewalk's isn't huge, but that's actually a benefit. It's easier to keep eyes on your kid that way.
If you don't have kids, and want to avoid them, that's semi-possible, too. The bar is off to the side and it would be easy to sit there and forget that the playground exists. The restaurant also has upstairs seating - partially outside, overlooking Coastal Highway.
Catering to everyone, making people happy. That's a tall order but Ropewalk is managing.