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Clams on the Half Price, er, Shell
Ocean City in the middle of the week? During the winter? You bet. We found spots where you can save some dough while you stuff your face.

By Carol Sottili
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Not everyone starts the new year by joining a gym and eating celery. Those who prefer bellying up to the food bar and putting on an extra layer of protective blubber during these cold, dark days should look to the east.

In Ocean City and surrounding towns, dozens of the beach area's better restaurants stay open year-round, and most offer weekday dinner deals designed to fill empty tables that tourists crowd in warmer months.

Here's our guide to eating your way through Ocean City and environs like a local. For each weekday, we've come up with a top pick, plus a couple of alternatives. Most deals are limited to a specific day (we've noted exceptions). And once you work your way through this list, just drive up and down Coastal Highway to find more half-price deals. But it's up to you to lose the weight once the weather gets nice.

Sunday

The booths at the Crabcake Factory (120th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City) are hard and the interior design spartan, but concentrate on the yummy half-price crab cake platter. Team with a cold draft beer, some pencil-thin french fries and crunchy coleslaw. A platter with a single five-ounce crab cake and two sides is $7, but go wild and order the double five-ounce all-lump crab cakes with two sides for $14.50. Info: 866-899-5867, http://www.crabcakefactoryusa.com.

ALTERNATIVES: If you're looking for fine dining with atmosphere, try Jules (118th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City, 410-524-3396), which offers three courses paired with three wines for $32 per person. Marlin Moon Grille (12806 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City, 866-213-3463, http://www.marlinmoongrille.com) hosts "Locals Night," a three-course prix fixe menu for two for $30 or $40 with wine pairing (closed until Feb. 6).

Monday

During the summer, locals line up for the cheap eats and drinks served al fresco at the deck party held each Monday at Fager's Island Restaurant (201 60th St., Ocean City). During winter, they move inside for half-price prime rib ($18) or rockfish ($13). While the rockfish is moist and flavorful, the tasty super-size slab of prime rib is the value. Also available on Tuesdays. Info: 410-524-5500, http://www.fagers.com.

ALTERNATIVES: For romantic Italian with white tablecloths and good service, Fresco's (82nd Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City, 410-524-8202, http://www.ocfrescos.com) has a "Customer Appreciation Menu" with three courses for $35, plus half-price on $60-or-less bottles of wine (offered Sunday to Thursday). Just want a burger and a beer? Steer Inn Tavern (10514 Racetrack Rd., Berlin, 410-208-1900) has half-price half-pound burgers with chips and a pickle for $3.75 and 16-ounce Miller Lite drafts for $1.75.

Tuesday

If you're reluctant to drop a couple of hundred for dinner at the posh Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, head to the chain's location in the clubhouse at Berlin's Glen Riddle Golf Course (11501 Maid at Arms Way), which offers a "Seasonal Menu for Two" for $69.95. The deal, which is offered Sunday to Thursday, includes a choice of house or Caesar salad; choice of five entrees, including filet mignon; two sides to share, including the signature creamed spinach; and a dessert to share. Info: 888-632-4747, http://www.ruthschris.com.

ALTERNATIVES: Shrimp lovers gather at Crab Alley (9703 Golf Course Rd., West Ocean City, 410-213-7800, http://www.craballey.com), where any dish that has shrimp in it (and there are more than a dozen) is half off. Or, if you prefer pizza, Lombardi's (94th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City, 410-524-1961, http://www.lombardisrestaurant.com) has authentic Jersey-style pie at half-off prices (16-inch cheese pizza is $6.65; eat-in only).

Wednesday

Galaxy 66 (66th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City), with its trippy interior design and eclectic menu (try the pistachio-encrusted rockfish), is physically just a block from the beach, but closer in style to a sophisticated urban supper club. Three courses cost $30, with entertainment (an open jam with Bryan Russo) included. Info: 410-723-6762, http://www.galaxy66barandgrille.com.

ALTERNATIVES: Sunset Grille (12933 Sunset Ave., West Ocean City, 410-213-8110, http://www.ocsunsetgrille.com) has "Date Night": Buy an appetizer and an entree and get a second entree free (entrees start at about $20). Another upscale choice, the romantic waterfront Restaurant at Lighthouse Sound (12723 St. Martin's Neck Rd., Bishopville, 410-352-5250, http://www.lighthousesound.com), offers a three-course meal for two (dessert is shared) for $59 or $69 with a bottle of house wine (every night except Saturday).

Thursday

The first time my husband and I ordered the garlic steak for two at Ristorante Antipasti (31st Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City), I thought the mesmerizing tableside meat-cutting ritual would be the highlight. Instead, it was just a delightful precursor to the reward -- a succulent heaping plate of garlic-drenched porterhouse steak. It tastes even better at half-price ($38 per couple). Info: 410-289-4588, http://www.ristoranteantipasti.com.

ALTERNATIVES: Just looking for light fare of wine and tapas? Solstice at the Atlantic Hotel (2 N. Main St., Berlin, 410-641-3589) holds Thirsty Thursdays at 6 p.m., featuring free sample tasting wines and a complimentary table of tapas; stay for dinner and get half-off bottles of wine. At the Greene Turtle (116th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City, 410-723-2120, http://www.greeneturtle.com), it's half-price night for burgers or grilled chicken sandwiches (either starts at less than $4).

* * *

A note on the half-price specials: Deals are subject to change; check with the restaurant for dates and times; tax and gratuities are extra. Health-conscious foodies take note: The law that will ban smoking in Maryland restaurants and bars goes into effect Feb. 1.

Insider's driving tip: The Route 50 bridge into Ocean City is scheduled to close tomorrow for 35 days. Follow the detour signs to Route 90, which ends farther north.

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