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Off to the Beach

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Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 20, 2005; 12:00 PM

As the summer season rolls in with the tide, the Weekend section has rolled out its annual Beach Guide , with updates on your favorite stretches of sand, beach events, must-dos and nearby attractions.

On hand to take your questions and comments about the Delmarva shore is beach veteran and Weekend 2005 Beach Guide author Eve Zibart. Zibart, who has penned music, arts, nightlife and entertaining columns during her Post tenure, currently writes the Fare Minded column in Weekend.

As a 10-year collaborator of varying degrees to Weekend's beach guide, Zibart knows all about surf, turf, caramel corn and everything in between.

The transcript follows.

Eve Zibart: Hi! I know all of you want this job, but I have to tell you I have a beach jinx: Everytime I head over to spend five or six days checking out what's new, it pours. (Life's a beach, as they say.) So I hope for you guys that my hard work, so to speak, makes yours not only fun but sunny!

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Due to a family emergency, my husband and I had to cancel our reservations for our annual trip to OBX. We always go early (preseason) to keep the expenses down. Now the hotel prices are ridiculously high, I'm afraid we won't be able to go. We're desperate for our beach fix!!!! Are any of the local beaches comparable to OBX as far as atmosphere (quiet, non trashy or overly commercialized), and we can get a decent hotel price (not $180/night)? Please, save our sanity!!

Eve Zibart: The $64,000 question. The Bethany area is the closest to the Outer Banks style, and although the condo prices are high, you might yet find a smaller, older cottage for rent. You might also surf for BandBs; there are a few that are actually back inland a little but would be a short easy drive and quieter (and less expensive) than oceanside. Or you could stay in Berlin or Snow Hill, something like that, and use Assateauge as your beach; again, it would require a short drive, but it would be picturesque, at least. Also check around Lewes, which is still a bargain and, though the style is a little different, it's village-y and very pleasant.

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Bethesda, Md.: We are off to Rehoboth again for a long weekend this summer - any new good restaurants we should know about? Thanks!

Eve Zibart: The "new" Espuma (new owner chef) is really good; I'll have a full review of it in a couple of weeks. Nage, up on the highway just over the bridge, is increasingly attractive. Taste on Rehoboth looks intriguing; Eden has changed chefs (actually, the owner is cooking again) but it's always fun. And there's Venus on the Half Shell in Dewey (from the Planet X folks, though not much like); still needs a little work, but can be good. And I'd definitely suggest you ride up to Five Points for Fish On.

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Leonardtown, Md.: Which beach do you recommend for a family with one 17 year old teenage girl and a large dog who likes to play in the waves. We need a clean, but reasonable motel room too. Thanks. Robin Kendall

Eve Zibart: Dogs? definitely Fenwick and Bethany, family central.

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Vienna, Va.: Hello, Can you or the readers please provide suggestions of restaurants in OC that are fun for both adults and young kids (3-4 years)? Thanks!

Eve Zibart: Ribs are always a hit, and there are a handful of both JR's and Nick's (the big rivalry) as well as a Boog's BBQ on the Boardwalk. (I'm thinking the all-you-can-eat buffets are a danger point for small children, both nutritionally and in terms of cleaning bills, but several do have children's prices.) A lot of the restaurants that are in hotels have special kid's menus or even kids-eat-free deals. Why don't you stop by the Visitors Center (Coastal Highway around (sorry) 50th or so? they have brochures and some with coupons.

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On The Ocean Year-Round: Eve, just wanted to thank all the tourists who overpay and go to Grottos when they hit the beach, and let us locals get the good pizza with fewer waits at other restaurants. Please, keep it up! I hate to wait. And whatever you do, please don't give away our shortcuts away from traffic.

Signed, a guy who doesn't depend on tourist business, but doesn't really mind 'em either as long as they don't act like they own the town I live in.

Eve Zibart: Oop! well, I try to only slip out a few secrets at a time... I have to go, too, you know!

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Arlington, Va.: Posting early -- I'm new to the area and will have my niece here for a visit this summer. She'll be 12 this year and has little patience for long car trips. What's your top pick for a family-friendly beach with a minimal drive? Thanks!

Eve Zibart: The truth is that the drive times are all much the same; your best bet is just to try to break it up. Stop for lunch, get out at the really nice visitors center just across the bridge in Cambridge, stuff like that. Sorry. For her age, you might consider West Ocean City, where there's Frontier town and a little shopping (??) and the carnival rides at the boardwalk are only five minutes away.

Eve Zibart: Here's another thought; Fenwick Island again, because there are some intriguing teen attractions (DiscoverSea, minigolf, and a couple of good pizza joints) and sometimes taking Route 54 in is fairly swift.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: We've a 1 year old who has just started walking. We want to take her to the beach and would like to spend a night. Which beach would you recommend, it has to be quiet, family-friendly and not very expensive for us and at a driving distance. Any suggestions for where to spend the night also - we'd love some place which is at a walking distance from the beach and not cut our pockets. Thanks so much, Gayu

Eve Zibart: I'd say Fenwick Island or Bethany Beach; there are some less expensive motels in both areas. Check the websites we mentioned in the paper today (and also look for BandBs, almost always the most soothing for little ones.)

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NW Washington, D.C.: Just moved here this winter and can't wait to get some sun! How long does it take to get to the places mentioned in the weekend section? How is traffic? Which spots are best for a day trip? Thanks for the story!

Eve Zibart: Check the QandA on page 34; the first one is about times and distances... have fun!

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Washington, D.C.: im going to be in rehoboth memorial day weekend - any fun events or things to do for a group of young 20s folk?

thanks

Eve Zibart: the easiest answer is probably to go over to Dewey Beach and pick our some music at Ruddertown or Cork and Barrel; Memorial Day is about when things just shake out, and you might make good friends with bartenders. Ditto bars in downtown Rehoboth; places like Dogfish Head will probably have live music, and the piano bar at 59 Lake (nee the Third Edition) is a hoot.

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Vienna, Va.: Eve, Thank you for taking my question(Actually 2). I have always gone to Ocean City, MD for my Summer Vacation. Hoopers is my favorite place to eat when I'm there but I have recently heard of Crab Alley and was wondering where to get the best crabs in O.C., MD. My other question was what is the best beach to get away from the masses. I've been to Assateauge too many times. Any suggestions?

Eve Zibart: Crabs are one of those things that cause feuds (like ribs), and to be honest I don't get to spend a lot of "restaurant" time just hammerin' away, much as I'd love to, so here's some hearsay, at least; I know a lot of people are hooked on the Bahama Mama's (one on Wicomico by the bay and another up the highway, and I'm sorry I can't remember where exactly). For crabcakes the Crabcake Factory, also on the highway at 120th is really good. As for beaches, if you've done Assateague, I think you'd like the stretches between Fenwick Island and Bethany or Bethany and Dewey; they're really pretty, and usually quiet.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Eve,

Do you know if any of these beaches has a yoga scene? Would love to find out about retreats, studios, yoga on the beach, etc. Thanks.

Eve Zibart: Yes, indeed. I've seen a number of signs for yoga studios around, especially in Rehoboth and maybe one along the highway in the Bethany area. And there are more gyms and spas around Ocean City these days, so it's a good bet; I'd check the Visitors Bureaus/Chamber of Commerce at the beach you're planning to visit (see the phones and websites on page 41).

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Washington, D.C.: What's your favorite new find in Delaware this year? Don't care if it's ice cream, jewelry or a cup of coffee. Your top beach thingy, please!

Eve Zibart: wow....The foie gras at Espuma, the earrings at Ann Hurley, and the look of the menu (in advance only) at NorthEast Seafood Kitchen. and I have to say I love the coffee at Coffee Mill in the mews off Rehoboth Avenue. Oh, and the duck breast at Sedona. (sorry, can't help being palate-centric.)

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Fairfax, Va.: Where are some good places to eat in Rehoboth that cater to a somewhat older clientele, like baby boomer-ish.

Eve Zibart: Eden, Dish, Espuma, Fusion, LaLa Land, Celsius, Blue Moon all have mixed 28-and-up clientele...

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Frederick, Md.: Eve, do you know if there are any other decent shops in the Gold Coast Mall in OC besides the Donald Duck Shoppe? Thanks.

Eve Zibart: I'm sorry, but honest: I didn't get far into it this year, but it looked much the same as always at a quick run....a few neat skirts and such, but I didn't really focus on any names.

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Washington,, D.C.: Any plans this summer season for the Bay Bridge to be under construction and mess up everybody's travel plans?

Eve Zibart: See the QandA on page 34....and boy, I wish I could say no. Try to drive sort of between rush hour and the overnight hours that are often used for lane closures. We have the website info on page 34.

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Laurel, Md.: What happened to Jimmy's Grille? When I went there last year the prices appeared up 50 percent versus just a couple of years earlier and the customers seemed to have thinned accordingly. Did he low-ball us to get established, then figure he could make more charging fewer diners higher prices?

Eve Zibart: Hadn't heard that; wish you'd dropped me a note before and I would have checked it out. Anyone else have any information?

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washingtonpost.com: For the reader interested in Bay Bridge construction, check out the Q and A portion of Eve's story.

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washingtonpost.com: Eve, here at post.com, folks wanna know where to listen to good bands at the beach. Any thoughts?

Eve Zibart: Hey, for you guys, anything! Best are Cork and Barrel in Dewey Beach, Dogfish Head in Rehoboth, Marley Hall at Seacrets in O.C., some neat more acoustic stuff sometimes at Iguana Surf in O.C. Second choices: Fager's in OC (which tends to get better music into the season) and Rusty Rudder in Dewey, which has fun calypso on the deck.

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Laurel, Md.: When's the next Unofficial Guide to New York coming out?

Eve Zibart: Wow, thank you very much for noticing! (Shameless plug: It's one of the tour guides I write, though I swear I didn't plant the question.) I'm actually updating it over the summer, hope to be through with my part in September, so I would guess they're aiming at a pre-Christmas pub date.

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Arlington, Va.: If you were going to do a one-day trip (up at six, back at 10), which beach would give you the best bang for your 15 hours?

Eve Zibart: For silly fun, noise, games, etc. Ocean City. For shopping, dining and drinking, and maybe a little more elbow room, Rehoboth. (I'm assuming you weren't looking for the day of nature thing.)

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College Park, Md.: We day-trip to Rehoboth. What's the best crab-shack (read: good value for the price) type restaurant along the 50-404 or 50-404-16 route?

Eve Zibart: I don't have one to recommend, but anyone else?

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Alexandria, Va.: Which beach will most likely be the least crowded over Memorial Day?

Eve Zibart: Well, Memorial Day kicks off the traditional "Spring Week" at Ocean City for Maryland college kids and post-grads (who are consequently known as "June Bugs," as in the plague). And Dewey/Rehoboth are usually filled with the group-hour folks sorting themselves out. I'd guess Fenwick Island might be just warming up, and maybe Lewes (and the nature islands, of course).

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Is it just me or does the prizes in Martys Playland get cheaper and crappier every year?

Eve Zibart: I doubt it's just you, but it's the economy, too. Outsourcing, maybe?

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Cape Cod, Mass.: I know you are concentrating on the Delmarva but any place on the outer Cape I must get to? Will be in Wellfleet for a week at the beginning of June. Any suggestions for new and exciting?

Eve Zibart: I admit, I haven't been to the Cape in several years. Why don't you buzz someone at the Boston papes? there must be someone there doing what I do here, in terms of beach previews....

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Rockville, Md.: Since it's cruzin weekend at OC this weekend, will OC be packed and the hotels sold out? I want to go tomorrow and come back on Sunday but I didn't make a reservation yet.

Eve Zibart: I think you can get in..."Cruisin'" is popular, but not like full season stuff, and you might still get a slight cut on rates.

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Dogs on beach: Bethany and Fenwick (and Rehoboth and OC for that matter) have strict rules during the season about dogs on the beach. You should check the rules before heading down the dunes with Fido.

Eve Zibart: yes, I didn't mean to suggest you should just go out and do it; I meant dog-friendly. But good point!

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Columbia, Md.: I grew up in the Rocky Mountains, so am not really a "beach person". The ocean is nice enough, but it is rather boring to look at, and all of my trips to OC have led me to believe that the salt air causes everyone to behave like they were 19 year olds at a fraternity party. My boyfriends family is renting a beach house in OC this summer, and want us to come for a 3 day weekend. I'm fine during the day with swimming, walking on the beach, going to Assateague, etc. but is there anything interesting to do at night that doesn't involve being surrounded by hundreds of drunk narcistic college students? Thanks.

Eve Zibart: Yes, the good news is, if you like good food and music, the scene is definitely improving. See the story: Eat at Nebula, Iguana Grill, Galaxy or Liquid Assets; drink at Jive. (And ask the bartenders and waitstaff at those places what else they'd recommend--they always know the right stuff.) I'd just duck the really big bar complexes and maybe the Boardwalk bars if you don't like the over-aged 18-year-olds. Maybe a late spa treatment?

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Frederick, Md.: Can you tell me when time the shops and arcades on the south end of the boardwalk opens in the morning? Thanks!

Eve Zibart: Meaning Ocean City? some seem to open at 9, and the breakfast joints even earlier. almost everything by 10...

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Anonymous: Speaking of places to stay, am I dreaming if I think I can get something last minute for the holiday weekend or is it still possible?

Eve Zibart: get on the horn; it's not too late but it sure will be when the cover story reminds everyone that it's next weekend.

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Fairfax, Va. Where can one camp on the beach besides Assateague?

Eve Zibart: If you're looking for RV/camper space, there are a lot of parks along Coastal Highway/Route 1, Route 50 in West Ocean City (including Frontiertown, with its built-in amusements for kids--you didn't say). And in the "mainland" just west of the beaches there are quite a few as well. The Indian River Marina area north of Fenwick Island has camping too.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Rehoboth is creeping towards gentrification and the days of gay life are coming to a close. Any suggestions on emerging gay meccas along the Delmarva shores?

Eve Zibart: yes and no. In the sense that gays are increasingly welcome all over, the "mecca" is dispersing. (It's still stronger in summer, of course, with all the temps.) Curiously, I hear Dewey is getting a sisterly boost, and that gray area between Rehoboth and Lewes. Hang out around the newer condos in Ocean View much?

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Washington, D.C.: Is the beach eroding down OC way?

Eve Zibart: I haven't seen the latest forecast, and of course there's always some dredging and filling going on, but anecdotally, I didn't seem too bad this year. But the weather service folks have warned that this should be a heavy hurricane/storm season again, so . . .

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Washington, DC: Are there any nude or clothing optional beaches nearby?

Eve Zibart: as we said in the QandA, not officially. South of the boardwalk in Rehoboth has traditionally been the gay nude beach; and the long stretches of Assateague tend to invite suit-shucking. If you are discreet and get well away from the crowds, you can probably get away with it. Just be extra considerate; remember, these are all family beaches.

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Arlington, Va.: Next summer I will have a small chunk of money saved for a decent vacation. It will be 5 years since my last vacation and 2 years before my next. Please tell me where you would go if you had one week to splurge and money to do it. Thanks.

Eve Zibart: If you mean along the Delmarva shore, I think my choice would be Rehoboth; the best mix of dining and shopping (actually, a ton of shopping), a good beach, a little more grown, lots of after-dinner nightlife, a handful of rainy-day diversions, day spas, etc. And it's sort of in the middle, so you can always head off to explore the others. Or were you thinking farther away?

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Anonymous: Columbia, MD might want to consider the Gold Coast Mall or the outlets just west of OC for evening things to do. The south end of the boardwalk have lots of shops and rides. Some of the rides, expecially the big ferris wheel might be fun. Remember, there are still families that will be there, not just drunk 20, 30, and 40 year olds!

Eve Zibart: think we've pretty much covered the age gap thing...

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Eve Zibart: Believe it or not, that's my time. But if you didn't get through, or have a follow-up, or need our expertise in the coming weeks, you are welcome to call us. That's why we say Weekend is the user-friend section! Our number is 202-334-6808; I'm not in all the time, so if our other staff can't help you, and you leave me a message, don't be surprised if it takes a day or two to get back to you. And we love feedback, so if you find a great restaurant or shop or secret beach, let us know. Thanks, and have a lovely summer.

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Driving me crazy, VA: I know it's knit picky, but the name of the bar in Dewey is Bottle and Cork, not Cork and Barrel. Thanks, it was driving me nuts!

Eve Zibart: lord, did I say that? brain death...Cork and Bottle OF COURSE!

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Washington, D.C.: Looking for a nice beach for little kids ages 2 and 3. We went to Hilton Head last year and loved it, the beach is great, and the ocean is calm with no drop off. Anything like that closer to DC?

Eve Zibart: Bethany....

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Stafford, Va.: Thoughts on the Jersey Shore...Spring Lake, Sea Girt?

Eve Zibart: give me a call sometime; I wrote several of those up a couple of years ago and will dig up my notes.

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Jimmy's: Considering that the price of fuel and food have gone up considerably, the prices at Jimmy's are still the best in the area.

Eve Zibart: that's a fair thought

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