Going coastal

Lifestyle and LeisureCookingDining and DrinkingBars and ClubsOcean CityTubby's Inc.

Six bucks for a beer? That's Ocean City for you. But don't worry if you blow your dough in a single drunken night. From the boardwalk to the Delaware state line, here are five of the best dives in town. They'll fill your gut and leave enough bread in your wallet for a case of Milwaukee's Best.

Bull on the Beach
Also: 12507 Sunset Ave.,
12513 Ocean Gateway and 17 94th St.

Need a hot meat injection? C'mon, we're talking pit beef here, and Bull on the Beach is known far and wide as the best in town. The classic sandwich, with a side of fries and gravy, hits the spot every time.

Bull's boardwalk location offers plenty to look at while waiting for your order. Even the tables have their own unique designs. My favorite is the Monopoly-themed one near the entrance, and not only because it affords the best view of the "scenery" bouncing by outside.

Can you stomach the cost? Open pit beef sandwich platter $6.95 plus $0.50 for gravy. Other sandwich options include barbecue beef, ham, turkey and corned beef ($5.95 sandwich, $6.95 platter).

Gut reaction: Go directly to Bull on the Beach. Do not pass Go. Do not spend $200.

Brass Balls Saloon

One look at the stairs at Brass Balls and you know you're in for a good time. Each brightly painted step offers a bit of sagely advice as only steps can. My favorite: "Tipping is not a city in China."

Heed that advice. And I'm not just saying that because one of the servers used to date my friend Mike and gave me the lowdown on this place before I even set foot in the door. (Or maybe I am -- what are you going to do about it?).

You see, every first-timer at Brass Balls asks the same question: What's the difference between the Country Club ($6.99) and the California Club ($7.29). Knowing that well in advance allowed me to avoid outing myself as a Brass Balls virgin. And now I'm passing the secret on to you. You can thank me later.

The Country Club is an ordinary club sandwich. California Club, on the other hand, is chic shorthand for "grilled chicken sandwich with Swiss cheese and bacon." Because -- you know -- they have all those things in California. And, "California Club" just sounds better than "Nebraska Club."

Oh, and, Mike, if you're reading this, you missed out. Your ex really knows her chicken!

Can you stomach the cost? California Club is $7.29. Add a side of waffle fries for $1. Other choices include the Buffalo chicken wrap ($6.99) and burger menu (naked, Mexican, French (bleu cheese and mushrooms) and veggie, which range from $7.29-$7.99 each).

Gut reaction: This is my new favorite boardwalk hangout. Another California Club, please!

Dumser's Drive-In Restaurant

An Ocean City tradition since 1939, Dumser's serves up ice cream and traditional diner food in a faux 1950s setting -- right next to Seacrets Nite Club.

Oh, and it's not really a drive-in. It just looks that way.

The made-to-defrost cheeseburger was greasier than the Alaskan Coast after the EXXON Valdez incident. Still, ice cream is what Dumser's does best, and one peanut butter milkshake later, all was forgiven.

Not ready to party with the big kids at Seacrets? Try Dumser's other locations: 501 S. Philadelphia Ave., 601 S. Atlantic Ave., 12305 Coastal Highway and U.S. 50 West just before the bridge.

Can you stomach the cost? Cheeseburger and chips $5.90, small peanut butter milkshake $3.86. Other options include the BLT ($5.20), fried chicken sandwich ($7.25) and clam strip basket ($8.89).

Gut reaction: Sure, you could eat healthier ... but you just don't get that satisfying milkshake slurp from a can of V8. Go for the grease, baby!

Tubby's Carry Out and Delivery

A landmark among the late-night bar crowd, Tubby's just might be the only restaurant in Salisbury that allows you to close down the bar, sleep off your delirium and still get an order of jalapeno poppers before closing time (4 a.m.). Even the tables are perfect! When's the last time you sat down at a table-top Ms. Pac-Man -- complete with a dirty ashtray? At Tubby's, it's not just a choice -- it's the only choice.

On top of all that, the prices are dirt cheap. I sampled the delectable chicken tenders with a side of "freedom fries" (nothing French about this place) and had enough change left over for nearly two solid hours of Ms. Pac Man.

Can you stomach the cost? Chicken tenders $4, small freedom fries $2, honey Dijon sauce 50 cents. Other options include the bacon cheeseburger ($4.50), hot dog with cheese ($3) and pound of hot wings ($5).

Gut reaction: If you've never been, check it out. If you've already been, go back. Caveat: With only five parking spaces in front, Tubby's isn't exactly vehicle-friendly. Then again, most of its post 2 a.m. clientele really shouldn't be behind the wheel, anyway.

Tequila Mockingbird

Bad puns aside (Tequila Mockingbird -- get it?) is by far Ocean City's premier Mexican restaurant. The complimentary chips and chunky salsa (the best free salsa in the Free State) alone are worth the long drive from the inlet.

Though past experiences with the El Gordo deep-fried beef chimichanga ($10.50, part of the Chimi Chimi Bang Bang menu) proved memorable, I was in the mood for something more traditional: the spicy beef tacos with Mexican rice and refried beans from the Gone with the Taco menu (hey, I said the place was full of puns; I never said they all made sense).

Can you stomach the cost? Spicy beef taco platter $7.99. Other choices include pulled pork tacos ($8.25) and the Popeye and Olive Oyl Combo Wombo (spinach and mushroom quesadilla and enchilada with a refried bean taco, $10.50).

Gut reaction: Come on out to Tequila Mockingbird. Everybody's doing it ... literally. This place is as crowded with locals in the off-season as it is with tourists in the summer. Popular opinion: It's a good thing!

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Lifestyle and LeisureCookingDining and DrinkingBars and ClubsOcean CityTubby's Inc.