Sal Fasano and his family are hospitality veterans, so they should know a thing or two about what makes a good hotel bar and restaurant.
However, as Fasano, 37, said, they are not restaurateurs.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk into Rare & Rye – the restaurant connected to the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Ocean City – is that it’s not your average hotel restaurant.
And that was kind of the point.
“The first thing was to separate it from the hotel,” Fasano said. “We didn’t want to make it just a hotel bar and restaurant. We wanted him to stand out a bit so that he had his own presence on the street.
Rare & Rye, which opened the second weekend in May, definitely has a presence on the streets. The restaurant, at the north end of the La Quinta property, occupies the corner of 33rd Street and the Coastal Highway.
The name nods to the map and gives way to the tagline, “Don’t you deserve a little R and R?”
Rest and relaxation feel invited there.
The raised space with high ceilings includes a bar and outdoor seating on the first level and a main dining area upstairs. The bar is made from ambrosia wood from a single tree. The main dining room features handcrafted wood and soft Edison lights that create a modern industrial feel.
Fasano, along with his father, Sal Sr., his mother, Rose, and his brother, Peter, are originally from New York and previously owned and operated the Ocean Voyager Hotel on the same property.
If the name Sal Fasano sounds familiar to you, you may have heard of the former Major League wide receiver of the same name. They turn out to be distant cousins.
A construction project began in 2013 to transform the property into La Quinta, which opened in 2014. While the Fasano got the hotel up and running, the hull of what would later become Rare & Rye remained empty. . With little to no restaurant experience, the Fasano hired Ocean City veterans Matt Ortt and Ralph DeAngelus from Hooters and Party Block, respectively, to take the reins of the restaurant’s day-to-day operations.
They brought in Chef Stuart Diepold, who has worked in the past at Shark, Galaxy 66, and Mohegan Sun Casino restaurants in Connecticut.
The concept is refined and relaxed cuisine, with a varied menu ranging from salads and small plates to sandwiches, flatbreads and larger dishes.
Fasano said, through research, that he found that this type of menu, along with the revival of bourbon and rye drinks, made it easier to choose the concept.
He said early favorites – the restaurant received rave reviews in its early days – are brie oysters, lamb lollipops, margherita and paella flatbreads, and redfish.
Of course, given the name of the place, rare meat is in the spotlight.
As for the 20-ounce bone-in ribeye, delivered fresh each morning from a local butcher, they “run through them like there’s no tomorrow,” Fasano said.
Almost all of the food is sourced locally, with Terrapin Farms, Baywater Greens, and Chesapeake Bay Farms providing dairy products and products. The fish, Fasano said, is fresh from the local docks.
While the food has been popular, the drinks menu could be the star of the show. When Rare & Rye opened, there were around 15 different whiskeys. Fasano said there are now 25, and they range from medium to high shelf. Whiskey lovers can taste them in flight.
The “Rye and Relaxation” section of the menu offers six different cocktails made with five different rye whiskeys, including the R&R Mule, made with Bullet Rye, crushed mint, simple syrup, ginger beer and lime juice. costs.
The restaurant, which seats around 150 people, had its “grand opening” on Wednesday, after going through nearly a month of “soft opening”. Rare & Rye opened at 5 p.m. for dinner, but starting June 17, it will also start at lunchtime.
Although they gave up their daily responsibilities, Fasano said a family member was present every evening. He lives across the street.
“We are very practical people,” said Fasano. “We want to know what’s going on, if something goes wrong. “
A seasoned hospitality professional, Fasano pointed out that Ocean City’s rise from a small seaside town to a regional – and sometimes national – destination was one reason restaurants like Rare & Rye have sprung up. On his books at La Quinta – which has an entrance to Rare & Rye inside the hotel – are people from Iowa, Missouri, the Bible Belt, and Ohio, among others.
What about adding a restaurateur to his CV?
Fasano said he loved her until now.
“When you try to do everything and open up, it’s scary,” Fasano said. “The rave reviews are positive. … Overall it was a very good experience. Now he’s trying to bend down and see if we can really make this work. Hopefully once we get into the busier weeks we can really see what this place can do.
He will find out soon.