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The 2016 Resort Restaurant Roundup

January 2, 2017

Resort restauranting is all about survival of the fittest. The ongoing battle between For Lease signs and Grand Opening signs is proof positive that operating an eatery at the beach is not for the faint of heart. The news for 2016 is that we have actually had a few more openings, moves, expansions and personnel changes than we have had closings! Let’s hope that’s a trend.

So fasten your seatbelts: It’s time for my sixth annual year-end Business of Eating Restaurant Roundup. Hold on to your knives and forks; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

Catherine and her family closed Nonna’s Sweet Treats in the ocean block of The Avenue. Look for Daniel Beck’s Mason’s Lobster Rolls to open there in mid-March. Surf Bagel AM (tucked behind Delaware Distilling Company in Midway) made it easier for denizens of Rehoboth to scarf up fresh bagels. Espuma is long gone, but the bright new Vineyard Wine Bar will open there in late spring. This is not owner Joe Lertch’s first venture. Seafood Shack vacated the historic tent house on Baltimore Avenue that will soon host Axis, where the owners of Blue Moon are going to have a bit of culinary fun. 

Longtime Lewes restaurateurs John and Twain sold The Buttery to Gate House chef and part-owner Wilson Gates & company. Word on the street is that former Bramble & Brine chef/owner Joey Churchman will be in The Buttery kitchen. Joey’s family is selling the Bramble spot in Rehoboth. All’s well that ends well. 

Thierry, Nathalie and Chloe Langer are bringing their Kaisy’s Delights and coffee to Lewes. Bethany’s iconic Bluecoast Seafood Grill will be duplicated (sort of) in the new Gateway Center in front of Fresh Market. Speaking of Fresh Market, shoppers love the pastries, fresh produce, meats and prepared goodies. Sort of a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. And checking out is a hi-tech breeze. 

When nobody was looking, Bryan Derrickson slipped some new South Florida recipes onto his menu at Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill. You might be surprised! Speaking of kicked- up menus, keep an eye on Adam and Kyle’s Rehoboth Ale House. They’re steadily bringing the place up to speed in the food department. Dough Roller in Rehoboth is gone. Bacchus Wine Bar in Milton is gone. Modern Mixture in Milton is gone, but the good news is that MM’s Leo is working overtime to revamp his original spot on The Avenue. Don’t miss those tamales! Equally good news is that the old Modern Mixture spot in Milton is now home to Robert and Mercedes Legget’s Cantina Ultima – expect the unexpected on the menu. 

The juice bar wars continue! Do you get it pressed from Twist, or squeezed from Juice Box? Try both and let me know your thoughts. Missi Moore’s Egg in the old McQuay’s space is going gangbusters. Former Brick Hotel toque Mark Buchanan is presiding. And Back Porch Café summertime bartender/server John Barczewski is on the floor – complete with that great smile and delightfully snarky commentary. Get the Sriracha Candy Bacon. Just do it. In Georgetown? Check out Jamie Davis’ new JD Shuckers No. 2 across from Del Tech. 

Jimmy’s Grille No. 3 opened last June to great fanfare. Low prices and all-day breakfasts keep bringin’ ‘em in. Order the coconut cake. Trust me. It’s hard to miss the soon-to-be-amazing Dogfish Head/Chesapeake & Maine complex rising from the firmament in the fourth block of The Avenue. New chefs and GMs at both restaurants have brought the food up to the quality of the beer. If you haven’t been in a while, check out the new menus at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats and Chesapeake & Maine. 

Josh Grapski and his LaVida Hospitality cohorts ripped the old Nage Bistro out to the studs and rebuilt it into Fork & Flask @ Nage: Bigger, brighter and with a more diverse menu. And they’re open until one every night. SoDel Concepts has done it again with the wildly popular Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes. A bit of kitchen staff cross-pollination between that and the always-crowded Fish On in Lewes has made both restaurants the go-to spots for great seafood. A few steps north of Matt’s is the new Beaches. Shades of the old Jimmy Lynn’s carryout – so much so that Jimmy and Lynn Parks came out of retirement to help Don and Lori Allan get their sea(food) legs. 

Henlopen City Oyster House bosses Chris Bisaha and Joe Baker’s not-quite-so-seafood-oriented Blue Hen will soon open in the Avenue Inn. Lefty’s Alley & Eats in Lewes is still reeling from the human onslaught over their opening weekend. Apparently everyone around here wanted to bowl, play arcade games, compete in laser tag, eat or drink – all at the same time. Trial by fire. And they survived. 

The new El Azteca continues to fill up nightly with their reasonable prices and ... those margaritas! Check it out. Then call a cab. Annapolis and Old Town Alexandria-based Blackwall Hitch breezed into the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue this spring. The inside is strikingly attractive, and longtime RB restaurant maven/GM Mark Harrison is keeping the big restaurant hoppin’. 

The Pig & Publican (Pig & Fish and Pickled Pig Pub’s new little brother) will be open in a matter of days (perhaps even hours!) in the Beacon Motel in Lewes. Tons of parking! (Never thought you’d read THAT in the same sentence with the word “Lewes,” right?) Expect a hint of Belgian with lots of unusual brews. In Milford, Touch of Italy is in nose-to-nose combat with the old First National Bank/Wilmington Trust/M&T Bank building on Front Street. The 24-inch-thick walls and the steel plates are fighting back, but there WILL be wood-fired pizza, chicken parm and Touch of Italy breads, pastries and cheeses in there before you know it.  And ditto for their soon-to-be-finished TOI in Christiana.

It won’t be long before the new Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli debuts next to the Wawa by Route 24. And if that weren’t enough good news, we’ll get our first Vietnamese joint right next door in the form of Minh’s Bistro. Owner Thinh Pham promises all the required Vietnamese goodies, plus a few surprises. Dewey Beach Club is back! Early this year, local bartender Jeff Treacy and his dad Tom endowed the old Port Dewey with the venerable Dewey Beach Club name and an upbeat and varied menu. Next door, those huge cranes towering over the Hyatt Place are helping to bring us new versions of the popular Que Pasa and Lighthouse eateries. The result will be quite an entertainment/hotel/condo complex. 

Whew! That was exhausting. Keep an eye on The Business of Eating in 2017 for even more of what our Cape Region brings to the table. Happy New Year, and thanks for keeping me company here on this page.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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