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The 2017 Restaurant Roundup

December 29, 2017

Yup, it's that time again. The revolving door that is the restaurant scene here in the Cape Region has made enough rotations to merit yet another rollercoaster ride through the business of eating in our various downtowns and on Coastal Highway. So fasten your seatbelts:

The Greatest Number of Clicks Award at RehobothFoodie.com goes to Raghu and Suraj Kumar, the father and son team who (finally!) brought great Indian food to Rehoboth Beach. With 25 years' experience, they hit the ground running in the former Dough Roller spot down by the Boardwalk. A close second in the click count department is a tie among three of our successful restaurant groups.

The 250-seat (with a firepit, outdoor bar and entertainment stage) Bluecoast Rehoboth took Coastal Highway by storm early this summer. Stay tuned: Scott Kammerer and his band of loyal minions have some great things up their respective sleeves.

Big Al Reno from Ocean 98 radio never misses a chance to remind everyone that his home, the tiny burg of Berlin, is "Maryland's Coolest Small Town." In 2017 that accolade was not lost on Delaware restaurateurs as Fins Hospitality Group, DiFebo's restaurants and former downtown Rehoboth sous chef Toby Gilbert all put down stakes in Berlin with (respectively) the new Fins Ale House & Raw Bar, the third DiFebo's Modern Italian Grille, and Gilbert's Provisions: Toby's treasure trove of pickled, fermented, sliced, diced and expertly blended goodies. This year Fins not only opened in Berlin, but also in Bethany Beach and on Kings Highway in Lewes as the new Big Oyster Brewery. The food there will surprise you! I like sitting at the window seats where I can enjoy the bustle of their shiny new kitchen.

Karly Gamaitoni and company spiffed up the former Cloud 9/Lula Brazil spot with their new G Cask Kitchen. They continue the tradition of late-nite DJ dancing along with fine dining on The Avenue. Just a few steps west is Sam & Mariah's new Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. When this winter's final construction is done, there will be a fun outdoor dining area with access to the DFH Brewpub and Chesapeake & Maine.

You only have to blink once or twice to miss new acquisitions by the inexhaustible Energizer Bunny that is Eric Sugrue. Eric, his brother Norman and their Big Fish Restaurant Group purchased Washington Street Alehouse and Mikimoto's Asian Grill & Sushi Bar in Wilmington, along with Stingray Sushi Bar in Rehoboth. The properties were formerly owned and operated by the late Darius Mansoory's Cherry Tree Restaurant Group.

Richard Steele's Café Azafrán on the ocean block of Baltimore Avenue made a triumphant return to Lewes, Azafrán's original home town. Rich created his surprisingly roomy and uncluttered Olive and Oats in the tiny (only 500 square feet!) spot that used to house Half Full Pizzeria and Patty's Carryout. And yes, the baked oatmeal that put Café Azafrán's breakfasts on the map is still a best seller. Thierry and Nathalie Langer opened the Lewes location of their popular Kaisy's Delights at the intersection of Savannah, Clay and Wescoats roads. Wait 'til you try their cold brew and a warm kaiserschmarrn at their drive-up window! Down Savannah and over the bridge is Doug and Lisa Frampton's Pig & Publican restaurant - offering a healthy dose of free parking. Both P&P and Pickled Pig Pub are fully and expertly staffed after the decision to close Pig & Fish in downtown Rehoboth. Look for Cuvee Ray wine bar to open in that spot on The Avenue sometime around March-ish.

A few doors north of Pickled Pig Pub is Pam Minhas' Twice Baked bakery, coffee house and lunch spot. She took over that space from Starbucks. The new Starbucks is in the old KFC drive-thru building just south of Pam. 

Petru Cornescu of Pete's Shop took over Honey's Farm Fresh from Jim and Mark of former Finbar's fame. Just up Savannah Road, Hotdog Johnnies' managing partner David Shamblin opened his second emporium of tube steaks in the old Savannah's Deli location at Hazzard's Auto Repair conveniently across the street from Bryan Hecksher's Auto Gallery. David's first spot remains in Dewey Beach.

A month or so ago Papa Grande's Rehoboth closed its doors to make way for Tonya and Francesco Agostino's Azzurro Italian Oven & Bar. It will be Rehoboth's first aperitivo concept which will also sport a wood-fired oven. The always friendly Bill Klemkowski and family closed their original Jakes Seafood on Baltimore Avenue, giving them more time to concentrate on their popular spot out on The Highway. It's only a matter of time before yet another brave entrepreneur tries his or hand at the adventure that is downtown restauranting.

Longtime local chefs Roy Fowler and Mary Gaffney teamed up with front-of-house expert Penny Reid and owner Deirdre Smith to create A Different Kitchen in Paynter's Mill. The increasingly popular spot has Sapporo on draft! Speaking of Sapporo, former electrical engineer Thinh Pham is fine-tuning his Minh's Bistro next door to the Rehoboth incarnation of Rosenfeld's Jewish Deli out on The Highway. I love Minh's spring (summer) rolls, his friendly staff, and of course pretty much any dessert next door at Rosenfeld's. In a similar vein, former Saketumi host Jeong Hoon Kim has partnered with Saketumi boss Tammy Wang to open the wildly popular Miyagi Ramen Bar next to the Safeway on The Highway. Just this week Tammy and Kim introduced a brand new menu - but don't worry; all the Rehoboth Foodie pick hits are still intact.

I saved the biggest 'til last: La Vida Hospitality flexed their considerable muscle this year when they teamed up with the State of Delaware to open the impressive Big Chill Beach Club on the southeast end of the Indian River Inlet bridge. If you have not yet witnessed the almost 40-feet-in-diameter umbrella opening and closing, do drop in when they reopen in the spring.

Hard to believe I'm entering my eighth year of splattering words on this site for Cape Gazette! Dennis, you were right: There's never a shortage of current events when it comes to The Business of Eating at the beach. Happy New Year.

  • 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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