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Gone but not forgotten

May 19, 2017

I am fortunate to have a small legion (can a legion be small?) of Favored Foodies and Foodettes who generously act as my auxiliary eyes and ears in and around the culinary nooks and crannies of the Cape Region. One of those helpful people is Bill Steiger, who sends me links to interesting articles and occasionally whispers about possible happenings here at the beach. 

Bill sent me an email this weekend suggesting that I write about long-gone restaurants that I miss. If you like it, I thank you. If you don’t, I will happily send you Bill’s phone number and address.

I made a list, and there were more places on that list than my allotted word count on this page! So I will just do a quick hit on some of the highlights - and hope they bring back some memories.

Who can forget LaLa Land, with the hand-painted tablecloths, the bubbles and the sheet-draped bar manned every day - yes, every day - by master barkeep David Engel? Nancy Wolfe’s bouillabaisse at Chez La Mer is still the stuff of legend. If my email box is to be believed, there will never be an accurate replacement for Doris Lynch’s chicken and dumplings at the Captain’s Table.

OK. Here’s a blast from the past: the early-morning aroma of Garrison’s doughnuts wafting into my parents’ hotel room at the Carlton, triggering me to make up any excuse to “take an early morning walk.” I don’t do “early morning walks” - unless there are doughnuts involved. Another ancient memory is the Avenue Restaurant and the heady aroma of coffee, bacon and pancakes preparing a skinny 5- or 6-year-old to be a not-so-skinny food writer an inordinate number of years later.

I love reading wine columnist John McDonald’s articles here in the Cape Gazette. They remind me of his popular Garden Gourmet restaurants in Ocean City and Rehoboth. Our wine columnist was (and still is) quite the accomplished chef!

Of course no retrospective is complete without Jonathan Spivak’s Fusion, Ground Zero (and Celsius) right next door, the recently gone but not forgotten Stoney Lonen, and Sydney’s Creole and jazz joint just around the corner. Which of course brings up a more recent loss in that space: Pig & Fish Restaurant Company. But the remaining pigs live on in Lewes and on Coastal Highway.

I never lead an EatingRehoboth.com restaurant tour up Baltimore Avenue without recounting the sad story of the Camel’s Hump - the locals’ cherished hangout in its day. Across the street (and opened much more recently) was Ginger Breneman’s MIXX. While we’re in the neighborhood, we’ll do a polite nod to Betsy LeRoy and thank her for the nice new building she built to house Pizza by Elizabeths.

Café Solé on Baltimore Avenue had some of the best lunches I’ve had downtown. It became Solé, and then ... it was gone. George Vrentzos was happiest frying eggs, scrapple and gyro meat on the flattop at his Corner Grille. His daughter Irene kept at least 10 conversations going at once while dad flipped very good omelets. The place was a home away from home for many. 

If you’re not from Maryland, go refill your martini during the next two sentences. I miss the pastry-like crust and chunky pepperoni of Ledo’s pizza. Marty McDonald did his best there in Midway, but the Maryland brand recognition just wasn’t there. Pre-cooked bacon! (Again, a Maryland thing. Don’t believe me about the Maryland thing? The Ledo’s in Ocean City is doing just fine.) 

Remember Manos - and its attitude issues - at Wilmington and the Boardwalk? The food was good and it was also a popular hangout. A block west was the glitter and glow of Planet X (owner Justine is still going strong). The adjacent building pretty much alternated between dismal failures and hits like Square One and Alison Blyth’s Yum-Yum. Another recent loss is Joey Churchman’s Bramble & Brine. Family issues are one of the primary reasons that restaurants die, but I’ll never forget the young chef’s duck ragout and the friendly bar presided over by none other than Rob Bagley. Fans still mourn the Brooklyn Pizza (not sure why they called it that) at America’s Pie, but those four 20-something partners did a good job until the sadly predictable squabbles began. I haven’t even finished half my list, and I’ve already run out of real estate on this page. Email me your favorite long-gone spots and we’ll do this again someday. Include your favorite dishes and the owners’ names.

  • 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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