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The Memorial Day restaurant roundup

May 26, 2017

It’s that time again. Summer 2017 is here and my semiannual restaurant roundup is rarin’ to go. Hold on to your hats, boys and girls - it’s gonna be a bumpy ride:

The newly reconstructed Gilligan’s in Lewes is about to open. Wait ‘til you see it! We’re also about to see the new Bluecoast Rehoboth - they’ll hit the ground running around mid-June-ish. The all-white edifice is way bigger than it looks, with 250 seats and a full staff of experienced managers and chefs. Jeff and Kim Hamer’s latest Fins opened in Bethany last Sunday. Remember The Big Easy, Turquoise, Burnzy’s and Piccolino Touch of Italy? It’s in there. 

G Cask Kitchen is giving the old Cloud 9/Lula Brazil space a try. Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen has resurrected the old Hooter’s space at the top of First Street Station. Early returns are good. I still quietly mourn the loss of KFC’s cole slaw, but now you can get hi-test coffee (and that lemon pound cake!) at the new drive-through Starbucks ensconced in the Colonel’s old haunt. Speaking of drive-throughs, get your kaiserschmarrn on at Kaisy’s Delights in Lewes. Remember Windsor’s Florist? It’s there - near Magee Farms’ market chock-full of freshly grown goodies. More happenings in Lewes: Honey’s Farm Fresh is now in the capable hands of Pete’s Steak Shop’s Petru Cornescu and partners. It will be interesting to see what they do with that venerable space that hosted Blue Plate Diner and JD’s Filling Station. 

When you weren’t looking, Heirloom got a new chef (Matt Kern, formerly of Salt Air). Two doors down, new Buttery boss Wilson Gates lured Bramble & Brine’s talented Joey Churchman into the kitchen. All seems to be running smoothly for these fine-dining neighbors. Lewes got yet another casual sit-down joint just across the drawbridge: The new Pig & Publican, dishin’ up good vittles and unlimited parking at the Beacon Motel. The tiny space on Market Street in Lewes that enclosed the original Half Full and Patty Gandy Jacobs’ Patty’s will now be home to Olive & Oats by Azáfrán, a scaled-down carryout version of the original Café Azáfrán that spent so many years right next door. Congratulations Rich Steele and family. 

Speaking of Lewes and carryout, Jeff and Kim Hamer’s Fins Hospitality Group will be opening Fins Seafood Market at the other end of that little strip center with Mr. P’s Pizzeria on Kings Highway. Selected items from the Fins Ale House/Fins Fish House menus will be available for takeout, along with fresh seafood. Want a beer with that? Just slip across the street to the soon-to-open Big Oyster Brewery. The additional capacity of the new brewing system quadruples Big Oyster’s ability to supply its own restaurants and the other bars and restaurants that pour their products. 

A couple of minutes north, Mary Gaffney, Penny Reid and crew are feeding early adopters at their Asian-flavored A Different Kitchen in Paynter’s Mill. Remember how echoey and noisy Po’Boy’s Creole & Fresh Catch used to be? Chef/owner Mike Clampitt hired a brilliantly gifted acoustic consultant to quiet the place down. Now you can finally hear the happy slurps of gumbo with no screechy noise. While in Milton, check out Hickman’s satellite location, The Butcher Block. Bryan Hickman is working hard to keep the quality up to his dad’s longtime standards. Yet another Bryan with a “y” - Derrickson, to be exact - and his wife Olivia are paying homage to the drama and lore of Route 66 at their new Roadhouse Bar & Grill in Midway in the old Crystal Palace/Ragtops/Roadhouse/Old Bay/Delaware Distilling Company spot ... just to name a few. 

Lawyer-turned-deliman Warren Rosenfeld has finally settled into regular hours at his new Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli at Route 24 and The Highway. We can’t wait until entrepreneur Thinh Famh opens Minh’s Bistro next door. Just think: pho ga, pastrami on rye, goi cuon, knishes, banh mi, holishkes, thit bo cuon la luop and big eclairs - all within waddling distance of one another! Yet another ethnic eatery is about to be unveiled in downtown Rehoboth. Raghu Kumar and his dad are busily converting the short-lived Dough Roller into their brand-new Indigo Indian restaurant. Pass the naan, please. Just around the corner where Espuma used to be, Joe Lertch is about to open his new Vineyards Wine Bar modeled after his wildly popular joint in Havre de Grace, Md. 

Speaking of noodles (were we?), the delightfully inscrutable Jeong Hoon Kim (the tall, silky-haired maître d’ from Saketumi) has partnered with Saketumi boss Tammy Wang to bring authentic ramen noodles to Rehoboth. Their new Miyagi Ramen Bar near Palate in the Safeway center will be a neighborhood-friendly spot with few items more than $10-$15. A bit north, Pam Minhas of Dewey’s Baked continues to arm wrestle the old Starbucks location (next to Pickled Pig Pub) into submission. The wait for those cinnamon pecan rolls with be worth it. No, you’re not hallucinating. Tomato Sunshine is indeed the stuff of history as Coastal Station moves onto that space. 

The beach is abuzz with the opening of Blue Hen, sister eatery to the popular Henlopen City Oyster House. It’s in the Wilmington Avenue side of the Avenue Inn. James Beard award-winner Sam Calagione has created a buzz all his own with the opening of the new Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. If you haven’t seen the place, go. When they finish converting the old brewpub into merchandise/beer sales, the complex that includes a live entertainment venue and Chesapeake & Maine restaurant will be amazing. A couple of blocks west, Missy’s Egg continues to crank out very good breakfasts. Repeat after me: Sriracha. Candy. Bacon. ‘Nuff said. Dan Beck does lobster rolls up right - complete with the toasted and buttered split-top roll - at his new storefront Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls. Mason is his little kid’s name. The tyke hates lobster - at least for the moment. Just around the corner, Fuego to Go takes pride in their DIY taco kits that they will happily deliver ‘til 3 a.m. every night! 

Big Chill Beach Club is about to breathe new life into the southeast end of the Indian River Inlet bridge with a tented event venue and an informal spot for beach eats, cocktails, brews and views. Pig & Fish Restaurant Co. in downtown Rehoboth may be gone, but closing the place freed up hands-on owners Doug and Lisa Frampton to fill their other two popular eateries with qualified help. Y’gotta be creative when restauranting at the beach. 

I’ll end this week’s Business of Eating with a respectful nod to Rehoboth’s sadly departed matriarch of tomato pies, Joan Caggiano. Nicola Pizza is as much a Rehoboth icon as the ocean and the parking meters. RIP, Mama Nicola.

  • 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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