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Twenty ways to impress your holiday visitors

December 12, 2016

I get numerous emails from people who want their holiday houseguests, family and friends to taste the very best of our Culinary Coast (thank you, Southern Delaware Tourism Inc., for that great description of our resort eateries). The frequency of those emails tends to increase during this time of year, so I thought it would be nice to list some of my pick hits to impress your friends with what our Cape Region restaurants have to offer.

If you're looking to splurge a bit, get reservations at Michy's Relaxed Dining. I suggest the chardonnay-poached pear salad to start, and then chef/owner Richard Davis' amazing Forever Braised Short Ribs with caramelized fennel.

One of the reasons that the Blue Moon has held its own for over 35 years is the Sunday Brunch. I always recommend the smoked Berkshire pork bolognese (topped with a fried egg – it IS brunch, after all!) and the cheddar-chive biscuit starter.

Upscale dining in Lewes got even better this year when Meghan Lee opened her classically understated Heirloom. I can never decide between the Apple Orchard Salad and the charred Atlantic octopus. (Have your visitors order both and share them with you.) The duck breast entrée is one of the shining stars; I'm not going to tell you the surprise inside the accompanying raviolo, but I will tell you that it's drizzled with a puree of roasted beets and cranberry demi. Choose your out-of-town guests carefully - this dish might make them want to move here.

Tom, Tammy and Johnny's 1776 Steakhouse in Midway combines quiet elegance with expertly prepared steaks. Do not miss the black ravioli stuffed with lobster with a shrimp and crab cream sherry sauce. I can never get past the 22-ounce porterhouse, but I have to tell you that the crab cakes with cranberry relish are one of the sleepers at 1776. Ask Johnny about the Trappist beers.

Just a few minutes south is one of Bethany Beach's shining stars, Bluecoast Seafood Grill. The chilled blue crab claws give you the energy to tuck into a plate of Bluecoast's signature shrimp and grits – parmesan grits, yet, with chorizo. Can't wait 'til they open in Rehoboth.

If this were summer, I'd be telling you about the as-close-to-perfect-as-humans-can-get Back Porch Café. But they close in the winter - simply because they can. One of our recent new kids on the block is the fresh seafood-centric Chesapeake & Maine restaurant. It's right next door to Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, and you will not want to leave C&M without trying the crabcake Scotch egg. Top it off with a Beer for Breakfast Stout.

Though upscale hardly ever disappoints here at the beach, delightful dining is easy to find for the wallet-challenged among us. Our longtime favorite Nage just became even more wallet friendly with the new Fork & Flask @ Nage concept. Small plates, Saturday and Sunday brunches and late-night hours 'til 1 combine a more approachable menu with the standbys we've come to love over the years. A value-added is that they serve some of the popular brews from Crooked Hammock Brewery in Lewes (where the lunchtime chicken salad is also a star).

I love Chris and Joe's off-season lunches at Henlopen City Oyster House. Get the smoked bacon clam chowder and the lobster reuben. And when your guests insist that you take them back a second time, you can impress them yet again with the roasted beet salad and the Chicago Dog.

At Bethany Blues on Coastal Highway, start with the Pigs on the Wing (chopped St. Louis ribs in a Buffalo sauce). Wash these happy little bites down with a couple of frosty Fat Tire drafts, then hit two homeruns with the Delmarva Duo: St. Louis ribs accompanied by a low and slow-smoked chicken quarter.

I've taken out-of-town friends to Palate for Lorraine's amazing chicken salad and Gary's grilled Southern pimiento cheese and fried green tomato sandwich (!). At dinner time, the Caribbean red snapper is kicked up with a coconut ginger lime curry drizzle.

I'm running out of real estate on this page, but I can't stop without urging you to take your guests to Mariachi (Yolanda's paella) and Confucius (crispy whole fish), both on Wilmington Avenue; the newly reinvented Lupo Italian Kitchen in the Hotel Rehoboth (pasta dishes are half-price every Wednesday); Café Azafran on Baltimore Avenue (order a flight of small plates including those haricots verts); Touch of Italy's puffy and delicious wood-fired pizzas, Pig & Fish Restaurant Company (Tabasco-smoked pork tenderloin), and the live music and newly revamped menu – don't miss the conch chowder - at Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill. Love sports? Spend an afternoon at the Rehoboth Ale House. The new owners always have surprises in store for sports fans (the overstuffed pot roast sandwich, for example).

So many restaurants, so little ink! But before you try my suggestions, be sure you're OK with your friends moving here full time. Some of our eateries here at the beach are just that good.

  • 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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