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You can't top THESE milkshakes – or CAN you?

June 9, 2017

I’ve always loved the old saying, “The ice cream scoop doesn’t fall far from the tree.” And nowhere is that more true than just a few steps from the Rehoboth Boardwalk. Aileen Hearn and Kyle Ten Eyck’s new Mug & Spoon, at the former location of The Coffee House, is all about cookies, curb appeal, croissants, floorplans, caffeine, milkshakes and cakes. Longtime Rehoboth Beach ice cream (and hot sauce) guru Chip Hearn is the chief advisor to his daughter and her business partner; in fact, he’s quite familiar with the neighborhood, since his iconic The Ice Cream Store is just a few doors to the east. 

It’s not just about a cuppa joe at the Mug & Spoon. Aileen and Kyle have brought some hi-tech processes to Rehoboth in the form of nitro-coffee: a special brew infused with nitrogen (not unlike a beer keg with CO2) to create a tiny-bubble foam experience similar to Guinness. This process has been perfected locally by none other than bean guru Sean Hixon, who has made his system available to several other local businesses. Like Aileen and Kyle, Sean obsessively tracks his coffee beans from the farm all the way to the cup. And you can certainly taste the difference. Mug & Spoon also offers cold-brewed coffee. The difference? A surprisingly non-acidic and smooth experience. 

In spite of the obvious Schell Bros. sales angle suggested by the photos and dioramas, the installation is actually quite low key. In fact, the hi-tech displays of houses, interiors, and Schell notables are nice to browse as you sip your hot - or cold - brew. One of the amazing features at Mug & Spoon is actually on the ceiling. I am not going to ruin the surprise, but when you walk in, look UP. 

Aileen and Kyle didn’t stop at coffee. Among the highlights are towering milkshakes with toppings such as an entire slice of red velvet cake, or perhaps Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or even a warm and fudgy chocolate brownie. They have a coffee-spiked milkshake that is combined with cookie dough ice cream. ‘Nuff said? It’s like a Willy Wonka for desserts and coffee combined with a perpetual, yet low-key, open house. 

Aileen’s dad Chip is bigger than life in most every way. With seemingly endless enthusiasm he will sell you hundreds of bottles of hot sauce (all different), dish up ice cream with names like “Booger,” “Motor Oil,” “I Don’t Give a Fork” (which in fact does include a fork), and “Looks Like Viagra.” He’ll feed you award-winning barbecue - certified in nationwide competition after nationwide competition. If you like the sauces at Bethany Blues, I’ll give you one guess as to who came up with the perfect recipe. 

A Delaware boy through and through, young Chip spent every free moment at his grandfather’s house on Olive Avenue in Rehoboth Beach (on the street where Obie’s is now). The Hearn family business in Wilmington covered a city block and included a baker, a candy store, a butcher and an ice cream parlor. When Chip’s father and grandfather consolidated the stores into a single building, the word “supermarket” wasn’t yet a household word. Chip’s first Rehoboth storefront was a Dairy Queen located near the Boardwalk on the south side of Rehoboth Avenue. In the mid-’70s, a larger space just a few doors to the east became The Ice Cream Store that he still operates today. The Hearn ice cream empire eventually grew to seven stores in Delaware, including the landmark Dairy Queen on Lewes Beach and several Tastee Freez franchises. 

In the late ’70s, Chip’s family took over the Country Squire restaurant located in the space now occupied by Semra’s Mediterranean Grill. Diners loved the bloody mary smorgasbord and its famed collection of hot sauces. In the mid-’80s, Chip moved his operation to The Starboard in Dewey Beach, continuing the tradition of the DIY bloody mary. The hot sauces accumulated so quickly that Hearn started selling them out of a utility building in the Starboard’s parking lot. And thus was born Peppers - now the world’s largest online hot sauce and BBQ outlet. 

By then, Chip was already a celebrity in the world of hotheads. He sold the Starboard in 1999, and since then, Peppers.com and the current storefront in Lewes have become mandatory destinations for chiliheads the world over. His uncanny ability to create new tastes - and promote them - has landed him trophy after trophy at national barbecue competitions. He has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous Food Network shows, including Bobby Flay’s Throwdown and Unwrapped. It’s no secret that Chip will do just about anything to charm a TV camera. 

It looks like Aileen is following in that path. She and Kyle bought only the best equipment at Mug & Spoon, and it’s a rare day when they aren’t coming up with something brand new to rock the dessert world here in Rehoboth. The little spot is an interesting example of clever co-branding, combined with some equally clever caffeinated concoctions. 

  • 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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