Al fresco’s fun - and good business

June 26, 2012
Guests can feast amidst the rooftops at Back Porch Café in Rehoboth Beach. BY BOB YESBEK

Few things here at the beach are more … well, beachy, than eating out - outside. Sipping a preprandial libation while ordering extra cheese on … well, pretty much anything, is always better when the sun is setting. Truth be told, I feel that this whole daylight thing is highly overrated anyway, and a leisurely nocturnal nosh is what being at the shore is all about. And there are lots of places where you can do just that (with or without the extra cheese).

My submissions for the best outdoor spots in town include Cabo’s treehouse deck perched above Second and Wilmington. Chef Jay Caputo’s smoker is immediately below the upper deck, and the slight sweetness of smoldering hickory pervades the air. My research has shown that it goes perfectly with his prickly pear agua fresca. Equally inviting is the rooftop lake atop Cultured Pearl. Talk about an investment! Founder and proprietor Susan Townley Wood seats her guests under intimate gazebos that seem to float above a 15,000-gallon lake. As you might expect, multihued sea creatures cavort below. Sometimes I wonder what they’re thinking when they look up and see people dipping their relatives into wasabi. Sorry. Just sayin’….

If elevated dining is good, then the Back Porch Café is great. The two-level deck is encircled in greenery, and the upper portion sports a one-of-a-kind view of the carnival of rooftops and steeples that grace Rehoboth and Baltimore avenues. No wonder they’ve been there for 37 years. Keith Fitzgerald, Marilyn Spitz, Leo Medisch and longtime bar manager Bee Neild match the breathtaking views with equally breathtaking food and service.

The oceanfront installation of the Greene Turtle takes full advantage of the Atlantic. The narrow front balcony is mostly tables for two, but that prime real estate is worth waiting for. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of those tables, you’ll enjoy an informal evening of burgers, wings, nachos and cold brews high above the Boardwalk mélange. Just a few doors to the west, the second-floor porch at Yolanda Pineda’s Mariachi provides a partial view of the ocean while guests munch on handmade pupusas.

Not everybody is lucky enough to have aerial dining, but street- and Boardwalk-level isn’t so bad either. One of the best is Victoria’s Restaurant in the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. On-the-Boardwalk dining with wrought-iron appointments and experienced waitrons is punctuated on cool evenings with striking tornadoes of fire. And if you’re in Rehoboth Beach for Sea Witch weekend in October, Victoria’s is the prime spot for viewing bulldogs dressed as ballerinas, chihuahuas masquerading as pirates and disinterested cats marching in Sunday’s dress-your-pet parade.

Street-level dining is always an adventure on Baltimore Avenue. Witness the parade of nocturnal partygoers from a perch at JAM Bistro, Eden, Adriatico, Arena’s, Seafood Shack, Aqua Grill, Iguana Grill, Hobos and a(Muse.). Café Azafrán’s patio is in the back, but it still counts. On Wilmington there’s Green Man, Zogg’s, Dave & Skippy’s and the iconic Royal Treat. Bring your incense and worry beads to the charmingly unpredictable Planet X, which shares second-block plein air seating with Cypress and the even more unpredictable Purple Parrot.

Lunches and dinners on Rehoboth Avenue sidewalks and porches couldn’t be more in the middle of it all. Dogfish Head, Cilantro, Grotto Pizza, Claws and Penny Lane’s Café Papillon all offer outdoor dining, as well as Stingray and Ristorante Zebra just off the beaten path on Lake Avenue.

I am well aware that Dewey Beach and Lewes both have their own places where you can eat with no roof and/or no walls. I’ve got to leave something for future columns! So don your Birkenstocks and your best seersucker shorts and enjoy warm, breezy evenings under the stars.

  • 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

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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