The ‘Sea Between the Lands’ has some pretty good food

November 10, 2023

We are fortunate here in the Cape Region to have several restaurants owned by entrepreneurs who love bringing their Mediterranean-flavored cuisine to the beach. Imagine fresh-from-the-oven pita rounds stuffed with spiced and marinated lamb, chicken or beef. Or deeply flavorful dips crafted from charred eggplant or chickpeas married to garlic, lemon and creamy, nutty tahini. Or how about loaves of seasoned lamb, beef and perhaps even chicken, slowly simmering over radiant heat?

Let’s start with Café Azafrán, where chef/owner Richard Steele whips up made-from-scratch paella right before your eyes at his reservations-only summer events. That beautifully crafted dish is accompanied by a lemony salad and perhaps a cocktail … or two. Café Azafrán dishes up the flavors of the northwestern end of the Mediterranean. Salads constructed à la Niçoise sport tomatoes, olives, artichokes, anchovies and who knows what else. And never leave Café Azafrán without reveling in their take on haricots verts (green beans).

Just around the corner from Café Azafrán is Semra’s Mediterranean Grill, where authentic Turkish cooking is the order of the day. Semra Tekmen honors her grandmother by sharing her Iskender Platter, savory gyro sandwiches and other Turkish specialties in this tiny storefront just steps from the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. And wait ‘til you taste what she’s done with the otherwise uniquely American cheesesteak!

For such a small town, we’re fortunate to have two Turkish restaurants. Aroma is at the corner of Second and Wilmington in the old Stoney Lonen spot. Murat Tan and his daughter Yasemin team up with enthusiastic bartender Yuri Ustimenko to bring you their special Adana Kebab and in-house dips crafted from tahini, eggplant, walnuts, Turkish yogurt and even pistachios. Their skillfully baked Branzino laced with fresh lemon is one of the stars on the menu. Don’t miss the Piyaz salad: plump cannellinis lounging amongst parsley, onions, lemon and sumac (a pungent, dark-red, lemony spice). Not sure what to get? Order the Aroma Platter to sample some of their best offerings.

One of the most recognizable Mediterranean favorites is the gyro (pronounced year-oh) sandwich. Slices of slow-roasted rotisserie meat are folded into a warm pita and drizzled with cacik (aka tzatziki sauce, pronounced zat-zee-kee, not “ta-ziki,” for goodness’ sakes). Tzatziki is all about Greek yogurt, though some may throw in a little sour cream. They’ll probably add crushed garlic. Red wine vinegar? Maybe. Definitely cucumbers – salted, chopped or pulsed in the processor, then drained. Lemon? A little olive oil? Probably. Dill, mint or sumac? Maybe, maybe not. It all comes down to how grandma made it.

A number of local eateries make the gyro one of their specialties. Try Sammy’s Kitchen at First and Wilmington, Robin Hood on The Avenue and even Gus & Gus’ Place on the Boardwalk, where they celebrate their heritage with the actual vertical roasting spits like Semra’s. One of our Rehoboth sleepers is the gyro sandwich at Pete’s Steak Shop (who woulda thought?!) out on The Highway near Michy’s Relaxed Dining. (Totally off-subject: start with the chicken noodle soup at Pete’s. Trust me.)

Kebab Falafel Addiction in the Camelot Center by Stuart Kingston Gallery is also all about family recipes and traditions. One of their specialties is Shawarma, somewhat similar to gyro, but the meat (generally chicken) is marinated, grilled and sliced into strips. A popular street food in pretty much any Middle Eastern country.

Several years ago I wrote that ethnic places at the beach were few and far between. Not anymore! Give your taste buds a treat with Mediterranean tastes right here.

  • 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

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