15 tips for the care and feeding of your summer visitors
In spite of the ongoing difficulties, our friends and neighbors who own and operate local restaurants are still stepping up to the plate to make your dining experience as enjoyable as possible.
And if my email inbox is to be believed, our seasonal visitors are loving what I still believe are the very best here on our Culinary Coast (thank you, Southern Delaware Tourism Inc., for that great description). So I thought it would be nice to list some of my pick hits cleverly selected to keep your summer visitors busy.
Many local eateries change their menus as often as the tides. So some of my picks might be on the menu, or might be history - at least temporarily. But I promise you’ll find something at these places to make your taste buds smile.
It can be easy to overlook the tucked-away Kindle in Lewes. But not trying this place would be a mistake. Kindle is one of those eateries that keeps on keepin’ on, day after day, with a minimum of drama and maximum creativity. First-timers get the Kindle Fire Fries with chilis and pecorino. Follow it up with the signature Kindle Burger crowned with bacon and provolone. A longtime Lewes tradition if there ever was one.
Downtown Lewes also sports Meghan Lee’s classically understated Heirloom. The current menu puts me in the painful position of choosing between the Amish Chicken with green garlic gnocchi and the housemade black pepper fettuccine with roasted sunflower seeds. I say get both. Life is short.
1776 Steakhouse in Midway combines quiet elegance with expertly prepared steaks. The black ravioli stuffed with lobster is a must-get. Though steaks are the thing, the crab cakes with cranberry relish are one of the sleepers at 1776.
Pizza-loving accolades continue to be showered on SoDel Concepts’ tiny Crust & Craft in Midway Galleria. There are several things you must do when you go there: (1) Order the sorghum-glazed octopus (the magic happens in the wood oven). (2) Then order the ricotta meatballs. Trust me on this. And (3) be sure to say hi to Katie Sherman. This longtime GM is a shining star in the Cape Region’s lineup of intrepid restaurant bosses.
Though it looks like a carryout with a window, Semra’s Mediterranean Grill offers a quietly delicious dining experience. Semra’s grandma’s Turkish recipes are a rollercoaster ride of savory, nutty and lemony tastes. I recommend the Iskender platter and the perfectly prepared babaganouj. Don’t sound familiar? Why not treat your guests to a bite out of the ordinary at Semra’s.
Just a few steps west, Regan Derrickson’s new Nalu Rehoboth glistens at night - even if we still can’t belly up to the glowing bar. Add some adventure to your repast with the King Kamehameha Surf & Turf Burrito stuffed with short rib, shrimp, spicy mayo, slaw and queso. Feeling light and dainty? Order the Maui Wowie Salad with their housemade guava vinaigrette. It might not take you where the original Maui Wowie might have taken you, but it’s quite good and waayyy more legal.
Theo’s Steaks, Sides & Spirits on Baltimore Avenue is everything the name implies. But you can also get a complete Thanksgiving platter year-round (complete with house-made turkey and dressing like mom used to make). Owner Chris Agharabi says they sell more of those in the summer than in the off-season!
Up on the highway, Fins Ale House & Raw Bar continues the tradition of consistent, straight-ahead seafood and fun happy hour specials. Hungry? Get the Peacemaker: fried oyster po’boy meets bacon - the perfect marriage. Even better with Fins’ signature bloody mary.
Just south, the new Atlantic Social is making waves with the apricot-glazed pork chop. Kick it off with the Fried Green Tomato Tower with a feisty Sriracha mayo.
A few miles north brings you to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal. After a complete revamp, it’s now host to Grain On The Rocks. A huge outdoor seating area (quite literally on the rocks) complements a cleverly seamless connection to the indoors where live entertainment can be found.
Speaking of ethnic eateries (were we?), one of the best is Minh’s Bistro at Route 24 and Coastal Highway. Though the specials are always good, I can’t get past the summer rolls with peanut sauce, the salty lime wings (extra crispy, thank you) and the overstuffed banh mi sandwich, though I will occasionally break out of my rut for the rich and savory broth that is the chicken pho (pronounced “fuh”).
With any luck, Bethany Blues Lewes will soon restart their Sunday brunch extravaganzas - truly one of the best brunch deals in Delaware. But in the meantime, your friends will love the Pigs on the Wing appetizer and the St. Louis ribs. Sides should include their impossibly creamy mac and cheese, and the cool and crunchy cole slaw. Top it off with a frosty Fat Tire draft.
Speaking of curry (really?), our dining landscape includes two Indian-flavored spots. The newest is Raas in Lewes. Their interesting fusion of Asian and Indian has spawned their Chana Masala with the little puffy breads. I love to order that alongside the Chili Cheese Garlic Naan. Be sure to engage Chef GG. He’s a big personality and loves to talk Indian history and heritage.
Back by the Boardwalk in Rehoboth, father-and-son team Suraj and Raghu Kumar keeps things traditional at Indigo. The lamb vindaloo never ceases to please. If your affairs are in order and you don’t mind a few hallucinations, order it “10 hot.” Ask GM Sandeep about the time a smart-mouthed Rehoboth Foodie ordered it “15 hot.” The occasional flashbacks rival “Taxi Driver.”
Above First Street Station a few doors west is Dale & John’s Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen. Fried green tomatoes! Frito pie in the bag! The place will make you smile - especially after a couple of their burnt orange Manhattans.
I’m running out of real estate on this page, but I can’t stop without urging you to check out the Thursday reservations-only paella feasts at Café Azafran on Baltimore Avenue. Chef Rich’s made-from-scratch-before-your-very-eyes paella is the stuff of Rehoboth legend.
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.