Beantown ain't got nothin' on us
At the moment I’m having quite an adventure keeping my hands aligned over the Lilliputian keyboard of my auxiliary/travel laptop as we both rock back and forth on Amtrak’s Acela. Memories of last night’s fizzy moment with Speedy (of Alka Seltzer fame) dance in my head as I return to the beach from Boston, Mass. Sodium bicarbonate notwithstanding, I have fond memories of my Boston dining experiences. Roberta Wuttke, the former boss of Lewes’ Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (and Boston native), has forbidden me from eating in her home town without consulting with her first. One hundred percent of her suggestions have been home runs.
The always-crowded Regina Pizzeria is a good example. The Polcari family has been cooking pies on the Italian-flavored North End of Boston since 1926. Though they tout themselves as “Boston’s Best Pizza since 1926,” I’ve only had theirs (so far) so I will go with that until new information surfaces. (Hopefully it will surface with pepperoni, sausage and mushrooms.)
Roberta also suggested that we try James Hook & Co. There is always a line at this trailer by the harbor, surrounded by picnic tables. As they sell lobster roll after lobster roll, several hundred surprisingly perky and very-much-alive lobsters await their fate in a huge wooden tank in the middle of the room. About every 15-20 minutes, an apron-clad cook grabs an armful of the crustaceans and scampers back into the kitchen. Needless to say, there is no doubt as to the freshness of James Hook & Co.’s lobster rolls.
When La Vida Hospitality pastry chef extraordinaire Dru Tevis heard I was going to Boston, he strongly suggested dinner at Myers+Chang. This upbeat spot specializes in a creative fusion of Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese grub. It was Saturday-night packed with a line out the door. Uh oh. What to do? Occasionally we food writers will try to pull a tiny bit of rank (assuming we have any at all). Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; depends on who you know in town. I won’t go into detail, but we suddenly found ourselves occupying a foodie’s Holy Grail of counter seats: directly opposite the open and bustling kitchen. Chaos reigned as tickets printed out just 18 inches away; ingredients flew in and out of flaming woks, and flare-ups threatened to singe our very eyebrows. I was in heaven! I thank the delightful ladies at the front desk for humoring this guy when he began to sob quietly. So much for rank.
However, when I’m on a trip, I often encounter raised eyebrows when people find out that I write and talk about the dining scene in the Rehoboth Beach area. The James Beards, the Zagats, restaurant associations, Food Network(s) and Michelins of the world have seen fit to bestow their nods of approval on many of our local chefs, restaurateurs and businesspeople (none the least of which was Monday night’s James Beard win for our very own Sam Calagione!). And it’s a rare morning when my email box doesn’t contain requests from Rehoboth-bound out-of-towners asking me where they should spend their dining bucks.
So, with all due respect to the venerable Regina’s, we’ve got great pizza here in the Cape Region too! Longtime locals have stood by Louie’s for decades, and the wood-fired pies at Touch of Italy and Mr. P’s have become the stuff of legend. Relatively new kids on the block Pete’s Steak Shop and Crust & Craft have both earned loyal fans, and the pizzas at Dogfish Head Brewpub (who wooda thought?!) will surprise you. Pat’s own brand of “Greek pizza” (as owner Alex Kotanides calls it) is dished up in Lewes, as Half Full tops theirs with all sorts of unique goodies and presents them on long wooden paddles. And we can’t ignore the vacationers who faithfully line up for the signature pies at Nicola’s and Grotto.
I’ll certainly return to James Hook & Co. at the Boston Harbor, but our beach towns are also dishin’ up their share of fine lobster rolls. The Matt’s Fish Camps in Bethany and Lewes are known for their freshly prepared lobster – served both in the traditional mayo-laced style and just in warm butter. And the chowder at both restaurants is great. Fork + Flask @ Nage, Starboard Raw, Henlopen City Oyster House and Striper Bites all serve a good lobster roll - and you don’t want to miss HCOH’s chowder (same thing with Fish On in Lewes!). Chesapeake & Maine’s lobster roll goes on and off the menu with the seasons, but in its absence there is that cool and fresh Cambridge crab roll with a hint of herb mayo.
Lobster maven Dan Beck blew into town this spring with his Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls. This guy knows a guy who knows a guy, and his lobster is never more than a couple of days from the bottom of the ocean. And he goes all-out with the traditional New England split-top buttered and toasted roll. My point? You don’t need the Acela to enjoy good lobster.
I will visit Myers+Chang every time I’m in Boston. But good Asian food is never more than a short ride from where I live. Cultured Pearl, Saketumi and Stingray are the big kids on the block, but don’t overlook the everything-made-from-scratch Confucius and the diminutive Lily Thai. Summer 2017 will soon bring us Minh’s Vietnamese Bistro, Tammy Wang and Jeong Hoon Kim’s new Miyagi Ramen, and the Asian-leaning A Different Kitchen in Milton.
The Cape Region is just a train ride, flight or drive from some of the world’s leading culinary centers. But it’s never a sacrifice to return to our slower lower Culinary Coast for exceptional cuisine.