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Breakfast at the beach - served with a side of history and memories

June 26, 2020

The convoluted schedules of city living can often preclude any attempt at a decent breakfast. The alternative is generally nothing more than cold cereal, a banana-on-the-run or a 48 ounce, 5,500-calorie Caramelato ChocoVenti Triple Mochaccino Frappolata Zippotino (leave room for whipped cream) at the drive-through du jour.

For many, the beach is an escape from all that. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve fidgeting in line while hopped up on the heady mix of ocean breeze, bacon and hot coffee at the Avenue Restaurant and Robin Hood. Or savoring that yeasty scent of Garrison’s Olde English Doughnuts by the Boardwalk; an all-too-convenient stroll from my childhood digs, the Carlton Hotel. There was no A/C in those days, so breakfast was the first thing you inhaled in the morning. Hard to believe I was such a skinny kid.

You can’t throw a non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, calorie-free and, most importantly, taste-free breakfast bar around here without hitting (and probably denting) a breakfast joint. Relaxing ways to start the day include brunches or ala carte fare from Crust & Craft, Victoria’s, Blue Moon, Café Azáfrán, Crystal (even without the old red awning), Mariachi, Fins on the Highway, Dave & Skippy’s, Sammy’s Kitchen, Egg, Royal Treat, Breakfast Guru, Sunrise and The Starboard in Dewey, Lewes’ Olive & Oats, Surf Bagel and Honey’s Farm Fresh.

Morning treasures lurk behind unassuming storefronts and big-chain signs. George Stakias dishes up traditional breakfast fare at Goolee’s Grille. And with a little prodding, more than one local will admit to scarfing IHOP’s pancakes, steak & eggs at Bob Evans, an impossibly fresh bear claw from Panera, grits-laced dishes from Cracker Barrel or an early-morning kaiserschmarrn and cold brew coffee from Kaisy’s Delights.

The granddaddy of them all has got to be Gus and Gus’ Place on the Boardwalk. These guys have survived decades of hurricanes and nor’easters, so the Food Police are no match for them. Quickie breakfasts with scrapple and bacon are their thing, and their fried chicken and cheesesteaks are exceptional. Not for breakfast, you say? You’re at the beach, for goodness’ sake! Though their dad no longer waves to longtime customers through the window, sons George and Bill Svolis keep the grill running and the fries bubbling.

Lots of breakfast spots have popped up over the years, but The Starboard is still a morning magnet for groggy patrons. Early-morning Dewey diners who chow down on the Starboard Omelet or The Kitchen Sink (everything, then topped with hollandaise) are advised to not operate heavy machinery until later in the day. Partners Steve “Monty” Montgomery (always there), Jim Weisgerber (Bethany Blues BBQ maven) and Dickie Heidenberger (still kiteboarding) have genuine respect for the history that has made The Starboard what it is today: Party central in Dewey.

A few places around here still pay homage to that Jersey favorite, Taylor Pork Roll. Grilled slices of that spiced treat can be plopped onto a soft bun (or a toasted sesame bagel) with a slice of white American cheese, lettuce, tomato and a slather of mayo. Add a fried egg? Why not! The authentic Taylor Pork Roll was created by John Taylor, a colonel in the Revolutionary Army in the 18th century, and it immediately became popular in diners up and down the Delaware Valley. JerseyPorkRoll.com says it best: “Taylor Ham or Taylor Pork Roll! Slice it thick or thin, tangy or mild, make the four little cuts around the edges so it doesn’t curl when you cook it. Brown it ‘til it’s just the way you like it in an honest-to-goodness Jersey Diner.”

We can’t forget another longtime breakfast mainstay in the ocean block: the Steele family’s Café Azafran. This go-to spot originated in Lewes, moved to Rehoboth, then returned to Lewes to open a mini-Azafran called Olive & Oats. And yes, like the Rehoboth mothership, they still feature Richard Steele’s famous baked oatmeal. By the way, I can’t leave out one of our newest breakfast spots just a bit north of Lewes, Dina and Oscar Escamilla’s Good Morning Breakfast Nook in Milton. And Lewes breakfast lovers might recognize former Breakfast Nook server, Elina Kamalova. She and her husband are the owners of soon-to-open Eggcelent breakfast/lunch spot on Market Street - right next door to Olive & Oats.

In spite of all the recent efforts to make beach dining as difficult as possible, our local restaurateurs have stepped up to the plate and are doing their very best to provide you with a relaxed repast by the sea. If I missed your favorite place, that’s your cue to burn off a few calories and do some exploring.

  • 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.

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