Dinner and a show: outside, in your car … and on rollerskates
The scene is a Prohibition-era speakeasy disguised as a funeral home. While enthusiastically sipping a “cup of coffee,” a customer looks around warily and says, “Better bring a check in case the joint is raided.” One of the thugs responds, “Who's gonna raid a funeral?” Another intones while rolling his eyes, in mock disgust, “Some people have no respect for the dead.” A minute later the place is overrun by police. Dancing girls, “coffee”-drinking patrons and police running helter-skelter. It’s even funnier because it’s in black & white.
That and other one-liners from the 1959 blockbuster “Some Like it Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and George Raft graced the highway-side wall of Lefty’s Alley & Eats last week. Yup, drive-ins are back - at least in Lewes - and with a few changes to boot. No more rusty speakers hanging on your car windows. The sound is broadcast to your radio on 107.5FM. And no more letting the kids who hid in the trunk trek back to the concession stand for popcorn and wilted nachos. Rollerskating servers (some admittedly more - or less - adept at skating) now glide to your car to deliver theater-friendly goodies from Lefty’s kitchen.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that the restaurant kitchen term “pivot” has taken on entirely new meanings as restaurants and small businesses continue to suffer the brunt of more than a few crippling and increasingly arbitrary upstate proclamations. But well-run eateries have no choice but to step up to the plate. They’re not only pivoting to keep doing what they love to do, but many are quite literally fighting for their lives.
Many of the activities at Lefty’s Alley & Eats take place indoors, so in general it’s a winter-friendly operation. Add that to 2020’s reduced business, and Lefty’s had to think fast to keep the lights on. Owners D.J. Hill and Chad Moore are no strangers to the hospitality business. D.J. moved here from Pennsylvania over 25 years ago and became involved in the ownership and operation of hotels. Chad’s longtime involvement in hospitality is evidenced by the “…moor” part of The Bellmoor Inn and Spa in downtown Rehoboth. Though he is no longer involved in the ownership, Chad continues to thrive in the hotel business west of the beach. One of the things D.J. and Chad have in common is concerned parents’ natural interest in what their kids are doing. So the partners took a trip to check out wintertime installations that were fun and also kid-friendly. Next thing you know, Lefty’s Alley & Eats was born.
The somewhat reinvented Lefty’s also sports a brand-new chef. Paige van den Burg hails from New York, having worked for years as a stage manager for Broadway theaters. In her spare time, she cooked for the Russian Tea Room and also Blue Smoke in Greenwich Village. Music lovers are aware of Jazz Standard, the popular jazz venue below Blue Smoke.
When Paige hooked up with D.J. and Chad, she envisioned “beach food redefined” at Lefty’s. And she has certainly done that. One of the most unusual menu items is her musubi. The traditional dish is composed of grilled meat and rice wrapped with nori, similar to the Japanese omusubi. Paige’s version makes a polite nod to a Jersey favorite, Taylor Pork Roll. Regulars to this page recognize that name (I have been known to wax philosophical about Taylor Pork Roll). Paige has married the sushi-like concept with a quinoa/pineapple spread and thick slices of the savory meat. Another unusual item that graces the new menu is St. Louis-style pizza. St. Louis pies are a concept unto themselves: thin and crispy crust, with the proprietary cheese blend (known as Proval) covering the entire pie out to the edges. Yet another creation from this former Broadway techie is her deconstructed cheesesteak. It’s all there, but each ingredient takes on its own personality - including a bread-pudding style brioche cake that is the focal point of the dish. The entire menu is available at Lefty’s new covered outdoor dining area where a wooden pergola basks in the warm glow of Edison bulbs. Comfortable seating and heavy wooden tables put the finishing touches on Lewes’ newest venue under the stars.
Speaking of stars, tickets to the adjacent drive-in theater are sold in advance at www.iloveleftys.com. The cost is $25/car with a maximum of six passengers (no kids in the trunk, please!). The trend seems to be that moviegoers are enjoying dinner in the outdoor dining area, then strolling back to their cars to enjoy the show and nosh on Paige’s desserts that skate right up to their windows.