Don’t worry; be happy (hour)
Every so often I host a radio show segment called “Delmarvalous Bartenders.” For about an hour, I explore the backstory of these hardworking men and women who, from one minute to the next, can go from being a chemist to a counselor to a host to a social director to a confidant – and even the occasional personal chauffeur. (We won’t go into how I know that – David Engel and Hari Cameron, you are both sworn to secrecy!)
Bartenders see their guests from a unique perspective. Though the French proverb, “A drunk mind speaks a sober heart,” might not be entirely true, bartenders, like psychotherapists, often have to keep much of what they hear to themselves. And much of what they hear comes in the late afternoons during one of the mainstays of the business of (beach) eating: happy hour. Designed to bring guests into the restaurant early, it makes them feel welcome enough to perhaps stick around for dinner or at least order another sip. Bartenders look forward to happy hour, and some of our seasoned mixologists here in the Cape Region have specific opinions as to what makes the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
Bethany Blues in Lewes overflows with happy hour patrons virtually every night. Barkeep Ryan Minnick sums it up nicely: “People want options when it comes to food and drinks, but also want them uncomplicated and easy on the wallet."
Blackwall at the Beach in downtown Rehoboth is lucky to have Mike behind the bar taking care of business. This seasoned barkeep is no stranger to the business of sipping and tells me that a great happy hour starts with the food. And he’s right: The Blackwall Shrimp appetizer drizzled with a white wine and garlic butter sauce can make happy hour even happier.
Anyone who has lived in the Cape Region for a while remembers Alison Blyth’s LaLa Land that dominated Wilmington Avenue for years. The full-time barkeep there was David Engel, dispensing good cocktails along with his terminally dry sense of humor. Both of those traits continue today at one of Baltimore Avenue’s iconic eateries, Café Azafran. David works in tandem with simultaneous singer/barkeep Holly Lane. When I asked her what the hardest thing was about mixing drinks, serving food and singing – all at the same time – she instantly replied, “When somebody orders a complicated drink in the middle of a song.” There’s multitasking for ya’.
No treatise on bars & booze would be complete without mention of Andrew Drawdy, currently slingin’ drinks at Grain on the Rocks at the Lewes Ferry Terminal. For years, Andrew was in charge of keeping happy hour patrons sippin’ and smilin’ at the long-gone Gilligan’s in Lewes. And he’s keeping that tradition alive on the dock of the bay in Lewes, where patrons watch the ships roll in and then watch ‘em roll away again.
Dewey Beach entrepreneur Steve “Monty” Montgomery started out as a teenager cleaning the grease traps at The Starboard in Dewey Beach. He is now the co-owner, responsible for a busy breakfast, lunch and dinner along with an army of bartenders and a calendar full of special events. Monty knows of what he speaks: “Let’s face it: It’s five o'clock somewhere. So why limit happy to just an hour? Everyone has their thing to promote those two favorite words, and at The Starboard, our happy hour starts at 9 a.m. sharp, when bloody marys and crushes are the thing! Again, to each his – or her – own, but we start early in Dewey. Whether happy hour to you is the reward at the end of a tough workday or the start of a big night on the town, that special time can’t help but put a smile on your face. In its basic form, happy hour pairs smaller appetizer specials with reduced drink prices. From wines by the glass and draft beer specials to the fancier martinis and craft cocktails, most everyone in the hospitality industry makes it their business to feature some sort of happy hour special. For whatever reason, there's something magical about the late afternoon and early evening, and I believe that that’s what makes happy hour one of the most special things ever created.” I couldn’t have said it better, Monty. So I won’t even try.
So many happy hours, so little space on this page! You’re at the beach, so get out there and explore for yourself. I guarantee you’ll find the perfect nook or cranny where you can relax, and at the same time support our local food industry.