Fish On! is our favorite for so many reasons

May 9, 2021

My husband asks if I want to go to Cheers for dinner – Cheers is our code word for Fish On, our neighborhood restaurant where everybody knows your name. Maybe not everybody, but we always see familiar faces.

There’s Bob, usually first in line on certain weekdays, and then my husband and I arrive soon after. We know to line up at 4:45 at the latest if we want to get a coveted seat for happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Our bartenders vary, but Jessica is our mainstay. In order to get ahead of the rush, if she knows we’re out front, she has our pretty pink cosmopolitans ready for sipping. Bob likes to bring his own cocktail napkins, and he recently shared them with my hubby and me.

Jessica, who began working at Fish On eight years ago, knows her regular customers by name and their drink order, of course. And she doesn’t write anything down. Since she has been our waitress, she has gotten married and had children. Currently, she is studying to become a nurse and hopes to work at Beebe hospital.

Bob Howard and his partner Robert Kovalcik have been dining at Fish On since it opened, and they have seen many changes. We remember when Matt Haley was there, but newcomers to the area might not know his name.

In 1995, Matt Haley moved to Rehoboth Beach with a dream of becoming the most successful restaurateur in Delaware. Haley and a partner opened Redfin, a high-end seafood restaurant and fish house in Bethany Beach in 1996.

Later, Matt went solo and renamed it Bluecoast Seafood Grill and Raw Bar. This would become the flagship restaurant for SoDel Concepts. Fish On arrived soon after, and I recall eating my first taco there in 2005.

In 2013, Matt named Scott Kammerer as president of SoDel Concepts, freeing him up to concentrate on his humanitarian work, which was a huge part of his life. Matt died tragically in a motorcycle accident Aug. 19, 2014, while on a humanitarian trip in Nepal. The community was devastated by his death, as he was was known to have helped so many to overcome personal obstacles in life.

Recently, Fish On has been remodeled, and now there is an outdoor patio and more booths for happy hour. It’s Friday, and Bob and I are here again at the outside entrance, which has also been updated. Now benches flank both sides, so the newcomers don’t realize there is an established honor system for entering the restaurant.

Regulars know you line up and enter in the exact order you arrived. Since the remodel, there is no more rushing to get a seat, because the hostess station is dead center as you walk in and you wait to be seated. Nice and orderly!

My husband and I often splurge on the regular menu, because Chef Raul Rodriguez delivers the tastiest cuisine featuring the freshest ingredients, and he supports many local vendors in the area. If only Matt Haley could see his vision fully realized, as there are now 12 SoDel restaurants to choose from. The reliable and high-quality service of the entire Fish On staff makes this restaurant our favorite. And Jessica’s smile draws everyone in!


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