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Friendly windows offer instant access to yummy beach eats

August 14, 2020

In Lewis Carroll’s sequel to “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” (aka “Alice in Wonderland” - 1865), “Through the Looking Glass” (1871) recounts how a perpetually bewildered Alice descends yet again into a bizarre world. Since then, the term “looking glass” has come to suggest something that accesses the unexpected. When I think of a looking glass, I think of a window. And in my bizarre world, a window can serve as a portal to pizza, a burger or maybe even a cheesesteak on the Boardwalk. 

This all came together when I read a recent newspaper column written by a local psychotherapist. I won’t mention the publication (I’d like to be here next week, thank you), but in that particular column he refers to the popular practice of eating while standing up. Apparently, conventional wisdom suggests that food consumed while leaning over a sink qualifies as a snack, and is therefore light and healthy. This also applies to leftover fried chicken, partially eaten cannoli and pork pies. 

But alas, my elation was short-lived. The good doctor finally concludes that vertical munching has no impact on calorific consequences. Not even a little bit. In other words, food is food. Period. 

That is when I took umbrage. (I usually take it with pepperoni and extra hot peppers.) This pen-wielding whippersnapper is obviously not well-versed in the fundamental rules of beach eating. It’s a well-known fact that food ordered through a window - while standing up - does not count toward your daily maximum requirement of tasty stuff. Nowhere in the Weight Watchers point system do they specifically refer to “window food.” So there. 

Another hallowed principle of coastal consumption is that window food tastes good simply because it’s handed to you through a window. Want proof? I have a friend who has been a longtime fan of Grotto Pizza. When the Caggiano family gave birth to their Rehoboth Avenue installation of Nicola Pizza - complete with the proverbial pizza-pass-through - my friend insisted that the Caggianos must have changed their pizza. She couldn’t get enough of it. 

Loyal fans know that Nicola Pizza is nothing if not consistent. Why mess with success? The only difference was the looking glass, but my friend still blazes a diagonal trail across Rehoboth Avenue between Nicola and Grotto. Chalk one up for window food. 

What day on the sand isn’t made better by the obligatory pilgrimage to Gus & Gus’ Place? With the Atlantic at your back and Gus’ sons George and Bill clangin’ that well-worn spatula, those hot-off-the-grill burgers, dogs, chicken and cheesesteaks sure hit the spot. And what about Thrasher’s warm, peanutty fries - doused in malt vinegar? Or an impossibly fresh square of baklava passed to you at Semra’s Mediterranean Grill? Or Kohr Bros. Frozen Custard? Or savory crepes at Café Papillon? Or crunchy filets from Go Fish! - yup: window, window, window, window, window … and window. Alice would have loved it, though she might not have been able to fit through that rabbit hole afterwards. 

The “window effect” (my patented name for this phenomenon) is most pronounced at The Ice Cream Store, just a brief westerly waddle from the Boardwalk. Do you really think anyone would buy Chip Hearn’s terrifying favorites (motor oil, bacon, booger and dirt) if they weren’t scoopin’ ‘em up behind a hole in the wall? Next door is Glazed with their bacon and/or candy-laden pastries and … yup, fried Snickers. Directly across the street there’s Dolle’s – the granddaddy of them all with their window-friendly salt water taffy and caramel corn. 

So many windows, so little time! Just how satisfying is a crimson-sheathed cone at sunset from the Lewes Beach Dairy Queen? Or a Mack’s Pizza slice in Wildwood, N.J.? Or the brand-new Archie’s on Rehoboth Avenue? Or the long-gone Taylor Pork Roll stands in Ocean City, Md., and Atlantic City? Or Garrison’s hot-out-of-the-fryer doughnuts in Rehoboth - now but a distant memory? 

So, if that columnist is to be believed, all this vertical chomping may not be quite as virtuous as previously suspected. On the other hand, you’re at the beach. Go ahead: Treat yourself to something out of the ordinary. It tastes even better through the looking glass.

  • 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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