Megan Kee’s new downtown Lewes restaurant will bring together two of her favorite things – Bramble & Brine and The Buttery.
Since she left Bramble & Brine in downtown Rehoboth Beach in 2014, Kee felt as though she left a piece of herself behind. The next chapter of that story is set to unfold this summer when she opens Bramble & Brine at The Buttery. She’s targeting a July opening.
“In my mind, this will be like my fairy tale coming to completion,” she said. “I want this to be Bramble & Brine forever. I don’t want this building to change over again in my lifetime.”
She has big plans for the historic Trader Mansion. A brine room will have a nautical theme. The deck, which is currently closed in with glass windows, will become an atrium, representing bramble. The dining area will mimic her grandmother’s dining room. The lobby will feature an aviary with a yet-to-be-announced resident. She wants the building to be reminiscent of the Garden District in New Orleans.
The bar area will be known as the Pink Pony at The Buttery and will have its own menu and whimsical theme. It will also feature a full menu of zero-free [alcohol-free] drinks that can have alcohol added.
In the back on the Savannah Road side of the building, Kee plans to open Mooncoins at The Buttery, a place to get coffee, baked goods, ice cream and wildflowers.
“The possibilities here are just incredible for me and the community,” she said.
This version of Bramble & Brine is particularly personal for Kee because of her family’s long lineage in Lewes. Her ancestor, a woman, helped found what is now the Pilots’ Association for the Bay and River Delaware. Another family member served as mayor of the town for a long time in the early 20th century. Kee herself grew up in Lewes while also spending a lot of time with her grandparents in Henlopen Acres.
Kee hasn’t slowed down since stepping away from the original Bramble & Brine. She opened La Fable on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach in 2016 and then Houston White Co. on Rehoboth Avenue in 2018. Her latest restaurant, an Italian eatery named Dalmata, opened in late 2020.
“I’m excited to share what I’ve done in Rehoboth in a different way that’s tailored to Lewes and my roots here,” she said.
She is leasing the building from Big Fish Restaurant Group, which purchased the Trader Mansion earlier this year. Big Fish President and Managing Partner Eric Sugrue and a silent partner personally chose Kee from an extensive list of interested tenants.
“They decided together to let me steward this building,” she said. “They honestly made a conscious decision for the community, and I feel so honored that they felt I was the right person.”
In addition to spending a lot of time thinking about transforming the space, Kee is also working hard to develop a strong selection on her menus. One thing she is certain about is that brunch will be a big part of the new restaurant.
“I sort of specialize in special dinners; that’s what I do – birthdays, anniversaries,” she said. “I’ve never had a daytime concept, but brunch is my favorite meal of the week.”
She plans to offer brunch every day, with a traditional breakfast menu offered on weekends.
As for dinner, she said the menu will be ever evolving. Dishes will convey a mid-Atlantic/Southern elegant vibe without being intimidating or too out of touch with what Kee feels the community would want on a weekly basis.
She’s considering ending dinner service on weekdays at sunset to try out something special and unique to the area.
“My plan is to try to make this a community-driven location where we invite regional-acclaimed chefs to come in and do specialty dinners during the week,” she said. “Maybe not every week, but just make sure this is the place where people could come and cook and showcase themselves.”
The goal, she said, is to help create a legacy for the Cape Region.
“I think this region deserves the credit that it has worked so hard to achieve for becoming a culinary destination of the likes of Charleston and New Orleans,” she said. “It’s a rare thing to come to a beach area and have such wonderful foods, foods that rival cities.”
When Bramble & Brine at The Buttery opens this summer, it will be Kee’s fourth restaurant in the area. She’s proud of the team she has put together over the last few years and the support she has received from the community.
“I'm touched every day by the support, and honestly the spirit,” she said. “I feel like when people come in, they bring a spirit with them that shines.”
As for the new restaurant, she hopes to live up to the legacy John Donato and Twain Gonzales created at The Buttery.
“It's always been here under the surface of all the iterations – the new Buttery, the 2nd Street Tavern. No matter what this becomes, I think it will always be The Buttery,” she said. “I think resurrecting and bringing this back to what people's dream of that was and bringing back what my dream was, my unfinished dreams, I think they both have a story to tell. And I truly hope that we're here forever and ever.”