New ownership wisely keeps The Buttery on track in Lewes

September 8, 2016

Unless you just landed in a Sussex County cornfield (leaving a telltale crop circle), you are probably aware that Lewes’ longtime fine-dining spot was recently sold to Wilson Gates and partners. Wilson had some big shoes to fill at The Buttery, as former co-owner John Donato was a master at fine-dining etiquette; practically born with black tie and tails.

Diners could pretty much rely on the fact that dinner (or even lunch) at The Buttery would be an elegant yet casual experience, complete with hovering servers and perpetually clean silverware; quietly replaced on the downlow. Though the news was sad, the silver lining is that the new ownership is supremely qualified to carry on that popular tradition at the corner of Second St. and Savannah Road.

Along with their sons Wilson and Taylor, several years ago Wilmington natives Gretchen and Chip Gates brought over 60 years of combined culinary experience to the Gate House, replacing the original Café Azafran at 109 Market Street. Gretchen graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, and her sons are diplomats of the Culinary Institute of America. School is one thing, but real-world experience in distinguished kitchens such as Jean-Georges in New York City and the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is what really tells the tale.

The Gate House quickly earned a reputation for high-minded dining in an extremely casual venue. Stunners like kale salad with pumpkin seeds and parmesan, along with Jordan almond-crusted duck breast drizzled with Amaretto jus formed a loyal legion of fans.

So it was without much trepidation that I made a return visit to The Buttery last week. Our server Chris was perfect (using expert sleight-of-hand to change out used silverware for clean); timing courses in such a way that every dish arrived hot and freshly plated. Ahhh … we will certainly miss John Donato, but his legacy lives on at The Buttery.

Don’t-miss dishes include the Baked Brie with fig jam and candied pecans, the longstanding favorite Buttery Bleu Cheese Salad and the as-beautiful-to-look-at-as-it-is-to-eat Tricolore Tortellini in cream sauce with English peas, prosciutto and shrimp.

Buttery aficionados will be pleased to know that Chef Wilson has kept many favorites on the menu, including the Buttery Seafood Chowder, the lunchtime Buttery Beach sandwich, and the delightful Eggs Savannah on the Sunday Brunch menu.

So don’t be afraid of the new Buttery! The transition from Donato and co-owner Twain Gonzalez to Wilson Gates and his partners appears to have been seamless, with both the food and the service being delivered in true Buttery fashion.

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