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Ninety-nine. A romantic - and lucky - number in Bethany Beach

February 8, 2019

Back when I moved to the Cape Region, one had to be careful not to get hungry in the Bethany Beach area after around 9 p.m. or so. There just wasn’t a lot going on in the chewing department. But over the last 15 years that has changed. Established standbys like Bluecoast, Northeast Seafood Kitchen, Sedona, Parkway, Misaki Sushi, DiFebo’s, Off the Hook, Patsy’s, Sue Ryan’s Good Earth Café & Market, Cottage Café, Micky’s Crab House and China Express continue to thrive, and many of the (relatively) new kids in town are making names for themselves as well: Bethany Blues, 14 Global, Pie, Big Fish Grill, The Boathouse, CoCoLo Sushi, Café on 26, Hooked Up Ale House, Pomodoro Pizza and the nearby Matt’s Fish Camp. 

In the fine-dining category, 99 Sea Level took everyone by surprise with an upscale menu and a welcoming lounge by a huge fireplace in the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn by Marriott at Hollywood Street and the boardwalk. The massive redevelopment of the boardwalk south of Garfield Parkway is dominated by this 112-suite oceanfront property. The restaurant is strategically located on the first floor, facing the Atlantic Ocean. The restaurant and bar are fully windowed and afford a panoramic view of the water. 

Though they are certainly not newcomers to food service, Marriott teamed up with DCDE Hospitality Group to provide the nuts and bolts for the new eatery. You might not immediately recognize the name DCDE, but you will certainly recognize Mango’s, Bethany Blues in Lewes and Bethany Beach, as well as The Starboard and Starboard Raw in Dewey Beach. Denizens of Baltimore will probably know Portside Tavern, Nick’s Fish House and Shaw’s Tavern, while Washington, D.C. diners will recognize The Front Page and Café Soleil. DCDE went all-out to build a top-notch menu and staff at 99 Sea Level; installing the award-winning Danio Somoza as executive chef. In fact, those who love steak and fine dining in Lewes are getting to know Danio’s work first-hand at the new Harvest Tide Steakhouse. 

The menu at 99 Sea Level features a signature Seafood Tower made up of delicacies from the raw bar. The prices range from $29.99 to over $100, depending on how many people will be sharing. Seems expensive until you see the ingredients: Steamed Alaskan Crab cluster (a big pile of plump legs and meaty claws), steamed PEI mussels, Broadwater clams, steamed shrimp and a pile of Chincoteague Bluepoints. Of course the offerings vary with the seasons. 

When many people hear the name 99 Sea Level they instinctively think “date night.” And next week on Valentine’s Day, 99 Sea Level is tooling up to play that role. Chef Danio has crafted a romantic prix-fixe menu. Lucky diners can start with their choice of Thai noodle salad, creamy shrimp scampi or potato leek tahini soup. Entrees are sure to spark a bit of love with a slow-braised lamb shank with cream polenta and blue cheese fresco, or perhaps a grass-fed veal chop with a mushroom-shallot cream sauce, or North Pacific swordfish with crispy onions and bok choy. Dessert kicks off with a choice of Godiva dark-chocolate dipped strawberries or an apple dumpling bake with candied walnuts. 

Served up as a melodic side to these delectable treats is live entertainment courtesy of one of the Cape Region’s newest bands, 2nd Time Around. This trio of seasoned musicians will present their “lighter side” during dinner with silky standards and light jazz built around the iconic sound of the Hammond B-3 console organ, drums, saxophone and clarinet. Reservations are a must, of course.  

When I first wrote about this oceanfront eatery, I spent about an hour trying to figure out the significance of the “99.” I plotted out the latitude/longitude of Bethany Beach; nope, no match. I tracked down some corporate names, including any significance the number might have had to the Marriott family or corporation: Nope, no dice. So I finally gave up and texted DCDE partner Steve “Monty” Montgomery. His response was swift, painful and unforgiving: 99 Hollywood St. is the address of the hotel. Go figure. 

Join Chef Somoza, GM Donna Serafini, Sales and Marketing Director Lorna Petchey and the 2nd Time Around trio for a romantic Valentine’s dinner with live music Thursday, Feb. 14. Simply call 302-539-0299 to hold a seat.

  • 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.