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No need for walls or a roof when dining at the beach

July 13, 2018

As the season settles in once and for all, few things can be more celebratory than eating out - outside. A leisurely nocturnal sip (or bite) is what the beach is all about, and quaffing a frosty libation while ordering extra cheese on pretty much anything is always better when it's done al fresco. And there are lots of places here in the Cape Region where you can do just that - with or without the extra cheese.

My submissions for the best outdoor spots in downtown Rehoboth include the treehouse deck at the new Azzurro Italian Oven (where Papa Grande's used to be). This inviting venue is perched high above the corner of Second and Wilmington. Equally inviting is the rooftop lake atop Cultured Pearl. Talk about an investment! Founder and proprietor Susan Wood seats her guests under festive gazebos suspended above a 15,000 gallon lake. As you might expect, multihued sea creatures cavort below. (I wonder what they think when they look up and see their uncooked relatives being dipped into wasabi.) 

If elevated dining is good, then the Back Porch Café is great. The two-level deck is encircled in greenery, and the upper portion sports a one-of-a-kind view of the panoply of rooftops that decorate Rehoboth and Baltimore avenues. Owners Keith Fitzgerald, Marilyn Spitz and their team match the breathtaking views with equally breathtaking food and service. 

The oceanfront Greene Turtle takes full advantage of the Atlantic. The narrow front balcony is mostly tables for two; prime real estate that's worth waiting for. Just a few doors to the west, the second-floor porch at Yolanda Pineda's Mariachi punctuates the taste of her handmade pupusas with a partial view of the ocean. Even more west, Dale Slotter and John Buchheit put a lot of effort into decorating their one-of-a-kind outside dining area at Cooter Brown's Twisted Southern Kitchen and Bourbon Bar. Multicolored umbrellas and a forest of terra cotta make it worth climbing the stairs to the top of First Street Station. 

Not everybody is lucky enough to have aerial dining, but street level isn't so bad either. One of the best is Victoria's Restaurant in the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. On-Boardwalk dining with wrought-iron appointments and experienced waitrons is dished up with a side of unobstructed ocean views. About-face to the north and there's Obie's by the Sea, celebrating years of sun-drenched monitoring of the sand and the surf. 

People-watching should be an Olympic sport on Baltimore Avenue. Behold the parade of nocturnal partygoers while perched at JAM Bistro's outdoor bar; the bistro tables in front of Eden; the huge patio at DiFebo's and the sidewalk-side tables at Arena's. The newly revamped Iguana Grill and Hari Cameron's cozy patio at a(MUSE.) complete Baltimore Avenue's outdoor offerings ... almost. Café Azafrán's patio is in the back, but it still counts – especially when owner and Paella Master Rich Steele stages his Sunday and Wednesday made-right-in-front-of-you paella feasts. Note that they are reservation only. 

On Wilmington there's Green Man's front porch, Zogg's festive courtyard (you'll love the Tiki bar), and the iconic Royal Treat. Bring your game face to the sandy biergarten at the capricious yet always fun Purple Parrot. 

Lunches and dinners on Rehoboth Avenue sidewalks and porches couldn't be more in the middle of it all. Dogfish Head's brand-new courtyard between the brewpub and Chesapeake & Main; G Rehoboth's tucked-away backyard patio; Claws' front porch and Penny Lane's Café Papillon; Grotto Pizza and Cilantro all offer outdoor dining. Slightly off the beaten path on Lake Avenue are Stingray's hard-fought-for deck and Ristorante Zebra's quietly elegant porch. Right around the corner you can enjoy al fresco lunch and dinner at Jeff Hamer's new El Jefe Gordo next to Hotel Rehoboth. A great spot from which to observe (and possibly jump out of the way of) unpredictable Rehoboth Avenue escapades. 

Of course, Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach and Lewes have their own special eateries where you can nosh unencumbered by walls, but I've got to leave something for future columns! So don your best Birkenstocks and your seersucker for warm, breezy dinners under the stars.

  • 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.