Off-season makes casual dining even more fun
Occasionally I allow myself to slide down the slippery (and often tasty) slope of casual dining, and a few places out there do wow us with their menus. Case in point: You can be sure of three things at our Rehoboth Beach Panera Bread: (1) There will always be a line, (2) you can wait in line in your car, and (3) you’ll regret it if you don’t grab a bear claw to go.
Directly across Coastal Highway is the doesn’t-get-more-casual-than-this Pickled Pig Pub. P3’s clever appetizers, BBQ, panini and creative salads are mostly the brainchild of corporate chef Ian Mangin. Pair them with the endless craft beers, and you can see why they’re busy year-round.
A couple of doors north of Pickled Pig Pub is thrice James Beard-nominated chef Hari Cameron’s popular all-mac&cheese-all-the-time carryout, Grandpa(MAC). He shares ownership of this emporium of fresh pasta with his brother Orion, and the concept couldn’t be more different from Hari’s downtown bastion of modernist cuisine, a(MUSE.). The brothers’ fresh salads and soups round out the cheesy and reasonably priced menu.
On Rehoboth Avenue, don’t miss Indigo Indian restaurant. EatingRehoboth.com tourgoers all say the same thing when we visit: “Oh, I would never have gone in there!” Don’t fall for that. In fact, a few hours after I guide a tour, I get more than one text from guests who later returned to Indigo to revisit the affable father and son team Suraj and Raghu Kumar. The baked-to-order naan and basmati rice are the best I’ve ever had. On a more Mediterranean note, Café Azafran on Baltimore Avenue never disappoints. And word on the street is that Rich Steele and family will continue their forever-sold-out paella feasts into the winter.
Hardworking restaurateur Leo Cabrera keeps his newly remodeled Modern Mixture running full-tilt on Rehoboth Avenue. His tart, Mexican-flavored salads are studded with crunchy nopalitos (officially known as little cactus thingys). Several years ago we were invaded from the south (well, Ocean City) by George Stakias’ Goolee’s Grill. The primary must-do at Goolee’s is his every-so-often Greek feast whomped up by his mom and dad – seasoned restaurateurs in their own right. Turnabout was fair play, of course, when Touch of Italy opened in OC’s Holiday Inn at 67th and the ocean. And just this week an even newer Touch of Italy opened on Concord Pike in Wilmington. And yes, the Milford Touch of Italy will open eventually. Take a deep breath and relax; if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Lawyer-turned-deliman Warren Rosenfeld cracks me up when confronted with his recent award as “best Jewish deli in Delaware.” He leans over and quietly intones, “Well, it’s the only Jewish deli in Delaware.” (Get the turkey reuben.) I receive multiple emails kvetching over the dearth of ethnic restaurants here at the beach, so we have every reason to rejoice with the opening of Minh’s Bistro next door to Rosenfeld’s. In addition to having some of the most unusual wing specials in town, owner Thinh Pham celebrates the U.S. military on the first Wednesday of the month by knocking 50 percent (yup, half!) off the food checks for active and retired military. Nice guy, this Mr. Pham.
Speaking of wings, don’t miss Jeong Hoon Kim’s impossibly crunchy offerings at Miyagi Ramen Bar by the Safeway. I wash ‘em down with the spicy miso bowl. Just a few doors to the north is Palate where Lorraine Papp’s desserts reign supreme. And no treatise on casual dining would be complete without mention of (1) Dale and John’s Frito Pie at Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen, and (2) Alex Kotanides’ decadently cheesy Greek pizza at Pat’s in Lewes. Both are delectable departures from the ordinary.
Some of the new joints in town include Greg Plummer’s Dewey Beach Country Club (not a country club, but a product of Plummer’s oblique sense of humor), the Pig & Publican restaurant in Lewes and Beach Nomad Brews. Greg imported Chef Mark Schaeffer from Lewes to be his country club cook, so some of the items on the menu at this little storefront will surprise you. P&P in the Beacon Motel on Savannah Road is run by the Pickled Pig crew with a decidedly Belgian angle with a constantly rotating craft board. Beach Nomad co-owner Milan Mladjan honors his native Canada with authentic poutine dished up with a side of weekly live entertainment.
Both the 2018 season and my allotted space on this page are rapidly winding down, but the great majority of Cape Region eateries do not wind down just because vacationers are otherwise engaged. Even better, you can now park in front of your favorite noshery and not have to take out a second mortgage. This is why we moved here! So get out there and celebrate our beach eats.