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Sip and bite where walls and a roof aren’t on the menu

May 31, 2019

As usual, we have gone from winter to summer in a matter of hours. Such is life next to that big blue wet thing. But rather than complain about it, those of us who are hungrier than most see this as an opportunity to dine out - outside. After all, a leisurely nosh is what the beach is all about, and sipping a frosty libation while ordering extra cheese on pretty much anything is always better when it’s al fresco. And there are lots of places where you can do just that - with or without the extra cheese. 

My submissions for the best outdoor spots in downtown Rehoboth include Cooter Brown’s second-floor deck at First Street Station. Dale and John have the roofless dining area teeming with plants and comfortable chairs. Their signature ribs, manhattans and Texas Frito Pies go perfectly with a panoramic view of downtown Rehoboth. 

Equally inviting is aquatic dining high above the Cultured Pearl. Founder and proprietor Susan Wood seats her guests under festive gazebos suspended above a 15,000-gallon lake. Multihued sea creatures cavort below. Get your reservations now for next Friday’s dance party to top off Coastal Delaware Restaurant Week! Live music starts at 7:30, and the special CDRW prices will remain in effect until the band packs up at 10:30. 

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 rooftops and steeples that decorate Rehoboth and Baltimore Avenues. Their 46-year tenure on Rehoboth Avenue suggests that the views are matched by top-notch food and service. And don’t forget the treehouse at Azzurro Italian Oven at the corner of Second and Wilmington. This iconic roost makes for great sunset watching. 

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 in particular demand when the weather turns beachy. About-face to the north and there’s Obie’s by the Sea (recently acquired by Big Fish Restaurant Group), celebrating 38 years of sun-drenched patrons monitoring the boards, the sand and the surf.  

Wilmington Avenue sports its share of al fresco eats, including the tucked-away Zogg’s (behind Gus & Gus’ Place). Across the street is the second-floor porch at Yolanda Pineda’s Mariachi where glimpses of the ocean punctuate handmade pupusas and tamales. Just a few stumbles west brings you to The Avenue Inn and The Blue Hen’s open-air dining - complete with fire pit! 

People-watching should be an Olympic sport on Baltimore Avenue. Perch yourself at the outdoor bar at JAM Bistro and ogle the parade of nocturnal partygoers. The same can be said for the covered patio at DiFebo’s, the puppy-friendly outdoor noshery at Arena’s, Iguana Grill, the now even more user-friendly a(MUSE.), and the never-ending party under the stars that is Aqua Grill. Café Azafrán’s patio is in the back, but it still counts - especially when owner and Paella Master Rich Steele stages his reservation-only, made-right-in-front-of-you paella feasts on in-season Sundays and Wednesdays. More backyard dining may be had at G Rehoboth where the walled-in back patio affords one of the most private experiences around. Speaking of never-ending parties, bring your game face to the sandy biergarten at the unpredictable Purple Parrot. Enter from Wilmington or The Avenue. 

Lunches and dinners on The Avenue’s sidewalks and porches couldn’t be more in the middle of it all. Dogfish Head’s huge courtyard is sandwiched between the brewpub and Chesapeake & Maine. Cilantro, Grotto Pizza, Claws and Penny Lane’s Café Papillon offer outdoor dining for lunch and dinner.

Cuvee Ray Wine Bar just dubbed their side patio the Rosé Garden (get it?). Sip something tasty, listen to live music and contemplate the world as it strolls by. Slightly off the beaten path on Lake Avenue are Stingray’s hard-fought-for deck and the brand-new Sazio’s quietly elegant front porch right across the street. 

Yes, Dewey Beach, Lewes and Coastal Highway all have their own special places where you can eat with no walls, but I’ve got to leave something for future columns!

So lace up your Birkenstocks, slip into your best seersucker outfit and enjoy warm (finally!), breezy dining 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.