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So many restaurants - so little time!

February 21, 2020

The Nation’s Summer Capital is a recognized culinary destination. Year after year the James Beard Foundation, Zagat, Michelin, Wine Spectator and others acknowledge the talents of our local restaurateurs, chefs and food industry professionals.

In fact, every year many not-so-local fans of beach eats make it a point to celebrate Valentine’s Day here in the Cape Region. Last week’s special day might have been a bit blustery, but around dinnertime the moniker “Summer Capital” was sounding a bit dated as parking spaces in downtown Rehoboth, Lewes and Bethany became few and far between.

Every so often I like to do a general overview of the variety of great dining destinations here on our little sliver of the Atlantic. There are virtually unlimited choices when it comes to eating, whether passed through a window at one of Bethany’s boardwalk stands or whipped up in sit-down restaurants on Coastal Highway, downtown Rehoboth Beach, Lewes and Dewey. You can even get great tastes a tad northward in Milton and Milford, or due south while straddling the Mason-Dixon line in Fenwick Island.

Moderately priced dining runs the gamut from funky raw bars clad in knotty pine to big, noisy fish houses, to straightforward spots with TVs behind the bar and nachos on the menu. Seafood is certainly a mainstay, and those in the know, know where to get it. From crab cakes to stuffed shrimp, from wood-fired octopus and grilled rockfish to crunchy oyster po’boys, there’s something for everybody.

The website www.RehobothFoodie.com coined the phrase “Only the strong survive” in reference to resort restauranting, and competition is certainly fierce. But our restaurateurs take that in stride, because the smart ones know that competition makes everybody better. The stark fact is that if a restaurant can’t rely on repeat business from locals and the all-important visitor trade generated by the locals’ recommendations, it won’t last long. That scenario plays out every fall and every spring as “for rent” signs appear – and disappear.

Upscale restaurants are not immune to this cycle, and each one has carved out its own culinary niche. In fact, several have been carving for some time – with three, four and even five decades under their proverbial belts. Vacationers (and locals who know the difference) can enjoy dining on local cuisine dished up with a Mediterranean, Spanish, Italian, Salvadoran, Chinese, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai or even Russian accent.

Quiet, romantic feasts on Rehoboth’s ocean block compete with fine-dining/bar complexes sporting whimsical menus and mirror balls. In Bethany Beach, hickory-infused pork, chicken and beef are just around the corner from internationally flavored small-plates (some with a hint of Hawaiian). Fenwick isn’t far behind with wood-fired pizza ovens, upscale seafood and down-home breakfast joints with perpetual in-season lines. Historic Lewes gets into the act with carefully curated platters prepared by award-winning chefs, seafood on the canal, Wagyu beef on an everyday menu, and colorful fusion cuisine dished up in a Victorian mansion … just to name a few.

The Cape Gazette and local travel and food writers make it easy to figure out where to go for all this good stuff. Log on to CapeGazette.com for up-to-the-minute specials. And the newly reimagined Rehoboth in my Pocket travel app puts well over 450 local listings and activities onto your Android or Apple phone.

Last and certainly not least is what you are reading right now: my Business of Eating column. For over nine years, it’s still required study for anyone who can read, chew and swipe a credit card at the same time. So what are you waiting for? You’re at the beach. Get out there and eat!

  • 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.