So you like the hidden gems, huh?
As a weekly columnist, I’m always complimented (albeit a little surprised) when a reader asks me to address a particular subject I wrote about in the past. But, there it was, big as life in my email box: “What happened to your hidden gems articles?”
Knowing what will - or will not - hit a nerve is an inexact science. A couple of years ago, what started out as a lighthearted culinary romp through some of our neighboring towns ended up generating a flood of emails and texts questioning, criticizing and even adding to my list of off-the-beaten-path finds. In spite of my brilliantly crafted disclaimer in the last paragraph citing space restrictions for not including each and every restaurant in the tri-state area, I did feel a few pangs of guilt for passing over a few places.
One of those is The Backyard in Milton. Situated on Route 16 halfway between Don Allan’s Beaches Seafood and Mike Clampitt’s Po’Boys Creole, this friendly spot is known for hearty breakfasts, fresh lunches and early dinners. Beaches in Milton also qualifies as a hidden gem because of its particularly good crabcakes and live entertainment every weekend.
Let’s venture north to Dover for a few of my favorites: Chef/owner Dennis Forbes’ Cool Springs Fish Bar is truly one of the best seafood spots in the state. Forbes prepares your food in a totally open kitchen surrounded by bar seats. Scoring one of those is tantamount to digging up the Holy Grail. And if you’re feeling a bit downscale, his daughter hosts Restaurant 55 burger joint right next door. Don’t leave without a cupcake!
Waaayyy down south in Seaford is quite possibly the best French restaurant around. Chino and Karen Pedemonte’s Bon Appetit checks all the boxes for refreshingly unpretentious country French. It’s well worth the 45-minute or so drive. Also in Seaford is Dona Maria’s Pupuseria. Not unlike Fredy Garcia and Joaquin Cortez’ Cabañas Salvadorean restaurant across from Bethany Blues Lewes, Dona Maria’s features pupusas - warm corn tortillas stuffed with pretty much anything from cheese to beans, to beef and pork. Tamales and fried plantains also make the required appearances on the menu.
Fenwick has a number of shining stars that include Barry Kruemmel’s Flying Fish Café. He’s battin’ a thousand not only with his rolls but his cleverly conceived entrees. A few blocks north is Jimmy’s Kitchen in Ocean Bay Plaza (no relation to Jimmy’s Grille). Every day in season, the lanky and talkative Jimmy pilots the flattop griddle like a 747 … until he runs out of stuff. The Nor’Easter breakfast will fill you for several days. Rain or shine, there’s always a line.
If you blink, you will miss Pomodoro Pizzeria in downtown Bethany Beach. Italian natives Rose and Brian Conte know their sauces and they know their cheese. The moment I took my first bite, I was reminded of some of the best pizza I have ever eaten: at Louie & Ernie's tiny storefront in the Bronx. Thanks to Rose and Brian, I no longer have to suffer the Cross-Bronx Expressway to get my pizza fix. Pomodoro’s is cuddled up to Dickie Heidenberger’s emporium of frozen custard on the ocean block of Garfield Parkway.
Here comes that disclaimer again: I’m sure I left out somebody’s favorite place! But I only get to splatter so much ink onto this page, so venture out and discover your own hidden gems. Who knows what you might find. If it’s good, tell me about it.