Taking the long view as the season winds down
The Nation’s Summer Capital is a recognized culinary destination. The James Beard Foundation, Zagat, Michelin, the National Press Association, Wine Spectator, the Delaware Restaurant Association and others acknowledge the talents of our local restaurateurs, chefs and food industry professionals.
As the 2022 summer season morphs into our dynamic shoulder season, perhaps a quickie synopsis of our beach eats is in order. I mean, y’gotta eat, right? Our little sliver of the Atlantic offers virtually unlimited choices, whether passed through a window at one of Bethany’s boardwalk stands or whipped up at a sit-down establishment with white tablecloths. You can even get great tastes a tad northward in Milton and Milford, or due south while straddling the Mason-Dixon Line on Fenwick Island.
Moderately priced dining runs the gamut from funky raw bars clad in knotty pine to big, noisy fish houses, from brewpubs glistening with copper and stainless steel 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 everyone.
More than 17 years ago when I launched RehobothFoodie.com, I coined the phrase “Only the strong survive” in reference to seasonal resort restauranting. And competition is certainly fierce. But our brave restaurateurs take that in stride, because the smart ones know that competition makes everybody better. It’s a stark fact that if a restaurant can’t rely on repeat business from locals and the all-important visitor trade generated by locals’ recommendations, it won’t last long. That scenario plays out every fall and every spring as “for lease” 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, five or more decades under their proverbial belts. Vacationers (and locals who know the difference) can feast on local cuisine dished up with a Mediterranean, Spanish, Vietnamese, Italian, Salvadoran, Chinese, Hawaiian, Turkish, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai or even Russian accent.
Quiet, romantic repasts on Rehoboth’s ocean block compete with fine-dining/bar complexes sporting whimsical menus, mirror balls and drag shows. In Bethany Beach, hickory-infused pork, chicken and beef are just around the corner from cozy family-owned spots with creative nightly specials. Fenwick isn’t far behind with wood-fired pizzas, upscale seafood and down-home breakfast joints with perpetual in-season lines. Historic Lewes gets into the act with seafood on the canal, authentic Thai dished up in a tiny storefront, Wagyu beef on a daily menu, and colorful fusion cuisine prepared from scratch in a Victorian mansion … just to name a few.
The Cape Gazette makes it easy to figure out where to go for all this good stuff. Go to CapeGazette.com for up-to-the-minute specials. And the newly reimagined Rehoboth in My Pocket travel app makes your smartphone even smarter with well over 500 local listings, photos and activities.
Last and certainly not least is what you are reading right now: my Business of Eating column. Far from being actual restaurant reviews, for over 11 years, I’ve tried to provide news, information and suggestions for those who can read, chew and swipe a credit card at the same time. So what are you waiting for? You’re at the beach during the best time of the year. Get out there and enjoy the abundance of good taste that our restaurants, bars and carryouts are dishing up every day.
Bob Yesbek writes and talks beach eats nonstop. He can be reached at email@example.com.