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A taste of culinary diversity – right here at the beach

April 3, 2020

One of the things I miss about living in the Washington, D.C. area is the variety of ethnic eateries. One of my favorites was Lebanese Taverna, a family-owned chain of Middle-Eastern spots owned by the extended Abi-Najm family. They have been fire-roasting puffy pitas, stuffing grape leaves (mahshi wara’ enab to the Middle-Easterners; dolmades to our Greek foodies) and hand-forming kibbee (bulgur wheat, minced onions, mint, lemon and ground lamb or beef shaped into balls with Middle Eastern spices) since 1979. One of my happy places was plopping at the bar at Connecticut Avenue and Calvert Street, sipping a frosty Almaza pilsner and waiting for my smoky, lemony babaghanouj with warm pita triangles.

Over the almost 15 years of publishing RehobothFoodie.com, one of the most repeated comments from followers has centered around their desire for more ethnic restaurants. Several brave entrepreneurs have stepped up the plate over the last few years to bring us just that, however most are small, family-owned ventures that I can only hope will survive the currently mandated restaurant closures.

One of the first to bring Middle-Eastern fare to Rehoboth Beach is Semra’s Mediterranean Grill. Semra Tekmen brings her grandmother’s Turkish recipes to the beach in the form of Iskender platter (thinly sliced gyro with a one-of-a-kind marinara) and the gyro sandwich. Pita rounds are folded taco-like and stuffed with spiced and marinated lamb, chicken or beef roasted on a vertical spit). Pronounced “yeer-oh,” meaning, “turn” (i.e., the meat rotating on the spit), these traditional delights are stuffed with roasted and spiced Doner kebab, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki (a yogurt-based sauce of cucumber, dill and garlic, often blended with finely diced cucumber). You can order carryout or delivery by calling 302-226-4976 or going online at www.semrasmediterranean.com.

Wonderfully authentic Indian food debuted in downtown Rehoboth Beach several years ago when father and son team Suraj and Raghu Kumar brought their cozy and welcoming Indigo restaurant from Annapolis to Rehoboth Avenue’s ocean block. In addition to the popular Indian dishes such as tikka masala and vindaloo (roasted in their hotter-than-blazes tandoor oven), these guys also bring unusual Indian favorites including eight versions of  made-to-order naan, chicken jalfrazie, lamb biryani and one of my favorites, the gajar ka halwa dessert. I’ll leave that one as a surprise. Trust me. You’ll love it. Indigo is offering takeout service during this difficult time. You can place your order at 302-212-5220. Use your credit card and they’ll bring your feast out to your car.

It took a long time for the Cape Region to finally get its very own Vietnamese restaurant, and thanks to electrical engineer and entrepreneur Thinh Pham, we can now enjoy his slow-cooked and deeply savory Pho (pronounced “Phuh”) at Minh’s Bistro. Located at the intersection of Coastal highway and Route 24, Minh’s dishes up Vietnamese favorites like gỏi cuốn, a cool and fresh spring roll consisting of pork, prawn, vegetables, cilantro, daikon and other goodies rolled inside a bánh tráng wrapper. Thinh also makes a tasty bánh mi crafted from a crispy French baguette filled with any savory combination of pâté, roast pork and simmered beef paired with pickled veggies, jalapenos, cilantro and a house mayo. Minh’s Bistro is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for carryout and delivery. Call 302-703-6626.

The barely-a-year-old Raas Asian/Indian fusion restaurant in Lewes has been making waves largely because of the affable and outgoing Chef GG. He shares the spotlight with his creative recipes. As Chef Gusteau said in the movie Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great!” Chef GG fearlessly mixes flavors and cultures to come up with brand new tastes. My favorites there on Savannah in Lewes are the tempura prawns, the chili cheese toast with amul cheese, and the Keema Pao (think deeply spiced lamb sloppy joe - but with an Indian accent. It’s presented with little slider rolls. Takeout may be ordered Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Simply call 302-644-1747.

In Turkey, people line up for kebabs; skewer-grilled lamb, chicken or beef combined with grilled tomatoes, peppers and onions. Just about a week ago, people started ordering the same thing at the brand new Aroma restaurant in the remodeled 208 Social/Stoney Lonen/Ann Marie’s space in Rehoboth Beach. Former Lewes Pizza owner Mustafa Murat Tan (aka “Mike”) and his newly imported chef Lütfi Kaçmaz dish up their special version of Turkish cuisine available for takeout and delivery every day except Tuesdays. The menu offers up delicious Middle-Eastern sips and bites including Piyaz, a cool and refreshing salad of cannellini beans, tomatoes, parsley, peppers, feta and a house vinaigrette. Another soon-to-be Rehoboth Foodie Pick Hit is the Muhammara (a walnut dip) and Beyiti consisting of minced lamb with spices and peppers in a homemade pita with butter, yogurt and tomato sauces. This one's going to be a winner - especially when we can once again enjoy their hospitality in person. Oh, and don’t miss the homemade red lentil soup. This vegetarian delight is crafted with a delicious combination of Turkish spices. Call Mike at 302-212-2488 to get carryout. Pick your favorite at AromaRB.com/#menu.

I don’t want to finish without also shouting out to some of our longtime ethnic favorites here at the beach, not the least of which is the tiny-in-size but big-on-flavor Cabanas Salvadorean joint across the street from Bethany Blues Lewes. They are open every day except Tuesdays. Loyal followers (there are many!) and newbies may call Fredy at 302-313-4398 for takeout. Do not miss the pupusas, the tamales and the chili rellenos!

Back in Rehoboth, made-to-order Chinese cuisine doesn’t get much better than Shawn and Danielle Xiong’s Confucius, tucked behind Aroma on Wilmington Avenue. Carryout from Confucius may be had by calling 302-227-3848. Rehoboth Foodie pick hits include the salt and pepper shrimp, the Szechuan string beans and the particularly delicious fried rice.

Dave at Shore News Beacon and Jeff at Radio Rehoboth are maintaining and updating a list of Sussex County restaurants that are open for takeout and/or delivery. I’m helping them publicize that list at www.RehobothFoodie.com/Takeout. There is also a form for restaurants to list or update their current services.

These are trying times for our beloved beach eateries! Many of us came to the beach because of the great dining opportunities. It’s now time to get behind your favorites by ordering carryout or delivery. And don’t forget to tip!

  • 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.

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