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Tucked-away carryout packs big flavor and good philosophy

April 20, 2018

I'm always amused when local businesspeople - many of whom have lived here at the beach much longer than I - have no clue what that big, wet blue thing is at the easternmost end of Rehoboth Avenue. They're so wrapped up in selling condos, running stores, offices or restaurants that they never take time to appreciate the sandy rewards of resort living. One exception to that rule is Lori Kline, the smile behind the counter at Lori's Oy Vey Café. "Life is short," she smiles.

When Lori arrived here at the beach, slingin' hash was the last thing on her mind. But sling hash she did, as it was the only way she could afford to stay here. She sums up her philosophy of life in a few golden words: "Oy vey ... what's the worst that could happen?!" 

Lori Kline's psychology degree, and her years of working in a mental hospital prepared her for operating a restaurant in a resort town. After graduating from Frostburg State University in 1989, she worked at Chestnut Lodge Psychiatric Hospital in Rockville, Md. After a short stint as the fitness coordinator (she looks the part, too) for Rockville's landmark Jewish Community Center, she found her niche as a teacher for learning-disabled children at The Chelsea School in Silver Spring, Md. Though she loved it, she also loved to escape the congestion of Montgomery County by fleeing to Rehoboth Beach. 

At 29, she spent a summer here, taking a job at Cuppa Joe, a tiny coffee shop hidden in a courtyard on Baltimore Avenue. Suddenly she was home. She finished out the year with her students, resigned her teaching position, sublet her Wheaton, Md. home, bought a Jeep, and while running things at Cuppa Joe, became the assistant manager of Rehoboth Guest House. Lori freely admits that she was dead broke; living at the guest house as part of her compensation, eating her meals at the carryout, and funneling her funds into the Jeep payment. 

At the beginning of summer '97, she acquired the little carryout from owner Kenneth Jacobs. She took up residence on a powerboat in Dewey Beach, and spent every free moment putting her Oy Vey stamp on the tiny eatery. "I knew I could do it, thanks to my friends and family." In the off season, Lori worked as a substitute teacher, lathered-up pooches at Dirty Dogs, and peddled blooms at Windsor's Flowers. She even considered opening a second Lori's, but until cloning becomes an outpatient procedure, the place simply cannot be duplicated. Part of that Oy Vey-ness is her self-proclaimed "Chicken Salad to DIE for," laced with toasted almonds, apples, and a secret ingredient that you'll have to discover for yourself. I like it on a croissant, decorated with lettuce, tomato, a bit of cheese, avocado and some hot cherry pepper spread. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. 

Every tchotchke and piece of furniture (even the logo on her window) is a gift to her, and her fans are always willing to pitch in. Beware! She might recruit you to run the register if things get really busy. "Every year I open these doors, I'm grateful," she says. I warn her not to unnecessarily downplay her interminably long hours, abandoning her life in another city, living on a boat, and working year-round to make the business what it is today. 

She hasn't forgotten why she chose to make Rehoboth her home, and now, in her 22nd season, she's finally keeping her off-season months to herself. Lori can be found walking (or running) on the beach or strolling the Boardwalk. She's finally living the dream she worked so hard to create. When I remind her that she should take more credit for her hard work, she shrugs and says, "I figured out what I wanted early in life and I went for it. I started with nothing, so I had nothing to lose."

  • 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.