Twenty-four ways to impress your holiday visitors
As holiday weekends approach, I get numerous emails from people who want their summertime houseguests to taste the very best of our Culinary Coast (thank you, Southern Delaware Tourism Inc., for that great description of our resort eateries). So I thought it would be nice to list some of my pick hits that do a good job representing what our Cape Region restaurants have to offer.
Note that chefs at the beach change their menus almost as often as the changing of the tides. So some of the dishes that follow might be on the menu, or might be history. But I can promise you that you'll find something at these places to make your palate smile.
If you're looking to splurge a bit, get reservations at Michy's Relaxed Dining. I suggest the chardonnay-poached pear salad to start, and then chef/owner Richard Davis' amazing Forever Braised Short Ribs with caramelized fennel.
One of the reasons that the Blue Moon has held its own for over 36 years is the Sunday Brunch. I always recommend the smoked Berkshire pork bolognese (topped with a fried egg - it is brunch, after all!) and the cheddar-chive biscuit starter.
Upscale dining in Lewes centers around Meghan Lee's classically understated Heirloom. I can never decide between the Apple Orchard Salad and the charred Atlantic octopus. (Have your visitors order both and share them with you.) Choose your out-of-town guests carefully - this dish might make them want to move here.
Tom, Tammy and Johnny's 1776 Steakhouse in Midway combines quiet elegance with expertly prepared steaks. Do not miss the black ravioli stuffed with lobster and drizzled with a shrimp and crab cream sherry sauce. I can never get past the New York Strip, but I have to tell you that the crab cakes with cranberry relish are one of the sleepers at 1776. Belly up to the bar and ask Johnny about the Trappist beers.
Just a few minutes south is Bluecoast Seafood Grill, one of SoDel Concepts' shining stars in Rehoboth. The chilled blue crab claws give you the energy to tuck into a plate of Bluecoast's signature shrimp and grits - parmesan grits, yet, with chorizo. Don't miss Chef Doug Ruley's own crispy baby-back ribs.
Then of course there is the "about-as-close-to-perfect-as-humans-can-get" Back Porch Café. It's hard to pick out one thing there that towers above the rest, but if Chef Tim has rabbit on the menu, hop on over there and order it. BPC's Sunday brunch is one of the hottest tickets in town. A few blocks west is the fresh seafood-centric Chesapeake & Maine restaurant. The menu changes depending on the catch, and on Fridays you get a side of good music from the talented Bruce Anthony.
Though upscale hardly ever disappoints here at the beach, delightful dining is easy to find for the wallet-challenged. Longtime favorite Nage became even more wallet-friendly with the new small-plate Fork & Flask concept. Saturday and Sunday brunches and late-night hours combine with the standbys we've come to love over the years. And just up the road by the Safeway is Miyagi Ramen Bar. Jeong Hoon Kim and partner Tammy Wang took the beach by storm with this delicious and creative concept. Another recently opened ethnic eatery is none other than Minh's Bistro at Route 24 and Coastal Highway. Get to know head bartender Barry Coco - he'll tell you exactly what to order. Minh's is right next door to the Rehoboth incarnation of Ocean City's Rosenfeld's Jewish Deli. I love the "For the Birds" turkey reuben. Pass the pickles, please.
Pizza, pizza, pizza. They're all round, right? Wrong. Check out Alex Kotanides' extremely cheesy Greek-style pizza at Pat's in Lewes. It'll restore your faith in geometry. Oh, and while you're in Lewes, don't miss Jeff Hamer's Big Oyster Brewery. The wide-open kitchen makes for great viewing while you treat yourself to a Big Oyster Stout for dessert. Back in RB, I love Chris and Joe's off-season lunches at Henlopen City Oyster House. Get the smoked bacon clam chowder and the lobster reuben. One of the best Sunday brunch deals in Delaware is at Bethany Blues in Lewes. Start with the Pigs on the Wing, then tuck into a made-before-your-eyes waffle and a DIY omelet. Top it off with a frosty Fat Tire draft.
I've taken out-of-town friends to Palate for Lorraine's amazing chicken salad and Gary's grilled Southern pimiento cheese and fried green tomato sandwich (!). At dinner time, the Caribbean red snapper is kicked up with a coconut ginger lime curry drizzle. Speaking of curry, if you haven't yet tried the new Indigo Indian restaurant down by the Boardwalk, you've done yourself a disservice. Father and son team Suraj and Raghu Kumar have been doing it right for well over 25 years. Indigo is right next door to Blackwall Hitch, where Chef Chip Miller is full of menu surprises. Cross your fingers that the quintessential beach barkeep Pat Hurley is your chemist. A few doors west above First Street Station is Dale and John's Cooter Brown's Twisted Southern Kitchen. Fried green tomatoes. Frito pie (in the bag!). The place will make you smile.
I'm running out of real estate on this page, but I can't stop without urging you to take your guests to Mariachi for Mexican/Salvadorean treats, and Confucius (crispy whole fish), both on Wilmington Avenue. Every pasta dish at Lupo Italian Kitchen in the Hotel Rehoboth is half-price every Wednesday - year-round. Sunday and Wednesday reservations-only paella feasts at Café Azafran on Baltimore Avenue are the stuff of Rehoboth legend. You'll be surprised by the newly revamped menu at Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill. Don't miss the conch fritters or chowder. Stay in the beachy mood with a visit to Big Fish Grill. Don't miss the brand-new sushi bar and their goes-on-forever specials menu.
So many restaurants, so little ink! But before you try my suggestions, be sure you're OK with your friends moving here full time. Some of our eateries here at the beach are just that good.