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We lost some, but we gained a few too. New eateries are calling us!

July 2, 2021

It might be summertime, and the traffic is at its typical craziness, but given the events over the last 16 months, there’s no excuse for not getting out there and enjoying our Cape Region dining. And in spite of the lockdowns, restrictions, etc., etc., we even have some new places to try.

If these people are brave enough to make the financial and emotional commitment to open a new eatery, then it only seems fair that we’re brave enough to spend a few minutes finding parking or maybe even walking  a block or two (horrors!) in downtown Rehoboth, Lewes and Dewey.

I’ll start with the place that might be the hardest to find. Ellen Kassoff and Todd Gray’s Federal Fritter replaced Modern Mixture at 62A Rehoboth Ave. They also own Washington, D.C.'s Equinox restaurant. Their fritters are a riff on the Italian arancini, served in a little cone for mouth popping while strolling around town. But this place is a lot more than just fritters.

Hidden behind that carryout façade is a casual, yet fine dining-worthy experience conceived by four-time James Beard nominee Todd Gray. Dishes like yellow tomato gazpacho, country-style ratatouille and baked Gemstone oysters grace the menu that changes regularly depending on what’s freshest. While on the ocean block of The Avenue, don’t blink. You might miss the place.

Dr. Bobby Gulab was a silent partner in Karly Gamaitoni’s now-closed G Rehoboth in the third block of The Avenue. Along with GM Cole Haggerty and Chef Shaun Fleck, the Doc has reimagined the place to be a bit less formal, but still generating happy customers with a creative bar program (get The London Mule!) and clever “food flights” that offer a taste of different goodies on the same plate. They also have live entertainment.

Murat Tan and his daughter Yasmine were so excited about their grand opening that was scheduled for March 16, 2020. But restaurateurs will never forget that day when the totally unannounced restaurant lockdowns were imposed. I’ll never get over Murat’s sad voice on the phone, “My grand opening lasted only four hours!” But he persevered, and now his Aroma Restaurant at the corner of 2nd Street and Wilmington Avenue is going strong with creative Turkish dishes, including the spectacular Aroma Dip Platter (five of the most delicious creations you’ll ever scoop with freshly baked pita).

Fourteen entrée offerings span everything from whole baked branzino to grilled kofte (flame-seared brisket, sirloin and lamb patties with Aroma’s buttery rice and grilled tomatoes). Bartender and self-appointed goodwill ambassador Yuri Ustamenko is a master at his craft, pinch hitting at the tables and behind the well-stocked bar. Aroma is one of our two downtown Turkish spots; the other is Semra’s - also a celebration of mild, nutty and lemony Mediterranean cuisine.

Locals and vacationers alike remember Sydney’s Blues & Jazz Restaurant at 236 Rehoboth Ave. After almost 17 years, the location gave way to Doug and Lisa Frampton’s Pig & Fish restaurant, which eventually morphed into Ray Kurz’ Cuvee Ray wine bar. That spot now plays host to Laurie Orfanidis and Ben Stoner’s Sunny Bay Café. The friendly place currently features comfort foods with a focus on breakfast and lunch. They promise dinners and happy hours in the very near future!

Theo’s Steaks, Sides & Spirits also opened during the recent unpleasantness. Their group will soon debut the brand-new Ava’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar on Baltimore Avenue in the old Jake’s Seafood location. Like the other two Ava’s and Theo’s eateries in Cambridge and St. Michaels, Md., the menu - and the physical plant - will be upbeat and casual. By the way, Rehoboth Foodie pick hits at Theo’s Rehoboth include the tempura green beans, the Thanksgiving 365 platter and the ribeye steak.

Just a few steps west of Theo’s in the old Iguana Grill space is Kyle Ten Eyck and Aileen Hearn's Somewhere. Yup … Somewhere. That’s the name of their new coffee shop and restaurant. In addition to the now-famous coffee creations, Somewhere also specializes in brunch, dinner and their signature over-the-top cocktails and desserts.

Can’t forget The Forgotten Mile! Adam Newman’s Rehoboth Ale House No. 2 is up and running in the space that played host to Doris Lynch’s Captain’s Table for many years. Adam’s menu and musical lineup is similar to his Wilmington Avenue location – but with virtually unlimited parking. Things can be dicey out on The Mile, but the new Rehoboth Ale House is living up to expectations with the Fuggetta ‘Bout It flatbread (pepperoni, marinara, mozzarella, pecorino, crushed red pepper and basil) and their already famous R.A.H. Burger topped with Cooper sharp, smoked bacon, caramelized onion and roasted garlic aioli.

Take a few steps south into Dewey for Fat Vinny’s soon-to-be-famous sausage and pepper subs, monster cheesesteaks, dogs, hot wings and more. The Italian sub has also gotten great reviews. Fat Vinny and his crew are whippin’ up subs and comfort food until 3 a.m. seven days.

If you like Thai food the way Thai food is supposed to be made, then you’ll love Sawanya Conway’s tiny storefront near Capriotti’s on Savannah Road in Lewes. Sticky Rice does it right with a Thai tapas concept that lets you sample a lot of things at the same sitting. Like it spicy? Sawanya’s green curry will definitely get your attention! The not-quite-so-adventurous will love the deeply flavorful Tom Yum soup and the red curry bowl. Ever had your rice served up in a banana leaf? That can happen to you at Sticky Rice. She’s open every day.

Speaking of Thai, fastidious foodies loved Lily Thai on N. First Street between Nicola Pizza and DiFebo’s. That little spot is now Square One Grill - owned by Joe Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante, the former owners of Dos Locos, which first opened many years ago in that very same spot! Executive Chef Alyce Wallace was imported from the left coast to bring a whisper of fine dining to this otherwise casual spot. Joe and Darryl even have a “Back to Square One” section on the menu featuring some of their Mexican favorites we all came to know and love. Oh, and they have 40 martinis on the menu. Just sayin’….

Late last year, the Jacona Brothers (Zogg’s, Sea Hogg Truck, Wheelhouse, Dave & Skippy’s) took the plunge and opened Bushels Crab House & Seafood in the old Lazy Susan’s space on The Highway. As things have returned to some semblance of normal, they are making waves with their deliciously Southern menu and live entertainment. We love their fried chicken (with a side of deep-fried sweet corn) and the Blue Crab Pot Pie. They have a covered and properly rustic outdoor dining area that is great on a temperate evening.

So it’s not just the same old/same old. Check out some of our new eateries - and don’t forget to support our faithful standbys as well. No sense goin’ ‘round hungry!

  • 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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