Shorebreak Lodge lights up once again

April 12, 2024

OK, locals: How many of you remember Mimi’s Fruit Bowl? The little health-food stand opened almost 41 years ago on the ocean block near Louie’s. The owners’ son, Rob Stitt, commuted from Pennsylvania to help his mom and dad on the weekends. They eventually moved across the street where Cilantro restaurant now stands, naming the modest snack bar Eden Garden Café.

Sadly, Rob is no longer with us, but his restaurant expertise lives on. His entrepreneurial resolve was sparked when a friend suggested he bring new world cuisine to the beach. Stitt liked the idea of managing an upscale eatery – until his friend left for greener pastures. He had no choice but to don an apron, grab a spatula and cook. And thus was born Eden.

Around that same time, Betsy LeRoy’s Pizza by Elizabeths was churning out Wilmington-style pies next door to the Middle Eastern-flavored Camel’s Hump (also home to JAM Bistro later) over on Baltimore Avenue. She’s still whippin’ up pizzas in Greenville, but after her Rehoboth location briefly morphed into the jazzy Ocean Club, the now full-fledged Eden moved into that space.

Rob eventually tired of the 24/7 commitment and sold Eden to two Washington, D.C. entrepreneurs, Jeff McCracken and Mark Hunker. It was at Regan Derrickson’s Ponos and Nalu restaurants in Dewey Beach that Rob met bar manager and confirmed surfer Matt Sprenkle. In the meantime, just a few steps from where Wilmington Avenue meets the ocean, Beal Thomas (who opened Iguana Grill in ’94) and transplant Ken Gerhart were struggling with their new and increasingly unwieldy Cosmopolitan Grill. Back then, the worst time to open a resort eatery was at the end of the season, but Cosmo was nicely appointed, and the owners were anxious to move on. So, in late summer 2011, Rob and Matt slapped on a coat of paint, changed this and that, and drew on Sprenkle’s surfing lingo to launch Shorebreak Lodge (shore’-break: n. (1) waves which quickly peak and break onshore to a relatively sharply sloping beach; (2) the beginnings of a pretty cool eatery on Wilmington Avenue). Within a week, it was a favorite locals’ hangout. Sprenkle’s surfer dude persona and Stitt’s culinary skills were the perfect match. In 2017, Rob decided to move on and sold Shorebreak Lodge to entrepreneur Kate Wall, who loved the East Coast and had an appreciation for wine, good seafood and beach life in general.

Longtime Cape Region barkeep Matt Sprenkle can now be found mixin’ it up behind the bar at several upbeat eateries, including Midway’s iconic 1776 Steakhouse. In the meantime, an exceptionally talented bartender names Ben Winiarczyk was honing his mixology skills over on Baltimore Avenue. Ben and his wife Diane landed in Rehoboth in 2010. Ben’s gaming development company, BLIT Interactive, was (and still is) doing quite well, creating online games, feature websites and animation for high-profile clients such as Hot Wheels, Disney, Comedy Central, Mattel, National Geographic, Hallmark ... the list goes on and on.

But sitting in front of a NASA-like array of glowing screens – especially with the warm sands of the Atlantic just blocks away – wasn’t enough for Ben’s entrepreneurial spirit. He became known for his creative cocktails at JAM Bistro, then a(MUSE.) which eventually morphed into Theo’s Steaks, Sides & Spirits, then next door at Drift, eventually heading up the bar program at Bodhi. Ben’s creativity is still evident at many of his former spots – in fact, he was venerated on Theo’s cocktail menu with the Ben’s Manhattan.

One of the upscale restaurants where Ben applied his mixology skills was Shorebreak Lodge. When Kate announced it was for sale earlier this year, Ben and Diane decided it was time to do it on their own. Their grand opening a couple of weeks ago was packed. The bar program is, of course, one of the stars of the show there at 10 Wilmington Ave. But Ben and Diane also had the wisdom to keep some of Chef Rob’s signature recipes such as Brie & Naan, the particularly delicious Char-Grilled Octopus, and the Thai Chili Wings that helped put Shorebreak on the map so many years ago.

Ben and Diane’s modifications, including laid-back, clubby lighting, are already a hit. Add that to Ben’s mixological skills and the familiar menu, and long-term success is virtually assured. So get amped, jump into your board shorts, and slide into the pocket over at the real Shorebreak ... just 133 steps from the Atlantic here in Rehoboth Beach.

  • 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

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