Savor: The Review: Nice Catch

Matt Haley's newest restaurant, Catch 54, hooks diners with traditional seafood dishes. And the view is a keeper, too.




Catch 54 Fish House
L
ighthouse Road
Fenwick Island
436-8600

Prices Entrées $18.95 to $29.95; appetizers and salads $4.95 to $11.95; desserts $5.95

Recommended dishes Crab cakes, Waldorf salad, lobster pasta, seafood stew



Flash-fried soft-shell crabs are served atop a snow pea-and-sweet corn salad
all Catch 54 photographs by Thom Thompson
http://www.thomthompson.com

Dinnertime at Delaware’s beaches can lead to some tough decisions. If you’re staying in Rehoboth Beach, the question is which of the town’s outstanding restaurants you’ll try tonight. If you’re staying anywhere else, the question is whether you have the energy to fight traffic for a trip to Rehoboth or, more likely, where you’ll eat if you’re not up for the drive.

OK, that might overstate the severity of traffic between Delaware’s resort communities, but not by much, and given the lack of progress on a new Indian River Inlet bridge, the situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon.

Restaurateur Matt Haley has come up with a unique method of dealing with a situation that would frustrate most restaurateurs: He has opened a different seafood restaurant at each chokepoint along the Delaware coast.

Starting with Fish On! in Lewes, he has strung restaurants down Delaware’s beaches like shells on a necklace, opening Bluecoast Seafood Grill north of Bethany Beach and NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, just west of Bethany. That means seafood-hungry vacationers are never more than a few miles away from one of Haley’s seafood restaurants.

His newest venture, Catch 54 Fish House in Fenwick Island, opened in May. It completes the north-to-south chain by going almost to Delaware’s southern border. Like its predecessors, it gives vacationers a high-quality dining option that’s almost within walking distance of the beach.

Actually, the word “chain” might be misleading. Haley’s restaurants aren’t stamped out, cookie-cutter style. Each has its own menu and personality. Fish On! is the most ambitious and most expensive, one of the few dining spots in the resort area that merges the beach’s abundance of seafood with the local emphasis on cutting-edge creativity.

But Haley wisely hasn’t tried to outdo his flagship with each successive effort. The other restaurants are lower-key complements to the original. The emphasis is still on fresh seafood, but the preparations skew toward the familiar and classic. They help fill the niche vacated by the old-fashioned family restaurants that have disappeared over the past decade—a niche that’s been invaded by national chains of dubious quality. Though the menus are comfort-food familiar, Haley’s restaurants are more distinctive, but the decor is modern and uncluttered, a welcome respite from busy-looking national chains and dowdy old dinosaurs.

Catch 54 (the name derives from the state highway it’s located on) continues this emphasis. Those familiar with the area will know the building by its former incarnation, Shark’s Cove restaurant. The cove in question isn’t named on a road map or navigational chart (the shark sculpture that gave the place its name is still there, at the end of a pier, looking like a refugee from a miniature golf course), but it sounds a lot more suitable than the recognized name of the waterway connecting the Assawoman and Little Assawoman bays: the Fenwick Ditch.

It’s prettier than it sounds, as you can see from almost any seat in the house, because the main dining room is long and, except for the adjacent bar area, exceptionally narrow, built to maximize the view. The place has been spruced up since its sale—a row of wide, banquette-style booths is an attractive and comfortable addition—but the decor remains minimal. It doesn’t matter much; with windows virtually wall to wall, the view provides all the atmosphere Catch 54 needs.



Assistant chef Felipe Ramales (left) and chef Philip Mastrippolito

Most of the menu consists of dishes that wouldn’t be out of place at an old-fashioned seafood house: steamed clams and mussels, crab cakes and fried seafood, including fish and chips. And contemporary recipes such as pan-seared tuna, fried calamari and roasted scallops are well on their way to becoming classics. The kitchen shows its imagination mainly with salads, such as a crab salad with asparagus, scallions, pea shoots and citrus fruit. Customers who prefer meat have only a few choices: Baby back ribs, strip steak and filet mignon are about it. Forget the turf—Catch 54 is for those who are at home in the surf.

Even with all the familiar dishes, there are a few surprises. One appetizer, for example, consists of a half-pound of chilled blue crab claws (you’d be amazed at how many that comes to) served with tangy vinaigrette dipping sauce. Another delivers a trio of mini-crab cakes served, like White Castle hamburgers, on small, soft buns. The meat is seasoned mildly and has enough filler to bind it, but the flavor is pure, sweet crab.

Salads are served in generous portions. The most interesting is a Waldorf salad that has been re-imagined from the ground up. Instead of the classic recipe, which mixes chunks of apple, walnuts, celery and raisins with mayonnaise, the Catch 54 version combines thinly sliced Granny Smith apples with spiced walnuts, dried cherries, Belgian endive and raisins in a light cream dressing. The result was delicious, a dish that wouldn’t be out of place on any menu in Rehoboth.

At the other end of the spectrum was a special the night of our visit: a platter of fried oysters and chicken salad. It’s a dish that turns up at back-road diners and country club luncheons, and one taste showed why—small but fresh, crunchy oysters and a rich, smooth chicken salad make an admirable match. Down-home food doesn’t get any better.

Seafood stew is actually what most people would call cioppino, a mix of fish and shellfish in a tomato-based sauce, served over pasta. Like bouillabaisse, it can be a handy way to use anything that didn’t sell the previous day, but it’s even more forgiving, since the tomato sauce is strong enough to cover any lack of freshness. That wasn’t the case on our visit. Everything was fresh, especially the tender littleneck clams.

Pan-roasted day boat scallops-—are there any others these days?--—were the only main course that didn’t live up to expectations. The meat wasn’t especially fresh (come to think of it, the menu didn’t say which day the boat went out), and in a day and age when almost every ambitious kitchen offers its own twist on pan-seared scallops, the preparation, which involved mushrooms, bacon and arugula, was OK, but comparatively unimaginative.

Sometimes, of course, ambition and imagination can muddy up great ingredients. Soft-shell crabs, for example, seldom benefit from fussy preparation, and Catch 54’s didn’t need any help to shine. They were not only fresh and sweet, but as large as any you’re likely to see, fried light and crisp, just to the point of doneness.

Lobster with pasta—large chunks of shellfish, mainly claw meat, in a rich, creamy sauce flavored with bacon, roasted garlic and tomatoes prettied up with fresh peas-—might have been the best entrée we tried.

Desserts lean toward the family restaurant side of the ledger, mostly cakes and pies. Strawberry shortcake, featuring marinated berries and sweetened sour cream over pound cake, was an example of how delicious the simple classics can be. Coconut cream pie, while tasty, was too grainy for my taste.



Sangria and a mojito

The wine list isn’t long: 20 whites and rosés, 15 reds and a handful of sparklers. Only a few exceed $40 a bottle, and most are under $30. Even better, more than 20 of them are available by the glass. Despite the modest prices, the list has its share of decent choices, such as the clean, crisp unoaked Omrah Chardonnay and a clean, melon-like Viognier. The emphasis on white is understandable. Most people are still taught that white wine is the only thing to order with fish. Still, the reds are necessary for the dishes with strong sauces—no white can stand its ground with the tomato-based seafood stew, for example—though I’d prefer to see more medium-bodied reds than the pair of Pinot Noirs found here.

For those so inclined, the bar also stocks a variety of tequilas and rums, along with a half-dozen beers on tap. The beer selection could use an upgrade. With six taps, is it really necessary to carry both Coors Light and Miller Lite? If you cater to people with no taste, you’ll only draw more people with no taste. And shouldn’t one of six beers be an American microbrew? Anyone who prefers high-quality, domestically brewed beer instead of mass-produced bellywash must rely on a few bottled selections.



Peaches and cream are served on a corn cake and topped with fresh mint

The serving staff is, as should be expected at the beach, a bit inexperienced, but many of the waiters and waitresses have transferred from the company’s other restaurants, so they know the menu well enough to describe everything accurately. It was impressive considering that we visited just days after Catch 54 opened for the season—and it showed why Matt Haley has had so much success spreading his restaurants up and down the Delaware coast.

D

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January 2016

Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

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Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
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3260 South St.
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1100 Grant Ave.
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1200 N DuPont Highway
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East Coast Garden Center
30336 Cordrey Rd
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500 McKennans Church Rd
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500 McKennans Church Rd
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Cost: FREE

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Rainey Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA  19104-6324
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3260 South Street
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801 Middleford Road
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
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Cost: Free

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
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Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
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4755 Ogletown-Stanton Road
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Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
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1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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View map »


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110 Orchard Rd
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View map »


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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

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Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
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View map »


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Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

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801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery
Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
Contact Name: Shelly Geis

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Nanticoke Memorial Hospital offers childbirth classes on Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Ground Floor Conference Room. The class will meet each Thursday for a total of five...

Cost: $50

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Rd.
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 ext. 2540
Contact Name: Maternal Child Health Clinical Educator
Website »

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Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
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Location: Milford Senior Center, 111 Park Ave., Milford, Time: 8:40 a.m.– 9:30 a.m. Fee: $2 for non-members

Where:
, DE

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Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

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Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Website »

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Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all cancers combined. On Friday, Feb. 5, the American Heart Association (AHA) asks that everyone wear red to raise awareness for...

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center
1131 N. DuPont Hwy
Dover, DE
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Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

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For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

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This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
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Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

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Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

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Location: Lewes Public Library, 111 Adams Ave., Lewes, 2nd Floor Time: 8:40 a.m.–9:30 a.m. Fee: Free

Where:
, DE

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Wear red and dine out at a participating restaurant to receive a free heart-healthy menu item. Tell your server you’re wearing red to celebrate “Wear Red Day.” “Go Red...

Where:
, DE

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A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

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First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

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Delaware State University will feature the following events and exhibitions during its 2016 Black History Month celebration: Wednesday, Feb. 3 Black Lives Matter Symposium Documentary...

Cost: FREE and open to the public

Where:
Delaware State University
1200 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
View map »

More information

First Saturdays in the First State   Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Wilmington, Del. Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction will host the 22nd annual Block Kids competition. It’s a free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hodgson Vo-Tech High School
2575 Glasgow Ave.
Newark, DE  19702
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Sponsor: National Association of Women in Construction
Telephone: 302-453-4000
Contact Name: Laura Massimini
Website »

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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romance. Join Macy’s Christiana for an afternoon of Valentine’s Day cheer to celebrate all the loves in your life—including yourself!...

Where:
Macy's at Christiana Mall
Women's Department, Level 1
502 Christiana Mall
Newark, DE  19702
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Contact Name: Jessica Chan

More information

First Saturdays in the First State Programs and events on the first Saturday of each month. Sites are open, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., check website for details. Free admission. Something new every...

Cost: Free

Where:
First State Heritage Park
121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd N
43 The Green
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: First State Heritage Park
Telephone: 302-739-9194
Contact Name: Sarah Zimmerman
Website »

More information

The Chadds Ford Historical Society hosts its 8th annual Plein Air art event. Artists will be painting around the local area as well as the Barns Brinton House, John Chads House and Brandywine Creek...

Cost: General Admission: $10 | Exclusive Preview Party (includes 2 Tickets): $50

Where:
Chadds Ford Historical Society
1736 Creek Rd
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
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Telephone: 610-388-7376
Contact Name: Derek Larson OR Allison Schell
Website »

More information

Prepare to gasp, shudder, and be on the edge of your seat in this ingenious thriller which inspired the classic film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for Audrey Hepburn. This murderous...

Cost: $15-$29

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

A successful writer of Broadway thrillers is struggling to overcome a dry spell when he receives a script from a student —a potential Broadway hit. Thereafter suspense...

Where:
, DE

More information

Chances are, if you look out your windows, it’s pretty wintry. When was the last time you saw lush green plants in that view? We have a cure for your blahs, straight from the...

Where:
, DE

More information

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