It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but just what makes a great neighborhood restaurant? Picture casual places that are often close to actual neighborhoods, places that often welcome the kids, and places where you’ll often find a burger, as well as food that approaches fine dining, but with prices that won’t break the bank. Find your new favorite here.
Abbott’s Grill (249 N.E. Front St., Milford, 491-6736) was born with the neighborhood specifically in mind. The owners scouted the area to learn what locals love, and designed a place where they’d feel right at home. The result is a fun, homey restaurant (and bar, with adjacent Bald Jason’s Pub) that infuses the familiar with the fabulous, and dishes like grilled bison burgers and creamy lobster pot pie.
Baywood Clubhouse Restaurant (32267 Clubhouse Way, Long Neck, 947-9225), although rightly considered one of the best special-occasion destinations around, also happens to be nestled among several golf-front neighborhoods. The elegant and inviting dining room overlooks the 18th green, making it a perfect spot to grab a lite bite and a cocktail with your foursome.
BBC Tavern and Grill (4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785) balances upscale and casual so effortlessly, it’s almost as if it’s done this before. Ribbing aside, the reborn BBC is a hit in Greenville thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, an army of regulars and superior pub grub, like crispy fig-topped flatbread and famed soft pretzels (though more uptown dishes like pan-seared sea bass are great, too).
Fun, funky, and filled with music, the Bellefonte Café (804 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 761-9175) is an oasis perfectly suited to its eclectic neighborhood. Cuban black bean soup, Thai chicken wraps, edamame—as long as it’s fresh and flavorful, it’s on Donna Rego’s menu. Regulars love to sit on the wraparound porch with a cool drink, or perhaps with something from the wine list.
In the heart of Italian country, it’s Creole that reigns supreme at Blue Parrot Bar and Grille (1934 W. Sixth St., Wilmington, 655-8990). Andouille sausage, jerk chicken and jambalaya are the order of the day, and at night, the bon temps roll on with mojitos and hurricanes from the Voodoo bar, and live music on the stage.
The something-for-everyone vibe is alive and well at Buckley’s Tavern (5812 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 656-9776), where worldly Vietnamese shrimp salad occupies the same dinner menu as delicious burgers and ribs. An eclectic group of regulars meets for cold draft beers on the upstairs terrace, then on Sundays (pajama-clad, of course) for one of the most popular brunches around. The rooftop terrace creates one of the coolest views in town.
World Cup fervor may have died down, but that never seems to dampen the hooligan-level spirits at Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub (1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 654-9700). The adaptable Rooney’s so excels at hospitality, it hosts special dinners nightly over signature Wexford broil and Guinness, then ushers in the late-night revelers with live music and karaoke.
With local artwork on the walls and local salumi on the plates, it’s no secret Chelsea Tavern (821 N. Market St., Wilmington, 482-3333) wants to be a gastropub of the people. With local pros in chef Sean McNeice and manager Joe Van Horn behind the wheel, Chelsea is all comfort, no pretension. Go for beers and burgers, or class it up with seared foie gras with pineapple-chili chutney.
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Those rich mahogany-colored booths, those brick arches, those bookcases—they all make Cromwell’s Tavern (3858 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 571-0561) one of the coziest spots around. For nearly 20 years, locals have turned to Cromwell’s for generous wine pours, live music and solid pub fare. The essential tavern, Cromwell’s does great burgers, house-fried chips, French dip and crab cakes, with a hearty beer selection and a 92-inch TV that shows all the big games.
When Dead Presidents Pub & Restaurant (618 North Union St., Wilmington, 652-7737) closed its doors due to a plumbing issue last fall, fans and patrons of the Union Street hangout took to the streets (actually, the Internet) in support. That’s loyalty. Their beloved Dead Presidents opened just a month later, reloaded with all the inferno hot wings, cold beers and friendly, cozy atmosphere that they sorely missed.
George Washington, Edgar Allan Poe and George Thorogood walk into a bar—but it’s no ordinary bar. It’s the Greek Revival hotel known as the Deer Park Tavern (108 W. Main St., Newark, 369-9414). The Main Street classic is home to many factions, be they bikers, townies, UD students, alumni or professors and their families. Owner Bob Ashby credits the Deer Park’s ample space, unfussy food (nachos, chophouse salads, burgers and ribeyes) and intangible historical charm was the secrets to its success.
The patio at Del Rose Café (1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 656-3015) feels like a tranquil Trolley Square backyard, only this one has a fully loaded bar. Generations of regulars have made the old townhouse a neighborhood classic, on level with its legendary chopped antipasto, lobster ravioli and Italian classics such as chicken Marsala. Come nighttime, Del Rose is a relaxed counterpoint to some of the area’s rowdier spots.
Just a brushstroke of Beantown has made Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House (1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 857-3223) a Dover hit, with its dark wooden walls covered in hundreds of old-time photos. Fresh oysters are detailed on the chalkboard and shucked at the raw bar, joined by steamed P.E.I. mussels, clams on the half-shell and jumbo shrimp cocktail. Its pubby feel makes Doc’s stand on its own inside Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
As its following glows to global proportions, our humble Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats (320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739) remains a haven for comfy food and some of the best beers in the country. Submit yourself to guinea pig status and test some of the exclusive and experimental beers on tap (like the hoppy and fruity Zeno beer) and order a crispy wood-grilled pizza.
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Crab cakes, friendly service and endless music are a few cornerstones of Elements Restaurant (423 N. Broad St., Middletown, 378-0448). Elements is part piano bar and part cozy neighborhood hangout, with its traditional decor and two brick fireplaces. Wednesday is open-mic night at musically thinking Elements. Live piano music goes down every Friday and Saturday evening.
Gino and Ruth Veriopoulos have owned European Bistro (1710 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 529-7773) for 20 years. The secret to longevity for this tiny 12-table bistro is the from-scratch Greek delicacies like gyros assembled from grilled lamb, real Greek yogurt and grilled pita, or Ruth’s traditional Greek avgolemono soup and mammoth tostarello sandwiches. Customers are treated like family, Ruth says, and, “If someone is ordering their first gyro, I love seeing them take their first bite.”
To many regulars, summer means briny Chincoteague oysters or steamed clams with drawn butter at Fins Fish House and Raw Bar (243 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-3467). The family-friendly fish house sources nearly 35 types of oysters from around the world, and sources locally when it comes to desserts and beers.
Pizza, karaoke and a comfy rec-room feel have kept people coming back to Gallucio’s (1709 Lovering Ave., Wilmington, 655-3689) for years. The covered patio and spacious bar are legendary local meeting places, and the cuisine—from wings to stuffed shells—is pure comfort food. Crispy fried heaven known as panzarotti will have you thinking Italian Festival
At Go Fish! (24 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1044), owner Alyson Blyth gets raves for her mum’s fish and chips recipe, but tandoori chicken skewers, bangers and mash, and baked fisherman’s pie make this a right proper place for all appetites. We love the tube stop signs, the solar power, and the Boddington’s and New Castle Brown Ale.
Clad in cedar shakes, tiny Half Full (113 W. Market St., Lewes, 645-8877) may be intimate, but it’s brimming with big ideas. The global wine list traverses from Argentinean Malbec to South African Syrah to German Riesling and Italian Primativo, and complements the bold flavors of the oblong, wood-fired pizzas. They’re topped with everything from acorn squash purée, wild boar sausage and mascarpone, to fresh arugula.
From Day 1 in 1983, Harpoon Hanna’s (39064 Harpoon Road, Fenwick Island, 539-3095) has catered to seafood lovers with a few menu items that have never changed: crab imperial, stuffed flounder, broiled scallops and more. The same goes for beef lovers, whether they prefer grilled steaks or prime rib. With a kicking bar and a deck with one of the best sunset views at the beach, Harpoon Hanna’s has made itself a classic.
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Horace Shellhammer’s (260 Chapman Road, Newark, 738-0758) has made a go where many others have failed by offering good tavern fare with Tex-Mex for fair prices in a lively atmosphere.
Decked in Tiffany lamps and antiques inspired by a restaurant of the same name near Baltimore, House of Welsh (1106 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 541-0728) has been a Fenwick tradition for 12 years. Known for its seafood platters, crab cakes and steaks at fair prices, the House is the sort of friendly place where regulars revisit and newcomers are fast to make friends. Burger night on Monday packs them in, as does chef Martha Hitchens’ famous fish fry.
Visit any Irish Eyes Pub (213 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-6888; 105 Union St., Milton, 684-8889; 52 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-5758) for the fresh seafood bar, Irish classics such as corned beef and cabbage and shepherd’s pie, a couple Italian choices, and a warm pub atmosphere that instantly feels like home.
No matter where it pops up—now with eight locations and counting (two in Delaware)—Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant (710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 472-2739; 147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000) becomes an inseparable part of the local fabric. Visiting parents and new graduates are often treated to dinner at Iron Hill near UD’s campus, because the place is nice enough for a special occasion but comfortable enough to feel like home. Gastropub cuisine, especially the juicy half-pound burgers, are always done well.
An inviting, 40-seat patio and a fresh, flavorful, workmanlike menu are what has made Jack’s Bistro (222 Delaware St., New Castle, 544-5174) a fast favorite in Old New Castle. Named for owner Steve Coruzzi’s WWII-veteran grandfather, friendly Jack’s has been embraced by the neighborhood for its affordable family dining, especially sautéed crab cakes and Guinness-battered fish and chips. “I’m not some five-star, classically trained chef,” Coruzzi says. “We just want the food to be simple, accessible and flavorful.”
To transform the wood-paneled watering hole once known as the Hi-Ho Tavern into the James Street Tavern (2 S. James St., Newport, 998-6903), owners gutted the place, raised the ceiling, exposed some brickwork and injected a slightly more upscale character without abandoning the pub-tavern feel. Now a healthy mix of blue-collar and white-collar regulars hit James Street for cheesesteaks or flat iron steak with cipollini onions, plus live music and a great new wine list.
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There is no definitive crowd at Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House and Saloon (1801 W. 14th St., Wilmington, 658-4600), and that’s a very good thing. The business crowd packs in for burgers and giant Cobb salads at lunch. The patio is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious grilled filet or strip steak. Wednesdays mean half-price sandwiches, and Thursday nights see everyone from 20-somethings on up dancing to live DJs. The room-dominating bar pleases seemingly everyone with good beers and one of the town’s best late-night menus.
Gaelic shenanigans and boxties aside, Kildare’s Irish Pub (45 E. Main St., Newark, 224-9330) added sophisticated comfort to Main Street, and fits the mold of both a family restaurant and a college hangout. The beer selection is what you’d expect from an Irish pub, only more so, and the pub grub—especially the simply made flatbreads and house-made potato chips—matches the Irish fare.
Klondike Kate’s (158 E. Main St., Newark, 737-6100) is more than a bar for college kids. Locals prefer to stake out a spot on the patio of this Victorian classic come summertime to sip cool drinks and partake of Kate’s famous cilantro-marinated chicken Sanchez sandwich or crab cakes. Heartier entrées include barbecued ribs, fajitas and good pasta dishes. Most weekends, Kate’s is the spot for half-priced nacho nights.
Says owner Bob Ashby of his popular McGlynn’s Pubs (800 N. State St., Dover, 674-0144; 108 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 834-6661; 8 Polly Drummond Shopping Center, Newark, 738-7814), “If we can keep the people within five miles happy, they’ll come back. That’s a neighborhood business.” McGlynn’s thrives on community engagement, from its popular happy hours to its attendance at charity dinners and auctions. Juicy, half-pound specialty burgers don’t hurt, either, nor do drunken clams, grilled steaks and good jambalaya.
Fun, casual and packed with locals, Pickled Pig Pub (18756 Coastal Hwy., No. 3, Rehoboth Beach, 645-5444) is a gastro pub that never takes itself too seriously. (Just look at the name.) But beer, cheese and pub grub are all treated reverently. There’s a rotating roster of microbrews like Caldera, Allagash and Evolution complementing the well-wrought cheese board. Perhaps the best part about PPP is the prices—dishes rarely crack the $10 mark.
Lee and Amy Stewart’s Po’ Boys Creole & Fresh Catch (900 Palmer St., Milton, 684-0890) gets the nod for its bright, cheerful decor and bargain-priced New Orleans food. You’ll find all the classics—jambalaya, étouffée, shrimp creole and crawfish. Did we mention the delicious crab cakes?
The spaciousness of the Federally styled Public House (902 N. Market St., Wilmington, 661-7920) belies the intimacy of a good meal in one of its cozy booths. A full menu of seafood, chicken and beef offers sandwiches, salads and entrées. Sated? Wander over to the bar for a nightcap. It’s always just lively enough.
With stuffed rockfish, crab cakes and chicken Chesapeake at its disposal, Quail Restaurant and Pub (1 Sunshine Lane, Fenwick Island, 537-4101) has the goods to keep its many regulars happy. That home cookin’, with the addition of roast turkey and meatloaf dinners, helps set a casual pub-like atmosphere that makes customers feel comfortable. The bar sees regular action during happy hour, when scintillating wings and shrimp go on special.
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It’s rare to find a neighborhood restaurant that serves grilled duck sausage and cocoa braised veal, but sophisticated bistro dining is part of the experience at Rigby’s Bar and Grill (404 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6080). Chef Theo Lipkins’ forward-thinking cuisine pairs well with a relaxing atmosphere and a lively bar crowd to make Rigby’s the go-to neighborhood spot in a foodie-friendly town.
In the shadow of the St. Georges Bridge, the smell of bubbling roux and the sound of Delta blues music emanates from Saint George’s Country Store (1 Delaware St., St Georges, 836-8202), a diminutive mom-and-pop place built into a historic general store. From-scratch Creole inspired dishes like jambalaya filled with tasso pork, andouille sausage, chicken, crawfish and shrimp, keep the place packed.
Half-price wines on Thursdays and Twin Lakes brews help make Six Paupers Tavern & Restaurant (7465 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 489-7287) a favorite. So does food such as ribs, strip steaks, seafood and delicious pasta dishes, most with a twist. Typical pub grub is anything but.
Oyster shooters, 50-plus TVs and a loaded late-night menu have certainly endeared Smitty McGee’s Raw Bar (37234 Lighthouse Road, West Fenwick Island, 436-4716) to the local sports crowd. Huge burgers, spicy Key West wings, party-like happy hours with shrimp and beer galore, plus a dash of Irish tomfoolery keep every local wickedly happy. Prime rib is delicious. Have your fish sandwich grilled or fried. The neighborhood is surrounded by water, so there’s a slip for your boat.
It’s close to impossible to sniff an ounce of unoccupied floor space during Eagles games at Stanley’s Tavern (2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 475-1887). That’s because Stanley’s is not simply a place with pennants and memorabilia on the walls, but a tavern where local sports are gospel. That’s what has endeared the warmly paneled 75-year-old Stanley’s to North Wilmington phanatics—that, and killer wings, ribs, burgers and beer.
It’s easy to underestimate The Starboard Restaurant (Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600) as the archetypal Dewey party place, but don’t underestimate the delicious burgers, solid entrées such as Chesapeake chicken with crab meat and Swiss cheese, and a full Sunday brunch (with the famous bloody Mary bar, natch).
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How can you not love a place that puts beer in the ice cream and bacon in pretty much everything else? For 15 years, Stewart’s Brewing Company (219 Governors Place, Bear, 836-2739), the county’s first brewpub, has been providing customers with fresh-made, often fun and experimental beers from brewers Ric Hoffman and Eric Boice. The pub food—steaks, fish and chips, Cuban sandwiches and more—the nightly specials, the live music and the mug club enhance the atmosphere and keep regulars hooked.
Part seafood house, part bistro, part watering hole—it’s hard to slap a label onto Striper Bites (107 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-4657). One thing’s for sure—it’s a Lewes classic thanks to a comfortable nautical vibe and thoughtful bistro cuisine that uses seafood as a primary influence. The menu centerpiece is blackened tuna pasta tossed in tomato and braised fennel cream. Try it on the cozy patio.
The revamped Summer House Restaurant (228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895) has grown up. Never fear: You can still order one of its famous Long Island iced teas, but now there’s a wine list, too. Good barbecue of all sorts, steaks, seafood, and all the salads and sandwiches you’d expect make it a solid entry.
A Christina pioneer, Timothy’s Riverfront Grill (930 Justison St., Wilmington, 429-7427) is still going strong 10-plus years later, and no wonder. We never could get enough of the tangy barbecued ribs, and any surf-and-turf variation that includes crab cakes never escapes our attention. When the weather cooperates, the patio seals the deal. And be sure to check out the new Timothy’s at the Beach (19598 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth, 227-3435).
Located in the Shops of Limestone Hills, Tyler Fitzgerald’s (5343 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-0240) is a good place for standard pub grub such as burgers and the usual sandwich suspects. Eat indoors or out. Get there early if you want to eat in peace. Stay late if you want to rock out.
Few restaurants embody the community spirit of Union City Grille (805 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-9780). Chef-owner Matthew Curtis and executive chef Robert Lhulier injected hometown zeal as well as delicious, straightforward food when the pair took over in 2008. They’ve made Union City Grille a fixture at all the major community events, charities, loops and more. And that says nothing about the bistro-meets-steakhouse cuisine, which is consistently excellent.
Vascillating between cozy and crazy, Washington Street Ale House (1206 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537) is equally adept at hosting a quiet dinner for two or a rockin’ happy hour. The beer selection—packed with Dogfish Head, micros and imports—makes it a destination for suds-seekers. Think of the cuisine as pub-grub with a purpose: Wagyu beef burgers, lobster pierogies and fried grouper Reubens are all great.
Inexpensive beer isn’t the only thing W.T. Smithers (140 S. State St., Dover, 674-8875) has going for it. The Downtown Dover hangout, built into a Victorian house, still garners love from the locals for its customer service—bartenders will shake your hand when you belly up to the bar—its surprisingly daring menu (now with sautéed alligator) and its renovated outdoor dining area.