Dining Guide: The Newest Places to Eat Now
The First State's latest and greatest restaurants.
208 Social defines casual dining at the beach with dishes such as Breakfast Anytime. // Photo by Maria DeForrest
Delaware’s restaurant scene is definitely in recovery mode after the economic downturn of several years ago. Though the number of upstate and beach-area restaurants is impressive, Middletown and Smyrna, with exciting new ventures, are keeping pace. And with this year’s James Beard nominations of Hari Cameron of a(muse). and grandpa(MAC) in Rehoboth and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, Delaware’s dining initiatives are being taken more seriously on the national food front. That’s been helped by Bryan Sikora, the chef-owner of La Fia and other restaurants in Wilmington, who previously received a James Beard nod, and the late Sussex County restaurateur Matt Haley, who was awarded the prestigious James Beard Humanitarian of the Year months before he died in 2014. Executive chef Robbie Jester of Stone Balloon Ale House also has garnered attention with his appearances on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games.” The positive image is reflected in our roundup of restaurants that have opened in the past year or so. Get ready to be hungry.
THE CITY SCENE
In Wilmington, new restaurants have been popping up faster than mayoral candidates. You can visit the polls only once, but you can visit these places as many times as you’d like—and you’ll like to a lot.
8th & Union spins American and Asian cuisines into
At the modern-day gastropub, chef-owner Brian Ashby puts his own spin on the menu with contemporary American and Southeast Asian cuisine. You’ll find dishes like pork belly sliders, lettuce wraps, a pork banh mi sandwich, pub burger and more. Try this: Kennett Square mushroom pho. | 801 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-9780
Alisa Morkides, the owner of nine Brew HaHa! Coffee shops, has been busy over the past couple of years. Last year, she opened a stylish café and coffee roaster in Trolley Square, closing a smaller location around the corner. She recently opened an expanded version of her signature coffeehouse in Greenville, shuttering a smaller Brew HaHa! in the same shopping center. At the new location, she offers beer, wine and cocktails, as well as coffee and a menu that includes small plates. Try this: Any espresso drink, especially the traditional cappuccino. | 1400 N. DuPont St., Wilmington, 384-6344; 3838 Kennett Pike, Suite 100, Powder Mill Square, Greenville, 658-6336
Cocina Lolo serves Latino dishes with a twist.
Chef-owner Bryan Sikora’s whimsically named Cocina Lolo serves up Mexican and Latin-inspired creations in a mostly commercial downtown neighborhood that also includes Sikora’s nearby La Fia and Merchant Bar. Try this: Family-style paella. | 405 N. King St., Wilmington, 384-6186
De La Coeur means “from the heart” in French. Owners Gretchen Brizendine and Alex Sianni followed their hearts to open an intimate café in the former Fresh Thymes space in the Forty Acres neighborhood. The small menu includes pastries, sweet and savory crêpes, a sandwich and soup du jour, and other items. Try this: Any of the crêpes (the fillings change constantly). | 1836 Lovering Ave., Wilmington, 660-7178
Bryan Sikora, the chef-owner of La Fia and popular newcomer Cocina Lolo in Wilmington, saw a need for a place in the neighborhood where diners could go before or after dinner. Interesting beer, wine and craft cocktails are offered with a global fusion menu of dishes such as samosas and crab pad Thai. Try this: Sausages and beer fondue. | 426 N. Market St., Wilmington, 543-5574
North Quarter Creole brings New Orleans back to
Chef Michael Goodwin grew up eating his grandmother’s Southern cooking and eventually formed a catering company. He later was influenced by Creole food, so he decided to combine the two cuisines he loved, leading to his North Quarter Creole restaurant. Try this: Muffuletta sandwich. | 837 N. Union St., Wilmington, 691-7890
The tiny restaurant, in soothing shades of the Adriatic Sea, has only a few tables inside and out. Customers order traditional Greek dishes like gyros, souvlaki (a platter or wrap), moussake, pita sandwiches and several Greek salads, at a counter. Save room for the delectable baklava. Try this: Greek salad with grilled chicken. | 11 Trolley Square, Wilmington, 654-4500
Deep Blue Bar and Grill was a longtime seafood hotspot in Wilmington until last year, when owner Dan Butler decided it was time for a change. He transformed the space into Tonic Bar and Grille, which specializes in sizzling steaks. But he also kept several seafood dishes on the menu for loyal fans. Try this: 12-ounce New York strip steak. | 111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040
Trolley Oyster House, in the former Satsuma Asian Kitchen & Bar space, is the newest addition in the Big Fish Restaurant Group’s growing restaurant empire. East and West Coast oysters (like Sweet Jesus from the Chesapeake Bay and kumamotos from California) star on the seafood-laden menu, but carnivores are taken care of, too, with fat burgers and a chicken club sandwich. Try this: Oysters, of course. | 1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 384-7310
NORTH WILMINGTON/NEWARK FAVES
All the action in Wilmington doesn’t overshadow the news in other places where you expect to find great food. North Wilmington, Newark, we’re looking at you.
Bon Appetit gets a cosmetic refresh, but the
Mickey Donatello, who runs Corner Bistro and Lucky’s Coffee Shop in Talleyville, took over the venerable restaurant in late 2014 after its beloved proprietor, Louisette Amblard, retired. He kept favorite dishes on the menu, but gave the place a design makeover. The result: a charming French-cottage ambiance with still-fantastic food. Try this: Turkey and Brie sandwich. | 3629 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-4344
The Brazilian steakhouse model now so familiar in big cities finally hits Delaware. You know the drill: Enjoy a gourmet salad bar that includes imported cheeses and cured meats, choose a few sides such as fried polenta from the hot bar, then hit go: Wandering servers carve your choice of beef, pork, chicken or lamb right off the skewer it was cooked on. Bring your appetite. Try this: Slow-roasted pork ribs with a glass of Hormingas Malbec. | 230 E. Main St., No. 203, Newark, 355-5551
This taproom isn’t about eating, since there’s a limited selection of small plates, cheeses and charcuterie. It’s about drinking well and adventurously. Owner Tom Houser is a master mixologist who takes the speakeasy concept to new heights via non-traditional ingredients, unusual techniques and top-shelf liquors. It was a hit the minute it sprung from the box in June. Try this: The Old Fashioned (which is not at all old fashioned). | 3826 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 256-0535
After being part of a restaurant group that included Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville, David Weir decided to branch out on his own. The result was Goat Kitchen & Bar in North Wilmington. The eclectic menu teases palates with such dishes as Vietnamese pork meatballs, a merguez sausage and Brie sandwich, and shrimp and grits. Try this: Pork and ginger meatloaf. | 1845 Marsh Road, Plaza III Center, Wilmington, 746-7847
Newark’s newest tavern has an executive chef, a thoughtful menu that raises (ahem) the bar on pub grub and a family-friendly vibe. It’s operated by two UD alums, Lee Mikles and Jim O’Donoghue, who envisioned a place with interesting food in an environment where diners didn’t have to dress up. Mission accomplished, guys. Try this: OMG nachos. | 270 E. Main St., Newark, 737-2931
It’s no surprise that chef Sam Ho, who was an owner of Zento Japanese Contemporary Cuisine in Philadelphia and a sous chef at Morimoto, would know all about ramen. Now at Kumamoto, he turns out fragrant, steaming noodle bowls in a small, contemporary space in the heart of Newark. The steamed pork buns are not to be missed. Try this: Tonkotsu ramen. | 165 E. Main St., Newark, 733-0888
IN THE MIDDLE
The meat in the sandwich is Kent County (and Middletown), where a surprising renaissance is picking up steam.
The name of the restaurant was inspired by the year that its home of Middletown was founded. Owner Jaspal Singh, a New Yorker, and local chef Brian Schroeder brought an upscale gastropub with creative fare like a duck confit banh mi sandwich and a house-made chorizo burger to the growing town. Try this: Any of the burgers of the day, such as the beef patty with spicy shrimp, pickled veggies and blue cheese. | 423 N. Broad St., Middletown, 376-7956
The food truck, selling all manner of espresso drinks, is still out and about, but now there’s a an actual permanent location, too. Settle into one of the comfy couches or grab a seat at a table or at the coffee bar. Besides A’Latte’s specialty drinks, customers can fill up on bagels, pastries, scones, sandwiches and more. Try this: Sticky buns. | 1053 N. Walnut St., Suite B, Milford, 422-8900
The forces behind the popular Abbott’s
Kevin Reading, chef-owner of Abbott’s Grill in Milford and Abbott’s on Broad Creek in Laurel, saw a need for a brewpub in Smyrna, so he partnered with Mispillion River Brewing to bring Brick Works—named as a tribute to Smyrna’s past brick industry—to the town. Paul Gallo, a former Abbott’s chef, is the executive chef and general manager. Try this: Crispy calamari. | 230 S. Dupont Blvd., Smyrna, 508-2523
Pastry chef Breanne Blair and her mother, Janet Forrest, joined forces to open the corner bakery in Smyrna. Blair is the baking wizard behind such booze-enhanced creations as a Guinness snack bar and an Irish cream cake. But she turns out plenty of nonalcoholic baked goods, including artisan breads. The bakery also offers sandwiches, wraps and quiches. Try this: Piña colada cake. | 1 N. Main St., Smyrna, 389-6807
Drunk’n Baker sneaks a little hooch into some of its
Grey Fox Grille replaces the legendary
The restaurant, in the former W.T. Smithers space, occupies a beautifully restored Victorian home. It’s owned by Diana Welch and her son Ryan Weber, who also run Golden Fleece Tavern, with longtime friends Carolyn and James “JD” Davidson. The menu focuses on seasonal and local products. Or you could just have a drink at the handsome oak-and-pine bar. Try this: Beef Wellington. | 140 S. State St., Dover, 734-1234
Executive chef Patrick D’Amico brings impressive credentials to the contemporary tavern, where he’s turning out stylized gastropub fare. Choose from munchies like deviled eggs and bacon popcorn treats, assorted burgers and sandwiches, and large plates, including grilled rib-eye steak and shrimp linguine. Try this: Metro burger. | 17 Wood St., Middletown, 376-3876
AROUND THE BEACH
The restaurant scene shifts around faster than sand on the shore during nor’easter season, which means every season brings great new places to try.
Chef-owner Nate Leonard, who worked at prestigious restaurants in Philly and New York, oversees the charming spot. His eclectic American menu includes entrées such as a double-patty burger, lobster Wellington and a cast-iron strip steak. Try this: Breakfast anytime sandwich (fried chicken breast, tater tots, bacon, cheese, gravy and a sunny-side-up egg). | 208 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6700
With branches in Annapolis, Md., and Alexandria, Va., the restaurant, located in the former Greene Turtle space, re-creates a classic shore tavern and specializes in new American cuisine. You’ll find oysters on the half shell, soft shells and crab cakes, as well as burgers and steak. Try this: Surf and turf. | 52 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-0550
Cabañas promotes itself as an “authentic Salvadoran restaurant.” In addition to pupusas and tamales, you’ll find sopa de res (beef stew), chilies rellenos de carne (stuffed peppers) and albondigas (meatballs) on the lunch and dinner menus. Breakfast offerings include huevos con chorizo (sausage and eggs). Try this: Mixed pupusas with beans, cheese and pork. | 18388 Coastal Hwy., No. 7, Lewes, 313-4398
Chef Robert Legget is putting the brakes on his Philadelphia food truck to open a brick-and-mortar location in Milton in the former Modern Mixture Too space. The restaurant will serve American pub grub—from burgers and tacos to ribs and brisket—with barbecue and Latin influences. Legget also expects to operate his food truck in Delaware. The menu was still being decided at press time. | 102 Federal St., Milton
Dogfish Head does it again with Chesapeake
The new restaurant, owned by the local Dogfish Head Brewery folks, focuses on seafood from Maine and along the Chesapeake Bay. It’s located next to the brewing company’s other restaurant, the popular Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats. Try this: Specially raised Smoke in the Water oysters—a collaboration between Dogfish Head and Hooper’s Island (Md.) Oyster Aquaculture Co.—which are infused with culinary wood-smoked salt. | 316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-3600
The brewpub offers a fun atmosphere with a beer garden, corn hole, a playground for the kids and, of course, hammocks. The menu makes the most of picnic food with a twist. Try this: Cookout burger. | 36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes, 644-7837
The name pays homage to the original Dewey Beach Club, which closed in 2009. The new rendition is a “laid-back restaurant and cocktail bar,” according to its Facebook page, offering small plates, cocktails and local beer. Try this: Sautéed chorizo in olive oil and brandy. | 1205 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 260-9017
Family-owned DiFebo’s got its start in Bethany Beach way back in 1989. Under the culinary guidance of Lisa DiFebo-Osias and her husband, Jeff Osias, DiFebo’s has become a mainstay. In May 2015, the family opened a second restaurant in Rehoboth to accommodate the crowds. Try this: Veal meatballs with ricotta and smoked mozzarella. | 12 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4550
After 12 years, the award-winning Nage has a new name, a new interior and a new menu. Enjoy happy-hour nibbles such as crab croquettes and lamb tartare. The dinner menu includes clams and squid-ink linguine and country-fried chicken sliders. Look for a variety of classic cocktails and a larger beer selection. Try this: Classic Nage burger. | 19730 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037
This sweet bistro is a family affair. Gretchen Gates, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, runs the restaurant with her sons Wilson and Taylor, both graduates of The Culinary Institute of America. The three chefs offer classically prepared cuisine with a global twist. Try this: New England rack of lamb. | 109 W. Market St., Lewes, 313-5912
James Beard nominee Hari Cameron followed up on his success at a(muse) in Rehoboth with grandpa(MAC), a venture with his brother, Orion. The restaurant, which opened last July, features homemade pasta and pick-your-own sauces, meats and cheeses in addition to the chef’s suggestions. Look for a second location in Harbor Square shopping center on Coastal Highway. Try this: Mini spaghetti and meatballs. | 33 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth, 727-5509
Owner Meghan Lee, who had previous restaurant experience at Talula’s Garden in Philly, transformed a rundown 1899 home into a contemporary, cozy restaurant that seats 75. The farm-to-fork restaurant delivers impressive fare under the guidance of executive chef Jordan Miller, who wowed diners in Baltimore, Philly and New Jersey before landing at the beach. Try this: Beets in a garden. | 212 Savannah Road, Lewes, 313-4065
Two French expats, Thierry and Nathalie Langer of Lewes, opened Kaisy’s Delights last year, specializing in an Austrian specialty called Kaiserschmarrn. It’s likened to a fluffy, shredded pancake, which can be eaten for breakfast with sausage or fresh fruit or as a dessert with homemade marmalade and other toppings. The Langers plan to open a second shop in Lewes. Try this: Kaiserschmarrn. | First Street Station, 70 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth, 212-5360
A second Matt’s Fish Camp, with a menu similar to the original namesake in Bethany Beach, is expected to open on Del. 1 in Lewes in early summer. The restaurant is part of the SoDel Concepts restaurant group, so you can expect more of the same seafood faves that are its signature. Try this: Lobster deviled eggs. | 34401 Tenley Court, Del. 1, Lewes, 644-2267
Jay Caputo of Espuma in Rehoboth Beach has added a seafood restaurant complete with nautical decor to his growing restaurant empire. Menu items like seared head-on prawns, a crisp skate wing sandwich and paella are some of the offerings. Try this: Maine lobster BLT. | 16388 Samuel Paynter Blvd, Milton, 313-5507
The owners of the town’s popular The Starboard restaurant and bar opened a raw-bar offshoot with 20 craft beers on tap in the former Scully’s Ocean Side Café. The menu also includes sandwiches and entrées, including a fried fresh catch of the day and Delmarva grilled chicken. Try this: Oysters on the half shell from Chincoteague, Va. | 2000 Coastal Hwy., Dewey, 227-9000
The family-friendly beach dining spot, in the former McShea’s Beach Pub and Grill space, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It specializes in gourmet burgers, overstuffed tacos and frozen drinks. Try this: Mac and cheese burger. | 1705 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-7000