The Dining Guide: Perfect 10s
Whether you seek classic steaks, small plates or sea urchin, we know where to go—and it’s not always where you may think.
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Page 1: Tapas and Small Plates
Page 2: Cutting-Edge Cuisine
Page 3: Adventure Eating
Page 4: Hidden Places for Great Beef
Page 5: Comfort Food
Page 6: Healthy Food
Page 7: Wines of the Times
Page 8: Sensational Seafood
Page 9: Local Flavor, Localvores
Page 10: Some Like it Hot
Page 11: A Season of Change
Tapas dining, the Spanish tradition of sharing several small plates, is attractive for several reasons. For chefs it’s the freedom to stretch creatively. For diners it’s a chance to sample several dishes without breaking the bank. Best of all, “the meal itself becomes more of an event,” says Kelly Sharp of Café Azafrán in Lewes. “The sense of sharing and community that you get is warmer and more inclusive.”
142 Second St., Lewes, 645-8108
Béseme's long menu (22 dishes this winter) changes several times a year, but the fried crispy scallops with wasabi mayo and hoisin are a mainstay. A crispy avocado half, breaded and deep-fried, is something chef and owner Mike Pelrine calls a life changer. Same goes for the niçoise salad, pheasant and portobello puff pastries, and the playful Tako salad of baby octopus, julienne carrots, snow peas, ginger and, yes, corn chips.
900 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 427-2300
True, appetizers are not the same as small plates or tapas, but when they’re so good, so perfect for sharing, that doesn’t matter. Duck confit with walnuts, green beans and pomegranate vinaigrette, as well as smoked trout with pear sauce, arugula and mint, are perfect bistro fare, as is the selection of gourmet cheeses, olives, hummus and seasonal vegetables.
Blue Pear Bistro
275 Brintons Bridge Road, West Chester, Pa., (610) 399-9812
Much has been made of Blue Pear’s seasonal small plates, and rightly so. The dishes are inventive and hearty, trendy and fun. Choose from the too-tasty-to-be-pretentious chicken nuggets served with a sweet yet pungent, white truffle-honey mustard sauce, or the chef’s selection of oysters. There’s wild escargot, tuna tartar, artisanal cheeses, pickled items and gourmet miscellany.
109 Market St., Lewes, 644-4446
As Café Azafrán unveils its first winter dinner service this season, authentic Spanish tapas remains the menu’s core. Haricots verts, given backbone by toasted hazelnuts and Gorgonzola cheese, is a top-seller. New this winter is the Mediterranean platter, which general manager Kelly Sharp calls “just a wonderful sampling of the finest goodies,” such as serrano ham, roasted peppers, tapenade romesco, and more items served with hot bread. Tapas and wines by the glass go for $7 during Friday happy hours.
Del Rose Café
1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 656-3015
It may be best known as a night spot, but Del Rose is Trolley Square’s champion of small bites and lunch munchies. Chief among them is the famous chopped antipasto, which is loaded with Italian cheeses and meats such as peppered ham, salami, capicola, cheeses, lettuce, as well as sweet peppers, tomatoes and black olives. “It’s been the Del Rose antipasto since the place opened in April ’62,” says general manager Matt Jeffrey. “And it’s by far the No. 1 dish here.”
Domaine Hudson Wine Bar and Eatery
1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463
Owner Tom Hudson offers the option to order small plates as big plates—even if an amazing small dish of pan-seared rack of Australian lamb with goat cheese, fingerling potatoes, balsamic syrup, and warm herb-onion vinaigrette is too good to pass up at $15. The medium-rare lamb pairs with almost any red wine in DH’s extensive collection.
The Exchange on Market
902 N. Market St., Wilmington, 576-9861
Items such as herb-veggie flatbread and panko-breaded calamari are bar-crowd perfect for a quick bite and for sharing, says general manager Rachel Fatow. If you’re inclined to sit down with a fork and knife, go for the Moroccan grilled lamb and feta sausages.
Olé Tapas Lounge and Restaurant
1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378
When Olé opened to great acclaim last fall, it became the face of a local tapas explosion. Patrons are drawn to traditional Spanish flavors in dishes such as setas con chorizo (wild mushrooms with chorizo) and gambas ajillo (plump shrimp cooked with Spanish olive oil and slivered garlic). Chef Ivan Torres writes a new menu daily.
Orillas Tapas and Bar
413 N. Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700
The newest kid on the block comes courtesy of Julio Lazzarini, a former standout chef at Deep Blue who hopes to illuminate the flair and value of tapas dining with bold, straightforward ingredients. Classic and modern tapas such as empanada de carrucho (a turnover filled with fresh conch) contribute to a vibrant menu.
210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6494
Chef Jay Caputo builds small plates around his favorite ingredients, so porcini mushrooms, duck confit and spicy sausage from Philly’s Italian Market make frequent appearances on the menu. Don’t skip the sharable flatbreads with roasted peppers or the gourmet meats and cheeses (but keep the creamy risotto all to yourself).
Page 2: Cutting-Edge Cuisine