The Restaurant Issue: 96 Favorites
In our tiny state, 96 restaurants may seem like a lot, so let’s put this in perspective: The Delaware Restaurant Association counts 1,900 members, everything from pizza joints to Zagat-listed classics. How do we choose 96? Editors considered the atmosphere, novelty, quality of cuisine, reputation, longevity, wine program, service and value at 200 top-tier restaurants (plus a few just over the state line), including past Best of Delaware winners. We didn’t include every neighborhood tavern—we’ll get to them in another issue—nor every neighborhood Italian place. (Find them at www.delawaretoday.com/Delaware-Today/February-2008/Dining-Guide-World-Class/.) Left standing: a diverse roster of places you simply must visit—if you haven’t already.
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In a region where Eastern Shore cuisine is gospel, Nantuckets is a welcome and reverent New England-style breath of fresh air. The quahog-scallop chowdah is the breadwinner, but lobster shepherd’s pie is just an awesome idea—two 5-ounce tails baked with garlic mashed potatoes, wild mushrooms, spinach and a splash of Chardonnay. White tablecloth spots in Fenwick aren’t the norm, so clean up by taking advantage on Sundays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, when entrées go for $19. Nantuckets’ taproom—homey with hardwood floors and glass liquor cabinets—is a favorite local hangout because its bar food is as good, if not better, than dining room fare. Go for fresh-tasting baked Brie Alla with grape tomatoes, or try the heartier Nawlins shrimp and sausage. 601 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2607
Okura Japanese Cuisine Restaurant
In a time when every restaurant that puts a spin on a sushi roll calls itself pan-Asian, Okura has stayed true to its Japanese roots. And it has set the standard. Yes, Okura serves sushi. Yes, it has a few rolls all its own. But it also offers a variety of traditional soups and noodle dishes, the teriyaki and tempura treatments of everything from shrimp and lobster to chicken, and broiled eel. Rice paper screens and tatami seating make Okura the real deal. 703 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-8486
Olé Tapas Lounge
Striking, bold reds and oranges on the wall match Ivan Torres’ Spanish cuisine—rustic, authentic tapas like gooey seared goat cheese with red wine reduction, house-marinated olives or gambas rebosadas, Florida shrimp splashed with saffron aïoli. Go with a group. Few dining experiences are as fun as ordering a lot of Olé’s tapas and sharing. Depending on the time and day, there’s usually a half-off special on sangria or tapas. Wine dinners on the last Tuesday of the month are going gangbusters. Mmmm—tapas for dessert in the form of crispy house-made churros with a rich, hot chocolate cup for dippin’. 1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378
Orillas Tapas Bar and Restaurant
Orillas has been teaching Wilmingtonians the true meaning of tapas (and the pronunciation of Spanish double-Ls) one gamba al ajillo at a time. Mission figs, Serrano ham, Manchego and more are combined in ways that feel at once traditional and innovative. Go when it’s time to get romantic. Cozy and rustic and cool and trendy all-around, the city’s undisputed new date place is causing more romance than “Barry White’s Greatest Hits.” As if the sangria wasn’t enough, Orillas now carries high-end cachaca, distilled sugar cane juice from Brazil. Try it in a caipirinha, the new margarita. 413N N. Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700
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