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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Big Fish Grill
Norman and Eric Sugrue’s family recipes are so good, other families pack into Big Fish to taste them. Fish is an obvious choice—from crab cakes and fried shrimp to pan-seared mahi mahi—but you’ve got to love homemade sides like sweet potato mashers and desserts like peanut butter pie. The new Wilmington Riverfront location takes the same approach as the original in Rehoboth, but with an uptown twist. Expect more mushroom- and Gouda-crusted rockfish and rare-only tuna with wasabi cream. 20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3474; 720 Justison St., Wilmington, 652-FISH
The only Delaware bar-restaurant to host the Shirelles and serve foie gras in the same calendar year combines a hugely popular bar with a high-end dining room. Chef Lion Gardner’s French-, Spanish- and Italian-influenced menu borrows heavily from local, sustainable and organic products. He loves pushing the envelope, so fans expect superb lamb dishes, as well as the signature fried green tomatoes to start. On Tasting Tuesdays, Gardner turns loving patrons into his willing guinea pigs with a slightly off-beat tasting menu. Expect dishes such as duck confit tamales and smoked mackerel taquitos. 35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6515
Colors and flavors mingle during picturesque sunsets on the bay, when amber and crimson from the sky meld with green-lipped mussels, white clams and red lobster on the table. Fresh goes a long way in describing the food at Bluecoast, where a devotion to seasonal produce and an on-site fish market makes freshness abundant. The place wows diners with dishes such as rustic seafood stew alongside shaved Brussels sprouts with shaved pecorino and truffle oil on a cool off-season night. 1111 Highway One, Bethany Beach, 539-7111
Nobody’s confusing western Sussex with the Burgundy countryside, unless they’re in Bon Appetit, Karen and Chino Pedemonte’s love letter to French sophistication. Salmon (or saumon, en Français) Poireaux, chicken divan, country pâté and the best sautéed escargot in Delaware win loyal diners. Visit when the bouquet of garlic and herbs de Provençe is what you’re after. While other restaurants hang their hats on French influence or style, Seaford’s little gem is likely the last full-bore French experience in the state. 312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700
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