One thing about our restaurant scene: It’s never boring. With new places opening and some makeovers happening with old friends, it’s time to rediscover local dining.
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In a down economy, some of the biggest changes to the state’s dining scene occurred—perhaps surprisingly—at the constantly evolving Christiana Mall, where eating options no longer begin and end at Orange Julius.
J.B. Dawson’s Restaurant & Bar (315 Christiana Mall, Newark, 369-4000, jbdawsons.com) is a local chain that began life as Austin’s Restaurant in 1996 in Reading, Pennsylvania. The new location is the company’s first foray into Delaware, and it opened just in time for holiday wackiness at the mall.
Manager Shannon Gotte describes Dawson’s as upscale-casual with hearty, family-sized portions. “It’s a place where everybody can be comfortable,” she says. “There are booths and lighting that make an intimate spot for a nice glass of wine or a cocktail, and at the same time, it’s a place where a bunch of family or friends could get together to watch a game.”
Dawson’s menu is full of American pub favorites such as burgers, ribs and crab cakes—all made fresh in-house. The slow-roasted baby back ribs are a signature item. They’re part of an all-you-can-eat special on Monday nights for $24.95.
Brio Tuscan Grille (305 Christiana Mall Road, Newark, 368-1448, brioitalian.com), meanwhile, is a boutique chain based in Columbus, Ohio, that certainly ups the mall’s class quotient. The restaurant is appointed beautifully in Old World earth tones with bronze highlights, yawning palm trees and sepia artwork. The eyes are drawn immediately to the silky centerpiece that plunges from the ceiling of the dining room. The Brio menu straddles a line between Tuscan grill and Chicago chophouse. Fresh pastas and grilled steaks and chops are specialties.
A few Wilmington institutions underwent changes, too. Dan Butler’s popular Toscana Kitchen + Bar was reborn as Piccolina Toscana (1412 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 654-8001, piccolinatoscana.com) in October. After an extensive renovation, Piccolina refocused its menu on flavorful small plates and Italian tapas.
When a group of big guns from Harry’s Hospitality Group—namely, Xavier Teixido, David Leo Banks and Kelly O’Hanlon—purchased Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House and Saloon (14th and Scott streets, Wilmington, 658-4600, harrys-savoy.com/kidshelleens.asp) in September, observers wondered what sort of changes might occur at the established neighborhood spot. One biggie is a renewed attention to fresh ingredients. Seasonal, farm-raised products have beefed up several dishes, especially the Jenny Farm Steakburger, a new signature item. It’s made from choice cuts of grass-fed beef (hence the “steak” in the name) from Green Valley Farms in Unionville, Pennsylvania.
Page 2: Perpetual Change, continues...