A Delectable Dining Guide to Ethnic Food in Delaware • Mediterranean Restaurants
Everything from falafel to stuffed figs.
Falafel at Olive Tree Café//Photo by Luis Javy Diaz
CHICKEN TENDERS ON A STICK
When Semra and John Tekmen opened their restaurant on Rehoboth Avenue five years ago, they hoped to become known as the place to go for lively, fresh, simple Mediterranean food at the beach. They never really imagined becoming a vegan hotspot.
That’s pretty much what happened when the meatless and dairy-free diners of Rehoboth discovered the bounty of wholesome offerings on the salad bar at Semra’s Mediterranean Grill, a daily cornucopia of hummus, baba ganoush, dolmas, couscous, tabbouleh and salads.
“Because of our clientele and our location, we have food that satisfied the vegans, the vegetarians and the meat eaters,” says John Tekmen. “Slowly we ended up with a nice following because of that.”
Semra’s skill at pleasing the choosier eaters also would prove useful in countering the wrinkled noses of picky children, who quickly found plenty to adore on the kids’ menu. But it took some trickery.
“We label our chicken kebabs as chicken tenders on a stick. We try to disguise the presentation of the food so they can try something healthier and better,” Tekmen says. “It’s worked very well for us, especially in an area where there’s a lot of junk food.”
At the base of the best Mediterranean cooking stands a gnarled olive tree whose oil gives a fruity depth to vegetable dishes and provides a light counterpoint to heavy meats like lamb. In Delaware, this style is most typically represented by grilled kebobs and gyros or the casserole-style favorites of Greece such as moussaka and spanakopita.
Perhaps a Yelpster said it best: “Good place to relax for an hour or two, smoke some hookah, drink some mint tea, and enjoy some pretty tasty hummus.” The bastilla of cinnamon- and sugar-dusted puff pastry stuffed with minced chicken, almonds and saffron is a highlight.
175 E. Main St. Newark, 738-1111 • website
Sit on the cushiony low sofas, wash your hands with rosewater and say thanks that this haven of Moroccan pageantry—with its belly dancers and communal feasting—is back after being closed by fire.
4010 N. DuPont Hwy., New Castle, 652-5344 • website
An extensive selection of Spanish tapas and an artful touch have helped make Azafran one of the beach’s culinary treasures. The buzz: Duck deviled eggs with crispy chorizo and saffron aioli ($8) and more saffron in a bouillabaisse with hazelnut-almond romesco sauce ($29).
18 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8100 • website
This beloved diner honors founders John and Elena Alexopoulos with a Greek section of the menu that includes pastichio, moussaka, spaghetti with browned butter and feta, and spanakopita.
316 S. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, 994-0920 • website
Gyro Kabob House
Hard to get to, and even harder to get out of, Gyro Kabob nonetheless holds high standards when it comes to ensuring its Halal kebabs are perfectly cooked and nicely presented, even in those take-out containers.
1142 Christiana Road, Newark, 368-7777 • website
Oasis Kebab Middle Eastern Restaurant and Halal Market
You’ll find falafel, good hummus and stuffed grape leaves, but kabobs and the grilled meats known as shawarma dominate this too-short menu, which gets points from fans for its home-style authenticity and family-style charm.
11 Salem Village Square, Newark, 533-6152 • website
Olé Tapas Lounge
In Delaware, Spanish-style tapas finds its finest expression in this fun and cozy restaurant, where an elevated, ingredient-savvy aesthetic guides the kitchen and small plates—with intriguing wine offerings—encourage a convivial evening. The buzz: Black figs stuffed with almonds and Cabrales blue cheese in sherry-fig reduction ($8). Live a little—wrap them in bacon (plus $2).
1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378 • website
Greece meets Italy—and even America—at this humble restaurant. “I had Greek spaghetti with shrimp,” one smitten Yelp reviewer enthuses. “I am still dreaming about it.” Some even might dream about the Greek accent given to cheesesteaks and burgers. Others will stick with straight-ahead Greek delights such as gyros, spanakopita and other standards.
612 Newark Shopping Center, 731-4005 • website
Olive Tree Café
A warm, friendly charm infuses the character at this devotee of all cuisines with olive oil in their hearts—whether Moroccan, Spanish, French, Greek, Italian, Turkish or Lebanese—making it probably the most deep-dive Mediterranean in Delaware. The buzz: Lemony chicken tagine ($14) or lamb tagine with fruits and nuts ($16).
13 Chestnut Hill Plaza, Newark, 266-4598 • website
Olive & Oats
The lunch-only menu at this offshoot of Café Azafran boasts serious Mediterranean flair and a lighter edge for overstuffed beachgoers. The buzz: Mediterranean Platter with Serrano ham, roasted peppers, romesco sauce, tapenade, marinated artichoke hearts, manchego and goat cheese served with warm bread ($15).
113 W. Market St., Lewes, 313-4701 • website
The gyros and the tzatziki dip get the most buzz on this Greek menu, giving Trolley Squaresters a rare moment of Mediterranean love when the Greek Festival isn’t up and running. The buzz: When the moussaka ($13) is fresh from the oven, there is none better.
7A Trolley Square, Wilmington, 654-4500 • website
Semra’s Mediterranean Grill
John and Semra Tekmen’s place doesn’t venture too deeply into the rich cuisine of Turkey, but the standards—gyros, baba ganoush, etc.—keep fans quite happy, thank you. Everything—everything—is made in house.
19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4976 • website