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Best of Delaware 2008

Our 25th salute to the places that make Delaware great, plus the Hall of Fame of winningest places ever. (Can you say Grotto Pizza?) As chosen by you, the readers (with a little help from your friends here at DT)



Hall of Fame

*(Winners have received awards in at least eight of the previous 24 years.)

The Green Room

Nothing in Delaware says “classic” like The Green Room. In 1991 readers voted it the best place for a power lunch. In 1997 we hailed its Sunday brunch. By 1999 we shunned specifics, saying that The Green Room was “the perfect place for any occasion.” Without a doubt the most elegant dining room in Wilmington, it won AAA’s prestigious Four-Diamond Award for 21 straight years. Patrons dine amid carved oak paneling, gold leaf wallpaper, lofty coffered ceilings, lush drapes and chandeliers, using silver utensils and Versace china. French classics such as truffles and foie gras can still be had here, but the kitchen prepares French-inspired, lighter fare, not unlike many French restaurants in America. The Green Room introduced a new menu in May. It isn’t printed in French.
(Hotel du Pont, 11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

Delaware Today editors were smitten with Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant from the beginning. When they hit the scene in Newark in 1996, founders Kevin Finn, MarkFrom left: Iron Hill owners Kevin Davies, Kevin Finn and Mark Edelson continue to brew success. Edelson and Kevin Davies built their brewpub around flavorful, punchy, hand-crafted beers and fresh, simple food. Today the Iron Hill Empire spans seven locations and counting. Over the years, we found many ways to enjoy the place, giving it awards for best appetizers, desserts, spring rolls, prime rib, Best Brew Pub and even a Best Overall Restaurant nod in 2001. Such widespread adoration continues today as Iron Hill raises its profile across the region at various festivals and community events. They’re still doing great, fresh food served with great, fresh beer. (147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 658-8200)

Grotto Pizza

Grotto Pizza founder Dominick Pulieri wants everyone to have a piece of the pie. Photograph by Tom Nutter. www.tomnutterphotos.comNo place has come close to winning as many Best of Delaware awards as Grotto Pizza. The little shop that became synonymous with pizza at the beach has since come to be the most recognizable chain of pizzerias in Delaware. Credit the unique pies, with a blend of three cheeses made to specification in Wisconsin and sauces made in California. Credit the branding, the recognizable font and chef’s hat. Some degree of success came from simply being in the right place at the right time—Rehoboth Beach in 1960, when there were no other pizza places around. But ask founder Dominick Pulieri what makes Grotto special, and he’ll tell you it’s his company’s presence in the community and respect for customers. Grotto is a Delaware tradition, he says, because the people who enter his restaurants are treated as the most important part of the operation. That stays true during every technology boom and expansion project, like the one he’s working on now in Dover and Kent County. (1200 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 836-1455; 793 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 537-3278; Logan Street, Bethany Beach, 537-6600; 1603 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-3407; 1200 Highway One, Lewes, 645-4900; Long Neck Road, Millsboro, 945-6000; 280 College Square, Newark, 369-2200; 45 E. Main St., Newark, 369-0600; 15 Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 227-4580; 4565 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 645-5880; 36 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3278; 17 Surf Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3601; 699 N. Dual Highway, Seaford, 628-2800; 2311 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 888-2222; 1819 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 777-3278)

The Back Burner Restaurant

Tucked away at Hockessin Corner, The Back Burner Restaurant was for years an almost-hidden gem, a cozy place with an elegantly countryish ambiance and a classyBack Burner is famous for tasty dishes such as pan-seared jumbo sea scallops served with mango couscous. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.com  American menu that treated steak and seafood precisely, a place that somehow remained casual despite its upscale potential and its huge expansion in 2000. We, along with everyone else, love the creamy pumpkin mushroom soup. And we rejoiced when the restaurant opened a takeout so we could enjoy that soup whenever we wished. In 1995 we wrote, “The Back Burner is creatively and consistently good”—and that was almost 15 years after it opened. Consistent? You betcha. (425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-2314)

Dogfish Head

Owner Sam Calagione, second from left, prefers the personal touch at Dogfish Head.Who would’ve guessed that after Dogfish Head’s humble beginnings in 1995, when it was the smallest commercial brewery in America, that the operation would earn a dizzying number of awards and become a nationally recognized beer superpower? In 2007 American Homebrewers Association magazine ranked Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA the No. 1 beer in America. This year its Midas Touch Golden Elixir earned a bronze medal in the Brewers Association’s 2008 World Beer Cup. By the looks of things, the worldwide hops shortage hasn’t slowed owner Sam Calagione as much as it has his competitors. (320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739)

Wright & Simon

Wright & Simon has helped men in and around Wilmington look good since 1935. The fine men’s clothier has always carried top brands while providing unparalleled service. Tailoring and alterations are handled on the premises by a team of master tailors, fitters, pressers and alterationWright & Simon has been a Wilmington fixture since 1935. experts. The people at Wright & Simon preach proper fit as the key to appearance, customer comfort and satisfaction. And when it comes to fitting, the team is as experienced and knowledgeable as you’ll find. The head tailor, the office manager and a handful of others have worked for the company for 40 years or longer. Dominick Pullella, who joined Wright & Simon in 1961, still handles tailoring duties, but also fits and sells. Company president Leonard Simon says the secret to Wright & Simon’s success is that it knows the customer, knows its niche and provides quality products and services. He believes good businesses are established over time. “My dad worked for many, many years to get this business off the ground,” says Simon. “I’m fortunate to have walked in and try to carry on the tradition.” (911 N. Market St., Wilmington, 658-7345.

Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities

Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities is a Little Italy landmark.We’ve been bowing to Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities since it opened in 1988. Others have noticed, too. This year Zagat named the Little Italy icon one of America’s top 1,000 Italian restaurants. “Chef Luigi Vitrone could teach your Italian grandmother a lesson or two,” a Zagat rep wrote. Vitrone makes the gravy, cracks eggs to make pasta, reduces stocks from scratch and creates desserts in house—and he does it all with aplomb. That goes for the imaginative atmosphere at Pastabilities, as well. Only a true foodie would think up a semolina and plum color scheme to match semolina and red wine pastas or choose black tabletops to copy black squid ink pasta. Pastabilities’ wine list covers France, Italy, California, Australia and Chile, and Vitrone has sampled each one. Ask his recommendation. Last year Vitrone’s Belgian beer dinner went over so well that he introduced a German beer dinner in May to great success. The man never stops. (415 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 656-9822)

Big Fish Grill

In 1997 Eric Sugrue opened Big Fish Grill with his brother Norman. In 11 years, his business amassed an astounding 33 Best ofThe Big Fish Grill has hooked many customers over the past 11 years. Photograph by Kevin Fleming, www.kevinfleming.com Delaware awards. The key to such overwhelming popularity, he says, is the balance of casualness and quality, high-end ingredients and fair prices. Just look at the waiting line outside the place on any summer evening. Big Fish isn’t quite fine dining, he says, but popular dishes like the crusted halibut speak to the restaurant’s commitment to simple, fresh, local dishes. The casual ambiance and great service are high points, too. Kids go nuts for the hundreds of stuffed trophy fish (all caught in local waters) that decorate the dining rooms. Sugrue says his simple approach to dining has changed very little over the years: Customers leave with a full belly and their wallets intact. (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)

Toscana Kitchen + Bar

Toscana has created quite a following with dishes like ravioli Melanzane: eggplant-filled pasta, swiss chard, tomatoes and mushrooms. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.comToscana Kitchen + Bar started as Griglia Toscana in 1991, riding a wave of new interest in upscale Italian fare—think sautéed Swiss chard and wild mushrooms in dreamy homemade ravioli—as well as a new effort to elevate Trolley Square, and it remained a trendsetter for many years—due in no small part to a staff that actually knew about food and wine. But when Toscana appeared to be headed toward special-occasion-only status, owner Dan Butler remade the place, creating a hip night spot, as well as more approachable dining. Soft mauves and minimalist decor gave way to bold color and contemporary design, and part of the dining room was made into what quickly became a wildly popular lounge. Then there’s the food. The capellini with tomato, basil and roasted garlic—a constant presence since Day One—is masterfully simplistic. The braised lamb shank is savory. Butler offers 20 great wines at $20 each on Sundays. Many places come and go well before 17 years, but with a couple smart makeovers, Toscana has remained at the fore of local fine dining. (1420 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 655-8600)

Krazy Kat’s

Discerning readers and critics have chosen Krazy Kat’s for many awards over the years—its decadent crème brûléeKrazy Kat’s remains as popular as ever. Photograph by John Lewis being just one. In 2001 it won Best Romantic Restaurant, and in 2005 readers voted it Best Power Breakfast and Best Place To Take Out-of-Town Guests. The accolades go on and on, and industry awards—a Mobil 4-Star Award seven years in a row and an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator—are too numerous to mention. (Del. 100 and Kirk Road, Montchanin, 888-4200)

The Crownery

A Crownery creation: sliced beef sautéed with fresh pineapple, green and red peppers, water chestnuts, and snow peas, all topped with a brown sauce. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.com Readers and critics have long known that The Crownery is one of Delaware’s best restaurants. Chinese Restaurant News concurred, naming The Crownery one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the nation. The distinctiveness comes from the chefs, who trained in Hong Kong and inland China, and present an interesting amalgam of Cantonese, Szechwan and Hunan styles of cooking. Customers dubbed the striking carved crimson and golden arch that separates dining areas the Moon Gate, and the structure is certainly aesthetically pleasing. But what sets The Crownery apart, year after year, is the cuisine. (228 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-3825)

Michael Christopher Salon and Day Spa

When it comes to the cutting edge, Michael Christopher Salon and Day Spa is the granddaddy. Having grown up in his mother’s old salon in Kennett Square, Michael Christopher Hemphill came by his talent honestly, and he put it to use immediately. He and his stylists started winning big in major New York City hair shows as soonMichael Christopher Hemphill keeps his salon and day spa cool and classy. as he opened his first salon on Delaware Avenue in the mid-1970s. Since then, most of the salon owners in and around Wilmington have started at Michael Christopher, and chances are a gaggle of stylists are hovering around him right now, hoping his genius will rub off on them. Hemphill orchestrated a major salon redo for his 30th anniversary in 2006, when he transformed everything from the lobby to the gourmet coffee bar to the 20 work stations. The salon features a shampoo chamber, color theater and stylist area. Its luxurious Christine and Monika Day Spa offers body treatments, skin care and waxing. The spa is revered for its permanent makeup applications and eyelash extensions. You may pay a little more at Michael Christopher, but for good reason: Hemphill has won the industry’s prestigious America’s Cup and the World Supreme competitions. (2006 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 658-0842)

La Tolteca-La Tonalteca

Whether it’s called La Tolteca or La Tonalteca, you can bet the folks there know how to prepare authentic Mexican fare—and margaritas.Riding a wave of immigration in the early 1990s, La Tolteca became the restaurant that mainstreamed Mexican fare in Delaware. The local chain has flourished even as new Mexican restaurants have opened. We still can’t resist its homestyle burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, tamales or chilaquiles. But all things change. Most of the La Toltecas have been renamed La Tonalteca, though the restaurants are still owned by the Cedillo family. Whatever the name, the food, atmosphere and margaritas continue to please. (La Tolteca: 2209 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 778-4646; 4015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9477; La Tonalteca: 60 N. College Ave., Newark, 737-8220; 1724 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 636-9484; 528 S. Bay Road, Dover, 734-4575; 245 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 735-1572; 1000 Midway Drive, Harrington, 398-7644; 4578 Highway One, Rehoboth, 644-3994.

Charcoal Pit

Charcoal Pit defines nostalgia. Little has changed since the original Pit opened on Concord Pike in 1956. The restaurant’s retro architecture and trademark neon sign still cause it to stand out along the heavily traveled corridor. AtRoberta Boyle—better known as Bert—has worked at The Pit since it opened in 1956. Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli, www.luigic.com the Pit, you can crank up the mini jukebox at your booth or hang at the counter and watch workers mix shakes the old-school way. Customers continue to flip for the Pit’s juicy charbroiled, quarter-pound and half-pound burgers and thick milkshakes (especially the black-and-white), which are served in the same frosty metal container in which they were made. And the kids still dig the “famous ice cream creations” named after local high school teams (don’t fret—it’s cool for a Green Knight to order a Highlander), as well as the famous Kitchen Sink. There have been a few tweaks through the years, such as the addition of chicken fingers, haddock and chicken salad to the lineup. And the prices don’t nearly resemble those from the original menu: 35-cent hamburgers, 50-cent shakes and $1.10 cheesesteaks. But you’ll likely recognize cashier Roberta Boyle, who has worked at the Pit for 51 years. Another link to the past, as Boyle will regret to inform you: The Pit does not accept credit cards. (2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2165; 741 Greenbank Road, Wilmington, 998-8853; 5200 Pike Creek Blvd., Wilmington, 999-7483; Fox Run Shopping Center, U.S. 40, Bear, 834-8000)

Washington Street Ale House

Needless to say, beer selection is important at Washington Street Ale HouseWhen Washington Street Ale House opened in 1997, it was the only restaurant open after 5 p.m. in its neighborhood. So owner Darius Mansoory built relationships with nearby hotels, businesses and locals, and the idea soon spread that there was life after 5 in Wilmington. The business—and the menu—has grown. The Ale House recently expanded its draft beer system, making it the largest in Delaware. Burgers and nachos remain, but chef Sean McNeice now creates classy comfort food such as lobster macaroni and cheese and perogies filled with foie gras. Mansoory has a solid relationship with Dogfish Head Brewery, which means he’s privy to special brews other establishments might not get. For the past three years, the Ale House has undergone renovation while keeping its neighborhood feel. It remains a work in progress. “When you sit back and say, ‘Hey, we’re done,’ that’s the day you should get out of the business,” Mansoory says. “Every day we fight to be the best. It sounds cliché, but we still beam with pride when we get a compliment.” (1206 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537)

Harry’s Savoy Grill

A Hall of Fame induction comes at an appropriate time for Harry’s Savoy Grill. This year marks Harry’s 20th anniversary, and in that time, the restaurant has experiencedJust one of the reasons we love Harry’s Savoy Grill: the buttermilk-battered soft shell crab. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.com expansions, renovations and facelifts, all while staying true to its original vision. Executive chef David Leo Banks still thinks of Harry’s as the little neighborhood joint. And though the huge ballroom and outdoor dining rooms may belie that a tad, its cozy approach to fine dining and its close ties to the community ring true. Favorites like prime rib and lobster remain big sellers, but the menu now includes raw dishes like sashimi and oysters to stay in step with more adventurous dining trends. Customers expressed an increased interest in wine, so an eye-catching wine room now greets diners as they enter. Its stature allows Harry’s to be creative and bold, all the while giving loyal customers exactly what they want. (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000)

Arena’s Deli

The little alleyway known as Penny Lane, which houses Arena’s Deli, bridges dozens of spots to eat and drink on Rehoboth and Baltimore avenues, yet Arena’s has remained a favorite for more than 20 years. For starters, it’s one of the few places that feels like a neighborhood place. There are great nachos and wings, sandwiches such as California Club Dude (turkey, avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, and mayonnaise on whole wheat bread) and The Hungry Surfer (turkey, roast beef, corned beef and Swiss cheese piled onto a kaiser roll with cole slaw, lettuce, and Thousand Island dressing), live music and a rotating menu of microbrews. (Where else can you throw back a bottle of Smuttynose Brown Dog?) (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1272)

Bayard House

In a 200-year-old house with tons of built-in charm, how much improvement is needed? Plenty. The restaurant, on the south bank of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, has been remade under general manager Natalie Gentry, who has tweaked the menu and the vibe to please casual diners. Longtime customers will still enjoy tournedos Baltimore, the amazing crab cakes and Maryland crab soup. But new blood craves the panko-chicken and seafood imperial. It’s not exactly a swimsuits-and-flip-flops place, but it’s still a place to relax, enjoy a great meal and, as always, enjoy an awesome view. (11 Bohemia Ave., Chesapeake City, Md., 410-885-5040)

Big Sky Bread Co.

Big Sky Bread Co.’s success can always be traced to one simple thing: freshness. Customers go to great lengths for the bread, which is baked from organic ingredients. At lunchtime, customers turn out in great numbers for the eight types of European breads and 10 types of sandwich breads. Owner Pat O’Neil says customers of his bakeshop and sandwich place still appreciate the slow-roasted roast beef—as new clients, especially those in the corporate catering realm, will soon discover. (1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 475-9494)

Brew Ha Ha!

The big selling point at Brew Ha Ha! is, naturally, coffee. It’s brewed from estate-grown, specialty-grade beans from small, artisan roasters. But there’s more. The cool, laid-back atmosphere attracts college kids and professionals alike. The baristas, trained extensively, will actually get your order right. And Brew Ha Ha! offers a menu full of tasty sandwiches. The result is the sort of gathering place that founder Alisa Morkides experienced in Tuscany. (3842 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 658-6336; 2610 Capitol Trail, Newark, 366-8074; 45 E. Main St., Newark, 369-2600; 3636 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7227; 1420 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 778-2656; 5329 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-9600; 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 529-1125; 835 Market St., Wilmington, 777-4499; 1007 Market St., Wilmington, 656-1171; 3503 Silverside Road, Suite 102, Wilmington, 472-2001)

Buckley’s Tavern

Over the years, critics and readers have cited Buckley’s Tavern for its beer selection, healthy fare, Sunday brunch, al fresco dining and the Best Place to Meet Rich Men. The historic Greenville building has gone through several incarnations since 1817 (candy store, taproom, etc.), but it’s remained a great place to eat, drink, see and be seen. To this day, chef-owner Dave Weir calls 30 customers each month as a sort of quality control. Customers love the old-school charm. They love to drink and mingle. They love menu staples such as exotic mushroom soup and goat-cheese bruschetta. Whether they dine in the main room, the lounge, on the front porch or the roof-top deck, the same folks who met a spouse at Buckley’s now take their kids for chicken fingers. (5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776)

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop

Did you know there are Capriotti’s Sandwich Shops in Las Vegas? Arizona? Florida? It may seem strange that such a local household name is spreading across the land, but who can blame them for sharing the love? Capriotti’s, the invention of Little Italy’s Lois Margolet, opened in 1976, roasting whole fresh turkeys overnight for succulent subs. That simple concept separated Capriotti’s from the pack of sub shops, and soon the company was expanding, rolling out the all-time customer favorite, the Bobbie, and adding new classics such as the Capistrami. Demand continues to grow—there are 48 shops nationwide and counting—and Capriotti’s has kept to the same winning formula. Have we mentioned the size? A large sandwich will feed three. (430 Eden Square, Bear, 832-8132; 130 Gateway South Blvd., Dover, 698-3090; 321 Independence Blvd., Dover, 678-2808; 300 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 234-2322; 1604 Savannah Road, Lewes, 644-8998; 708 Long Neck Road, Millsboro, 945-4040; 708 W. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6797; 614 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 454-0200; 456 Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 659-1388; 2076 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 998-0096; 2122 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 479-9818; 510 Union St., Wilmington, 571-8929)

Casapulla’s

Luigi Casapulla, the Italian immigrant who opened the first Casapulla’s in Elsmere in 1956, would be pleased that his descendents remain disciples of his family-first business philosophy. The steak and sub business has expanded to seven locations, but each shop adheres to the same credo: make the best sandwiches and keep it affordable. The Casapulla style of sandwich making relies on fresh, quality ingredients. But the key to a worthy Italian sub is its construction. Employees quickly learn the order: Start with a fresh roll, add oil, then salami, then lettuce, tomato and onion, then pickles and peppers, then salt, pepper and oregano, then provolone, then capicola and pepper ham, all topped with paper-thin slices of prosciutto. Ingredients don’t come from a one-stop shop service. They are purchased primarily from local companies such as B&M Meat in Wilmington. Joe Casapulla, who owns shops in Newark and Middletown, takes pride in preserving the reputation. “My grandfather worked hard at building the name,” he says. “We want to keep it that way.” (1216 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-7827; 106 Sandhill Drive, Middletown, 376-8500; 1216 Capitol Trail Road, Newark, 737-2200; 750 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 834-7400; 19931 Lighthouse Plaza Blvd., No. 1, Rehoboth Beach, 227-7827; 514 Casapulla Ave., Wilmington, 994-5934; 2707 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0221)

Deep Blue Bar and Grill

Deep Blue Bar and Grill is more exciting than ever. “When we opened 10 years ago, we were contemporary,” says owner Dan Butler. “We’re current now, but it’s a different vibe.” Deep Blue caters to business travelers and locals who are accustomed to big city restaurants—which is exactly what Deep Blue has become. Chef de cuisine Julio Lazzarini has brought Latin sensibilities to the fare, though entrées are predominately seafood, and a tapas menu reflects changing tastes. Butler helped create Wilmington After Work, a happy hour program on Wednesdays, after seeing the synergy between restaurant owners during Wilmington’s annual restaurant week. The bar is hot at happy hour, and it’s one of the few places downtown where you can enjoy live music in the evenings. (111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040)

DiFebo’s

From its beginnings as a sub shop in a tiny beach cottage, DiFebo’s evolved until, in 1998, readers named it the best restaurant in all of Sussex County. By then, DiFebo’s had gone big, building the beautiful room full of vibrant Mediterranean colors. In 2004 critics praised the antipasto, an artful blend of Diluso salami, imported Italian ham, prosciutto, cheese, house-roasted peppers, veggies and excellent vinaigrette dressing. The walls display local art, and there are always fresh flowers on every table. At heart, DiFebo’s has always been a family place. Husband-wife kitchen duo Jeff and Lisa Osias trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and their skills are especially apparent in such entrées as sautéed garlic shrimp with Parmesan grits and the pumpkin ravioli with rosemary-roasted chicken. (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914)

Dilworthtown Inn

In 1996, we chose the Dilworthtown Inn as “the perfect place for your special occasion” mostly because we were obsessed with its salmon, escargot Florentine and lobster entrées. We’ve always heralded the inn for its food, in fact. Perhaps our happy bellies—or random samplings of its 800 wine choices—so overwhelmed us that we neglected to mention the roaring fireplaces, the candlelit atmosphere or that the building, circa 1780, is steeped in history. Of course, the menu is wonderful, but the inn pays big attention to the smallest details. And for that, we applaud proprietors Jim Barnes and Bob Rafetto. (1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., 610-399-1390)

Feby’s Fishery

In 1991 readers gave the grilled salmon at Feby’s Fishery top honors. In 1995 critics hailed the seafood icon for its “wide variety of finfish.” We simply can’t limit our choices now, since Feby’s prepares all seafood well. The original Elsmere restaurant founded in 1974 moved to its current location in 1984, then underwent a full-scale renovation in 2002. But the family-style service that founders Philip and Mary DiFebo insisted on at the start has never changed. All Feby’s seafood used to come from the Jersey shore. Today it’s shipped from as far as New Zealand, guaranteeing customers wider selections more often. The crab cakes and little neck clams are still superb. (3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9496)

Govatos Chocolate

Govatos Chocolates was established in 1894 by Greek immigrant John Govatos, who had scrimped and saved to bring his brothers to America. Good family karma, and some awesome chocolate recipes, elevated Govatos into rarified air. Today Nicholas Govatos manages the retail candy operations while Richard Govatos Jr. heads chocolate factory production. Their dedication to quality make Govatos a classic. We wrote in 1990, “Make sure to check out the gourmet truffles in flavors from champagne to raspberry.” Oh yeah, do be sure to check those out. (4105 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-5324; 800 Market St., Wilmington, 652-5252)

Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House and Saloon

In 1985, just two years after Kid Shelleen’s was established, Delaware Today declared its potato skins “as stylish as the yuppie clientele.” In 1992 readers were hip to Kid’s, identifying it as “the place to be seen,” which it still is. Business folk mingle with artists, retirees with 20-somethings, and pols with average Joes, yet Kid’s is still a neighborhood place. The kitchen is open till 1 a.m., live bands play Wednesdays and Fridays, and deejays pump the crowds Thursdays and Saturdays. Kid’s is the undisputed singles capital on Thursday nights. And few places do Sunday brunch or lettuce wraps better. Thanks to its location on a largely residential street, dining on the deck is a fairly mellow affair—except when the train rolls by. (14th and Scott streets, Wilmington, 658-4600)

King’s Homemade Ice Cream

King’s Homemade Ice Cream will never change, which is precisely the reason we love it. In 1985 we wrote that King’s was the place “where the regal ice cream has been made by Earl King and his son Tom since 1972.” Earl passed in 2000, but Tom and his wife, Chris, still scoop the same 16 flavors they did in the 1970s, and it’s still made at the original King’s in Milton. Now comes the third generation. Chris and Tom’s daughters, Rudy and Chelsea, are managers and will eventually take over the business. Chris says Earl would be proud of the business because it’s still old school, which is the way they—and we—like it. (201 Second St., Lewes, 645-9425; 302 Union St., Milton, 684-8900)

Pan Tai Restaurant, Bar & Lounge

Approaching its 25th year, Pan Tai remains the granddaddy of Asian cuisine in Wilmington. James Olivere opened the stylish restaurant just a block from Cantina, his trailblazing Mexican place, in 1984. Pan Tai is famous for its emphasis on fresh ingredients and for its heat scale that allows diners to regulate the spiciness of their meal. Pad Thai has been a perennial hit, along with seafood specials and, of course, Jimmy’s Fried Rice. Another feature that customers expect: a visit from their host. The personable Olivere has traveled the world—especially covering Asia—so he loves to compare notes with others and share his passion for Southeastern Asian cuisine. Considering that most of Pan Tai’s clientele are sophisticated, well-traveled corporate types, Olivere enjoys working the room. “It’s impressive when the host has been to your hometown,” Olivere says. “It’s all about people.” (837 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6633)

Pizza by Elizabeths

The Elizabeths—owners Betsy LeRoy and Betty Snyder—were ahead of their time when they opened their gourmet Pizza by Elizabeths shop among Greenville’s upper crust in 1993. They’ve grown by creatively expanding the menu while keeping the spotlight on the gourmet pies. Along the way, Elizabeths added to its list of eight pre-set pizzas. It now offers 15, plus a create-your-own opportunity. Breadsticks and dips, once the lone appetizer, are joined by such favorites as artichoke and crab dip. Elizabeths features more than a dozen different salads and a choice of 60 toppings that make the create-your-own combinations endless. Elizabeths remains health conscious, offering salads with organic field greens, a low-fat honey wheat crust and a gluten-free crust. Five years ago, the restaurant added liquor to its wine and beer selection. If you’ll recall, the Elizabeths were the first to suggest pairing vintage wines with specific pizzas. Homemade desserts have been the rule since Day One. Regulars almost staged a mutiny when the trademark toffee—LeRoy’s mom’s recipe—wasn’t available for a short time. Later this year, Elizabeths will undergo perhaps its biggest change: a move to a larger space nearby. Look for more pleasant surprises, especially in the decor. And the wait for a table shouldn’t be as long—not that the wait hasn’t always been worth it. (4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4487)

Ronny’s Garden World

Forgive the botanical pun, but Ronny’s Garden World is a perennial Best of Delaware winner for good reason. After 38 years in the same location, Ronny’s dedication to customer service and steady prices has kept it a favorite among green thumbs around the state. Co-owner Donna Staley (Ronny’s daughter) grew up around the vast garden center and says little has changed in the approach. Fresh products year round, great prices and special attention you can’t get from the big-box home improvement stores are what make Ronny’s great. The store offers free landscape design to homeowners, free gardening seminars all day, delivery services and a yearly expo that sees gardeners turn out en masse. The store buys fresh plants in large volume to keep prices down and that keeps customers coming back for more. (5580 Dupont Pkwy., Smyrna, 653-6288)

The Rusty Rudder

Since time began in Dewey Beach, there was The Bottle & Cork. As a bar, it served only drinks. Then there was The Starboard, which, at one time, was as popular a restaurant as it was a place to drink. Then, in the mid-1970s, came Jay Prettyman and The Rusty Rudder, and Dewey Beach suddenly had a seven-day-a-week place to eat well and drink well. It was an instant hit, and a real shot to developers. The expansive, sunset-facing deck on Rehoboth Bay drew locals and visitors for frozen drinks, decent food and once-legendary mile-high chocolate pie. The ownership may have changed a few years ago, but all else has remained much the same over the past 30 years. Everywhere you turn at The Rudder, there’s a bar. The drafts are cold. The martinis are good. And the stage pounds with live music on Thursday and Saturday nights from bands like Love Seed Mama Jump, Kristen & The Noise, and Burnt Sienna. The food, from the salad bar to the seafood buffet to the prime rib, is good, too. New Year’s Eve celebrations here remain one of the biggest parties in the state. (113 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 227-3888)

Stanley’s Tavern
Stanley’s Tavern has been around since 1935, when North Wilmington had yet to become the bustling suburb it is now. Back then Stanley’s was a friendly neighborhood taproom. As the place has grown, the menu has evolved. Though still at its best with burgers, wings and beer, it also includes delicious items such as sesame Ahi tuna and calamari pescatore. At the heart of Stanley’s success is how amazingly it excels as the go-to neighborhood spot. It’s still an awesome place to watch a game with buddies (like former Philadelphia Eagle Bill Bergey) or to take the kids for burgers and shakes. In 1996 we wrote, “With 120 different kinds of bottled beer and 13 kinds of drafts, Stanley’s Tavern is the ultimate neighborhood pub. Wings specials, a great menu and TVs galore make it the place to be.” We’re still there. (2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington 475-1887)

Utage Japanese Restaurant
Utage introduced sushi—a near seismic event—to Delaware when it opened in 1986, so we’ve praised the restaurant for that and other authentic Japanese cuisine ever since. The sushi rolls are first-class presentations. The Aurora roll is an eye-catching combo of salmon, shrimp, steamed asparagus, seaweed, dry tuna flakes, and marinated daikon. Utage gets points for its family friendly service—many a youngster was introduced to Japanese food here—and we’re betting the little monkeys went ape over Utage’s banana tempura. Utage, which means, “banquet of celebration,” is perfectly named. The Oka family has always insisted upon great service. There are flashier imitators, certainly, but Utage is the model. (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 57-61, Wilmington, 652-1230)

Victoria’s Restaurant
Victoria’s Restaurant became a classic the moment it opened in the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in the summer of 1991. Since then it has offered people an elegantly Victorian (of course), quiet dining room that overlooks the beach and boardwalk. The traditional afternoon tea is superb, a welcome respite from the hot sun and cheese fries. Dining on the boardwalk patio in warmer months is always lively. Victoria’s menu changes seasonally, but if the pan-seared rockfish and shrimp is on the menu, you’re in luck. In fact, the entire bill of fare has been revamped to be more local and—dare we say it?—a little more daring. The lasagna of grilled asparagus, wild mushrooms, goat cheese ricotta and Parmesan is layered with delicious homemade noodles. And it’s not exactly an Eastern Shore specialty, but the lobster roll says “seaside” just the same. (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615)

Walt’s Flavor Crisp Chicken/Walt’s Chicken Express
Long before Walt’s Express, there was Walt’s Flavor Crisp. There was even a Miz Walt’s at one time. Despite the many avatars, the fried chicken has remained the same. As we’ve said nearly every year in recent memory, that plump, juicy chicken is the best in Delaware. Every year we attempt to score the recipe, and every year, owner Larry Fletcher, who was given the green light to fry up the mysterious recipe originally devised by Walt’s founder Harry Sheppard, politely declines. But there’s more to it than great chicken. There are delicious greens and green beans, desserts such as rice pudding and apple crisp, and simple, delicious macaroni and cheese. (103 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 429-2587)

Walter’s Steakhouse
Walter’s Steakhouse is one of the only places honored as the best restaurant for beef 10 years in a row. And no wonder. Owner John Walter Constantinou was born to it, having cut his teeth in the family’s legendary Constantinou’s House of Beef, an icon on Delaware Avenue from the 1940s through the early ’90s, before opening a classic of his own. The family’s premise remains intact: Serve the finest steaks and seafood dishes, then wow diners with top-shelf spirits. Walter’s is known for delectable certified Angus beef and prime rib—which is unfortunate for the crab cakes, which are outstanding. On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays sample delicious shrimp, clams Casino, mussels, crab claws, oysters and caviar from the complimentary raw bar. One little secret: The crabcakes are among the best we’ve ever tasted. (802 N. Union St, Wilmington, 652-6780)

 

 

WILM 1450 AM
Readers have depended on WILM 1450 AM for news, weather and sports for decades. In 1948 the station was purchased by the Delaware Broadcasting Company, which was owned and operated by Ewing B. Hawkins. By 1976 Sally V. Hawkins had transformed WILM into a powerful entity, and she resisted the trend of selling to a media conglomerate. As a result, the station became the only independently owned all-news radio station in America. The decision to sell was excruciating, but in 2004, the Hawkins family sold WILM to Clear Channel Communications for $4 million. Two years later the station dropped national newscasts from CBS Radio and switched to Fox News Radio. The local air staff, including longtime newsmen John Watson and Mark Fowser, is still on the beat thanks to reliable, hardworking reporters, and it still offers local programming such as Saturday morning’s “Money and Politics in Delaware.” Readers continue to regard WILM as a balanced news source. (920 W. Basin Road, Suite 400, New Castle, 395-9800)

Wings to Go
When Buffalo-style chicken wings caught fire in the mid-1980s, the original Wings to Go store in Dover quickly bloomed to more than a dozen across the state. Now they span the country—and they offer Buffalo-style shrimp and other fare as well. There’s nothing fancy about these places. They simply make really good wings. Of the 15 sauces to choose from, the best seller is Hot, which the shop calls “average hot.” The bravest go for Suicide, which promises an “awesome rush.” We’d call that an understatement. Masochists insist on the Homicide. While the degree of hotness matters, wings can’t be great unless they’re tasty and crispy. Wings To Go never disappoints. (809 Governor’s Place, Bear, 836-8611; 1814 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-9555; 23 S. Dupont Highway, Dover, 734-8144; Peoples Plaza, Suite 940, Glasgow, 836-9711; 428 E. Main St., Middletown, 449-0300; 907 N. Dupont Hwy., Milford, 424-1222; 174 E. Main St., Newark, 456-3400; 1404 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 322-5050; 174 E. Main St., Newark, 456-3400; 2 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1766; 3311 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-4660; 4567 New Linden Hill Road, Wilmington, 292-2500)

WSTW 93.7 FM
The self-proclaimed “Delaware’s Choice for Hit Music” has also been the main choice of Delaware Today readers during the past 25 years. The station has earned at least 27 Best of Delaware awards for everything from music to morning show. The station, always operated by Delmarva Broadcasting, hit the airwaves 30 years ago with a fully automated Top 40 format. Memorable personalities would soon take over, but the independently owned station has always stuck with its pop music format—a rarity in the radio biz. It’s those on-air folks who give WSTW its voice and, well, personality. While the on-air folks have come and gone, a core group has continued to thrive. Traffic Watch’s Robin Bryson is a 29-year veteran, and Big Don Voltz has handled sports for 22 years. They’re joined by Mike Rossi (20 years) and morning guy Dana McDonald (15). WSTW is known for supporting local charities such as the Wilmington Flower Market. WSTW’s consistency in all of these areas and its commitment to Wilmington and Delaware is why DT readers have voted the station a perennial winner. (2727 Shipley Road, Wilmington, 478-2700)
 

 

Best breakfast for dinner, critics, upstate: Lucky’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli, www.luigic.com

Best Accompaniments

Critics, upstate: You don’t find really good lemon basmati rice in many places. So it was love at first bite when we tasted executive chef John Schulte’s version at Corner Bistro. It is the perfect blend of tangy lemon zest, a generous supply of basil and subtle hints of garlic and ginger. When it’s available, we’d eat a whole bowl of it and call it a meal. (3604 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-1778)

 

 

Best Appetizers
Readers, upstate: Dome Restaurant and Bar (400 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 235-2600)

Readers, downstate: Corner Eatery @ 33 West (33 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 735-9822)

Critics, Over the Line: They’re called small plates at Blue Pear Bistro, but we like ’em just the same. Try convincing yourself of the health benefits of bacon and egg salad—it is salad, after all—with a fried soft-boiled egg and pork belly over greens and a medley of beans. We also loved the fall menu item of flakey mushroom crepes with Swiss chard and pickled chanterelle mushrooms. (1390 OldWilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., 610-399-1390)

 

 

Best bar, readers, upstate: Dome Restaurant and Bar. Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli, www.luigic.com

Best Bar
Readers, upstate: Dome Restaurant and Bar (400 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 235-2600)

Readers, downstate: Corner Eatery @ 33 West (33 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 735-9822)

Critics, upstate: The Wilmington After Work happy hour program on Wednesdays has succeeded largely due to the fun atmosphere at Deep Blue Bar and Grill. The spacious, upscale hangout offers enough elbow room for those who wish to relax and order from the menu. (Do sample the raw bar). But popping in for a martini is just as enjoyable since the sound isn’t overwhelming. It’s subtle enough, in fact, to hear conversation. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering the many people who hit the bar before a show at Theatre N across the street, or those lovelies who sip Chardonnay before doing Broadway at the DuPont Theatre around the corner. Great bartenders help, as does music. Good live jazz, pop and rock groups play Friday and Saturday evenings. (111 W. 11th St, Wilmington, 777-2040)

Critics, downstate: Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant was reborn in December after a fire burned it to the ground last year soon after, of all days, St. Patty’s. Just nine months later, it reopened with a second-floor banquet facility and an expanded outdoor deck on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. During the rebuilding, owners were careful not to lose any of the pub’s local charm, so they passed on the frills and decorations, opting instead for pictures of the old place and even some pictures of the fire. The fishermen and locals once again haunt the place year round, and tourists flood there in the summer, just as they always did. There are many Irish Eyes Pubs now, but this one remains the best. (213 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-6888)

 

 

Best Breakfast Place
Readers, downstate: Smyrna Diner (304 N. Dupont Hwy., Smyrna, 653-9980)

 

 

Best Breakfast for Dinner
Critics, upstate: Lucky’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant is open seven days a week, and it serves breakfast all day, so if you missed it in the morning, this is your place. The menu includes short and tall stacks of pancakes, Belgian waffles, grits, scrapple, bagels and creamed chipped beef. Three-egg omelets are stuffed with fillings such as smoked salmon, corned beef hash, pepper Jack cheese, olives and amazingly fresh spinach and mushrooms. Owner Mickey Donatello revamped the former Ranch House Restaurant, a breakfast classic, in 2007. And he’s been doing a land-office business on Saturday and Sunday mornings ever since. It’s a good thing the waiting area has a comfortable multi-colored Nelson marshmallow sofa. Booths are covered in green fabric, lipstick-red leather chairs fill the dining room and Chinese lanterns hang from the ceiling. The art deco counter has 12 seats that swirl. And there’s a mirrored disco ball near the restrooms. What does this have to do with breakfast? Absolutely nothing. But it sure is fun. (4003 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0240)

 

 

Best Burgers
Readers, upstate and downstate: Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries (1249 Quintilio Drive, Bear, 832-7555; 111 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 539-3970; 136 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-1125)

Critics, upstate: What’s left to say about Jake’s Hamburgers? Even in the midst of a massive expansion, Jake’s keeps it real. The burgers are made with fresh ground beef, seasoned simply and fried on Jake’s well-seasoned griddle. (Yes, grills needs seasoning, too.) As always, double down on the patties, top them with everything, then wash them down with a milkshake. Eat, nap, repeat. (150 S. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 322-0200; 1100 Ogletown Road, Newark, 737-1118; 2401 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-6800; 2095 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 439-7060; 1643 Pulaski Highway, Bear, 832-2230)

 

 

Most Creative Burger
Critics, downstate: Owner-chef Kevin Reading and chef de cuisine Hari Cameron are the burger kings at Nage. Their prime rib burger is ground from the deckle trimmings of center-cut rib-eye. They serve it on a homemade bun topped with organic lettuce, tomatoes, pickled smoked onions and melted Gouda cheese. Enjoy with crispy Nage frites—shoestring sweet and white potatoes with truffle oil. (4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037)

Critics, Over the Line: Dry aging beef is a lost art, but Dan Butler and the crew at Brandywine Prime Seafood and Chops clearly know their stuff. The house burger takes 8 ounces of dry-aged rib-eye, Angus strip loin and prime beef tenderloin, grinds them into one, grills it to perfection, then places it on a brioche roll with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms. (1617 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa,, 610-388-8088)

 

 

Best Ceviche
Critics, upstate: There’s nothing too fancy about the ceviche at Los Mariscos Del Fines. It’s just good, full of big chunks of fish, rough cuts of tomato, lemon or lime, a little white vinegar and heaps of fresh cilantro. As an appetizer or as a meal, it’s a perfect summer dish, especially when enjoyed with a good bottle of Jarra de Aqua Fresca natural fruit water. (2110 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-3363)

Best chef, critics, downstate: Leo Medisch,
executive chef at the Back Porch Café
Photograph by Keith Mosher, www.kamproductions.com

 

 

Best Chef
Critics, downstate: Leo Medisch, executive chef at the Back Porch Café in Rehoboth Beach, joined as a kitchen worker in 1979. He liked the vibe so much he decided toBest chef, critics, downstate: Leo Medisch, executive chef at the Back Porch Café Photograph by Keith Mosher, www.kamproductions.com stick around. He’s helped guide Back Porch from a humble health-food stand into a Mecca of fine dining. A self-confessed Francophile, Medisch’s extensive travels (to Paris, as well as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and more) influence his menu. He loves fresh seafood, as well as slow-braised dishes such as lamb shanks and rich veal cheeks. The key to staying on top of his game, he says, is applying classic techniques in a new way while keeping an eye out for new experiences. (The Back Porch Café, 59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674)

 

 

Best Chicken Nuggets
Critics, over the line: Take a hike, Hamburglar. These are the new nuggets of choice. Blue Pear Bistro serves tender, crispy panko-crusted gems of breast and thigh meat paired with white-truffle honey mustard. Blue Pear gets as many points for humor as it does for flavor: The skewered nuggets are served sticking out of a terra-cotta planter filled with uncooked black beans. (1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., 610-399-1390)

 

 

Best Chicken Wings
Critics, upstate: Chef-owner Prince Johnson of Prince on Delaware brought a little spice to Old New Castle last fall when he trotted out his “Outrageous” chicken wings. Johnson conjured the recipe while working as private chef to the president of Swarthmore College. Johnson wanted to wow the diverse diners who visited campus, so he consulted a Chilean staffer about South American cooking. Johnson consequently added dry chili peppers to his wing marinade to give them the proper kick. The plump wings, from free-range chickens raised on an Amish farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, are fried and served with sour cream. The juicy appetizers have become a customer favorite. (124 Delaware St., New Castle, 326-1130)

 

 

Best Cocktail Selection
Readers, upstate: 1717 Restaurant (1717 Delaware Ave., 47 Phoebe Farms Lane, Wilmington, 655-5080)

Readers, downstate: Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199)

 

 

Best Crab Cakes
Readers, upstate: Valle Cucina Italiano (4752 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 998-9999)

Readers, downstate: Fish On! (17300 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes, 645-9790)

 

 

Best Crab House
Readers, upstate: Feby’s Fishery (3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9496)

Readers, downstate: Lazy Susan’s Seafood Deli (1422 Highway One, Lewes, 645-5115)

Critics, downstate: Sambo’s Tavern has operated for more than 50 years off Del. 9 in the sleepy town of Leipsic. It’s a true institution, so it’s not without its traditions and principles: No credit cards, no one under 21, and no crabs after local watermen pack up their pots and dry dock their skiffs in November. Show up early to grab a highly coveted window seat with a view of the Leipsic River. Try a crab cake with jumbo lump crabmeat, no filler and double-checked for loose shells. (280 Front St., Leipsic, 674-9724)

 

 

Best desserts, readers, upstate: Caffé Gelato. Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli, www.luigic.comBest Desserts
Readers, upstate: Caffé Gelato (90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811)

Readers, downstate: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)

 

 

Best Dinner and a Dance
Critics, upstate: Once the final round of delicious dinner entrées clear away at Café Scalessa’s, the fun truly begins. Friday and Saturday nights feature a deejay set spun by owner Don Scalessa. He starts with a little Frank Sinatra, moves through the ’70s and ’80s with disco, then busts into a full-on club scene for the late-night crowd. Dancing is great for burning those carbs. (504 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, 656-0955)

 

 

Most Diverse Casual Menu
Critics, upstate: Where else but Six Paupers Tavern and Restaurant can a diner find mahi-mahi, pork chimichangas and fettuccine primavera alongside conch fritters, babyback ribs and meatloaf? Jamie Nardozzi’s menu is sort of a whirlwind, but the presentation is always brilliant and the flavors are spot-on. (7465 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 489-7287)

 

 

Best Draft Beer
Critics, Over the Line: In 2005 CNN rated McKenzie Brew House the 35th best brewery in the world. Repeat: the world. Our top pick is Unicorn Amber Ale. Other regular selections include a crisp light lager, Shane’s Gold, Wicked Will’s Pale Ale and Black Lab Stout. Drink locally, but think globally: McKenzie’s brewmeister uses barley from England, Germany, Belgium, France and Scotland. (451 Wilmington Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., 610-361-9800)

 

 

Best Food Event
Critics, upstate: What began as a celebrity chef’s brunch 11 years ago has expanded into a Meals from the Masters Weekend of culinary excellence. About 30 of the world’s renowned chefs gather in Wilmington each spring to strut their stuff for a good cause. The Evening With The Masters lures hundreds to the Chase Center on the Riverfront to enjoy demonstrations by celebrity chefs from such places as Johnson & Wales University and to sample the best dishes from top local chefs. The live wine auction is equally popular. At the Chefs’ Brunch, top chefs prepare tasting portions for more than 1,000 guests. The ever-expanding event, which also includes quarterly wine dinners in private homes and a beach brunch in October, has raised beaucoup dollars for Meals on Wheels Delaware over the years—a record $590,000-plus this year alone. (100 W. 10th St., Suite 207, Wilmington, 656-3257)

Downstate, critics: The theme of the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival is “A Day For Chocolate Lovers,” which may be the understatement of the decade. Check the next event (March) at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center and decadent entries from such favorite restaurants as Victoria’s, Café Sole, Dogfish Head, La Rosa Negra, The Bake Shoppe and Pasqualini’s Bakery. (Rehoboth Main Street, 227-2772)

 

 

Best Cajun-Creole Restaurant
Critics, upstate: Blue Parrot Bar & Grille is named after a tattoo worn by Kim Bassinger in the awful N’awlins-based movie “No Mercy.” You’ll have to stop in to hear the full story, and while you’re there enjoy great Delta-region cuisine such as jambalaya and étouffée, all laced with locally made andouille sausage. Don’t miss the Sunday brunch and jam session with live music and boiled crawfish. (1934 W. Sixth St., Wilmington, 655-8990)

 

 

Best Caribbean Restaurant
Best Caribbean restaurant, critic’s, upstate: Genelle’s Café and Bakery. Photograph by Nick Antony, www.nickantony.comCritics, upstate: Genelle’s Café and Bakery is always hopping at lunchtime, and dining outside on Market Street is super fun, but don’t forget about dinner. The cuisine takes its cue from owner Wilfred Freeman, whose Guyanese background influences the menu and the huge list of daily specials. His curries of goat, chicken and more get rave reviews from customers, as does the chicken and squash and ox tail. Try a bake (which is actually fried)—a big, puffy pastry flavored with cinnamon. We don’t know what the salmon stewed with jalapeños is called. We don’t even know if it’s authentically Caribbean (salmon in the West Indies?). All we know is it’s absolutely delicious. Take out up front, dine in at the back. (730 N. Market St., Wilmington, 654-5322)

 

 

Best Chinese Restaurant
Readers, upstate: The Crownery (228 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-3825)

Readers, downstate: New China (250 Gateway Blvd. South, Dover, 698-1800)

Critics, upstate: China Royal packs customers in just about nightly, and those folks are not just there for the moo shu. Customers love the fast, friendly, reliable service. Plus, with all the great variety it serves, China Royal is occasionally forgotten as a seafood restaurant at heart. The dozens of dishes that revolve around shrimp, crab, scallops and even whole sea bass are phenomenal. (1845 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 475-3686)

Critics, downstate: Perhaps the contemporary interior and beautiful plating adds to the experience at Confucius Chinese Cuisine. The fare is truly diverse, and the menu pays homage to several styles of regional cooking. For traditional favorites, the Peking duck is prepared well, but do drift a tad outside your comfort zone to find cold jellyfish or Woo Shien beef. We also love the standbys—General Tso’s chicken, orange beef—but Confucius’ original creations get our vote. (57 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3848)

 

 

Best Crepes
Critics, downstate: The banh xeo at the gem called Viet Kieu Restaurant is a paper-thin crepe stuffed with shrimp, bean sprouts, green onion, and chicken or pork. Order the large lettuce leaf to wrap the crepes to dip in fish sauce. Thank the French for their contribution to Vietnamese cuisine. (510 Jeffrey Blvd., Dover, 744-9300)

 

 

Best French Restaurant
Readers, upstate: The Green Room (Hotel du Pont, 11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)

Critics, downstate: All the elements of a sophisticated French dining experience are present at Bon Appetit Restaurant: touches such as the lace curtains and French prints on the wall. Of course, the food is all here, too: delicate country pâté, pickled herring, salmon á l’orange and more. Best of all, the prices are always reasonable. This may well be the last true French dining experience in Delaware. (312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700)

 

 

Best Greek Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Cosmo’s Diner (316. S. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, 994-0920)

Readers, downstate: Captain Pete’s Mediterranean Cove (700 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 537-5900)

 

 

Best Indian Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Star of India (1710 Newport Gap Pike, Newport, 999-0855)

Readers, downstate: Flavor of India (348 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 677-0121)

 

 

Best Irish Fare
Critics, downstate: Named for a family farm in the Mourn Mountains of Northern Ireland, Stoney Lonen does authentic Irish fare fused with American cuisine and a strong tie to fresh seafood. Of course, who needs fish when there’s smoked whiskey and fennel Irish banger, stout-braised short ribs, corned beef and cabbage, and grilled Gaelic chicken with fresh herb fontina cream? (208 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2664)

 

 

Best Neighborhood Italian Place
Readers, upstate: Pat’s Pizza Family Restaurant (1713 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 832-5500; 7288 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-3999; 311 N. Broad St., Middletown, 378-4500; 606 E. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6060; 160 Elkton Road, Newark, 738-0808; 40 Marrows Road, Newark, 738-1000; 41 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 659-1600; 2008 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 992-0212; 4231 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-9020; 5603 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 633-0303; 3604 Lancaster Ave., Wilmington, 999-7717; 1815 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 792-2800)

Readers, downstate: Trevi Ristorante (53 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-6800)

Critics, upstate: It’s not so much what’s on the menu, though the fare at Madeline’s Italian Restaurant is as delicious as when matriarch Madeline Sparco whipped up her famous lasagna 42 years ago. It’s not so much the wonderful stuffed shells, veal spezzato, pasta fagioli soup, crusty South Philly rolls or the luscious lobster bisque, which are on the menu every day. What we honor this year is an occasional special: Madeline’s eggplant Parmigiana. The ultra-thin slices of eggplant are fried just right, topped with mozzarella and delicious sauce, then—and here’s the key—baked until all flavors blend into a harmonious whole (an all-too-infrequent occurrence in restaurants these days). Chefs tend to make it on Saturdays, though no one knows when the whim will get them, so call ahead. (531 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 656-4505)

Critics, downstate: Roma chef Joseph Garramone Jr. of Roma Italian Ristorante learned to cook from his father, owner and founder Giuseppe Garramone. So no matter what the meal, dining at Roma always feels like a family event. The booths are still upholstered in red velvet—which may be a little outdated, but when you add white tablecloths and red cloth napkins, the unassuming space brings back memories of long-ago Sunday family gatherings. Locals love the gravy, which chef Joey simmers for 15 hours. The chilled roasted peppers with fresh mozzarella are out of this world. Eggplant and chicken Parmagiana are like Grandma’s. The saltimboca alla Roma, tender veal topped with prosciutto, is one of the most popular entrées. The Italian flag flies proudly here, but don’t be surprised to see a few Asian, Southwestern and classic American dishes, too. (3 President Drive, Dover, 678-1041)

 

 

Best Upscale Italian Place
Readers, upstate: Nino’s Pizza (4553 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-5000; 2070 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-9800; 188 Penn Mart Center, New Castle, 323-9979; 1663 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 834-3636; 464 W. Main St., Middletown, 449-0911)

Readers, downstate: DiFebo’s (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914)

Critics, upstate: Situating itself somewhere between mom and pop Italian and the fancy, big city Italian places, Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano has served homestyle Southern Italian cuisine in Wilmington’s Little Italy for more than a year. The Parmisciano brothers honor their grandmother’s Old Country cooking with dishes such as carpaccio di salmone: thinly sliced Norwegian salmon cured in lemon and extra virgin olive oil, topped with rucola, cherry tomatoes and capers, and finished with saffron and grated Caciotta cheese. And seafood specials that include octopus, shrimp and scallops have caught customers’ attention. Pomodoro’s wine list features 20 reds, a handful of sparkling wines and a dozen whites ranging from $24 a bottle to $250 (Sassicaia). Glasses range from $6 to $12. The tiramisu has no equal in these parts. (720 N. Union St., Wilmington, 574-9800)

 

 

Best Japanese Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Utage Japanese Restaurant (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 57-61, Wilmington, 652-1230)

Readers, downstate: Hibachi Japanese Steak House (691 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 734-5900)

Critics, upstate: So many components make a sushi restaurant great. For the past eight years, Okura Japanese Cuisine Restaurant has displayed tremendous consistency on top of its high quality. The staff is always friendly. As with many Japanese restaurants, the decor is simple, but clean and elegant. Plating (as well as the plates themselves) is a treat to the eye. Naturally, Okura uses great, fresh seafood, which is delivered daily to chef Kailon Yeung. You can taste the difference. (703 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-8486)

Critics, downstate: Ichiban Japanese Restaurant is a central Delaware classic for sushi, sashimi maki rolls and even a few Korean specialties. Serious value can be found in the Ichiban lunch box specials, which come with a Japanese staple such as chicken teriyaki or gyoza, soup, salad, and rice or noodles. (737 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 677-0067)

 

 

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Ali Baba Middle Eastern Cuisine (175 E. Main St., Newark, 738-1111)

Readers, downstate: Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199)

 

 

Best Mexican Restaurant
Readers, upstate and downstate: La Tonalteca (La Tolteca: 2209 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 778-4646; 4015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9477; La Tonalteca: 60 N. College Ave., Newark, 737-8220; 1724 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 636-9484; 528 S. Bay Road, Dover, 734-4575; 245 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 735-1572; 1000 Midway Drive, Harrington, 398-7644; 4578 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 644-3994)

Critics, upstate: With wrought-iron chandeliers, cushy booths, white tablecloths and attentive service, Palacio Maya Mexican Restaurant is downright fancy for a Mexican place. Palacio Maya is a member of the La Tonalteca family, but its menu is best described as uptown instead of homestyle Mexican. Take, for instance, the tacos de cochinita pibil: Yucatan-style tacos of pork shoulder marinated in achiote, secret spices and the juice of sour oranges, baked in banana leaves, then topped with pickled red onions and served on soft corn tortillas. Don’t let the upscale approach intimidate you. It’s still a fun place for the family to experience the various regions of Mexico. (7288 Lancaster Pike, Suite 2B, Hockessin, 239-5590)

Critics, downstate: Brothers Gerson and Eddy Guox converted the Georgetown Plaza and Millsboro restaurants known as El Vaquero into La Quetzalteca Mexican Restaurants. The Guatemala natives say the Quetzalteca Special—sliced beef, chicken, shrimp and chorizo served with fried onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, beans and tortillas—is the top seller. The place isn’t fancy, but it does offer an intimate dining experience and authentically delicious fare. And the selection of tequilas is impressive. (25 Georgetown Plaza, Georgetown, 854-0218; 9 Gravel Hill Road, Georgetown, 856-7003; 26007 Pugs Crossing, Millsboro, 934-8077)

 

 

Best Thai Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Pan Tai (837 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6633)

Readers, downstate: Seaside Thai (19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9525)

Critics, upstate: Thai food is flourishing in New Castle County, and it doesn’t get much better than Tasti Thai. Hidden in a strip mall, Tasti Thai explodes with flavor and color—by way of the paper parasols hanging from the ceiling and owner Sung Falke’s fresh and sharp menu. We like the crispy honey-roasted duck topped with crispy basil leaves. (287 Christiana Road, New Castle, 322-1306)

 

 

Best Family Place
Readers, upstate: Charcoal Pit (2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2165; 741 Greenbank Road, Wilmington, 998-8853; 5200 Pike Creek Blvd., Wilmington,
999-7483)

Readers, downstate: XBOS (456 W. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-1800)

Critics, upstate: Kids enter Hannah Montana-level hysteria over dinner at Seasons Pizza, and why not? It’s a rockin’ place where they get to color and play with some balls of pizza dough and balloons. And they’re set on kid-friendly grub. It’s all here: chicken fingers, mac and cheese, spaghetti and kid-sized pizzas that put Chuck E. Cheese to shame. Adults should check out the crab cakes. (1503 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 226-4900; 903 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 322-1300; 203 E. Main St., Newark, 368-1515; 4606 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Newark, 366-1969; 1460 Pulaski Hwy., Newark, 832-5555; 3901 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2009; 1112 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-4000; 4723 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-6500; 615 S. Maryland Ave., Wilmington, 998-5055)

 

 

Best Gourmet Pizza
Critics, upstate: At Pizza by Elizabeths the owners honor their favorite Elizabeths by attaching the famous names to pizzas. Customers are amused by such monikers as the Shue, the Barrett Browning, the Boop (as in Betty) and the Hurley: a pizza topped with jerk chicken and mango salsa. The owners’ creativity has been forced to expand with the menu. “Luckily, there are always more Elizabeths becoming famous,” says owner Betsy LeRoy. “Thus, the Hasselbeck.” As always, Elizabeths offers only the freshest toppings (13 meats, 19 vegetables, 11 herbs, seven sauces and 14 cheeses), and its classic pizza dough made from a blend of three flours. The list of pre-set pizzas has reached 15, but the create-your-owns are still there for the independent minded. (4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4487)

Critics, downstate: Who needs pepperoni when you can have wild boar sausage? We love the soulful, homemade pies at Half Full, where you can get your crispy, oval-shaped pizza topped with porcini-tomato sauce, fresh mushrooms, whole-milk mozzarella and any number of other toppings in any combination. (113 Market St., Lewes, 645-8877)

 

 

Best Happy Hour
Readers, upstate: The Deer Park Tavern (108 W. Main St., Newark, 369-9414)

Readers, downstate: W.T. Smithers (140 S. State St., Dover, 674-8875)

Critics, upstate: Happy hours just don’t get any cooler than those at Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar: There are no drink specials, but there are two-for-one sushi rolls prepared and served by a fun, energetic staff and enjoyed in a stylish, yet comfortable, bar and lounge. (Happy hour is dinner hour after all.) So grab a Red Head (eel and cucumber roll topped with tuna) or a Fire Cracker (fresh salmon on top of salmon and avocado roll with a hot and spicy sauce) and get happy. (1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638)

Critics, downstate: From 3 p.m. till 6 p.m. on weeknights, Summer House offers cheap eats and drinks. For $2.95, grab an order of mini cheeseburgers, chicken tenders or a barbecue pork sandwich. A mere $3.95 covers Buffalo wings or spinach-artichoke dip. And $4.95 fetches black bean quesadillas or fried calamari. There’s more. Domestic beer is $3. Lemon drop and grapefruit martinis cost only $8 apiece. (228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895)

 

 

Best Healthy Fare
Readers, upstate: Home Grown Café & Gourmet to Go (126 E. Main St, Newark, 266-6993)

Readers, downstate: Greenman Juice Bar & Bistro (12 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4909)

Critics, downstate: Eden is synonymous with fresh. There are no processed, pre-packaged items used in its kitchen, and all stocks, pastas, soups and sauces are made on the premises. Chefs cut the beef and fish, which comes in daily, courtesy of Sea Eagle Fish of Bethany Beach. Staffers procure local ingredients, as well as organic ingredients, whenever possible. Olive oil, whose health benefits are well known, is the cooking oil, and the only fried items are garnishes and, once in awhile, oysters. Eden depends on Bob Russell growers in Milton for most of its produce. The chicken breast is certified organic. “Our philosophy is to start with fresh ingredients, and to combine them in a way that allows their natural flavors to speak for themselves,” says director of operations Danielle Panarello. (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330)

 

 

Best Irish Pub
Critics, upstate: With plenty o’ Irish pint specials, televised professional soccer, live Irish music, a mural that honors local police and firefighters and dishes such as shepherd’s pie, Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant gives new meaning to the term “green movement.” With its festive atmosphere, the restaurant most resembles an authentic Irish pub. Diners go for appetizers such as the Irish smoked salmon and the traditional fish and chips, while revelers go for—what else?—Guinness, Harp and Smithwick’s. (1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 654-9700)

Critics, downstate: More than eyes are smiling at the popular Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant. Irish Eyes offers Smithwick’s Irish Ale, Guinness Stout, Harp Lager, George Killians Irish Red and Strongbow cider on tap. The draughts are enjoyed with traditional bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and Guinness stew in an Irish pub atmosphere, complete with memorabilia from the Old Country. (213 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-6888; 105 Union St., Milton, 684-8889; 52 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-5758)

 

 

Best Late-Night Menu
Readers, upstate: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 658-8200)

Readers, downstate: Cottage Café (Highway One, Bethany Beach, 539-8710)

 

 

Best Little Restaurant
Critics, downstate: We’ve always loved the lifesaving station vibe of Striper Bites Bistro. After eight years, the place still packs a wallop. Bistro visitors will discover the addition of a trellis over the patio, along with a fresh paint scheme, refinished floors, and new trophy fish and artwork mounted among the exposed beams and walls. Not to worry, the signature Striper Bites Club (blackened rockfish—also known as striper—on a roll with lettuce, tomato, smoked applewood bacon and Caesar dressing) and blackened tuna pasta remain. Those favorites will soon be accompanied by the roasted lobster: half a 3-pound lobster (tail and claw) stuffed with roasted potatoes and served with grilled asparagus. (107 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-4657)

 

 

Best Local Game
Critics, upstate: In season (fall and winter) Harry’s Savoy Grill prepares local white-tailed deer in several ways. The latest version was made with a robust coffee and rosemary crust and came with a sweet corn quick bread. Executive chef David Leo Banks likens the dining experience to sitting in front of a warm fire. Check for it again in November. (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000)

 

 

Best Lunch Spot
Readers, upstate and downstate: Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries (1249 Quintilio Drive, Bear, 832-7555; 111 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 539-3970; 136 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-1125)

Critics, upstate: Every morning at 6:30 a.m., Michelle LaFond and Catalina Ruiz arrive at The Bean Bag Café to make brownies, muffins and cookies. While the goods bake, the staffers prepare turkey chili, chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad, spicy turkey salad, pasta salad and cole slaw. Bean Bag owner Holly Jankiewicz, who took over the business in 2003, calls her employees “fast women” because they work tirelessly to accommodate downtown patrons on their lunch hours. The café closes at 2:30 p.m. Enter from Market Street or Shipley Street. (913 N. Market St., Wilmington, 888-2444)

Critics, downstate: Everyone knows Corner Eatery @ 33 West is the place for a power lunch, and where to spot anyone who’s anyone in Dover. But how about the food? It’s top-notch, as any of those power players can attest. The salads, soups, grilled veggies and sandwiches—like chicken panini, mojito grilled chicken and the California club—rule. (33 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 735-9822)

 

 

Best Margaritas
Critics, upstate: Some margaritas are too sweet. Some are too sour. At El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant, they’re just right. The most popular choice is the traditional lime margarita, which is made with Finlandia tequila, fresh lime juice and Triple Sec. The Golden margarita blends Jose Cuervo Gold, Grand Marnier and Triple Sec. Both drinks come by the pitcher, but we enjoy them by the 19-ounce glass, frozen or on the rocks. (1700 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 791-9566)

Critics, downstate: For the third year running, Cactus Café is tops for frosty and big (10-ounce) margaritas. The strawberry and classic lime flavors, with Jose Cuervo tequila, are great. Owner Manuel Pavon mixes his own special blend that uses Grand Marnier orange liqueur. He says customers are loyal to his margaritas for their size and great price. (37 N. Dupont Hwy., Selbyville, 436-2750)

 

 

Best New Restaurant
Readers, upstate: Kenny’s Pan Asian Cuisine (1255 Quintilio Drive, Bear, 838-1725)

Readers, downstate: Trevi Ristorante (53 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-6800)

Critics, upstate: Ameritage Bistro opened in March in the spot of the former Brandywine Brewing Co., hoping to give diners a quality, yet approachable, downtown option. The homey, hearty high-end indulgences made by chef Sean Holland—think shepherd’s pie and traditional French cassoulet of white beans, lamb and duck confit—find their mark in what owner Henry Dawson calls simple, direct and provincial fare. It’s all reasonably priced, as is the wine list. (Try the Lolonis offerings for California wines with a link to Delaware.) The room is contemporary. The service is prompt. After dinner, check the display case in the to-go section for a selection of cheeses from Philly’s famous DiBruno Bros. Or try the cheese plate. Meet upstairs in the dining room or downstairs in the lounge. (900 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 427-2300)

 

 

Best Way to Dine Around the World
Critics, upstate: Independence Mall in Wilmington is like the cafeteria at a United Nations summit. There’s a spot for Indian (Nirvana), Japanese (Utage), British (The Flavour of Britain Tea Room), Swiss (The Melting Pot, since fondue is a Swiss delicacy) and even the new Rasa Sayang Malaysia Cuisine. We’re willing to include Slack’s Hoagie Shack. South Philly basically has its own language, after all. (1601 Concord Pike, No. 30, Wilmington, 656-2190)

 

 

Best Outdoor Dining
Readers, upstate: Kid Shelleen’s (14th and Scott streets, Wilmington, 658-4600)

Readers, downstate: The Cultured Pearl (19 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493)

Critics, upstate: There are few summer pleasures greater than sitting on the deck at Harry’s Seafood Grill while noshing a warm fish taco and watching folks burn calories on the Christina Riverwalk as you sip a cocktail. Harry’s deck is also a prime position for viewing fireworks at Frawley Stadium, boats from the Wilmington Rowing Club and sailings of the Kalmar Nyckel. (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)

Critics, over the line: Owners of the Chesapeake Inn bill the restaurant as the next best thing to dining at the beach. In many ways, it’s better. The inn is closer, easy to get to and the only traffic jam you’ll find here is during crazy Canal Day. From May through October, the Chesapeake Inn’s deck is the perfect spot to marvel at the trademark Chesapeake City bridge, to watch hulking cargo ships pass on the C&D and to see who’s docking at the marina for a night of fun. Regulars go for the brick oven pizzas, but sandwiches and fried goodies are also served on the deck. Need to get your Jimmy Buffett on? The tiki bar adds to the island atmosphere by cranking out popular rum runners and mojitos while live bands keep it rocking. (605 Second St., Chesapeake City, Md., 410-885-2040)Best

 

 

Pig Roast
Critics, upstate: We’d love to eat all the succulent rotisserie chicken and smoked baby back ribs Lapp’s BBQ can throw on a spit. But since we’re required to spill the baked beans, we must tell the world about Lapp’s monthly pig roasts. The meat cooks all day, which renders a pork that’s so tender, it truly does fall off the bone. Lapp’s is a mere smudge of a place, found on a tiny corner of the Dutch County Farmers Market. Blink and you’ll miss it. But if you have a hankerin’ for savory barbecue, luscious macaroni and cheese, and homemade mashed potatoes, you can do some real damage here. (701 N. Broad St., Middletown, 285-0866)

 

 

Best Pub-Tavern
Readers, upstate: The Deer Park Tavern (108 W. Main St., Newark, 369-9414)

Readers, downstate: W.T. Smithers (140 S. State St., Dover, 674-8875)

Critics, upstate: Oi mate, we love Stoney’s British Pub for the fresh cod from Dawson’s Seafood, the dartboards, the bangers and mash, the country ham soup, and bread and butter pudding (all recipes from owner Michael Stone’s mum). We especially like to get right barmy on Guinness and the fine selection of single-malt whiskey. Ace, innit? (307 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-9740)

Critics, downstate: If you can’t swing a trip to the British Isles, Finbar may be the next best thing. This fine tavern offers excellent fare and great ales, including Smithwick’s. The atmosphere is pure pub, complete with an antique bar from an old Philadelphia locale. The booths and tables were made in Dublin. English prints add to the authenticity. Dining chairs are covered in thick, comfy upholstery, and tables are spacious enough for larger parties. The food is terrific. You can’t go wrong with a cottage pie, braised lamb, prime rib, fresh fish, pork or pasta. And Finbar grills a respectable burger. (316 Rehoboth Ave, Rehoboth Beach, 227-1873)

 

 

Best Raw Bar
Readers, upstate: Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)

Readers, downstate: Fins Fish House and Raw Bar (243 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-3467)

 

 

Best Restaurant Makeover
Critics, upstate: The place to be this summer: Washington Street Ale House, where the old patio has been redecorated and enclosed with large accordion doors to let in plenty of air when the weather works. The deck is the latest step in a makeover that began in 2005 with an expansion of the cooking line, then an addition of a meeting and banquet room for 100. (It’s hosted Wilmington Mayor James Baker’s Christmas party.) New tiles were incorporated into the color scheme. Chrome and nickel plating replaced brass fixtures. Low voltage lighting replaced former Tiffany-style lamps. Contemporary art replaced older paintings. Diners now check in at the door, instead of trudging past the bar like they used to. And the menu was overhauled to offer higher-end entrées. Despite all the change, the Ale House still feels like a neighborhood hangout. “We just modernized a little,” says owner Darius Mansoory. “We’d never want to do anything that would make us lose our identity.” (1206 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537)

Critics, downstate: It’s not just for special occasions anymore. Michele’s Steak and Seafood at Dover Downs still offers excellent steak and seafood, but now there are touches of Asian and Italian. The Shanghai spring rolls are savory mixtures of pork, carrots and scallions wrapped in flaky pastry. Chefs also combine meat from braised short ribs with roasted garlic and Asiago cheese, then tuck it into homemade ravioli. Best of all, everything comes with a lower price than at the Michele’s of yore. (1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600)

 

 

Best Ribs
Readers, upstate: Stanley’s Tavern (2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington 475-1887)

Readers, downstate: Bethany Blues BBQ Pit (6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500)

Critics, upstate: Buckley’s Tavern takes huge St. Louis-cut ribs, rubs them with a spice mixture, then lets them sit overnight before slow-cooking them in low heat (seriously slow—11 hours—and seriously low: 160 degrees). The sauce is a blend of traditional barbecue sauce and a few Asian flavors such as Thai curry paste and Chinese hoisin sauce. It’s spicy, but the heat doesn’t hit until you put down the bone. (5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776)

Critics, downstate: Smell the smoke billowing from the chimney? Spot the huge line wrapped around the roadside shack? Are you in Ocean View? Darn good chance you’re at Bootsie’s Bar-B-Que. For the past 20 years, this seasonal favorite has served juicy smoked ribs, barbecued chicken and chopped pork. The side dishes are great, too, especially the macaroni salad. (Del. 26, Ocean View, 539-9529)

 

 

Most Romantic Atmosphere
Readers, upstate: Caffé Gelato (90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811)

Readers, downstate: Victoria’s Restaurant (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615)Most romantic atmosphere, readers, downstate: Victoria’s Restaurant Photograph by Keith Mosher, www.kamproductions.com

Critics, upstate: The harpist no longer plucks soft melodies at The Green Room, but a pianist does just as well, playing romantic jazz standards every Friday and Saturday evening. The sheer beauty of the room, with its 25-foot-high ceiling and gold encrusted chandeliers, makes it an idyllic spot. “We have more marriage proposals throughout the year than most restaurants, due to the elegance of the room,” says marketing director Carolyn Grubb. There are always special Valentine’s Day menus, which include oysters and chocolate. Trust us on this: When The Green Room does chocolate, it’s always decadent, artful and sexy. (Hotel du Pont, 11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)

Critics, downstate: In the deluge of restaurants that has flooded the beach, The Buttery remains in a class by itself. The beautiful Trader mansion is a throwback to a more romantic era, when intimacy was heated by the glow of a fireplace and the smooth touch of a linen tablecloth, and attentive, yet unobtrusive service was still highly valued. On a warm summer evening, there is no better place than the cozy, candlelit porch for sipping fine wine with your partner and contemplating your life together. (102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755)

 

 

Best Seafood
Readers, upstate: Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)

Readers, downstate: Fish On! (17300 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes, 645-9790)

Critics, upstate: The seasonal fish is always just off-the-boat fresh at Feby’s Fishery. Succulent fresh tuna is a top pick, and the clams are always tender. Loads of other fresh seafood is here for the taking—local rockfish, flounder, scallops and more. New England clam bakes and all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab are fun options, too. But we mustn’t give short shrift to Feby’s special seasonings and sides, especially the Golden Dip tartar sauce and the homemade slaw. Any sauce made with horseradish has a real kick, in fact. Roll up your sleeves and dig in. Bibs are provided. (3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9496)

Critics, downstate: The fish isn’t actually moving on your plate, but it’s fresh from the boat at Cool Springs Fish Bar and Restaurant. Since 1999 the casual and relaxed restaurant has offered the kind of super-fresh fish you’d find in an upscale setting. On most nights, chef-owner Dennis J. Forbes offers about seven different fish, which change seasonally. Summer softshell crabs are hard to beat. Opt for oysters in fall. If someone at the table isn’t up for surf, go turf. The prime rib is top notch. (2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955)

 

 

Best Seafood Dish
Critics, downstate: Chef-owner Robert Cirelli calls the sautéed rockfish at La Rosa Negra one of those dishes his customers can’t stop eating. No kidding. He sautées the rockfish in butter, bakes it, then tops it with an amazing combination of sweet wine and cream reduction, melted sun-dried tomato butter and jumbo lump crabmeat. Cirelli suggests a nice Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio to counterbalance the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes. (The house Chardonnay from Italian vintner Mezzacarona costs $24 a carafe.) (1201 Savannah Road, Suite F, Lewes, 645-1980)

 

 

Best Sports Bar
Readers, upstate: Grotto Pizza (45 E. Main St., Newark, 369-0600; 1819 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 777-3278)

Readers, downstate: Grotto’s Grand Slam (1200 Highway One., Lewes, 645-4900)

 

 

Best Steakhouse
Readers, upstate: Walter’s Steakhouse (802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780)

Readers, downstate: Chops Grille (1570 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 678-0100)

 

 

Best Sushi
Readers, upstate: Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar (1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638)

Readers, downstate: Cultured Pearl (19 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493)

 

 

Best Sunday Brunch
Readers, upstate: The Green Room (Hotel du Pont, 11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)

Readers, downstate: Victoria’s Restaurant (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615)

Critics, downstate: Blue Moon Restaurant goes beyond cantaloupe and waffles on its Sunday brunch menu. Customers go wild for its rich eggs Benedict made with jumbo lump crab and homemade English muffins. There’s an equally rich duck confit salad, and the house Bloody Marys and Mimosas (for $3) are to die for. When the weather is nice, they serve in the back, under a retractable awning that lets the sun shine in. (35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6515)

 

 

Best Tiramisu
Critics, upstate: The tiramisu at Pomodoro Ristorante Italiano is classic. Dainty ladyfingers are marinated in espresso, Godiva liqueur and Frangelico, topped with mascarpone cream and dusted with chocolate. Needless to say, it’s made fresh every day. It’s simple, sincere and out of this world. (720 N. Union St., Wilmington, 574-9800)

 

 

Best Total Ethnic Experience
Critics, upstate: Total immersion is the key at Casablanca. Last year the stage was replaced with a Moroccan tent that seats 60. The background music features the oud, an ornate Arabic instrument made of wood with six double strings and a pear-shaped body. All decorative objects are imported from Morocco, including pillows that serve as seats, tapestries, carpets and chandeliers. The circular dining tables made of lemon wood and brass are handmade imports. Servers dress in traditional Jalabiyah garb. Seven courses of Middle Eastern cuisine cost $20 a person, a price that’s remained the same for years, and it is delicious. To cap it all, belly dancers perform almost nightly. Who needs a magic carpet to be transported? (4401 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 652-5344)

 

 

Best Use of an Invertabrate
Critics, upstate: Owner Liwei Qu of Yi Palace Eurasian Bar & Grill concedes that a lot of his American customers are afraid to tangle with the cold chicken and jellyfish served at Yi Palace. But he offers this challenge: Try it. The shredded chicken and delicate jellyfish are mixed with cucumber and coated in a light sweet-and-sour sauce. No, you won’t get stung. No, it doesn’t taste like Smucker’s. The jellyfish actually has a slight crunch. It’s tasty, too. (4435 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-6900)

 

 

Best Wine List
Readers, upstate: The Green Room (Hotel du Pont, 11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)

Readers, downstate: Michele’s Steak and Seafood (1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600)

Critics, upstate: The 375 wines by the bottle at Domaine Hudson Wine Bar & Eatery hail from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace and Langeudoc—and that’s just a sampling from France. The superior selection also includes representatives of Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the United States. The bottles are stored in a climate-controlled cellar at 56 degrees and 70 percent humidity until the second they are served. The restaurant also features 45 wines by the glass. (1314 Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463)

Critics, downstate: The two-page wine list at The Buttery offers one of the most diverse selections of wines, sparkling wines and champagnes. Dessert wines include representatives of New Zealand, California, Portugal, Australia and Spain. Try to catch one of the restaurant’s special wine dinners, such as Food and Wines of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay in April, which paired the perfect wines with appetizers such as applewood smoked bacon-wrapped sea scallops; entrées such as coconut-quinoa sea bass with cilantro; and desserts such as crepes with fresh berries. (102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755)

 

 

Best caterer, critics, upstate: Sugarfoot Fine Food Photograph by Laura Novak, www.novakphotography.com Best Workday Lunch
Critics, upstate: Why do droves of business folks pile into an old riverfront warehouse every weekday at noon? For the countless goodies waiting to be found at Riverfront Market, like the crispy egg rolls at Jeenwong Thai Cuisine or sandwiches and spicy Crabañero sauce from Lapp’s Kitchen. Tour the rest of the culinary world with P&S Ravioli Company, Tokyo Sushi and Olde World Cheese Steak Factory. (3 S. Market St., Wilmington, 322-9500)

 

Best Bagels

Readers, upstate: Brew Ha Ha! (3842 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 658-6336; 2610 Capitol Trail, Newark, 366-8074; 45 E. Main St., Newark, 369-2600; 3636 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7227; 1420 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 778-2656; 5329 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-9600; 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 529-1125; 835 Market St., Wilmington, 777-4499; 1007 Market St., Wilmington, 656-1171; 3503 Silverside Road, Suite 102, Wilmington, 472-2001)

Readers, downstate: Surf Bagel & Deli (1030 Highway One, Lewes, 644-1822)

Critics, upstate: The freshly baked bagels at Newark Deli and Bagel are dense and tasty enough, but when you top them with homemade gourmet cream cheese, you’ll understand why customers crowd elbow-to-elbow at the counter. The most popular spread is veggie—celery, scallions and carrots whipped into homemade cream cheese. Another fave: chicken salad. Each day, 20 pounds of the stuff sells out in two hours. Want to avoid the wait? Order online. (36 E. Main St., Newark, 266-7150)

 

 

Best Bakery
Readers, upstate: Serpe’s Bakery (1411 Kirkwood Hwy., Elsmere, 994-1868)

Readers, downstate: Frankfurt Bakery (429 S. New St., Dover, 741-0180)

 

 

Best Bread
Readers, upstate: Serpe’s Bakery (1411 Kirkwood Hwy., Elsmere, 994-1868)

Critics, downstate: Pasqualini’s Bakery offers a variety of fresh bread, courtesy of owner Kathy Pasqualini. Her customers love the Italian loaves and French baguettes. The spinach, feta and sun-dried tomato is delicious, as is the honey whole wheat bread, which is spiced with clover honey and sprinkled with seeds. (101 Atlantic Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2111)

Critics, upstate: Let’s settle this now: Black Lab Breads has nothing to do with dogs, everything to do with science. Owner Barry Ciarrocchi is a chemistry buff and spent years in the lab perfecting his baking technique. Now his bakery, in the site of the old DiFonzo Bakery (famous for its tomato pie and sandwich rolls), churns out his crusty Italian loaves, herb focaccia and semolina breads six days a week. Favorites like rye and pumpernickel from the French hearth stone oven are amazing. (812 N. Union St., Wilmington, 658-1307)

Critics, downstate: Frankfurt Bakery took Dover by storm when it opened earlier this year. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Customers went nuts for Andreas Janke’s artisan breads, such as Bavarian rye and white chocolate-laced Alpine Swiss. The breakfast bread, naturally the first thing that sells out every morning, is made with dates, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon and walnuts. (429 S. New St., Dover, 741-0180)

 

 

Best Candy
Readers, upstate: Govatos’ Chocolate (4105 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-5324; 800 N. Market St, Wilmington, 652-4082)

Readers, downstate: Candy Kitchen (Lighthouse Plaza, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9334; 1 S. Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9200)

Critics, downstate: Snyder’s Candy has been around for 70 years. What separates it from the pack of beachside candy shops? Snyder’s slavish devotion to imported goodies such as Austrian and European licorice. The shop has 60 varieties of licorice, 40 of which are imported, as well as delicious black licorice-flavored milk caramels. The Australian Kookaburra brand is popular in black licorice, as well as black currant, mango and apple flavors. (60 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0668)

 

 

Best Caterer
Critics, upstate: Fresh, organic gourmet food from Sugarfoot Fine Food is enough to perk up any corporate event or social do. Two Wilmington locations assemble great breakfast baskets (with muffins, bagels and homemade sticky buns) and sandwich platters laced with gourmet touches such as champagne mustard. (1014 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 655-4800; 1007 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 654-1600)

Critics, downstate: Catering director Josh Grapski of Nage gives clients an extensive menu of upscale plates and hors d’oeuvres to choose from, things like duck prosciutto and Boursin stuffed dates, or seared tuna carpaccio crostini with tomato confit and olive tapenade. But the beauty of Nage’s catering is how it allows guests to customize their affairs. Customers can even ask for food not on the menu. Nage caterers are so flexible, they once teamed with famed Philly restaurant Le Bec-Fin to cater a tomato-themed wedding party. (19730 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037)

 

 

Best Cheeses
Best cheeses, critics, downstate: Country Cheese Corner. Photograph by Steven Billups, www.sbillupsphoto.comReaders, upstate: Janssen’s Market (4021 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-9941)

Readers, downstate: Beautiful Foods (715 Rehoboth Ave., Suite 10, Rehoboth Beach, 227-6282)

Critics, upstate: One of the coolest things about Cheese Chalet is that customers can sample any of its 50-plus types of cheese at any time. The Chalet’s selection spans at least 10 countries, including favorites like cave-aged Swiss Gruyère, Spanish Manchego, double cream Brie and sharp Canadian cheddar. For 32 years, owners Henry and Carol Huffman have sold quality cheese at a reasonable price. Their hot sweet raspberry chipotle spread is a treat. (5337A Limestone Road, Wilmington, 239-5548)

Critics, downstate: Country Cheese Corner is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays only, so you can bet those focused on fromage happily queue up for five types of Ohio Swiss, six creamy cheddars, and mozzarella from Wisconsin and New York. Our picks: the blue cheese from Denmark and a sharp provolone from Italy. Owner Rebecca Petersheim lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, so she brings fresh cream cheese spreads with her to Dover. The shop also specializes in cheese and meat platters, but do consider adding fruit. Here, plates are abundant with fresh pineapple, strawberries, grapes and watermelon (in season) and, of course, cheese. (550 S. New St., Dover, 674-0331)

 

 

Best Cheesesteaks
Readers, upstate: Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop (430 Eden Square, Bear, 832-8132; 300 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 234-2322; 708 W. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6797; 614 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 454-0200; 2076 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 998-0096; 2122 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 479-9818; 510 Union St., Wilmington, 571-8929)

Readers, downstate: Surf’s Up (100 Garfield Plaza, Bethany Beach, 539-5742)

 

 

Best Chocolate
Critics, downstate: At Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, the chocolatiers dip just about anything in their amazing chocolate—apples, cherries, pretzels, marshmallows and more. There’s also a mountain of chocolate barks, truffles, fudge, white chocolate and boxed chocolates waiting to be tasted. The high-quality, high-cocoa content dark chocolate is a little less guilt-inducing. (135 Second St., Lewes, 645-5528; 36484 Seaside Outlet Drive, Suite 1510, Rehoboth Beach, 227-0422)

 

 

Best Coffee
Readers, upstate: Brew Ha Ha! (3842 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 658-6336; 2610 Capitol Trail, Newark, 366-8074; 45 E. Main St., Newark, 369-2600; 3636 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7227; 1420 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 778-2656; 5329 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-9600; 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 529-1125; 835 Market St., Wilmington, 777-4499; 1007 Market St., Wilmington, 656-1171; 3503 Silverside Road, Suite 102, Wilmington, 472-2001)

Readers, downstate: Oby Lee Coffee Roastery (722 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6278)

Critics, upstate: In May 2-year-old Pike Creek Coffee Roasterie opened Delaware’s first in-store coffee roastery and espresso bar at Zingo’s Supermarket in Pike Creek. Until this year, owner Carol Allston-Stiles did business mainly online, supplying coffee to local restaurants and coffee shops. The beans, fair trade and organic, come from many countries, including Costa Rica, Panama and Peru, and they’re roasted to order. The coffee is so fresh, the bags are still warm when purchased. Custom blends are named after local areas. Chadds Ford is the top seller. The newest blend is Morning Fog Lift. Flavored coffees are also popular, especially the Bananas Foster, Blueberry Cinnamon Crumb Cake and French Toast. (3 Cauline Court, Newark, 731-5187)

 

 

Best Cookies
Critics, downstate: Bella’s Cookies has been written about in this space many times before. Maybe it’s because we’re such fans of irresistible, chewy all-natural creations like Champion Chunk and Rumazin, Kelly and Mark Leishear’s take on chocolate chip and rum raisin. Their product line is always evolving, and they’ve recently added gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan cookies. Their new line of gourmet candies—especially the to-die-for chocolate truffles—are equally amazing. (18572 Cool Spring Road, Milton, 684-8152)

 

 

Best Crab Cakes to Go
Critics, upstate: Steve Henretty at Henretty’s Prime Meats estimates he’ll sell 250,000 crab cakes this year. There’s no scintillating secret to his creations, just the basics. He uses the best jumbo lump crabmeat he can find, a little mayo for binder and some seasoning. Grab Henretty’s crab cakes at Henretty’s, of course, but also at Zingo’s Supermarket in Newark, Highland Orchards in North Wilmington and a growing number of other locations. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until they’re golden brown. (721 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-4915)

 

 

Best Gourmet to Go
Readers, upstate: Toscana to Go (1420 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 655-8600; 5337 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-0200)

Readers, downstate: McCabe’s Gourmet Market (York Beach Mall, Del. 1, South Bethany, 539-8550)

Critics, upstate: Bon Appetit Gourmet Food Shoppe has a few tables, and it’s great to sit outside, but the gourmet takeaway option is equally outstanding. On top of the sandwiches, Louisette Amblard’s quiches and homemade chocolate croissants take top billing. Customers like taking home artisan jams, pastas, fresh-made soups, breads, salads, cheeses and those rich pâtés. (3621D Talleyville Shopping Center, Wilmington, 478-4344)

 

 

Best Gourmet Grocer
Critics, downstate: Customers with good taste seek out gourmet fare at Lewes Gourmet no matter how much it costs them to drive there. The shop’s dedicated owners, Lou and Gavin Braithwaite, have earned that loyalty. This year the couple is expanding on specialty oils, juniper berries, lavender for cooking and hard-to-find spices such as Beau Monde. Gourmands can find toasted hazelnut oil from France and argan oil from Morocco, which is wonderful for drizzling on goat cheese or mashed potatoes. Lewes Gourmet is also adding more table linens from India and hand towels from California. The Braithwaites stock fresh cheeses, sauces, 50-plus tea varieties, teapots and cozies, jellies, chutneys and jams. (110 Front St., Lewes, 645-1661)

 

 

Best Holiday Treats
Critics, upstate: For a loyal bunch of North Wilmingtonians, holidays aren’t complete without sugary confections from Sweeney’s Bakery. The bakery, in F&N Shopping Center, makes little green frog cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day, yellow chicks at Easter, and specialty cookies and cakes at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’ve been doing it since 1957. (2068 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-5884)

 

 

Best Ice Cream
Critics, upstate: The “creamery” in Woodside Farm Creamery always sounds appropriate because the ice cream produced at the farm is so thick and, well, creamy. Credit Woodside’s on-site milking operations, where Jersey cows produce high-butterfat milk. Customers love the ice cream, but so do a lot of local restaurants, which receive custom blends from Woodside as a secret weapon on their dessert menus. Try the Canal Digger (butterscotch, caramel, butter brickle and chocolate) at Bayard House in Chesapeake City or the Lemon Peppermint Stix (lemon ice cream with bits of hard peppermint candy) at Back Burner Restaurant in Hockessin. (1310 Little Baltimore Ave., Hockessin, 239-9847)

Critics, downstate: King’s Homemade Ice Cream has branched out to make delicious frozen yogurt and Italian ice. But the same 16 flavors have been served since the 1970s. The banana ice cream requires 16 pounds of ripe bananas per 10-gallon batch, so you can believe the flavor is full. Nobody tops King’s butter pecan or black raspberry, and attempts are being made to produce a new Dutch chocolate flavor, which, we hear, is loaded with chunks of dark chocolate. But here’s the real scoop: There’s nothing like sitting on a bench in front of King’s shop in Lewes on a hot summer day with a vanilla cone. (201 Second St., Lewes, 645-9425; 302 Union St., Milton, 684-8900)

 

 

Best Ice Cream Parlor
Critics, upstate: Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream and Treats is as old school as the banana split. Heck, it’s one of the specialties. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor gets its goods from the Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin. The Flying Elvis—a must for food junkies—is blended especially for Sweet Lucy’s with banana ice cream and chunks of rich chocolate and creamy peanut butter. Do try the irresistible cake batter flavor, as well as the cookies and cream. (3201 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0777)

 

 

Best Natural-Organic Food
Readers, upstate: Harvest Market (7417 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-6779)

Readers, downstate: Greenman Juice Bar & Bistro (12 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4909)

 

 

Best Party Food
Critics, upstate: Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar loves to take its sushi on the road. Even executive sushi chef Al Chu makes house calls. Whether it’s a function at the country club or a holiday party for the company, a chef will prepare your favorite Mikimotos’ sushi on site. The restaurant’s sushi platters are so popular, even other catering businesses serve them. Guess you could say Mikimotos is on a roll. (1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638)

 

 

Best Pizza
Readers, upstate: Pat’s Pizza Family Restaurant (1713 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 832-5500; 7288 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-3999; 311 N. Broad St., Middletown, 378-4500; 606 E. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6060; 160 Elkton Road, Newark, 738-0808; 40 Marrows Road, Newark, 738-1000; 41 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 659-1600; 2008 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 992-0212; 4231 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-9020; 5603 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 633-0303; 3604 Lancaster Ave., Wilmington, 999-7717; 1815 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 792-2800)

Readers, downstate: Grotto Pizza (793 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 537-3278; Logan Street, Bethany Beach, 537-6600; 1603 Highway 1, Dewey Beach, 227-3407; 1200 Highway 1, Lewes, 645-4900; Long Neck Road, Millsboro, 945-6000; 15 Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 227-4580; 4565 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 645-5880; 36 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3278; 17 Surf Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3601; 699 N. Dual Hwy., Seaford,
628-2800)

 

 

Best Rum Cakes
Critics, upstate: Long lines form at the Wilmington Italian Festival when Papa’s Pastry Shop cuts the rum cake. Owner Nanik Oei uses chiffon as the base for the triple-layer doozie, which is interrupted by layers of vanilla cream and chocolate cream. The cake is soaked in Bacardi, then topped with almond butter cream and slivered almonds. (600 N. Union St., Wilmington, 777-0877)

Critics, downstate: Kathy Pasqualini lets customers determine how much rum they want at Pasqualini’s Bakery. Not surprisingly, most load up on the Bacardi. Pasqualini’s is a four-layer sponge soaked in rum and separated by layers of chocolate custard, vanilla custard and cherry filling. It’s topped with real whipped cream, red and green cherries, and chocolate shavings with toasted almonds running down the side. Grab an 8-inch cake for $34.95. No ID needed. (101 Atlantic Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2111)

 

 

Best Sandwiches
Readers, upstate: Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop (430 Eden Square, Bear, 832-8132; 300 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 234-2322; 708 W. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6797; 614 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 454-0200; 2076 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 998-0096; 2122 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 479-9818; 510 Union St., Wilmington, 571-8929)

Readers, downstate: Arena’s Deli (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach,
227-1272)

Critics, upstate: The key at Bon Appetit Gourmet Food Shoppe are fresh baguettes, which are baked all day, every day. The signature sandwich is smoked Nova Scotia salmon with capers and cream cheese on a baguette. Customers also love the mozzarella with tomatoes, basil, roasted pepper and pesto on seven-grain bread. Sandwiches roll out all day, so if you’re craving goat cheese on foccacia at 9 a.m… (3621D Talleyville Shopping Center, Wilmington, 478-4344)

Critics, downstate: The scene at Sharky’s Grill repeats itself every summer: scores of hot and hungry beachgoers packed into Sharky’s covered deck, dogs by their sides, waiting for some scraps and a line that winds through the tables. Sounds maddening, but the sandwiches—especially the Cuban, the slow-cooked pork loin, the Texas-style brisket and a variety of breakfast treats—are worth it. (1508 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 226-3116)

 

 

Best Subs
Readers, upstate: Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop (various locations)

Readers, downstate: Casapulla’s (19331 Lighthouse Blvd., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7827)

Critics, upstate: Ioannoni’s Specialty Sandwiches owner Mike Ioannoni breaks down a great sub to the fundamentals: quality bread, fresh meats and superior cheese. His bread comes from Amalfitano’s Italian Bakery in New Castle, a big-time local favorite. The lunchmeats are fresh and the turkey and roast beef are cooked daily. The cheeses, especially the thin-cut provolone, are tops. (624 E. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-5000)

Critics, downstate: The oil on a sub from Pizzadili is as important to the sandwich’s flavor as motor oil is to the engine of a finely tuned race car. The triumvirate of olive, vegetable and soy oils combined with a fresh roll, Italian meats, provolone and all the fixins have had folks in Kent County heading to Pizzadili for 53 years. The Pizzadili Special, featuring capicola, pepper ham, sopressata and provolone, is a classic. The meatballs may not be homemade, but combined with the house sauce, they make an awesome sandwich. (2089 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 697-9555)

 

 

Best Veggie Sandwiches
Critics, upstate: Sandwiches don’t have to start and end with cold cuts. At Purebread Deli, the Cocker Spaniel sandwich is a fresh combo of cucumber, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion and veggie cream cheese between slices of multi-grain bread. The heartier Akita is a panini stuffed with roasted portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, basil pesto on foccacia bread. (4001 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 426-9866; 1309 Churchmans Road, Newark, 455-9866; 4807 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 239-9866)

 

 

Best Wine Store
Best garden center, readers, downstate: Ronny’s Garden Center Photograph by Pat Crowe II, www.patcrowephotography.comCritics, upstate: A oenophile can get lost for hours in Kreston Wine and Spirits, so Bob and Don Kreston and their savvy staff are great at steering customers toward a new favorite vintage. Wine expert Andrzej Barabasz says the Kreston staff tracks down smaller vintners from around the globe to uncover hidden gems for their eclectic clientele. For further guidance, check out the wine tastings held every Saturday at the Wilmington store and new Middletown location. (448 E. Main St., Middletown Crossing, Middletown, 376-6123 ; 904 Concord Ave., Wilmington, 652-3792)

Critics, Downstate: When customers at Teller Wines raved about the Baywood Cellars Pinot Noir they’d enjoyed at nearby Half Full restaurant, Lesley Cowan and the Teller Wines staff knew they had to stock their shelves with the new local favorite. It’s just an example of how the Lewes wine store caters to its customers. The owners host weekly tastings, select by hand every bottle on the shelf and keep their prices relatively low. Most of the inventory checks in at under $15. (17515 Nassau Commons Blvd., Lewes, 644-7400; 1201 Savannah Road, Lewes, 644-2566)

 

Best Adrenaline Rush

Critics, downstate: When the folks at Skydive Delmarva fly you up 14,000 feet in their turbo prop Twin Otter, your knees shake, your face goes pale and you break into a cold sweat. But, man, is it worth it. The wind in your ears deafens as you accelerate to terminal velocity when the chute pops open and—silence as you drift peacefully toward the patchwork quilt of farms on good ol’ terra firma. Tandem and solo jumps are offered at the Laurel Airport. A free-falling cameraman documents your experience in case you black out. (32524 Aero Drive, Laurel, 888-875-3540)

 

 

Best Alternative Workout
Critics, upstate: When you simply can’t muster another step on the treadmill, climbing the walls at The Delaware Rock Gym can help. The gym offers 11,300 square feet of vertical walls and overhangs studded with holds that challenge the beginner and advanced climbers. We applaud the great staff, experienced climbers who teach newcomers how to belay so their climbing partners can’t fall, and help the evolving rock hound learn to climb lead. The gym also throws a pretty mean birthday party. (520 Carson Drive, Bear, 838-5850)

 

 

Best Antiques Store
Readers, upstate: Old Tyme Antiques & Gifts (204 E. Main St., Newark, 366-8411)

Readers, downstate: Antique Bazaar (238 Main St., Millsboro, 937-7415)

 

 

Best Art Gallery
Readers, upstate: Hardcastle Gallery (5714 Kennett Pike, Centreville, 655-5230)

Readers, downstate: Raubacher Gallery (123 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 678-0968)

 

 

Best Baby Boutique
Readers, upstate: Hansel and Gretel (3603 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-0383)

Readers, downstate: Seeds (408 Laureltowne, Laurel, 875-2909

Critics, downstate: Solé Kids keeps babies and toddlers on the front line of fashion, with name-brands like Lacoste, Juicy Couture, Icky Babies, Robez Shoes, plus all the accessories—think hair clips, bows—things your shorties might need. (110 Rehoboth Ave., Suite 3, Rehoboth Beach, 227-6622)

 

 

Best Bargain Shopping
Readers, upstate: Rags to Riches Upscale Resale (5801 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 654-5997)

Readers, downstate: Spence’s Bazaar (550 S. New St., Dover, 734-3441)

 

 

Best bookstore, readers, upstate: Ninth Street Book Shop Photograph by Pat Crowe II, www.patcrowephotography.com Best Bookstore
Readers, upstate: Ninth Street Book Shop (104 W. Ninth St., Wilmington, 652-3315)

Readers, downstate: Browseabout Books (133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2665)

 

 

Best Bridal Boutique
Readers, upstate: Anastasia’s Bridal Salon (3830 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 652-2575)

Readers, downstate: Simon’s Bridal Shoppe (215 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 678-8160)

 

 

Best Bridal Registry
Readers, upstate: The Enchanted Owl (4001 Kennett Pike, Suite 120, Greenville, 652-2233)

Readers, downstate: The Wooden Indian (25 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8331)

 

 

Best Kids’ Casual Clothing
Readers, upstate: Hansel and Gretel (3603 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-0383)

Readers, downstate: Pitter Patter (1 Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 539-8712)

 

 

Best Kids’ Dressy Clothing
Readers, upstate: Hansel and Gretel (3603 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-0383)

Readers, downstate: Pitter Patter (1 Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach,
539-8712)

 

 

Best Men’s Business Clothing
Readers, upstate: Wright and Simon (911 N. Market St., Wilmington, 658-7345)

Readers, downstate: Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990)

 

 

Best Men’s Casual Clothing
Readers, upstate: Mystique (1408 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 429-8755)

Readers, downstate: Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990)

 

 

Best Women’s Accessories
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)Best women’s accessories, readers, downstate: Azura Clothing Company Photograph by Tom Nutter. www.tomnutterphotos.com

Readers, downstate: Azura Clothing Company (139 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-9650)

 

 

Best Women’s Business Clothing
Readers, upstate: Lady’s Image (439 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 234-3331)

Readers, downstate: Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990)

 

 

Best Women’s Casual Clothing
Readers, upstate: Lady’s Image (439 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 234-3331)

Readers, downstate: Coolsprings Cottage (28711 Lewes-Georgetown Hwy., Milton, 684-5140)

 

 

Best Women’s Evening Attire
Readers, upstate: Lady’s Image (439 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 234-3331)

Readers, downstate: The Angel Shack (170 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-8630)

 

 

Best Women’s Swimwear
Readers, upstate: The Swim Shop (2115 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 575-1224)

Readers, downstate: South Moon Under (118 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-8630)

 

 

Best Lingerie
Readers, upstate: Bare Essentials (4009 Concord Pike, Suite A, Wilmington, 477-4888)

Readers, downstate: Kimber’s Lingerie (70 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4215)

 

 

Ooh La La Makeup Salon. Photograph by Heidi MurphyBest cosmetics, critics, upstate: Tonia Patterson of Best Cosmetics
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)

Readers, downstate: Made Ya Look! Salon and Spa (3304 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400)

Critics, upstate: Tonia Patterson of Ooh La La Makeup Salon is a former hair and makeup artist for Playboy magazine and Elite Model Management, so you can bet she makes every woman look good regardless of her age, ethnicity or skin type. Patterson preps the skin with a natural vitamin E cream to diminish fine lines, then primes the skin to minimize pores, hide flaws, eliminate excess shine and even out skin tone. She applies either cream, mineral, liquid, powder or sheer-tinted foundation with an array of brushes. Her eye shadow palettes vary seasonally, but a client can choose classic or trendy tones, as well as shimmer or matte finishes. Lip colors include nude glosses, but sheer lip plumpers are hot this season. (1700 N. Scott St., Wilmington, 622-9425)

Critics, downstate: Cosmetology specialists at Bling Salon & Spa use Bling cosmetics, which are appropriate for sensitive, oily or normal skin. Bling’s top selling foundation is the matte finish for clients with normal skin, though technicians assess skin prior to applying makeup. Mineral-based makeup is also popular, as are dual-based color powder foundations, which can be applied wet or dry. Eye shadows are available in powder or mineral form, but glitter powders are the rage this season. While eye colors are leaning toward natural tones, funky greens and purples are gaining momentum. Bling’s technicians turn eye shadow into eyeliner by using angled brushes to create a softer look. The makeup application takes 30 minutes. Bling also specializes in makeup for bridal parties and proms. (17644 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2850)

 

 

Best Day Spa
Readers, upstate: Hockessin Day Spa (1304 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-7573)

Readers, downstate: Made Ya Look! Salon and Spa (3304 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400)

Critics, upstate: For more than 40 years, Maureen’s Hair Salon has kept clients looking good. Maureen Freebery added a day spa in 2003 that houses five treatment rooms, four pedicure bays and six nail tables. The salon boasts 21 hair stations, which serve spa clients well since most prefer one-stop beauty visits that include skin and hair. Maureen’s is one of three Delaware salons that carries Bare Minerals makeup. Most technicians have at least a decade of experience under their smocks. Massage therapists are certified in several areas to offer pre-natal, deep tissue and sports massages. This year the spa’s maroon and crème color scheme was changed to a more relaxing sky blue. Mother’s Day packages include wine. For Father’s Day, there’s beer. (4813 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-7800)

Critics, downstate: Peer into the window of Spa by the Sea and you’ll see a hair salon. Beyond the soundproof wall, however, is a 3,600 square-foot European day spa with Asian decor. The walls are warm beige, deep green, dark blue and apricot, and, in the middle of it all, a soothing water fountain flows. The five European pedicure chairs are equipped with Shiatsu massage rollers, and six of the seven treatment rooms are multi-purpose to accommodate massage or skincare needs. Owner Tami Abbott employs four aestheticians and six massage therapists. A staff physician performs med spa services such as Botox, lip enhancements, laser treatments and sclerotheraphy. A growing number of male clients enjoy skin care and pedicure services, as well. (19266 Coastal Hwy., Unit 18, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8640)

 

 

Best Fitness Club
Readers, upstate: Kirkwood Fitness (1750 Capitol Trail, Newark, 737-6877; 1800 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 529-1865)

Readers, downstate: Quest Fitness (17252 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes, 644-7020; 239 N.E. Front St., Riverwalk Center, Milford, 422-8808)

 

 

Best Florist
Readers, upstate: Ramone’s (1904 Newport Gap Pike, Newport, 994-8409)

Readers, downstate: Bethany Florist (Del. 1, P.O. Box 497, Bethany Beach, 539-6600)

 

 

Best History Lesson
Critics, downstate: The time to visit First State Heritage Park (also known as Delaware’s first “park without boundaries”) is the first Saturday of each month. Test your knowledge of Dover’s rich history via guided tours of Legislative Hall. Don’t miss the Delaware Public Archives, which contains materials from the 17th century to today, or the State House Museum, Delaware’s first permanent capitol building, which was completed in 1792 on The Green. Museum Square is home to The Biggs Museum of American Art, The Johnson Victrola Museum, the Delaware Archeology Museum and the Museum of Small Town Life. You won’t be quizzed, but should there be questions, the nice folks at the Delaware State Visitor Center can tackle any of them. (Dover, 739-9200)

 

 

Best Home Accessories
Readers, upstate: Pala Brothers (1800 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-0141)

Readers, downstate: Habersham Peddler Interiors (139 Second, St., Lewes, 645-8383)

 

 

Best Home Furnishings
Readers, upstate: Pala Brothers Furniture (1800 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-0141)

Readers, downstate: Habersham Peddler Interiors (139 Second, St., Lewes, 645-8383)

 

 

Best Home Lighting
Readers, upstate: Sunlighting Limited (115 Kirkwood Square, Wilmington, 998-7779)

Readers, downstate: The Light House of Lewes (16813 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 645-1207)

 

 

Best Garden Center
Readers, upstate: Gateway Garden Center (1170 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-2727)

Readers, downstate: Ronny’s Garden World (5580 Dupont Parkway, Smyrna, 653-6288)

 

 

Best Gift Shop
Readers, upstate: Wildflowers of Lewes (107 Second St., No. 1, Lewes,
644-8044)

Readers, downstate: Forney’s Too (102 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 734-2425)

 

 

Best Healthy Spoiling for Pets
Critics, upstate: Happy Dog Healthy Dog owner Diane Mayer already has Delaware leaning toward canine health. She teaches classes on pet massage, and her shop is a beacon for natural treats. But her most ambitious plan involves building a wellness center for dogs that will include heated indoor pools for hydrotherapy, space for giving wellness consultations, and an area dedicated to massage and other types of therapy. That should make for some very well adjusted canines. (1825 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 428-1919)

 

 

Best Place for a Kid’s Party
Readers, upstate: Vince’s Sports Center (14 Gender Road, Newark, 738-4859) and Christiana Skating Center (801 Christiana Road, Newark, 366-0473)

Readers, downstate: XBOS (456 W. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-1800)

 

 

Best Place to Hear Music Al Fresco
Critics, upstate: Trainer-educator Dorothy Payton calls the lineup at Bellevue State Park the best she’s ever seen. Thursdays and Sundays from June through August, enjoy evening concerts and performances at the Bellevue Bandshell for its summer concert series. They’re free with park admission. This year’s lineup features Sin City Band, Todd Chappelle, Mad-Sweet Pangs and way more. (800 Carr Road, Wilmington, 761-6963)

Critics, downstate: When an institution like the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand steps up its game, it really means something. The Bandstand has ushered in a huge selection of great, free, local music lately, from national acts to our favorite local performers. Did we mention it’s always free? Take in a movie, dance performance or a rockin’ set from local luminaries Love Seed Mama Jump, Jay Hoad Band, The Funsters and Paul Cullen. Don’t forget community caroling during the holidays and special shows during town events such as the Sea Witch Festival. (Rehoboth Avenue at The Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 227-6181)

 

 

Best Place to Stash the In-Laws
Critics, upstate: The Inn at Montchanin Village, a 19th century hamlet in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, was ranked the World’s Best Hotel for $250 or less by Travel & Leisure magazine two years ago. Delight the in-laws with your knowledge of history. You’re booking them in a former Winterthur estate named for Alexandrine de Montchanin, grandmother of the founder of the DuPont Gunpowder Company. The folks will discover a magnificent spa, richly furnished rooms, gas fireplaces, luxurious private baths and private, landscaped courtyards that burst with flowers. A big plus is Krazy Kat’s, the restaurant at the village, which offers fine, eclectic dining. (Del. 100 at Kirk Road, Montchanin, 888-2133)

Critics, downstate: If you want to score big with the in-laws, reserve one of the seven newly renovated and beautifully appointed rooms at The Delaware Inn—just a block form the beach—then let innkeeper Sharon Janis take it from there. Janis, a native of Southern Virginia, is the queen of graciousness and hospitality. “Southern means we try and actually get to know each guest by name,” she says. Mom and Dad will need only open a window to rejuvenate and refresh. They can enjoy a free yoga class every morning and indulge in a wonderful breakfast on the porch. Janis serves grits, fried apples, even lox and bagels. There’s always a fresh fruit parfait waiting, and Janis does a sumptuous evening dessert, too. Hope for a slice of her homemade apple pie. (55 Delaware Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6031)

 

 

Best Private Golf Course
Readers, upstate: Wilmington Country Club (4825 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 655-6171)

Readers, downstate: Wild Quail Golf and Country Club (1 Clubhouse Drive, Camden, 697-4660)

 

 

Best Public Golf Course
Readers, upstate: Delcastle Golf Course (801 McKennans Church Road, Wilmington, 995-1990)

Readers, downstate: Odessa National (Stone Haven Drive, Townsend, www.ryanhomes.com)

 

 

Best Party Supplies
Readers, upstate: Fulton Party & Paper Company (1006 W. 27th St., Wilmington, 594-0400)

Readers, downstate: Sheila’s Party World (1650 S. Governors Ave., Dover, 734-4173)

 

 

Best Salon for Hair Color
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)

Readers, downstate: JK Tangles Salon (1151 E. Lebanon Road, Dover, 698-1006)

Critics, upstate: The 20 colorists employed at Trilogy Salon and Day Spa are required to attend at least four color workshops a year. The workshops are conducted by Redken and Pureology professionals. Classes also offer creative techniques for traditional services such as foils, corrective coloring, double processing and toning. (1200 Capitol Trail, Newark, 292-3511)

Critics, downstate: The nine colorists at Bling Salon & Spa receive training from Wella professionals every two months. They learn about the science of color, such as understanding the various strengths of hydrogen peroxide, the chemical that initiates the color process, or determining the proper amount of developer to create trendy colors. Bling, which uses Wella and Redken color products, specializes in corrective color. (17644 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2850)

 

 

Best Salon for Hair Cuts
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)

Readers, downstate: JK Tangles Salon (1151 E. Lebanon Road, Dover, 698-1006)

Critics, upstate: Sherif Zaki Salon is backed by the Goldwell Academy, a respected institution that teaches integrated approaches to hairdressing. Owner and master stylist Sherif Zaki, who studied extensively at L’Oréal Paris and Vidal Sassoon Academy, among other venerable places, shares his knowledge with stylists who range in age from 20 to 60. All also receive continuous training with the Redken Exchange. “At Sherif Zaki Salon, our stylists are driven by their creative energy and their passion for the artistry of the beauty industry,” says co-owner Emon Zaki. “With our strong communication skills and visual creativity, we strive to deliver to our guests a result beyond their expectations.” (4001 Kennett Pike, Suite 232, Wilmington, 652-4902)

Critics, downstate: Bling Salon & Spa co-owners Jess Blakeman and T.J. Seeney insist that their stylists attend educational seminars at least once a month. Instructors hail from Tigi, the company responsible for brands such as Bed Head, Catwalk, S Factor and Hardcore. Seeney says Hollywood is dictating cuts more than ever before, which explains why the Victoria Beckham bob is hot for women and the short, funky styles of Matt Damon or George Clooney appeal to men. (17644 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2850)

 

 

Best Salon for Nail Care
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)

Readers, downstate: JK Tangles Salon (1151 E. Lebanon Road, Dover, 698-1006)

Critics, upstate: Nicole Testa of Chez Nicole has served clients for 17 years. She trusts products such as OPI for polish and Cutica for pedicures. Cutica is a natural product that combines a variety of oils with vitamin E to strengthen nails and soften damaged skin. Brisa, Testa’s choice for gel nails, is 100 percent gel with no acrylic additives, so it prevents yellowing. The salon also specializes in acrylic nails. Nails that have a natural bend are better served with gel. Nails that grow upward last longer with acrylics. Nail technicians use files, not blades, to remove calluses. (1901B W. 11th St., Wilmington, 654-8888)

Critics, downstate: Spa by the Sea owner Tami Abbott uses OPI and Essie polish, as many salons do. But where most manicures last about three days, Abbott’s last at least a week. Instead of preparing nails by soaking them in water, which nail techs are trained to do, she dehydrates the surface of the nail to remove surface oils. She then applies the base coat, lets it dry, then applies a coating of polish just at the tip of the nail. She follows that with more polish and a top coat. (19266 Coastal Hwy., Unit 18, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8640)

 

 

Best Salon for Waxing
Readers, upstate: Pagavé Salon (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134)

Readers, downstate: JK Tangles Salon (1151 E. Lebanon Road, Dover, 698-1006)

Critics, upstate: Magician-aesthetician Brenda Goebel Denesowicz of Salon 828 will wax anything, but she’s best known for clean brow designs. Using three types of wax to treat different skin types, her brow routine takes a mere seven minutes. Customers who choose to pair waxing with other services are provided a robe and slippers and a separate relaxation lounge. The full service salon and spa carries Kerastase and Dermalogica products. (828 N. Union St., Wilmington, 622-8288)

Critics, downstate: Certified aestheticians at Made Ya Look! Salon and Day Spa offer an all-natural, ancient Egyptian hair removal process called sugaring, which is gentler than waxing and renders equal results. Salon technicians receive sugaring training in Canada because it’s rarely offered in the United States. The process is popular in Europe and Canada, but few Delaware salons perform it. For traditional waxing, the salon stocks Depileve wax and products. (3304 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400)

 

 

Best Sleepover
Critics, upstate: Nothing is better than being locked up all night at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. From 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., participants are free to roam among the dead (well, prehistoric) horses, skeletons and bizarre creatures from the deep in the Discovery Room. Sleep in any one of three main galleries, then wake to a light breakfast. There’s just one catch: You have to be a Girl Scout or Boy Scout. The museum will, however, offer overnights to non-scouts this fall. (4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 658-9111)

 

 

Best Shoe Store for Kids
Readers, upstate: Oranges & Lemons Children’s Boutique (3828 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 427-0323)

Readers, downstate: Lou’s Bootery (N.W. Front and Walnut streets, Milford, 422-4569)

 

 

Best Shoe Store for Men
Readers, upstate: Benjamin Lovell Shoes (523 Glen Eagle Square, Glen Mills, Pa., 610-358-0060)

Readers, downstate: Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990)

 

 

Best Shoe Store for Women
Readers, upstate: Peter Kate Shoes (3830 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-7463)

Readers, downstate: South Moon Under (118 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-8630)

 

 

Best State Park
Readers, upstate: Lums Pond (1068 Howell School Road, Bear, 368-6989)

Readers, downstate: Cape Henlopen (42 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes, 645-8983)

 

 

Best Toy Store
Readers, upstate: Toadstool (727 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-2905)

Readers, downstate: Kids’ Ketch (132 Second St., Lewes, 645-8448)

Critics, upstate: Want to show the kids a good time without breaking out the X-Box? Take them to Mitchell’s Toys, Trains and Hobbies. A true family business, Mitchell’s has remained in the Mitchell family for 55 years. Don’t think for a second the place is old-fashioned. Mitchell’s carries Lego toys and all the latest board games. Toy buyer Joe Mitchell Jr. even keeps a running toy blog. It’s heaven for builders of model railroads and model cars. (2303 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 652-3258)

 

 

Best Tailor
Readers, upstate: Ted’s Tailor Shop & Cleaners (2606 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-0985)

Readers, downstate: Scott Spahr at Carltons (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990)

 

 

Best Way to Surprise Your Sweetie
Critics, upstate: For a nominal fee—$5—the Wilmington Blue Rocks will place your personal message on its videoboard high above Judy Johnson Field. Tell your sweetie you love him or her. Tell the guy in the third row to zip his fly. Our advice? Pop the question. It’s hard to say no in front of 6,000 people. (Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, 801 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 888-2015)

 

 

Steve Anderson, president of Anderson Homes, and his daughter
Samantha, starred in an April broadcast of ABC's "Extreme Makeover Home Edition." Anderson says the project and the selflessness of it's 6,000 volunteers helped to bolster his faith in the human race. Right photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli, www.luigic.com; right photograph by Ben Fournier


Best Guy We Know: Steve Anderson
The moment the wrecking ball crashed through the roof of Ju-Juanna Latif’s home, Stephen Anderson’s perspective on life changed.

Anderson, president of Anderson Homes in Middletown, was selected for an episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” for an April broadcast. His mission was to demolish and rebuild a duplex of two Wilmington homes that belonged to Latif and her neighbor, “Grandma” Rose Morgan, in 106 hours of reality TV time. In real time, a job like that would take six months.

Anderson knew the eyes of the nation would be upon him, but he took the gig—and ended up learning more about people than he had during his 30-year career.

“The amazing thing was that every time I tried to thank any one of the volunteers on this project, they thanked me,” Anderson says. “It wasn’t that I was losing my faith in the human race before this. But I have a lot more faith in it now.”

Perhaps that faith was renewed by the 6,000 volunteers who hung drywall, smeared grout, drove bulldozers and served 600 meals every four hours without a thought of appearing on television. Perhaps it was Tony Ruggio, the vice president of operations at Anderson Homes, who directed the project. It may have been the bank sponsors, who never demanded publicity. Because ABC restricted Anderson from naming them on air, few viewers knew that ING Direct paid both mortgages, that Wilmington Trust supplied monetary gifts and manpower, and that Discover Card set up $25,000 savings accounts for each of Latif’s four kids.

Anderson built neighborhoods in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Florida during his tenure with national homebuilding firms. Since founding Anderson Homes in 2000, he’s built about 1,000 houses in 30 communities across Delaware. He and his wife, Laura, are the parents of Daniel, 12, and Samantha, 16, who was born with a condition called isodicentric chromosome 15, an abnormality that causes cognitive and learning disabilities and seizures.

Last summer Samantha underwent brain surgery to alleviate the seizures. “The support we were given through the process by the community was amazing,” Anderson says. “As a family, we were searching for a way to give back to the community, who supported us unconditionally.”

Shortly thereafter, “Extreme Makeover” producers came knocking. Anderson calls the meeting “pure fate.” Latif is a single mother of four children, including 9-year-old James, who has cerebral palsy. Anderson Homes was selected for its ability to build quality homes quickly. The fact that Anderson was a parent of a special needs child was a coincidence.

“Every compassionate person in the world would like to think they know what special needs parents are going through and would like to do whatever they could to help us out,” he says. “But there’s a word that has a different meaning in our lives, which is understand. When you say to another special needs parent, ‘I understand what you’re going through,’ it says you’ve experienced it. You live it every day.”

For three weeks, the secret build was referred to as Project 522. Anderson had to inspect the house, but couldn’t tell Latif she’d been selected for the show. During the visit, producers asked her to demonstrate carrying James up a long flight of stairs. “The only thing I was thinking in my mind was, don’t drop him,” he says. “This is the last time you’ll have to do that.” Anderson knew the rebuilt house would be equipped with an elevator, but he couldn’t tell Latif.

Reality TV shows end when production trucks pull away. Anderson is hoping the Latif story continues. So Laura Anderson, a special needs advocate, is helping Latif with school placement for James and connecting her to organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy. Anderson financed a video by Latif’s son, Antonio, a gifted musician. Anderson Homes also restored the facades of 20 homes on South Clayton Street, where the Latifs live. The street was renamed James Way.

In the reception area of his Middletown office, Anderson points out hundreds of “Extreme” volunteers in a mural. His office is overwhelmed with family photos of the Andersons and the Latifs. A key to the city, which Anderson earned during the “Extreme” show, is displayed prominently next to a proclamation from the U.S. House of Representatives signed by Congressman Mike Castle.

“The ripple effect was enormous,” says Wilmington Mayor James Baker. “The idea of people helping people is so great, and I think every city needs a shot in the arm just like this one.”

“Extreme” was good for business. Anderson Homes developed better relationships with contractors and suppliers, and while there was no surge in sales, its bottom line remains “OK,” Anderson says. Despite a bleak national housing situation, “Here we had a positive story about our industry in the newspaper for a change,” Anderson says. “All the people supposedly just in it for a buck were giving it all they had.

“The price you pay to live on this earth is to serve, so I think you need to find opportunities to give back,” Anderson says. “As a company, it allowed us to express our thanks to the community that supported us.”

Anderson wants to be a better advocate for special needs parents. After the excitement of the show and project has waned, a basic premise remains: The combined efforts of caring people can change lives.

“Having a special needs child, Steve knows this isn’t about building a house with four walls,” says cast member Paige Hemmis of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.” “It’s about building a house that works with this family. I don’t think there’s a builder in the world that would’ve done a better job.”

Baker proposed that James Way be named Samantha James Way, but Anderson declined. “Samantha doesn’t live on that street. James does,” Anderson says. “But I think that in the end, people will remember both Samantha and James.”

Samantha is already commanding attention, in fact. “She’s very tall, she’s very loud and she’s very noticeable,” Anderson says. “Since the show, she’s gone from being stared at because she’s different and loud to being stared at because she’s a TV star.”

—Maria Hess

 

1984-2007 Best of Delaware Covers


Garrett Lyons Jr. in the yellow slacks and on the cover of Top DentistsThrough the Past Darkly
25 Years of Best of Delaware Bloopers, Bleepers and Plain Bad Taste

In 2008 Garrett Lyons Jr. has a successful family dentistry business in Greenville, five children, a collection of Top Dentist awards (including being on the cover) and, more than likely, a complete and well-rounded wardrobe.

In 1987 he donned a striped El Caribe shirt and ugly, pleated, canary-yellow slacks—all in the name of Best of Delaware.

Lyons, along with a handful of well-known young Delawareans, was the centerpiece of DT’s 1987 awards, a spread called Best Dressed Delawareans. Of course, it was the ’80s, so the shoot was cemented firmly in ’80s flamboyance.

Back then: pretty darn cool. Today? Downright hilarious.

Lyons remembers the photo shoot and he recalls the outfit—maybe too well.

“You bum,” he says with a hearty chuckle after DT editors refresh his memory. “I lived the ’80s very well.”


So did Ellen Bartholomaus, who wore a gaudy silk frock with large, hand-painted goldfish adorning the front. Today sheEllen Bartholomaus and Michael Christopher Hemphill owns Blue Streak Gallery in Trolley Square. Salon owner Michael Christopher Hemphill wore a coachman’s vest and purple socks.

Looking back on 25 years of Best of Delaware is like looking through old high school yearbooks. The pages are filled with some great memories and even more cringe-worthy moments. There were bad fashions, bizarre quotes and puzzling picks.

DT’s inaugural Best of Delaware in 1984 was chock-full of unintentional comedy. The editors gave a special shout-out to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and urged readers to buy the 31-ounce container from the new (and now long gone) Pepperidge Farm discount outlet.

By 1985 editors foisted some of the responsibility for picking the best onto readers, who gave the coveted Best Road award to I-95 and the newly minted, strangely worded Worst Place to Have a Good Time award to the Christiana Hospital morgue.

 

Huh?


Head-scratchers continued throughout the ’80s. The 1986 cover featured former Miss Delaware USA Lynn Taylor staring hypnotically at a 3-foot Capriotti’s sub (see cover on opposite page). In 1988 editors got a little silly with categories: Best Way to Feel Flintstones Fever? Most Unappetizing Bagels? Most Pointless Movie Preview? Apparently, someone saw a few extra seconds of “Stand and Deliver.” Chill, Holmes.

Delaware Today went through something of a sexual awakening during the ’80s and ’90s. In 1984 the editors said Not for Kidds, a store in Sussex, was the best adult shop for “apparel, cards, lotions and ‘toys’ guaranteed to add more sizzle to your life than any sunburn.” In 1995 they recognized Birds and Bees for its superior body jam and pleasure whips. In 1994, editors handed out the Respectable X-Rated Humor award to The Delmarva Beach Bull, which they described “like gobbling peanuts in the form of truly tasteless jokes.”

 

Ramy Brooks
 

Ramy BrooksThe love fest didn’t end there. Editors had a thing for the hunky men of single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks during the ’90s. DT recognized shortstop Shane Halter in 1993 and catcher Ramy Brooks in 1996 for their overall attractiveness. Halter went on to a pretty decent major-league career with the Royals, Mets, Tigers and Angels, even playing all nine positions in a single game during the 2000 season. Brooks? His BOD win might be the highlight of his career.

In 1991 readers were asked which Delaware politician they’d most like to pat on the back. Their response: Joe Biden. Naturally, the politician they’d most like to raspberry: Joe Biden.

 

 

Cosby sweater from Mystique
 

In 1992, at the height of “The Cosby Show,” editors gave a nod to Mystique in Wilmington and showed a picture of aCosby sweater from Mystique hot-looking model in a not-so-hot looking Cosby sweater.

In 1993 editors awarded Wild Birds Unlimited in Rehoboth Beach with, wait for it, Best Place to Outfit Your Bird. It was a natural follow-up to the 1988 award for the Best Place to Catch Crabs.

The editors weren’t always wrong. In 1989 they presented the Best New Restaurant award to a promising upstart called Harry’s Savoy Grill. They wrote: “Who’s the shining new star in Delaware’s galaxy of great places to indulge one’s palate? Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington received rave reviews and is waiting to serve you.”

Editors were more perceptive than Kreskin that year, recognizing greatness in other new restaurants. The best sandwich shop that year was Arena’s Deli. The best new beach restaurant was La La Land. They awarded Luigi Vitrone’s Pastabilities and Bangkok House in Wilmington.

 

 

Jacques Amblard


As the ’90s rolled along, Delaware Today got a little more inventive with the feature, especially when it came to taste testing. Wilmington police officers tasted donuts in ’93, Dover firemen tasted hot wings in ’94, French chef Jacques Amblard tasted French fries in ’95, Chihuahuas tasted salsas in 2000, Brownie Girl Scouts tasted brownies in ’01, fishermen tasted fish and chips in ’03, and a UD fraternity tasted chili in ’05.

 

 

The Chihuahuas


The ChihuahuasOver the past few years, Best of Delaware developed into the sleek, stylish package it is today. With cooler photos, tons of great winners and, ahem, a better sense for fashion come fewer opportunities to poke fun at the foibles.

But check back in another 25 years.

—Matt Amis

 

More Best Of Delaware

Where to Eat & Drink
The best places to wine and dine.
What to Eat & Drink
And the best food on which
to wine and dine.
Restaurants by Town
In case you don't feel like traveling across the state for dinner.
Shopping
The best places to get what you want.
Salon & Bridal
The state's best spots to pamper yourself.
Home & Services
Well, because not everyone is
handy.
Fun & Leisure
Play time.
Media
Those who impact the most on a day-to-day basis.
Kids
Because we can't get enough of those we love.