Best of Delaware 2010

You told us your favorites. We have a few of our own. Herein, the great big list of winners.



Note: Delaware Today can't presume to know why readers picked the places they did. The reasons are as varied as the voters themselves. We take it that they love the places they love, and that's perfect. As for the critics' picks, we have our reasons, and we state them for all to see. We invite you to comment at delawaretoday.com.

Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Athlete

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Elena Delle Donne

It turns out you can go home again—if you’re Elena Delle Donne. The basketball star returned to the court for the University of Delaware Blue Hens last winter, after leaving the University of Connecticut and taking a break from the game. Delle Donne lit up the court this year, averaging more than 26 points per game, the third-highest among Division I athletes. She was voted the CAA’s Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. But the crowning achievement of Delle Donne’s remarkable freshman campaign was perhaps her selection as an All-American—a first in 39 seasons of UD women’s basketball. The former state high school player of the year played volleyball as a UD freshman in 2008-09, which gave Delle Donne a chance to recharge. Moving from Connecticut to Newark allowed her to stay close to her tightly knit family. Her return to basketball attracted national attention to the Lady Hens and helped UD draw record crowds to see amazing performances such as her 54 points against James Madison. Welcome back to the court, Elena.
 

 

FOOD

• Best Restaurants in Town •

Best in Bethany Beach

READERS | Bethany Blues BBQ Pit
6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500

CRITICS | DiFebo’s Restaurant
789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914
You never know what the specials will be at DiFebo’s, but they are always fresh, always delicious. The osso bucco special combines the main course with pasta and house wine for $21. Chefs win raves for sausage and peppers. The baskets of smelts and bountiful antipasto are causes for celebration. With its sunny yellow walls, wood floors, chic sconces and contemporary window treatments, family-owned DiFebo’s is classy and homey.
 

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Best in Bridgeville

READERS | Jimmy’s Grille
18541 S. Main St., Bridgeville, 337-7575

CRITICS | Passwater’s Restaurant
1 Heritage Shores Circle, Bridgeville, 337-7514
Passwater’s Restaurant at Heritage Shores Club is sophisticated yet casual, dressed in soothing teals, browns and tans. One of the best features is a view of the golf course’s 18th green, which produces amazing sunsets. Jumbo lump crab cakes are popular. Favorite entrées include penne tossed in roasted red pepper and smoked Gouda sauce with grilled jumbo scallops. Try it with the Rex Goliath Pinot Grigio.

 

Best in Centreville-Greenville

READERS | Buckley’s Tavern
5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776

CRITICS | Krazy Kat’s Restaurant
Route 100 and Kirk Road, Wilmington, 888-4200
When Krazy Kat’s executive chef Donny Merrill does his thing, the culinary experience is made more entertaining by the eccentric decor. Entrées such as cocoa-crusted antelope filet with gnocchi and the bourbon-glazed prime pork mignon, are prepared to perfection. Merrill sources local vegetables for most of his sides. And his is the best crème brûlée around.
 

 

Best Greenville Classic

CRITICS | Cromwell’s Tavern
3858 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 571-0561
Places come and go (Polo Club and Sapori) and change names and locations (BBC Tavern and Pizza by Elizabeths), but through it all, Cromwell’s Tavern remains, doing what it has always done as well as it has always done it. Closing in on 20 years, it’s still cozy, friendly and delicious.
 

 

Best in Claymont

READERS | Claymont Steak Shop
3526 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 798-5319

CRITICS | Bellefonte Café
804 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 761-9175
Donna Rego’s fun and funky café mixes a few global influences—mostly Cuban—in its fresh menu. “It’s just real food,” she says, “natural, healthy, with lots of fruits and veggies.” The Cuban black bean soup, cooked with pork, is a signature, as is the Cubano sandwich. Sandwiches are made on Big Sky Bread. Customers love dining outside on a wraparound porch draped in wisteria. (We say it every year: Bellefonte isn’t Claymont, we know, but it's close enough.)
 

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Best in Dewey Beach

READERS | The Starboard
2009 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600

CRITICS | Ponos Hawaiian Fine Dining
1306 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-1449
The words “fine dining” and “Dewey Beach” don’t typically jibe, but they go together beautifully at Ponos Hawaiian Fine Dining. Owner Regan Derrickson scaled back a tad on the lavishness, but Ponos still delivers on fresh and inventive seafood, like the house special: macadamia-crusted opakapaka. New this season are fresh oysters and a build-your-own salad option.
 

 

Best in Dover

READERS | Cool Springs Fish Bar
2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955

CRITICS | Michele’s
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600
The gold standard in Kent for many years, Michele’s continues to tweak its approach to keep longtime customers happy while drawing new ones. It’s back to basics this year, which means steak and seafood, but sushi shares the spotlight. Surf and turf and New York strip are biggies, and the organic chicken and crab is a tasty twist on two local delicacies. Michele’s wine list offers something for everyone.
 

 

Best in Fenwick Island

READERS | Nantuckets Restaurant
Del. 1 and Atlantic Ave., Fenwick Island, 539-2607
 

 

Best in Harrington

READERS | Bonz
15 W. Rider Road, Harrington, 398-5348

 

Best in Hockessin

READERS | The Back Burner
425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-2314

CRITICS | Redfire Grill and Steakhouse
400 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 235-2600
When Carl Georigi closed Dome Restaurant in late 2009, it was reborn soon after as Redfire Grill, a chophouse with vibrant red lighting and top-notch beef. From cheesecake and Manhattans to creamed spinach and bread baskets, it’s an old-school place at heart. The main reason: prime cuts of steak charred to perfection in a 1,200-degree broiler. The meat becomes crisp on the outside and tender as all get-out.
 

 

Best in Lewes

READERS | The Buttery
102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755
 

 

Best in Little Italy

CRITICS | Madeline’s Italian Restaurant
531 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 656-4505
Madeline’s has served the kind of meals Grandmom used to make, like delicious lasagna, ravioli and stuffed shells, since it opened 49 years ago. As specials go, the eggplant Parmigiana is the best anywhere. Appetizers such as bacon-wrapped scallops and sautéed broccoli rabe are tops.
 

 

Best in Middletown

READERS | Tom Foolery’s Restaurant and Bar
714 Ash Blvd., Middletown, 449-2211

CRITICS | Elements Restaurant and Piano Bar
423 N. Broad St., Middletown, 378-0448
Owners strive to make Elements Restaurant and Piano Bar the Cheers of Middletown. Friendly, inviting and always entertaining, the place is famous for its steak and seafood, especially the crab cakes and a pork strip topped with fig demi-glace, gorgonzola, caramelized onions and white wine. At the round, bi-level bar, take in live entertainment. There is live piano, but guitarists, soloists and a Dave Matthews tribute band also play.
 

 

Best in Milford

READERS | Abbott’s Grill
249 N.E. Front St., Milford, 491-6736
 

 

Best in Milton

(tie) READERS | Irish Eyes
105 Union St., Milton, 684-8889
and READERS | The Miltonian Pizzeria
and READERS | Wing House
618 Mulberry St., Milton, 684-1805

CRITICS | Po’ Boys Creole & Fresh Catch
900 Palmer St. Ext., Milton, 684-0890
Po’ Boys owners Lee and Amy Stewart offer New Orleans favorites from kickin’ jambalaya to shrimp étouffée, with plenty of po’ boys along the way. Save room for homemade bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
 

 

Best in Newark

READERS | Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

CRITICS | The Stone Balloon Wine House
115 E. Main St., Newark, 266-8111
With its contemporary Old World atmosphere, this is as inviting a place as you’ll find. Chef Jason Dietterick’s noveau-bistro approach offers everything from the half-pound ribeye Balloon Burger to roasted rack of lamb and local rockfish. A Cruvinet controls the temperature of each bottle on the affordable wine-by-the-glass program. The list of top-shelf wines is impressively cosmopolitan.
 

 

Best in Rehoboth Beach

READERS | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS | The Back Porch Café
59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674
The place that put Rehoboth dining on the map, The Back Porch Café continues to lead the charge on progressive bistro dining. International ideas and seasonal produce find their way onto a menu that might include thyme-braised veal cheeks one night and venison schnitzel the next. The porch, of course, is one of the best seats in town.
 

 

Best in Seaford

READERS | Bon Appetit
312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700
 

 

Best in Smyrna

READERS | Trevi Ristorante
53 E. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-6800

CRITICS | The Boondocks
825 Lighthouse Road, Smyrna, 653-6962
Despite the proliferation of casual chains, The Boondocks remains a fave. With its nautical decor and owner Pat Keeler’s stained-glass decorations, it’s the perfect place for sharing a bucket of wings or a bushel of steamed crabs. Pig out on the Pig Out: six crabs, shrimp, chicken wings, fries and corn.
 

 

Best in Downtown Wilmington

READERS | Deep Blue Bar and Grill
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040

CRITICS | The Green Room
11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154
The Green Room of the Hotel du Pont is the grandest restaurant in town. Most know about its fumed oak paneling,
coffered ceiling, gold chandeliers and original oil paintings. What people may not know is how difficult it is to earn a AAA Four Diamond rating. Nominees must be upscale in all areas, and hospitality must be consistently excellent. The Green Room earned 24 in a row.
 

 

Best in North Wilmington

READERS | Harry’s Savoy Grill
2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000

CRITICS | Culinaria
1812 Marsh Road, No. 19, Wilmington, 475-4860
Owners Ezio Reynaud and Pam Grabowski know how to make patrons feel special. Perhaps the most romantic spot in North Wilmington, the Tuscan-hued Culinaria is known for its tomato Parmesan soup, cheese tortelloni, and entrées such as roasted salmon in curry sauce.
The wine selection is large and reasonably priced. Pours are generous.

 

Best Chinese Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Potstickers
1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Confucius Chinese Cuisine
57 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3848

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Yi Palace Authentic Chinese Food
4435 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-6900
Shirking Americanized standards such as General Tso’s chicken and moo goo gai pan (though they do lurk on the expansive menu as options), Yi Palace hits traditional Chinese favorites such as tea-smoked duck and creamy shrimp with honey walnuts. Daily specials such as spicy braised chunks of rabbit give American diners a chance to try something they likely won’t encounter elsewhere.
 

 

Best French Dining

READERS, UPSTATE | The Green Room, Hotel du Pont
11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Back Porch Café
59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674

CRITICS, UPSTATE | The Green Room
11 W. Market St,, Wilmington, 594-3154
Under the direction of chefs Keith Miller and David Lattomus, the modern French cuisine of The Green Room in the Hotel du Pont is enhanced by local organic produce. Summer selections include seared diver scallops with a cornichon of melon and sweet lemongrass emulsion, and the Study of Duck, with duck prosciutto and local blackberries. There’s a three-course tasting menu nightly.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bon Appetit
312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700
There are two French restaurants left in Delaware, but only one that has shunned the Americanization of French cuisine. Bon Appetit Restaurant offers country pâté, chicken Champignon and other traditional dishes in an atmosphere graced by lace curtains, candles and fresh flowers.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Gilmore’s
133 E. Gay St., West Chester, Pa., (610) 431-2800
Gilmore’s chef Peter Gilmore’s intimate masterpiece combines exquisite contemporary French dining in a vibrant atmosphere. The CIA grad and former chef de cuisine at famous Le Bec Fin crafts imaginative food that’s never overly fussy, like onglette au poivres with green peppercorn sauce. The BYOB is set in an 18th-century townhouse and is staffed by career servers who give top-notch hospitality.
 

 

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

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Grecian Delights
1362 Naamans Creek Road, Boothwyn, Pa., 345-3117
Family-run Grecian Delights does big business out of the Booth’s Corner Farmers Market, where customers line up for the 12 seats and any available counter space for fresh stuffed grape leaves, lamb gyros with homemade tzadziki and pastitsio. The spot also twists Greek elements into creations such as pita-inis—panini made with light pita bread from Chicago. The Zeus takes grilled chicken breast, fresh spinach and provolone and smears on spinach-feta cheese spread.
 

 

Best Indian Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Nirvana Fine Indian Cuisine
1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 652-3846

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Flavor of India
348 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 677-0121
 

 

Best Italian Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Café Scalessa’s
504 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, 656-0955

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Zebra Ristorante
32 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1160

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Ristorante Marco
1847 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 392-2244
3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 254-5427
Ristorante Marco owner Marco Rizzo has always treated customers at his original restaurant in Bear as if they were family. When he opened his Greenville restaurant, he wanted to improve service—as if that were possible. Rizzo cut a few standards at the Greenville place and offered more upscale entrées. “Before we were just preparing good food,” he says. “Now we’re doing more on the prep side and paying more attention to presentation.” There is excellent veal, fresh fish and classics such as lasagna, at the Bear spot. This month, expect salads with Jersey tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as lots of fresh fish.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | DiFebo’s Restaurant
789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914
It is hard to choose the best entrées at DiFebo’s. We’ll throw caution to the wind: Try the cavatelli Bolognese, elegant penne tossed with San Marzano tomato and fresh basil, or lobster gemille, a heaping plate of lobster sautéed with roasted red pepper and roasted corn in lobster cream. Not into pasta? Try the veal medallions in a Marsala demi-glace.
 

 

Best Contemporary Italian

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Soffritto Italian Grill
1130 Kirkwood Hwy, Newark, 455-1101
Fresh, eye-catching pesce is the hallmark of Soffritto Italian Grill, where chef Antonio Ramos is known for his deft touch with fish, and he filets whole fish (from branzino to orata) tableside on Wednesday nights. A wall-length copper water feature, stone fireplaces and artistically plated dishes create unforgettable visual appeal.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | DiFebo’s Restaurant
789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914
DiFebo’s culinary team of Lisa DiFebo-Osias, Ricardo Jimenez, Kevin Richardson, Chris Givons and Jeff Osias prepare contemporary dishes like a risotto of the day. As for its hipness, one need only check out DiFebo’s Facebook page—1,000 friends and growing. There’s also a Dinner To Your Door program. Delicious.
 

 

Best of the Old World

CRITICS, UPSTATE | La Casa Pasta
Four Seasons Shopping Center, Newark, 738-9935
Led by Giuseppe and Anna Martuscelli, 32-year-old La Casa Pasta is all about flavorful, homemade coastal Italian cuisine. (Giuseppe is a former fisherman and Navy cook.) The large menu is made up of delicious homemade pasta, fresh seafood and veal. The chef’s famous seafood-pasta explosion, paccheri alla Giuseppe, is famous, as is the daily “naked fish” selection. A fire in May might have set La Casa back a bit, but here’s looking forward to a glorious return.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Roma Italian Ristorante
3 President Drive, Dover, 678-1041
Roma used to be Dover’s favorite pizza shop—until it got dressed up and became a full-fledged restaurant. For years now, it has offered the best Old World cuisine downstate. Why? Chef Joey Garramone Jr. uses his father Guiseppe’s recipes, which are about as deliciously old-school Italian as it gets. Classics include veal scallopini, chicken Parmigiana and veal saltimbocca.
 

 

Best Japanese Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Cultured Pearl
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Okura Japanese Cuisine Restaurant
703 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-8486
Okura Japanese Cuisine Restaurant went out on a bit of a limb this year, adding upscale pan-Asian creations to its venerable Japanese menu. But regulars of the Hockessin classic gave new items—like the stacked Tuna Tower with tuna sashimi, octopus, cilantro and
fried wontons—a big thumbs up. Chef Kailon Yeung does amazing sushi rolls, along with traditional yakisoba, yaki bifun and udon noodle dishes.

 

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Ali Baba Middle Eastern Cuisine
175 E. Main St., Newark, 738-1111

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Café Azafran
109 W. Market St., Lewes, 644-4446

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Olé Tapas Lounge and Restaurant
1126 Capital Trail, Newark, 224-9378
Warm, rustic, utterly authentic tapas make the grade at Olé Tapas Lounge, as do artisinal charcuterie and exhilarating Valencian paella. The common thread is bold Mediterranean flavors, especially those stemming from Spain. See the chorizo gratin, with melty tetilla cheese for more, as well as the bacon-wrapped mission figs with cave-aged cabrales cheese. Buy small glasses of wine to match.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Espuma
28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199
Espuma owner and chef Jay Caputo uses Sussex produce and is committed to preparing farm-to-table cuisine. Two farms in Houston provide organic eggs, while milk and yogurt often come from less than half an hour away. Because Espuma’s menu depends on available produce, its artful dishes vary from season to season. Entrées include paella with shrimp, chicken, chorizo, saffron and mussels. Its Chesapeake crab-stuffed scallion crepe with ruby red grapefruit, cucumber and avocado is another popular choice.
 

 

Best Mexican Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | La Tolteca
60 N. College Ave., Newark, 737-8220
4015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9477
1724 W. Newport Pike, Wilmington, 636-9484

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Agave
137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232
There was major buzz when Agave Mexican Grill opened in 2008. Locals learned that owner Chris McKeown had just returned from Mexico, where he toured 15 distilleries in Jalisco, the center of the tequila industry. As a result, Agave offers 70 varieties, not to mention an impressive list of authentic Mexican fare. The buzz continues.

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Palacio Maya Mexican Restaurant
7288 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-5590
Palacio Maya belongs to the La Tonalteca family, but it seems more like an interesting cousin than a sister restaurant. This is authentic Mexican dining with an upscale feel. The menu includes staples such as chile relleño and chimichangas, but it also offers dishes such as pescado a la Veracruzana: a catfish fillet covered with a sauce of Caribbean chiles, onions, tomatoes, capers and Spanish olives, all served with rice and avocado. The margaritas are unsurpassed.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Mariachi Restaurant & Bar
14 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0115
Mexican, Spanish and some Peruvian cuisine are served with class at Mariachi, a hotspot with an awesome second-floor deck and food to match. Settle in for a happy hour of half-priced sangria and Spanish tapas such as fried yuca con chicharron with vinegary shredded pork. Being so close to the ocean, seafood is a natural highlight. Try the broiled trout topped with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, red onions and the housemade Peruvian criolla sauce.

 

Best Thai Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Jasmine
3618 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-5618

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Lily Thai Cuisine
10 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3348

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Jeenwong Thai Cuisine
3 S. Orange St., Wilmington, 655-5140
Traditional Thai dishes plus one secret weapon (it’s the crispy twice-cooked, ginger-spiced homemade egg rolls) are the backbone at Jeenwong Thai Cuisine, in the Wilmington Riverfront Market. Family recipes give noodle, curry and stir-fry dishes a hearty, homey feel, and chef-owner Norrawit Jeenwong Milburn brings fresh ideas and ingredients from the market daily.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Seaside Thai
19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9525
Local favorite Seaside Thai isn’t fancy, but its menu is full of traditional and reasonably priced fare. Its seaside grillers pair tender grilled meat and seafood with fresh steamed veggies. The Big Bowl is flavorful noodle soup. Another standout is Atlantic salmon seasoned simply with garlic, black pepper and teriyaki sauce.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine
275 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 358-4015
Serving Thai with elegance and style is Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine, a casual little BYOB. Look no further than the signature crispy boneless duck served with tamarind-garlic sauce. But for a bit of upscale fusion, check out Asian-style tapas, like the eye-popping tuna drop martini, which combines a colorful concoction of sesame-crusted sashimi tuna with chives, ginger and Thai cucumber sauce in a martini glass.
 

 

Best Appetizers

READERS, UPSTATE | Potstickers
1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007
 

 

Coolest Atmosphere

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Kooma on the Riverfront
400 Justison St., Wilmington, 543-6732
Swanky sushi bar Kooma is the sleek, ultra-hip spot Riverfront developers were banking on. The place is teeming with glowy mood lights, frosted windows, a curvilinear bar and a cool silvery palette. Great live music, great looking wait staff and, oh yeah, some solid sushi help complete the vibe.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | The Cultured Pearl
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493
There’s simply no beating the rooftop water gardens, the all-black walnut bars and other unique features at The Cultured Pearl. Indulge on one of the Pearl’s signature sushi rolls amid more than 15,000 gallons of placid water in the man-made lagoon. Tiptoe through exotic plants and over koi fish beneath boardwalk bridges on your way to raised gazebos. The avenue below is a world away.

 

Best Bar

READERS, UPSTATE | Stanley’s Tavern
2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 475-1887

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Starboard
2009 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Washington Street Ale House
1206 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537
Here’s a novel idea: a legit pub atmosphere (lots of brick, wooden floors and exposed ceilings) and a selection of about two dozen great beers. There’s never anything too wacky among the regulars and seasonals from microbrews like Dogfish Head, Harpoon, Victory, Magic Hat and Boddington’s. Throw in a solid late-night menu. It’s no wonder Washington Street Ale House is packed most nights.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Finbar’s Pub and Grill
316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1873
At Finbar’s, it’s all about the marvelous bar itself, a restored piece from 1873 that was purchased in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. The oak beauty is fronted with marble and topped with mahogany—and more than a few glasses and bottles of Harp, Guinness, Boddington’s and Strongbow Cider. Gastro-pub grub is excellent.
 

 

Best Bar Food

CRITICS, UPSTATE | BBC Tavern and Grill
4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785
At BBC Tavern and Grill, divine bar munchies remain the backbone. The famous warm soft pretzel sticks and the scene-stealing homemade apple mustard and hot horseradish mustard are must-haves, as are monstrous nachos, smoldering baby-back ribs (with cornbread), and tasty flat bread topped with figs, caramelized onions and goat cheese.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | The Pickled Pig Pub
18756 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-5444
The category may be bar food, but The Pickled Pig is a gastropub—meaning the focus is on exceptional food. From appetizers such as bacon barbecued oysters and fish tacos to entrées such as creole meatloaf and Thai red curried shrimp, it’s apparent this ain’t your typical burger-and-wings joint. Yet it’s still a fun-loving bar with a downright impressive list of beers on tap.
 

 

Best Barbecue

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Mista B’s BBQ
1575 Red Lion Road, Bear, 218-1048
Barbecued chicken and ribs at Mista B’s BBQ are the kinds of food purists hunt down like the Holy Grail. Byron Pollard is Mista B. His small, seasonal operation goes down in a vacant lot in Red Lion every Friday and Saturday of the summer. Arrive early to snag some fall-off-the-bone slow-cooked pork ribs and delectable sides such as red bliss potato salad and steamy chopped collard greens and kale.

 

Best Bistro

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Eclipse
1020 N. Union St., Wilmington, 658-1588
Carl Georigi’s cozy, chic Eclipse is a bistro in the Parisian sense. The cuisine is often simple, with such hearty dishes as its famous braised short ribs with maple demi-glace and andouille-spiked seafood stew with shrimp fumet. Service is exceptional, and the fun atmosphere has created an army of regulars.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Kool Bean Bistro
111 Atlantic Ave., Ocean View, 541-5377
Charming and diminutive Kool Bean Bistro looked to France and Italy to inspire its atmosphere and cuisine. Consider mussels Provençal with a kick of fennel or beef short ribs braised in red wine and beer. Many customers consider Kool Bean their regular coffee-and-breakfast spot, thanks to a good selection of espressos, fresh quiches, pastries, and more.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Blue Pear Bistro
1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., (610) 399-9812
One word you’re likely to hear to describe Blue Pear Bistro is “playful.” The place has tackled chicken nuggets, French fries and hot dogs (its take on Vancouver-style Japadog comes strapped with nori, grilled Napa cabbage and wasabi mayo), but its true bistro-style offerings—things like slow-roasted lamb shoulder, saffron-scented mussels and heavenly braised short ribs—are outstanding.
 

 

Best Bottled Beer Selection

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Domaine Hudson
1314 Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463
If you don’t know Weyerbacher from Redenbacher, servers at Domaine Hudson will gladly recommend a bottle of brew from the restaurant’s list of about 80 craft beers. Into Stella Artois? Try instead a bottle of Kenyan-born Tusker Lager. Something a bit headier? Try a potent Belgian ale from brewers like Mikkeller or Brouwerij Oud Beersel.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Rehoboth Ale House
15 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2337
Don’t think you can tackle all 130 bottles of beer at the Rehoboth Ale House? Aim for 80. The Ale House’s beer club offers discounts on 80 varieties to members, along with a challenge: to knock off all 80 in one year. Regulars enjoy picking from bottles of unique brews such as Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and Wells Banana Bread Beer. You will, too.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Firewaters
1110 Baltimore Pike, Concordville, Pa., (610) 459-9959
We realize Firewaters is part of the Hooters empire, but that doesn’t detract from its impressive bottled beer selection. The list is three digits large, with solid micro-, macro- and import brews from the likes of Clipper City, Franziskaner, Einbecker, our own Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing Co.’s Golden Monkey from Downingtown.

 

Best Draft Beer Selection

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Chelsea Tavern
821 Market St., Wilmington, 575-9369
One of the mottoes at Chelsea is “nothing with a commercial,” so you won’t find Bud Light or its ilk among the 21 craft brews on tap. You will find a couple of exclusives: Chelsea Lager, produced by Victory Brewing Co. of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and Chelsea Brown Ale, made by Dogfish Head. Craft brews such as Chimay, Sierra Nevada and local faves Twin Lakes and 16 Mile are tapped, too. Stay tuned for special beer dinners from this Market Street newbie.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739
Now that bars across the country tap Dogfish Head beer, it’s safe to assume Rehoboth’s Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats, which has many, many taps of Dogfish Head, is exponentially better. Pull a pint of Chicory Stout, 90-Minute IPA, Aprihop, or one of the experimental exclusives such as brown sugar-infused Billy Budd.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon
108 W. State St., Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 444-7232
Half Moon Restaurant and Saloon might be known for its creative dishes that make use of wild game. (Llama sloppy joes anyone?) But the saloon packs serious suds in its taps, from honored favorites like Guinness Stout to the hotly trending microbrews such as Bell’s Brewery Oarsman, a lemony wheat beer, and Philly’s own Yards Brewery and its Extra Special Ale. They go great with ostrich burgers.
 

 

Best Breakfast Place

READERS, UPSTATE | Lucky’s Coffee Shop
4003 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0240

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Starboard
2009 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Sinclair’s Café
177 E. Main St., Newark, 368-7755
Customers will never confuse venerable Sinclair’s Café with a greasy spoon. Owner Jeffrey Sinclair grinds whole wheat to make flour for whole-wheat pancakes and tops them with real maple syrup. French toast and eggs are done fresh in any style, and here resides the best espresso machine in town. “Most of us know how to use it,” quips Sinclair. Coffee comes from Gillies Coffee, one of the oldest and most beloved roasteries in the country.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Warren’s Station
1406 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-7156
If you don’t leave Warren’s Station happy and full, manager Scott Mumford will be concerned. The fine staff works tirelessly to serve a lineup of simple breakfast foods. Mumford buys only Rapa scrapple—his grandfather’s favorite—and serves omelets made with fresh, local ingredients. Chocolate chip pancakes smothered in Smucker’s syrup are a favorite among kids.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Hank’s Place
Routes 100 and 1, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-7061
A great breakfast place is as much about environment as it is ham and eggs, which is why friendly Hank’s Place is tops. Eggs Benedict is served on a biscuit and topped with homemade creamed chipped beef. Poached eggs Cordon Bleu features grilled Lancaster County ham and creamed chipped beef. Yes, the chipped beef is a specialty, but don’t overlook John Chad’s apple pancakes or omelets made with local mushrooms.

 

Best Brew Pub

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000
710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 472-2739
Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant continues to be an awards juggernaut, raking in medals from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. Brilliant brews like Raspberry Torte and Russian Imperial Stout are great, and not enough credit goes to the well-executed pub food, such as the guacamole-smeared turkey burger or the char-grilled sirloin with sun-dried tomato and Portobello relish.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739
Sheathed in antique barn wood, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats creates the comfy, straightforward brew pub vibe that’s perfect for enjoying beers such as Blood Orange Heffeweizen. The grilled pizzas are great, and chefs are especially proud of the daily salad specials, which often teem with fresh local produce from places like Fifer Orchards. Dogfish is also one of the few beach spots that offers live original music on the regular.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | McKenzie Brew House
451 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 361-9800
McKenzie Brew House may have ditched the old names of its house-brewed beers (farewell, Unicorn Ale, we hardly knew ye), but the lineup of delicious fresh brews remains—from the McKenzie Light all the way through Oatmeal Stout. Chefs also turned over a new menu recently, augmenting a selection that includes everything from wood-oven fired pizzas to jambalaya to filet au poivre.
 

 

Best Burgers

READERS, UPSTATE | Jake’s Hamburgers
1100 Ogletown Road, Newark, 737-1118
150 S. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 322-0200
2405 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-6800

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Summer House
228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895

CRITICS, UPSTATE AND DOWNSTATE | McGlynn’s Pub
800 N. State St., Dover, 674-0144
108 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 834-6661
8 Polly Drummond Center, Newark, 738-7814

 

Best Chef

READERS, UPSTATE | Don Scalessa of Café Scalessa’s
504 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, 656-0955s

(tie) READERS, DOWNSTATE | Jay Caputo of Espuma
28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199
and READERS, DOWNSTATE |  Hari Cameron of Nage
4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Julio Lazzarini of Orillas
413 N Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700
When he opened Orillas Tapas in 2008, Julio Lazzarini brought something new to a city thought to be set in its ways. Two years later, Lazzarini has become toast of the town and a bona fide celebrity chef. The CIA grad’s tapas, his intimate dining room and his commitment to downtown’s revitalization have won over the throngs. He’s appeared on the Food Network, at Meals from the Masters and the National Restaurant Association’s annual gala.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Nino Mancari of Salt Air
50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2444
Nino Mancari has a butcher’s diagram of a pig—the logo of legendary London restaurant St. John—tattooed on his forearm. He named his son Keller in honor of restaurateur Thomas Keller. To say Mancari is into food is probably understating it a bit. The Bethany native brings farm-to-table acumen to Salt Air, where his simple-yet-elegant dishes won over the town’s finicky foodies in short time. “There’s room for aesthetics,” he says, “but I like really simple.”

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Karen Nicolas of Simon Pearce
1333 Lenape Road, West Chester, Pa., (610) 793-0949
What’s a chef who’s trained at Johnson and Wales and logged experience at Soul, Gramercy Tavern and the French Laundry doing in West Chester? Simon Pearce’s Karen Nicolas relishes pulling much flavor from some of the region’s best ingredients. That means heirloom apples, perfectly plump braised Lancaster pork belly, and local mushrooms have a new maestro.
 

 

Best Cocktail Selection

(tie) READERS, UPSTATE | Deep Blue Bar and Grill
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040
and READERS, UPSTATE | Potstickers
1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Nage
4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Kooma on the Riverfront
400 Justison St., Wilmington, 543-6732
Kooma has turned into a destination for singles, and the scintillating cocktails are a big reason why. The much-ballyhooed French Whore is a potent mixture of Grey Goose vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, pineapple juice and orange juice. Other titillating cocktails include Monkey Love, Dirtee Dirtee and Sweet Sixteen, made with, yes, Tang.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Pig + Fish Restaurant Company
236 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7770
A place that invites customers to “drink like a fish” better have the drinks to back it up. Pig + Fish Restaurant Company does. The Key lime martini is a sweet and strong mixture of vanilla vodka, white creme de cocoa, triple sec, pineapple juice, lime juice and cream. Flavored vodkas turn up again in summery drinks such as the Grape Crush and the Prickly Pear, as well as the omnipresent Firefly Sweet Tea vodka and lemonade cocktail.

 

Best Crab Cakes

READERS, UPSTATE | Harry’s Seafood Grill
101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Seasons Pizza
various locations
It may seem surprising—what with the “pizza” in its name—that Seasons has such magnificent crab cakes, but those at Seasons are for real, made fresh every day from a family-inspired recipe loaded with juicy lump crab meat, then broiled to golden brown perfection. Next time, skip the mozzarella sticks and go for crab.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Sambo’s Tavern
283 Front St., Leipsic, 674-9724
Sambo’s Tavern has practiced the river-to-table philosophy for more than 50 years: Blue crabs are plucked fresh from local waters and delivered dockside to the tavern. The crabs are then expertly transformed into various dishes. The Burrows family has long known that exceptional crab cakes are made with plenty of meat and include little filler. These babies melt in your mouth.
 

 

Best Crab House

READERS, UPSTATE | Feby’s Fishery
3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9496

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Lazy Susan’s Seafood Deli
18289 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 645-5115

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Lestardo’s Crab House
135 Christiana Road, New Castle, 328-5070
It’s hard to find steamed blue crabs year-round—especially when the worst oil spill in history threatened the Gulf Coast. That’s why people are so grateful for Lestardo’s Crab House, a Hare’s Corner classic. Apps include fried clams and peel-and-eat shrimp. Shellacked trophy fish hang on the wall and friendly servers offer fresh, plump crabs doused in a housemade spice blend.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Old Mill Crab House
8829 Waller Road, Delmar, 846-2808
The all-you-care-to-eat specials are legendary at the Old Mill. You know the drill: paper-covered picnic tables, mallets, cold beverages and unlimited steamed, spiced Maryland blue crabs—plus delicious fried chicken, fried shrimp, clam crisps, hush puppies and local sweet corn on the cob (in season).

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Hilltop Crabhouse Restaurant
8980 Gap Newport Pike, Toughkenamon, Pa., (610) 268-2766
Hilltop Crab House Restaurant has it all—the brown paper-covered tables, all-you-can-eat steamed blue crab specials, wooden mallets and Harbor Spice Co. seasonings. There’s also great peel-and-eat shrimp, fried clams, wings and roast beef.

 

Most Cutting-Edge Restaurant

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Moro
1307 N. Scott St., Wilmington, 777-1800
It sure is fun trying to keep up with über-imaginative chef Michael DiBianca, the CIA-trained chef-owner of Moro. Perhaps the best way to experience his culinary dexterity is through one of Moro’s monthly wine dinners, where dishes can swerve from tomato-braised rabbit with homemade papardelle to jalapeño-basil grilled shrimp and grits. Moro’s charcuterie—globally-sourced salumi and cheeses—are among the best around.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Nage
4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037
Between the farm-to-table mantra of chef-owner Kevin Reading and the imagination of chef du cuisine Hari Cameron, the food at Nage is always interesting. The pair write a new menu daily using locally grown produce to create gastronomic works of art, like bone-in pork chops with barley risotto, baby turnips and chicory emulsion.
 

 

Best Desserts

READERS, UPSTATE | Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Corner Bistro
3604 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-1778
Loosen your belts. Beloved pastry chef Judy Baker—original maker of all things sweet—has returned to Corner Bistro. Staffers say the Key lime pie and the banoffee tart, the only desserts made off the premises, will remain. Patrons would rebel if they didn’t. But Baker (apt name), sister of owner Mickey Donatello, is creating all-new goodies. That means peanut butter cheesecake, folks.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Salt Air
50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2444
Salt Air’s desserts, done by pastry chef Jesse Moore, mirror the restaurant’s dinner menu: creative, but never esoteric. Try the rosemary scone-based strawberry shortcake with mint and citrus macerated strawberries, or the sublime blackberry buckle with cinnamon gelato.
 

 

Best Dining Value

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Le Shio
2303 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 888-0145
Le Shio, in Fairfax Shopping Center, is an Asian-fusion restaurant that offers sophisticated cuisine at reasonable prices. Lunch specials include entrées such as chicken with Thai curry, soup, and rice, all for $6.95. Sushi lunches include 12 pieces of sashimi for $14. For dinner try a sushi set. Priced at $11, the vegetarian set comprises 24 pieces of maki, plus miso or salad. Or share an ample create-your-own wok dinner. You pick the ingredients. The chefs do the rest.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Go Fish!
24 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1044
Off season, it pays to dine at Go Fish! The Britain-loving restaurant famous for its fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding offers a dozen dinners for less than $11 during fall, winter and spring. Among them are beer-battered softshell crabs, homemade shepherd’s pie, tandoori-style chicken skewers and, of course, crispy fish and chips. (Mushy peas extra.)

 

Best Dude Food

CRITICS, UPSTATE | 2 Fat Guys American Grill
701 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 235-0333
What is dude food? You know it when you see it, as is wont to happen during a trip to 2 Fat Guys, pioneers of the peanut butter-laced Elvis burger, the gargantuan slow-braised Flintstones-style beef short rib, and the signature hot wing sauce flavored with poached pear and molasses.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | ¿Que Pasa?
124 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 226-1820
Dudes and ¿Que Pasa? go together like lime and a cold Corona. Consider barbecued pork or spicy chicken burritos stuffed with rice, poblano peppers, grilled onions and jack cheese. Nothing cures a hangover better than tender grilled skirt steak marinated in lemon and ancho chilies, served with grilled onion-corn salsa and spicy red beans and rice.

 

Best Family Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Johnnie’s Dog House
3401 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-1440

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Charcoal Pit
2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2165
Kirkwood Highway and Greenbank Road, Wilmington, 998-8853
5200 Pike Creek Blvd., Wilmington, 999-7483
Charcoal Pit grills the best burgers, blends the best shakes and offers the best service, and you’d be hard-pressed to find folks who treat kids better. For 54 years, servers at the Concord Pike icon have endured Sweet 16 birthday parties, scooped ice cream for muddy Little Leaguers, and provided a safe zone for awkward first dates.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Betty’s Pure & Simple
18585 Coastal Hwy., No. 23, Rehoboth Beach, 645-6160
With Betty’s Pure and Simple, restaurateur extraordinaire Matt Haley lightened up the former Adriatico Restaurant with both new paint and a new approach to family-friendly cuisine. There’s homemade kettle chips with blue cheese dip, beef stroganoff, picnic-style deviled eggs, and chicken-and-rice soup like mom used to make.
 

 

Best Fireside Dining

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Jessop’s Tavern
114 Delaware St., New Castle, 322-6111
It’s an ugly February evening. Your feet are frozen. You have the sniffles. Work was awful. Can you imagine a better thing to do than dining by the blazing fire at Jessop’s Tavern in cozy Old New Castle and enjoying every darn bite of Dutch pot roast and Martha’s Colonial cobbler? Didn’t think so.

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Harry’s Savoy Grill
2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000
A 6-foot slate gas fireplace makes Harry’s Savoy Grill warm and cozy. Table eight, at the hearth, is the most requested. The house florist decorates the hearth regularly, but holidays are especially nice. There’s another fireplace in the grill area, just past the bar.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Dilworthtown Inn
1390 Old Wilmington Pike
West Chester, Pa., (610) 399-1390
Roaring fireplaces and candlelit tables help make Dilworthtown Inn one of the most romantic rooms in Chester County. Fireside dining enhances French countryside favorites such as seared foie gras with Pinot-cherry compote, shiso leaves and juniper jus.
 

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Best Fish and Chips

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Stoney’s British Pub
3007 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-9740
Throw a game of darts, grab a pint of Guinness and tuck into a plate of fish and chips at Stoney’s British Pub. Owner Mike Stone’s signature item is simple enough: fresh cod and a basic flour-and-water batter that preserves the fresh-tasting fish. Chips are made from freshly cut potatoes.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Go Fish!
24 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1044
When actual Brits like the fish and chips, you know they’re good. That’s the case at Go Fish!, where owner Alison Blyth, a right proper Brit herself, coats Icelandic cod in a whipped batter before frying it to crispy, golden brown deliciousness. An imported English chipper makes the fries, er, chips the real deal.
 

 

Aquiles Demerutis, owner of El Dorado in Rehoboth Beach, finishes another masterpiece—the fish taco. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Fish Tacos

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | El Dorado
18776 John J. Williams Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-1596
El Dorado Mexican Restaurant is unassuming, but inside, affable owner Aquiles Demerutis makes the best fish tacos this side of Tijuana. Beer-battered and flash-fried mahi mahi (or fried shrimp morsels) is the crispy, flaky centerpiece for his creations, which are flanked by cool cabbage, and homemade items such as fresh pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa spiked with roasted red peppers, and pickled onions marinated in fiery habañeros.
 

 

Best Gathering Place

CRITICS, UPSTATE | The Clarion Belle
1612 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 299-1414
The Masters Suite at Clarion Hotel-The Belle can accommodate any function. The Charleston and Savanna rooms are flexible and spacious enough to accommodate up to 200 people, theater- , classroom- or banquet-style. Both are fully wired. The 6,000-square-foot Golden Belle Ballroom is the loveliest room in the hotel.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Baywood Greens
32267 Clubhouse Way, Long Neck, 947-9800
Scenic Baywood Greens is one of Southern Delaware’s most desirable places for a wedding or conference or dinner with friends at Baywood Clubhouse Restaurant. Credit the 4,760 square-foot ballroom, the verdant gardens and airy verandas.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Mendenhall Inn
323 Kennett Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-1181
The Mendenhall Inn boasts six spacious meeting rooms, or 14,000-square-feet of space, all wired for Internet. Two 5,000-square-foot ballrooms are graciously appointed, and allow a seating capacity of 300 each. The weddings are lovely, especially in rooms with fireplaces and views of landscaped patios.

 

Best Gourmet Pizza

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Pizza by Elizabeths
3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4478
We hail Pizza by Elizabeths owners Betsy LeRoy and Betty Snyder for giving us gourmet pizza. We appreciate the 60 toppings—pesto, mushroom duxelles, fontina, prosciutto—that allow us to build individual creations. Executive chef Amporn Vasquez directs the kitchen. She hasn’t been stumped by a bizarre pizza order yet.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Half Full
113 W. Market St., Lewes, 645-8877
Half Full serves nine styles of pizza. Though most can be blanketed in whole milk mozzarella, other toppings dress things up. Go mild or spicy, sweet or savory. That might mean an olive and anchovy pizza with roasted garlic sauce, olive relish, caramelized onions, anchovies and fresh arugula, or a chicken pie with roasted tomato sauce, smoked Gouda and sautéed crimini mushrooms.
 

 

Best Ice Cream Parlor

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Sweet Lucy’s
3201 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0777
The ice cream at Sweet Lucy’s Ice Cream & Treats is from Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin. It’s fresh. The servers, on the other hand, are not. They’re nice, patient, helpful teens. Try the Flying Elvis (banana ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate), the Motor Oil (coffee ice cream with chocolate syrup and caramel), and others. Don’t get us started on the sundaes.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | King’s Homemade Ice Cream
201 Second St., Lewes, 645-9425
302 Union St., Milton, 684-8900
Since 1972 in Milton and 1981 in Lewes, King’s Homemade Ice Cream has put the social in ice cream social. Of course, great homemade ice cream is an important part of the formula, but it’s the experience of sitting or standing outside the store, enjoying the ice cream with friends and strangers alike, that makes this hometown parlor special.
 

 

Best Happy Hour

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
AND READERS, DOWNSTATE | Bethany Blues of Lewes
18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Deep Blue Bar and Grill
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040
Few happy hours combine quality and value like Deep Blue. Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., $5 appetizers take an uptown twist in dishes such as duck spring rolls with ginger-jalapeño aïoli, and littleneck clams in steamed garlic-beer broth. Draft beers—a low, low $3 a pint—include righteously sippable Stella Artois, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Twin Lakes Pale Ale. To get extra briny, grab any three oysters from the raw bar for $5.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | ¿Que Pasa?
124 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 226-1820
Once many Dewey Beach revelers outgrew the legendary Taco Toss at the Lighthouse, it was on to ¿Que Pasa? for its rockin’ happy hour. “It’s a religion to a lot of the people who come here,” says owner Jim Baeurle. People go for the margaritas but stay for the view, an unobstructed shot of Rehoboth Bay.

 

Best Healthy Fare

READERS, UPSTATE | Home Grown Café
126 E. Main St, Newark, 266-6993

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Greenman Juice Bar & Bistro
12 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4909

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Fresh Thymes Café
1834 Lovering Ave., Wilmington, 656-2026
Fresh Thymes Café lives up to its name. You won’t eat the same thing in July that you did in November, which means the veggies on your plate were sourced locally, and that fabulous egg salad was flavored with fresh herbs. At events like Sunny Saturdays, you’ll be offered gazpacho, black bean and potato soup, or blueberry buckwheat pancakes. Show up for a Funtabulous Friday and you might taste the “vegan beanie & weanie soup.”

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Planet X Café
35 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1928
At Planet X Café, the emphasis is on locally sourced natural, organic and free-range foods. Try a Zen bowl, perhaps the crispy fresh fish of the day, tofu served with miso-ginger broth, bok choy, shaved cauliflower, rice noodles and scallion salad, or some other version. The menu changes often, sometimes daily. A possible upcoming menu item: prime, natural filet of beef in a rose-pink peppercorn demi-glace with a wild king oyster-mushroom ragoût, and more.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Café Terrain at Styer’s
914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 459-2400
With the exception of a few desserts, it’s difficult to find a menu item at Terrain at Styer’s that isn’t healthful. Dishes such as lump crab, shrimp and scallop tartine, as well as roasted beets and ruby grapefruit salad, are prepared fresh and presented attractively. Even the atmosphere, essentially a refined greenhouse, makes you feel healthier.
 

 

Best Hidden Gem

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Brasserie Grille
100 Continental Drive, Newark, 454-1500
Under the able hands of chef and Hotel du Pont alum James Lauser, Brasserie Grille at the Wilmington-Christiana Hilton is a gem worth seeking, one with an uptown steakhouse menu that includes his beloved pan-seared crab cakes, and herb-rubbed Angus beef.

 

Best Kids Menu

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Union City Grill
805 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-9780
Union City Grille crafts fresh food that kids will actually eat, from chicken fingers to mini-burgers and fries and creamy penne mac-and-cheese. There’s even a kiddie crudité, with crunchy cucumber, carrots, celery and cheeses. Jamie Oliver should take notes.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Mango’s
Garfield Parkway at the Boardwalk, Bethany Beach, 537-6621
With offerings of pasta with butter, hot dogs, chicken fingers and fried shrimpies, Mango’s caters to the pickiest of little diners. Then there’s the Kid Attack: a 64-ounce Sprite or Coke with a splash of grenadine served in a fish bowl. Desserts such as banana crepes, peanut butter cheesecake and Bermuda bread pudding will not disappoint.
 

 

Best Late-Night Menu

READERS, UPSTATE | Stanley’s Tavern
2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 475-1887

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Summer House
228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895
 

 

Best Localvore Menu

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Home Grown Café
126 E. Main St., Newark, 226-6993
Home Grown Café teams with Lancaster Farm Fresh for weekly deliveries of the farm’s best seasonal crops. Diners see it in fresh daily specials. Home Grown also sources local livestock such as grass-fed and pastured cows. Owners Eric and Sasha Aber have found goodies at the Newark Natural Foods farmers market, and have bought from local mushroom foragers.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Nage
4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037
Chef-owner Kevin Reading pioneered the localvore movement in Delaware at Nage. Eggs from Cluckner Farms and bison from Colvine Bison Farm become creations such as—what else?—bison tartare. Produce also comes from all-star growers such as Fifer Orchards, Bob Russell Farms, Hattie’s Garden, Community Organics, and many more.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Sovana Bistro
696 Unionville Road, Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 444-5600
The art at Sovana isn’t on the walls. It’s on the plates. Blend beautifully presented farm-to-table cuisine with a casual, classy atmosphere and you have a winner. Nearby farms are teeming with vegetable gardens, so Sovana’s 100 Mile Menu is impressive, even in winter, when vegetables are cold-stored in the ground. Try the roasted beets.

 

Best Lunch Spot

READERS, UPSTATE | Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Arena’s Deli and Bar
17314 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes, 644-0370
149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1272
20312 Highway One., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2233

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Scratch Magoo’s
1709 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 651-9188
At Trolley Square’s Scratch Magoo’s you’ll find $5 burger Mondays, where the beefy rawhide burger—topped with habañero barbecue sauce, cheddar, bacon and fried onions—reigns. The pastrami sandwich is another top-seller, as is the Tuscan chicken sandwich on ciabatta bread. Get it with delicious cucumber salad.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | 33 West
33 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 735-9822
Lunch at 33 West is so good, we’re running out of dishes to praise. The blackened steak and spinach salad is built around sliced sirloin, baby spinach and black bean relish. The Dagwood sandwich is sliced roast beef with horseradish sauce and caramelized onions on toasted focaccia.
 

 

Best Music

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Gallucio’s
1709 Lovering Ave., Wilmington, 655-3689
Gallucio’s is a nice, neighborhood place to hear live music. Anthony Gallucio and the Retreads play most Monday nights. Jazz, heard Thursday evenings and Sundays during brunch, is performed by groups like Ant Farm, Blackbird Society Orchestra, Joe Allegro, Rob Swanson and Terra Soul, to name a few.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600
When you’re in the mood for Vegas-style music but can’t swing a flight to Vegas, head to Dover Downs. Big-name acts at the Rollins Center have included Wayne Newton, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Kool & The Gang, Johnny Mathis, Tom Jones, Kenny Rogers, Gladys Knight, Isaac Hayes, Randy Travis, Dionne Warwick and Peabo Bryson.

 

Best Neighborhood Place

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Corner Bistro
3604 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-1778
Owner Mickey Donatello changes the Corner Bistro menu every spring and fall, but three popular items—Donatello’s personal faves—never go away: Key lime pie, Cuban black bean soup and the Cuban sandwich. Thick French toast made from LeBus Bakery bread slathered in caramel sauce has helped make the new Sunday brunch a sensation.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Frankie’s
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600
In case the ample spaghetti and meatballs and caricature of Dean Martin didn’t tip you off, Frankie’s, in the Colonnade at Dover Downs, is all about family-style Italian. Chef Giovanni Cardillo’s freshly made pasta goes into faves like linguini with clams. Most dishes are friendly to a family’s bank account, too. Delicious brick-oven pizzas, named for Rat Pack heroes, are under $10.
 

 

Best New Restaurant

READERS, UPSTATE | Big Fish Grill
720 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 652-3474

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Bethany Blues of Lewes
18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500

CRITICS, UPSTATE | BBC Tavern and Grill
4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785
David Dietz called the BBC opening a family reunion. Customers, staffers and many more all clamored toward the resurrected Brandywine Brewing Co. (sort of), its famous soft pretzels, good beers and lively nightlife. It’s all back—and there’s even more good stuff: sublime slow-roasted ribs, pan-seared sea bass, superb salads, and more.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Abbott’s Grill
249 N.E. Front St., Milford, 491-6736
Ryan Cunningham and Kevin Reading have introduced haute country cuisine to Milford via Abbott’s Grill. The something-for-everyone menu is made entirely from scratch—including the night’s selection of ice creams—with such inspired dishes as clams Casino flatbread pizza, bison burgers and bison chili with meat from local Colvine Bison Farm.
 

 

Best Nightspot

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Hummingbird to Mars
1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 468-6832
A floor above other Trolley Square hotspots is Hummingbird to Mars, a posh, speakeasy-style bar where well-dressed, well-behaved young professionals lounge on Victorian furniture while listening to jazz and sipping cocktails named after Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. They’re made with unique ingredients such as elderflower liqueur, lemon-vanilla foam, absinthe and mango purée, courtesy of mixologists Lo Skarda and Chris Resler. If the antique lantern outside the door is lit, they’re pouring.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Fire and Ice Lounge
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600
Eye-popping visuals at Fire and Ice Lounge inside Dover Downs Hotel & Casino are as cool as the drinks. There’s the color-changing bar, a gigantic glacier centerpiece that shifts between fiery red and icy blue. Bacardi mojitos and a VIP lounge with plush couches and bottle service keep people coming back. So does the entertainment. Visit August 6-7 for the Elvis Festival.

 

Best Outdoor Dining

READERS, UPSTATE | Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Cultured Pearl
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Buckley’s Tavern
5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776
Buckley’s Tavern boasts three beautiful outdoor areas: the vine-covered front porch, the villa-like rear patio and the rooftop deck. The porch is for people-watching, the patio for romance, and the deck for hanging with a group.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant
213 Anglers Road, Lewes, 645-6888
Irish Eyes Pub in Lewes rocks an outdoor deck on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. Lean too far over the railing and kerplunk. It’s home to live music as well as fresh local seafood. Sunset views are spectacular. So are the breezes.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Chesapeake Inn Restaurant
605 Second St., Chesapeake City, Md., (410) 885-2040
At the Chesapeake Inn, the waterfront deck has a well-stocked tiki bar and views of Back Creek Basin, C&D Canal and parts of Chesapeake City. Appetizers such as the big crab pretzel and the smoked crab-cheese bruschetta are superb. JoJo’s Gelato and Ice Cream Bar, on the upper deck, scoops several flavors of water ice.
 

 

Best Pad Thai

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Rasa Sayang
1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 543-5286
Rasa Sayang’s menu description hardly does justice to its pad thai. The shrimp and fried squares of tofu receive a pleasant bite from chili sauce, peanuts are added in just the right amount, and there’s no oily residue. The Malaysian version, mee Siam, is made with thin noodles, not flat ones, but it is equally tasty.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Seaside Thai Cuisine
19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9525
Pad Thai is one of the most popular dishes at Seaside Thai. This version’s perfectly cooked rice noodles are stir-fried with chicken or shrimp, then tossed with eggs, spring onions and fresh bean sprouts. Seaside’s Pad Thai Pak is similar and just as flavorful, except it boasts more seasonal veggies and Pad Thai noodles.

 

Best Pasta Dish

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Mushroom-stuffed rigatoni at Capers & Lemons
301 Little Falls Drive, Wilmington, 256-0524
All of the entrées made with handcrafted pasta at Capers & Lemons are good, but its mushroom stuffed rigatoni is our favorite. Zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, white wine and truffle butter combine to create a rich flavor that’s not overly spicy, yet very gratifying.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Pumpkin gnocchi at Abbott’s Grill
249 N.E. Front St., Milford, 491-6736
Abbott’s Grill chefs Kevin Reading and Ryan Cunningham harmonize silky handmade pumpkin gnocchi with tender chunks of braised lamb (sometimes duck), sun-dried cherries, and butternut squash in a thick ragoût made from sweet Madeira reduction and topped with shaved Parmesan. It’s an exercise in sophistication and warmth. Grab it this fall.
 

 

Best Pizzas

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Toscana Kitchen + Bar
1402 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 655-8600
Toscana Bar + Grill owner Dan Butler understands the happiness he imparts when he marries roasted chicken, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola on a perfectly textured crust baked in a brick oven. He has other tricks: figs with Gorgonzola and truffle honey, as well as prosciutto with goat cheese and arugula.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739
Pizza and beer are soulmates at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, where a wood grill produces crispy pies replete with grill marks. Try Dogfish’s take on a standard margherita pizza, made with fresh basil, vine-ripe tomatoes and scallions. Or go off the board. Pile your pie with any of the dozen or so toppings, including caramelized onions, asparagus, crabmeat and grilled portobellos.
 

 

Best Place to Cook on a Rock

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Walter’s Steakhouse
802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780
In memoriam: The kobe hot rocks appetizer at Walter’s Steakhouse has made its way to that big menu in the sky, but we’ll always remember that special sizzle when a thin strip of steak hits the 1,800-degree igneous rock. We’ll remember the wisps of smoke and the oohs. We’ll remember the plum wine and chimichurri sauces. Maybe if we remember really hard, owner John Constantinou will bring it back…

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Dos Locos Fajita and Stone Grill Restaurant
208 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3353
Become a chef when you order one of the Stonegrill dishes at Dos Locos. A 450-degree Australian lava rock (700 degrees when it leaves a special oven) is delivered to your table, along with your choice of meat—steak, lamb, pork, veal or seafood—for you to cook to your liking. Rubs and sauces can be added. Dos Locos touts the method as healthy because fat is trimmed from the meat, no oils are used, and the rock’s heat sears in natural juices and nutrients. One warning: This is an adult-only experience.
 

 

Best Pub-Tavern

READERS, UPSTATE | Buckley’s Tavern
5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2739

CRITICS, UPSTATE | James Street Tavern
2 W. Market St., Newport, 998-6903
The folks at James Street understand that a great tavern is one with its neighborhood. That’s why they hold fundraisers for Minquas Fire Company, and when the siren sounds at the firehouse, Siren Special drink prices go into effect. There are game-time drink specials, a wine club, and live entertainment on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But what elevates the tavern is a menu with delicious entrées such as tender chicken Milanese, an impressive beer selection and fun events such as a recent wild game-tasting dinner.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Sambo’s Tavern
283 Front St., Leipsic, 674-9724
If Sambo’s Tavern were any closer to the Leipsic River, it’d be in it. The view of the waterway, sprawling marsh and local watercraft is only part of this landmark’s allure. There’s the comforting presence of a single pool table, a jukebox and a wall map that lets visitors mark the spot from which they hail. Of course, the servers are as friendly as they come, the crabs are as delicious as they come and the beers are always cold when they come.
 

 

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

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Deep Blue Bar and Grill
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040
From little Lady Chatterlys from Nova Scotia to slightly plumper Little Shemogues from New Brunswick, Deep Blue has oysters on the half-shell covered, especially if you like yours covered in fresh cucumber mignonette or American paddlefish caviar. The chic raw bar holds littleneck clams and brawny Texas shrimp cocktail.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 857-3223
Beantown-inspired Doc Magrogan’s has a daily chalkboard featuring the day’s shipment of oysters, which are flown in fresh every day. The raw bar itself does a mean oyster shooter (with vodka and dash of Doc’s cocktail sauce), in addition to steamed PEI mussels, clams on the half-shell and jumbo shrimp cocktail.

 

Best Restaurant Makeover

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Dome to Redfire Grill
400 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 235-2600
There was no place like Dome, but you’ve got to love its reincarnation as Redfire Grill and Steakhouse. With its low lighting, ruby walls and signature steaks, Carl Georigi’s classic chophouse keeps Hockessin hoppin’. We’re partial to the New York strip and the rib-eye. All steaks are broiled at 1,200 degrees and are best taken with creamed spinach, horseradish mashed potatoes or grilled asparagus. The wine list, like the menu, is priced fairly and the orange-spiked cheesecake makes for a nice finish. Dome, thanks for the memories.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Celsius to Henlopen City Oyster House
50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 260-9193
A good deal of elbow grease went into making the former Celsius Restaurant into Henlopen City Oyster House. For business partners Joe Baker and Chris Bisaha, that meant transforming the space into a modern rustic-chic oyster house, complete with wood plank flooring, brick walls and exposed ceilings. The brand new raw bar (adjacent to the actual bar) has four stools where patrons can sit and mull over the selection of oysters from eight to 10 regions every night.
 

 

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
AND READERS, DOWNSTATE | Bethany Blues of Lewes
18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Young’s BBQ
401 E. Main St., Middletown, 376-1777
If barbecue has taught Keith Young one thing, it’s patience. The owner of Young’s BBQ says time is the key ingredient in perfecting his babyback and spare ribs. They first get a douse of marinade spray, then a home-mixed dry rub and, finally, six hours in a smoker fueled by hickory, mesquite and applewood. They’re so good, you won’t need sauce. Instead try some of Young’s signature red skin potato salad and some collard greens.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Fenwick Crab House
100 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2500
Following closely behind crab cakes and blue crabs, the most popular food at Fenwick Crab House is heavenly smoked babyback ribs. The ribs are first given a rubdown in a traditional dry rub and left to chill for 12 hours. Then it’s to the smoker for four hours. Just before serving, a quick slather in a secret ketchup-vinegar house-made barbecue sauce gives the meat a little tang. Starting this fall, owner Scott Fornwalt will ship his ribs across the country via the Internet.

 

Most Romantic Atmosphere

READERS, UPSTATE | Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Eden
23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Domaine Hudson
1314 Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463
Cozy, unpretentious Domaine Hudson is the perfect place for a first date or romantic escape. It’s the wine. Domaine Hudson offers at least 40 wines by the glass, more than 400 by the bottle and, if the couple prefers, 80 craft beers. Gracious servers avoid interminably asking if everything is OK, allowing couples the space to enjoy each other’s company.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | The Buttery
102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755
Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and engagements—they’ve seen them all at The Buttery. Credit the small and cozy dining areas inside this beautifully restored Victorian mansion, with no more than eight tables in a single room. There are hanging lanterns, candlelit tables, subdued lighting and relaxing music. It’s the perfect environment for romance—or a date with some crab cakes.
 

 

Best Sandwiches

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Crazy Bone Café
3100 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 477-1544
Crazy Bone Café’s Wayne Phillips is the former owner of cult favorite Dreamer’s Café, so he’s re-created the charm in his new place. Creative sandwiches make up most of the menu. Faves include an Italian sub with prosciutto and sharp provolone (it’s called a Bambino), the Picasso, with homemade chicken salad, diced pineapple, dried cranberries, sliced brie and crushed pecans, and the Dragon’s Breath, with sliced chicken and turkey, jalapeños and lime-chipotle sauce. Turkey and roast beef are cooked in-house. Classic Buono Brothers Bakery in Chester, Pennsylvania, provides the bread.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Sharky’s Grill
1508 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 226-3116
The Cuban sandwich has been the top seller at Sharky’s Grill for 15 years running. Sharky’s makes each sandwich as it is ordered using marinated pork loin, Black Forest ham, dill pickle, Swiss or pepper-jack cheese on long bread with mustard, mayo or chipotle. Sharky’s charbroiled cheeseburgers are almost as popular. Our fave: the smoked brisket with melted cheddar and barbecue sauce.

 

Best Sangria

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Orillas Tapas Bar & Restaurant
413 N. Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700
Tapas at Orillas come under the control of chef Julio Lazzarini, but the wonderful sangria is all mom. Ivelisse Lazzarini’s recipe calls for strong wine—think Cabernet or Tempranillo—and sugar-free fruit juice. Be generous with the fruit, she says. Red fruits (plums, apples, red grapes) go into red sangria. White fruits (pears, honeydew, white grapes) go into white sangria. Orillas has barrels of both, plus sparkling sangria de cava and St-Germain sangria.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Cactus Café
37 N. Dupont Hwy., Selbyville, 436-2750
Sangria at Cactus Café is done right—that is, the traditional way. The true test is combining the right ingredients, such as Burgundy, sweet vermouth, triple sec and freshly cut fruit in correct proportions. Grab a 16-ounce glass for just $3.95 anytime. Pair with Cactus Café’s excellent paella.
 

 

Best Seafood

READERS, UPSTATE | Harry’s Seafood Grill
101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Feby’s Fishery
3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9496
Cooks at Feby’s Fishery grill, broil, fry and sauté fresh-off-the-boat fish. You’ll get the most for your money by ordering daily specials. On Mondays diners can enjoy a whole Maine lobster dinner for $19.95. Tuesdays and Thursdays mean all-you-can eat Dungeness crabs for $29.95. The wonderful New England clam bake, a Sunday classic, is $26.95. Whether the fish comes from New Jersey or New Zealand, Feby’s keeps it fresh and simple.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bluecoast Seafood Grill
1111 Highway One, Bethany Beach, 539-7111
The bad news is Bluecoast Seafood Grill removed its in-house fish market. The good news is it installed a brand new raw bar. In addition to all the great fish brought in from Congressional Seafood and local sources, the restaurant will serve clams, oysters and shrimp from up and down the coast. It doesn’t get much better than watching the sun set over the bay while enjoying flash-fried baby lobster tails or steamed shrimp dumplings.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Grove Restaurant
12402 Saint Martins Neck Road, Bishopville, Md., (410) 352-5055
Whatever fishermen caught that day is what Grove Restaurant serves that night. When it started offering dinner in 1993, Grove was a steamed crab operation. When John McDonald created his horseradish crust, his flounder, rockfish and mahi-mahi became instant hits. Now the eight-table Grove is a destination. Staying small has allowed staffers to tend to every detail, so every single scallop is juicy, sweet and plump. If you want fancy, the Grove isn’t for you. If you want fresh fish, be patient. Your table will be ready eventually.

 

Best Service

READERS, UPSTATE | Potstickers
1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big Fish Grill
20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Vita Nova
17 W. Main St., Newark, 831-0500
You may have had a Caesar salad made at your table, but there’s no equaling the tableside service at the University of Delaware’s Vita Nova. Training ground for UD’s Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management students, the full-service restaurant is housed inside the Trabant Student Center. Student servers present your organic chicken roulade with French-style service (plated via a tableside cart). Beef filet is served in the Russian style.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Blue Moon
35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6515
A small, dedicated wait staff and the large, dedicated group of regulars have a unique rapport at the Blue Moon. In short order the servers know the guests’ favorite drinks, favorite tables and, sometimes, even things like birthdays and anniversaries. “They understand that the restaurant business is about a diner’s expectations,” says owner Meghan Gardner. “And they know how to exceed those expectations.”
 

 

Best Sports Bar

READERS, UPSTATE | Stanley’s Tavern
2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 475-1887

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Green Turtle Sports Bar & Grille
17388 N. Village Main Blvd., No 21, Lewes, 644-6840

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Grotto Pizza
2015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 777-6791
The formula for a great sports bar is simple: HD-TVs show all the big games, sports memorabilia covers the walls, and munchies and pitchers flow. Grotto on Concord Pike does all that well. Then there are drink specials. Happy hour lasts for four hours during the week and features 22-ounce Bud and Bud Light for $2.50, 16-ounce Coors Light and Miller Lite for two bucks, and 75 cents off mixed drinks and wine. Let the games begin.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Grotto Grand Slam
17467 Shady Road, Lewes, 645-4900
From the mini-baseball field at its entrance to the many sports cards embedded in its spacious bar, Grotto Grand Slam on Highway One is a sports fan’s paradise. Giant TVs hang everywhere, there’s video trivia, and the arcade and billiards area is great for kids. Friendly bartenders keep the Big Beers flowing (especially at happy hour prices), and the menu offers all sorts of tasty food. What launches the Grand Slam to the top of the sports bar standings? The pizza, of course.

 

Best Steakhouse

READERS, UPSTATE | Walter’s Steakhouse
802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780

READERS, DOWNSTATE | 1776 Steakhouse
18585 Coastal Hwy., Suite 6, Rehoboth Beach, 645-9355
 

 

Sunday brunch at Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club in Newark is legendary thanks to its seemingly endless buffet and the awesome view. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Sunday Brunch

(tie) READERS, UPSTATE | Hotel du Pont
11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154
and READERS UPSTATE | Michael’s
1000 Churchmans Road, Newark, 368-4230

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Starboard
2009 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Deerfield Golf & Tennis Club
507 Thompson Station Road, Newark, 368-6640
October through Mother’s Day, Deerfield lays out an amazing spread: 111 linear feet of
buffet tables with eggs, waffles, carved meats, fresh fruits, pastries—and a raw bar packed with smoked fish, salmon, mussels and clams. (We’ve been searching for a brunch like this since the Columbus Inn closed.) The sunny room and fabulous view of the golf course are unparalleled.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Victoria’s Restaurant
2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615
Sunday brunch at Victoria’s Restaurant is simply a Delaware institution. Cozy up to one of the hightops beneath the black trellises and indulge on oysters, smoked seafood or Belgian waffles with Vermont maple syrup and applewood bacon. Piano standards by local fave Jeff Irwin set the mood, as do ample mimosas, bloody Marys and screwdrivers.

 

Best Sushi

READERS, UPSTATE | Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar
1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Cultured Pearl
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Okura Japanese Cuisine Restaurant
703 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 239-8486
Classic Okura has upped the ante on sushi, adding offerings such as white fish with caviar and mango salsa to its menu of traditional and specialty rolls. Still, favorites remain, such as the Hockessin roll, with fresh tuna and avocado that gets tempura fried, then drizzled with spicy mayonnaise sauce, scallions and caviar. The house-standard Okura roll is a fried roll of nori-wrapped yellowtail with asparagus.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Stingray
59 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6476
Evidenced by the presence of the famous Hairy Mexican roll, Stingray shares a few sushi recipes with its upstate sister restaurant, Mikimotos. But Stingray originals are just as good. The Man Eater combines flash-fried salmon with jalapeño, spicy mayo and cilantro. The Stingray roll pairs shrimp tempura with avocado, tobiko and unagi, then tops it with Japanese mayonnaise.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Masamoto
1810 Wilmington Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 358-5538
Very few items at Masamoto aren’t excellent. From fluke sashimi to tuna belly, it’s hard to go wrong. But it’s the way chef-owner Johnny Cai plays with texture and color that puts Masamoto sushi leagues beyond most in the area. A Vietnamese Roll sprinkles tempura flakes over kani, avocado and spicy tuna, mixes in a little spring salad, then wraps everything in rice paper. It’s a mouthful, but it’s so, so worth it.
 

 

Best Tapas

READERS, UPSTATE | Olé Tapas Lounge and Restaurant
1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Espuma
28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Orillas Tapas Bar & Restaurant
413 N. Market St., Wilmington, 427-9700
The ever-changing menu at Orillas Tapas Bar and Restaurant offers tiny dishes filled with things such as Serrano ham croquettes with guava-rum glaze, marinated olives, roasted red peppers and the mainstay item, garlicky gambas al ajillo. The atmosphere—a welcoming wooden bar, a few intimate tables, exposed brick and low lights—is muy romantic.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Café Azafrán
109 Market St., Lewes, 644-4446
18 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8100
Café Azafrán keeps Mediterranean cuisine at its core. You’ll see saffron (azafran in Español) pop up in tapas like steamed mussels in a saffron sofritto, and seared sea scallops with saffron crema. Haricots verts Azafran are big sellers, as are garlic shrimp and lamb albondigas (meatballs). Get a tapas starter kit loaded with Serrano ham, roasted red peppers, Romesco, tapenade, artichoke hearts, Manchego cheese, goat cheese, and more.

 

Best Tea Room

READERS, UPSTATE |Hotel du Pont
11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Victoria’s Restaurant
2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615

CRITICS, UPSTATE | British Bell Tea Room
890 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 836-1802
The British Bell is Dawn Viggiano’s ode to English afternoon tea. Proper ladies and gents flock to a room appointed with crystal chandeliers, hand-woven tapestry, a brick fireplace and antique furniture alongside wainscoted walls for more than 35 choices of teas, plus a variety of seasonal teas such as pumpkin. Need a spot of midday refinement and tranquility? The Bell is your answer.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | The Victorian Lady Tea Room
112 N.W. Front St., Milford, 424-8272
Inside Milford’s historic Marshall House is The Victorian Lady, where Kay and Jeff Young host tea parties, lunch bridal showers, and more. Thank Kay’s selection of more than 70 teas and Jeff’s light bites, including homemade soups, scones, and his Ultimate Chicken Salad Sandwich with cranberry-orange marmalade, apples and baked Brie.
 

 

Best Tiramisu

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Capers and Lemons
301 Little Falls Drive, Wilmington, 256-0524
Capers & Lemons chef Michael O’Hare makes the dessert each morning. It’s light—not soggy, not too sweet. O’Hare dips the traditional ladyfingers into espresso for a millisecond to preserve their texture. They blend perfectly with creamy mascarpone, whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | DiFebo’s Restaurant
789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914
Training under Tuscan chef Ricardo Tognozzi, Lisa DiFebo had to earn her chops making his secret recipe for tiramisu. She brought the recipe to DiFebo’s and she still keeps the secret. The Old World-style tiramisu is packed with creamy mascarpone and ingredients Lisa won’t share.

 

Best View

CRITICS, UPSTATE | At the Rail Wine Bar and Grill
777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington, 994-6700
From the restaurant, bar and veranda of At the Rail Wine Bar and Grill, you can check out the meticulously maintained golf course at White Clay Creek Country Club. Enjoy a meal while viewing the practice green, the tee at No. 9 and, beyond that, the 14th fairway.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Catch 54
Del. 54, Fenwick Island, 436-8600
The building that houses vibrant Catch 54 was built because of this view, one of the best in Southern Delaware. Matt Haley’s restaurant overlooks the Del. 54 bridge, an expansive salt marsh and the town of Fenwick. Sit outdoors on the deck and watch boats motor by, or dine upstairs in a glass-fronted dining room that elevates your perspective of the moonrise over the beach.
 

 

Best Waterfront Dining

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Aqua Sol
3006 Summit Harbour Place, Bear, 365-6490
It’s one thing to enjoy Aqua Sol’s Cuban-inspired cuisine. It’s another to indulge on skewered jerk chicken or dark rum-guava ribs while sitting on its patio, gazing at the inlet of the C&D Canal. If you arrive at dusk, Mother Nature will provide a dazzling view.
 

 

Best Workday Lunch

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Public House
900 N. Market St., Wilmington, 661-7920
Smack in the middle of Wilmington, the Colonially styled Public House is a spacious place with plenty of comfy booths. Staffers “feel the pain of the limited lunch hour,” says assistant general manager Chris DiNuzzo, a former ING Direct exec, so they serve quickly. We love the roasted butternut squash and the Southwestern chop. Burgers are big. Sandwich offerings include a delicious salmon BLT. Entrées include a very good meatloaf.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | W.T. Smithers
140 S. State St., Dover, 674-8875
Lunch at W.T. Smithers is served fast for people who are trying to beat the clock. But fast doesn’t mean diners are shortchanged. They still enjoy big burgers, overstuffed sandwiches, excellent soups and hefty appetizers. W.T. Smithers also draws local professionals and state legislators during lunch hour. If timed right, around 12:30 p.m., the average Joe or Joan can do a bit of lobbying.
 

Page 37: Best of Delaware 2010, continues...

 

Best Wine List

(TIE) READERS, UPSTATE |  Caffé Gelato
90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811
AND READERS, UPSTATE | The Stone Balloon Wine House
115 E. Main St., Newark, 266-8111

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Buttery
102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Domaine Hudson
1314 Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463
From Robert Mondavi Chardonnay to Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, there simply isn’t a bad wine among the 400 bottles at Domaine Hudson. Owner Tom Hudson’s staff has the knowledge to recommend a new favorite, and they’re not stuffy. The new addition of chef Abde Dahrouch and his melding of French, Mediterranean and Moroccan flavors give diners new reason to seek out wine pairings.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Eden
23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330
Eden stands out because of its diverse list. Chardonnays include Acacia Winery Lake Vineyard, Jordan Russian River Valley (2006) and classic Pouilly Fuisse Louis Latour France (2007). Selections of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, white varietals and reds are equally extensive. Pinot Noirs include Dierberg Santa Maria Valley (2006) and Three Saints Santa Maria Valley (2007). Want to impress a date? Try a four-course wine dinner.
 

 

Best Bakery

READERS, UPSTATE | Serpe’s Bakery
1411 Kirkwood Hwy., Elsmere, 994-1868

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Pasqualini’s Bakery
37560 Atlantic Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2111

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Sweeney’s Bakery
2068 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-5884
There’s a reason the North Wilmington community came to the aid of Sweeney’s Bakery when construction on Naamans Road wreaked havoc on business a few years ago. Since 1957 Sweeney’s has baked from scratch some of the state’s best doughnuts, graduation and wedding cakes, éclairs, crème puffs and cruellers. There aren’t many independently owned bakeries left. This one was worth preserving.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Frankfurt Bakery
429 S. New St., Dover, 741-0180
Frankfurt Bakery sells every bakery item every day, and owner Andreas Janke and his team make everything from scratch. Janke, who started baking at age 15 at his parents’ shop in Frankfurt, Germany, makes 100 varieties of pastry. (The cheese Danish sells out first.) Janke utilizes traditional German family recipes, but says a few of his goodies have been slightly Americanized.
 

 

Best Banquet Hall

READERS, UPSTATE | Harry’s Savoy Ballroom
2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3001

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Cordrey Center
30366 Cordrey Road, Millsboro, 682-9080
 

 

Best Bread

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Black Lab
812 N. Union St., Wilmington, 658-1307
Sorry, Atkins fans. Humans need carbs. Black Lab’s crusty Italian loaves are baked to perfection, as are its baguettes (which are fabulous for sandwiches), rye and pumpernickel. Owner Barry Ciarrocchi’s fist-sized rolls, with their crusty exteriors and chewy centers, are substantial without being dense.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Frankfurt Bakery
429 S. New St., Dover, 741-0180
Frankfurt produces at least 17 kinds of breads almost every day, including rye, whole grain, sourdough, Bavarian, pumpernickel, country French and cheese bread. Those who want specialty breads must get their days straight: pesto on Tuesdays, Italian on Wednesdays, and so on. Frankfurt also has a sandwich bar and a case full of fresh meats and cheeses.
 

 

Best Butcher

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Haldas Market
2201 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 475-7600
Many a summer barbecue begins at Haldas Market, the near-century-old family business that’s equal parts full-service butcher, deli and caterer. From hormone-free bone-in ribeye and fresh-made kielbasa to Bell & Evans chicken and pre-marinated pork chops, Haldas has all the right stuff. Grab some imported Di Bruno Bros. cheese before you leave.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Hickman’s Meat Market
18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 645-0600
4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-8345
Deli cases are usually packed with meats laden with preservatives. That’s not the case at Hickman’s. Owner Bill Hickman stocks homemade, preservative-free lines of pork and beef products. Poultry comes from The Farm in Georgetown, the first certified organic farm in Delaware. The family makes its own lunchmeats, too, including preservative- and additive-free smoked ham, roast chicken and roast turkey. “We are becoming more and more natural every day,” says Hickman.

 

Best Cakes

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Sweets to You By Ginger
913 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 762-3451
Sweets to You By Ginger offers inventive, homemade cakes. All are good, but the pound cake reigns supreme. Flavors include chocolate chip, orange, lemon and sour cream. More traditional layer cakes are filled with caramel, chocolate mousse, peanut butter, pineapple chunks and other fillings. Frostings are made fresh, and come in many colors.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Pasqualini’s Bakery
37560 Atlantic Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2111
Fresh is the word at Pasqualini’s Bakery, and there’s always a new cake in the works. “People like and need change,” says owner Kathy Pasqualini. Among the big sellers is a diet-killer known as the Chocolate Raspberry Custard Delight—chocolate cake smothered in layers of fresh raspberries and vanilla custard topped with white butter cream icing and chocolate ganache. A lucky fashionista loved her Dolce & Gabbana purse cake. The rum cake is unlike any you’ve ever tasted.
 

 

Best Candy-Chocolates

READERS, UPSTATE | Govatos’ Chocolate
4105 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-5324
800 N. Market St., Wilmington, 652-4082

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
135 Second St., Lewes, 645-5528
36484 Seaside Outlet Drive, No. 1510
Rehoboth Beach, 227-0422
 

 

Best Coffee

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Forgotten Cats Brew
What happens when a former café owner gets involved with a local non-profit for animals? In this case, Forgotten Cats Brew. Claudia Robbins, a volunteer for Forgotten Cats, worked with distributors to create exclusive gourmet blends. Sales benefit the foundation. Cool for Cats is a chocolatey blend of lightly roasted Brazil and dark-roasted Columbian beans. Then there’s the earthy espresso Black Cat Blend and the decaffeinated Calm Cats. Grab the coffee at Marini’s Produce in Wilmington, Broadway Café in Old New Castle, Over Coffee Café in Hockessin, and elsewhere.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Notting Hill Coffee Roastery
124 Second St., Lewes, 645-0733
Owner Amy Felker personally roasts every delicious, globetrotting bean that comes through her cozy Notting Hill Coffee Roastery. From flavored brews like blueberry crème and caramel corn to proprietary country-of-origin blends, it’s clear to see how well Notting Hill knows its bean. It’s also a great spot to pop in for a sip and a bite. Try a puff pastry wrap or a cup of made-from-scratch soup.
 

 

Best Fudge

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Candy for all Occasions
2211 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 654-9171
At Candy for All Occasions, the buttercreams and the chocolate-covered pretzels sell briskly, but Sue Ford’s homemade fudge picks up major steam in the summertime and around Christmas. Standards like vanilla, chocolate and peanut butter are most popular.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Seaside Country Store
1208 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-6110
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried the chocolate praline fudge at Seaside Country Store. It’s made at the counter where all can watch Rick Frostad blend all that butter, fresh cream, sugar, and seasonal flavors such as cranberries and walnuts. After creating some 36 flavors over nearly 40 years, the most popular is still “good ol’ plain chocolate,” says owner Amy Vickers. Peanut butter ranks second. The peanuts are freshly ground.
 

 

Best Cheeses

READERS, UPSTATE | Janssen’s Market
3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-9941

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Fisher Bay Gourmet Foods
33323 E. Chesapeake St., Suite 31, Lewes, 644-4747

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Cheese Chalet
5337 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 239-5548
Though it does more than cheese, Cheese Chalet and owners Henry and Carol Huffman are still focused on fromage, from Norwegian Gjetost to prized Parmesan Reggiano to classic Maytag bleu. Original cheese spreads are made in-house, too. Hot sweet raspberry chipotle spread and walnut- and bacon-infused cheddar are tops.
 

 

Best Cheesesteaks

READERS, UPSTATE AND DOWNSTATE | Casapulla’s
514 Casapulla Ave., Elsmere, 994-5934
1216 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-7827
106 Sandhill Drive, Middletown, 376-8500
750 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 834-7400
1216 Capitol Trail Road, Newark, 737-2200
19331 Lighthouse Plaza Blvd., No. 1, Rehoboth Beach, 227-7827
2707 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0221

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Claymont Steak Shop
3526 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 798-5319
57 Elkton Road, Newark, 453-9500
The Claymont Steak Shop has expanded into Newark (juicy cheesesteaks on a college campus—genius) and spruced up the Claymont classic, but the masters are still doing their flagship product right: thinly sliced ribeye oozing with melted American and provolone.

 

Best Coffee Shop

READERS, UPSTATE | Brew Ha Ha!
(various locations)

(tie) READERS, DOWNSTATE | Café a Go Go
102 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1099
AND READERS, DOWNSTATE | Java Beach
56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4900
 

 

Best Delicatessen

(tie) READERS, UPSTATE | Janssen’s Market
3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-994
AND READERS, UPSTATE | Andrea’s Best of Italy
723 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 235-0237

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Fisher Bay Gourmet Foods
33323 E. Chesapeake St., Suite 31, Lewes, 644-4747
 

 

The menu is ever-changing at P.U.F.F. in Greenville, but you can rest assured that it's all fresh and it's all good. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Gourmet to Go

READERS, UPSTATE | Toscana to Go
1402 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 655-8600
5337 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 234-0200

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Fisher Bay Gourmet Foods
33323 E. Chesapeake St., Suite 31, Lewes, 644-4747

CRITICS, UPSTATE | P.U.F.F.
4021D Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-7833
Short for Pick Up Fine Food, P.U.F.F., in One Greenville Crossing, is a saving grace for those who don’t have time to make meals. Chefs use local ingredients, and they never add preservatives. The large menu is ever-changing, but you might find hors d’oeuvres such as mushroom-fontina turnovers, signature sandwiches such as the Nemours ham panini, and entrées such as pork roast stuffed with apples and cranberries. P.U.F.F. has always been a family business. And it tastes like it.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Grub Grocery
305 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4782
What began as a storeroom for Rehoboth’s revered Cultured Pearl has turned into so much more as Grub Grocery. There are sushi platters to-go and sushi made to order, but there are also grocery items (national and specialty brands), fresh produce from local purveyors, gourmet Italian dinners to go, deli meats, just-baked breads, coffee, smoked salmon and anything else you can think of, including great service.
 

 

Best Local Grocer

CRITICS, UPSTATE | ShopRite
19 Chestnut Hill Plaza, Newark, 292-1220
1600 W. Newport Pike, Newport, 999-1227
1300 Rocky Run Pkwy., Wilmington, 477-3270
501 S. Walnut St., Wilmington, 225-6900
ShopRite’s 70,000-square-foot store at Christina Crossing on the Wilmington Riverfront offers rooftop parking, elevators and a cartveyor escalator—all firsts for Delaware. The megastore lays claim to the largest meat department in the state, a giant produce department, an in-house floral designer and lots of ethnic specialties. The North Wilmington store has the only full-service certified-
Kosher bakery and deli in the state. Find Halal goods, too. Vegans are well-served in the Live Rite with ShopRite aisles. And you won’t find better birthday cakes.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Hocker’s Super Center
34960 Atlantic Ave., Clarksville, 537-1788
Family-owned and operated Hocker’s Super Center is known for its country store feel, friendly service and rep for selling quality meats. With its five-aisle hardware store and its garden center, this full-service grocery is a one-stop shopping destination. Find everything from locally grown asparagus to lawn mowers. Owner Gerald Hocker (as in state representative) is still hands-on. The family also runs G&E Supermarket in Ocean View.
 

 

Best Ice Cream

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Woodside Farm Creamery
1310 Little Baltimore Road, Hockessin, 239-9847
Fertile soil at Woodside Farm produces alfalfa, clover, orchard grass and rye grass, so the Jersey cows graze on lush pastures and live a low-stress life. That means high-quality milk rich in cream. Woodside flavors are as traditional as chocolate chip and as off-the-wall as bacon. The sugar-free vanilla fudge ripple is delicious.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Hopkins Farm Creamery
18186 Dairy Farm Road, Lewes, 645-8652
Hopkins Farm Creamery at Green Acres sells 28 flavors of homemade ice cream, including black raspberry, peach, chocolate-banana-walnut and moo cookies. Lots of butter fat makes it delicious. The creamery also sells sundaes, banana splits, milk shakes and root beer floats. The farm sends its milk to Cloverland Farms Dairy in Baltimore, which returns the base mix used to make Hopkins’ ice cream. The fruit is grown at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming.

 

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

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Newark Natural Foods
280 E. Main St., Newark, 368-5894
Newark Natural Foods is a co-op, so the membership chooses the merchandise, but the public is welcome, too. Find organic fruits and vegetables, grains, free-range meats and eggs, various nut butters, dairy-free ice creams, and a good deal of gluten-free and dairy-free selections. Popular brands include Garden of Eatin’ and Fantastic Foods. Bring your own containers to buy flours, loose nuts, grains, beans and spices at deep discounts (no packaging—no extra costs).

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Good For You Natural Market
28841 Lewes-Georgetown Hwy., Lewes, 684-8330
Good For You Natural Market not only stocks natural, chemical-free produce, but the owners grow it on their own one-acre market garden. (They’re famous for arugula and other greens.) The market is moving to bigger, greener pastures this year, with the opening of a store on Del. 1 expected soon. That means double the great produce, triple the deli meats, great new prepared foods and charcuterie items.
 

 

Best Pizza

READERS, UPSTATE | Pizza by Elizabeths
3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4478

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Grotto Pizza
20376 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3278
 

 

Best Salumeria

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Maiale
2800 Lancaster Ave., No. 3, Wilmington, 691-5269
Now that local restaurants have caught on to the beauty of Maiale Deli and Salumeria (we’re looking at you, Chelsea Tavern), a wider audience gets to experience Billy Rawstrom’s savory hand-ground sausages and cured meats. Freshly ground pork shoulder and cayenne pepper go into spicy Italian sausage. The shop keeps 10 to 15 varieties of handmade artisan sausages every day, plus selections of dry-cured salumi like Genoa and sopressata, and Italian bacons such as pancetta and guanciale. Stop in for lunch and grab a sausage sandwich.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | A Touch of Italy
33A Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1500
Why did it take so long to get a gourmet salumeria in Delaware’s most foodie-friendly town? A Touch of Italy is a welcome addition to Rehoboth, stocking lots of cured meats, cheeses and provisions. Get your Stravecchio Parmesan, Auricchio provolone and Vantia-brand prosciutto here. All hang conveniently from the ceiling. The Bascio family—led by Louie and brother Frankie—smoke mozzarella in-house and display it alongside the largest selection of imported Italian cheeses in the state.

 

Best Sandwiches

READERS, UPSTATE | Purebread Deli
1309 Churchmans Road, Newark, 455-9866
4001 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 426-9866
4807 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 239-9866

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Arena’s Deli and Bar
17314 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes, 644-0370
149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1272
20312 Highway One., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2233

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Centreville Café
5800 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 777-4911
The staff at Centreville Café has invented sandwiches named after local beaches. Don’t worry, Jersey-ites: The Brigantine and Avalon pay homage to those who go “down the shore.” All prep is done in-house, including meat-roasting and bread-baking. Back by popular demand is the Rehoboth, a wrap filled with white albacore tuna, Swiss cheese and optional jalapeño. The best-seller is the Fenwick: thick wheatberry bread filled with turkey breast, bacon and homemade cheddar spread.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | A Touch of Italy
33A Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1500
It really is more than just a touch at A Touch of Italy when you consider the authentic New York-style heroes made from ingredients such as famous prosciutto from Parma and San Danielli, shaved provolone, hot capicola, sun-dried peppers, homemade mozzarella and hard rolls from Arthur Avenue Italian Deli in the Bronx. All 15 sandwiches on the menu board are made to order.
 

 

Best Subs

READERS UPSTATE AND DOWNSTATE, Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop
430 Eden Square, Bear, 832-8132
321 Independence Blvd., Dover, 678-2808
130 Gateway South Blvd., Dover, 698-3090
120 Lantana Square, Hockessin, 234-2322
614 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 454-0200
708 W. Basin Road, New Castle, 322-6797
4522 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 998-0096
510 Union St., Wilmington, 571-8929
2122 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 479-9818
 

 

Best Tomato Pie

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Café Palermo
3612 Miller Road, Wilmington, 762-5818
We’re talking tomato pie, not pizza. At Café Palermo, the simple-yet-hearty favorite is traditionally Sicilian, made with thick, light crust and homemade marinara sauce. The recipe remains a family secret. One thing we do know: You can eat the pie by the square, but you’ll want to buy it by the pan.

 

Best Wine Store

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Premier Wine & Spirits
2052 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 996-9463; 2 S. James St. (Corner of James & Market Streets), Newport, 998-6903
At Premier, wine-lovers can sip at its sampling bar before buying. Manager Chip Owens and staff can offer great advice. “We each have our own specialties,” says Owens. “Between us there’s about 45 years of wine experience.” Alternative reds are hot. South American Malbecs are popular, and customers are responding enthusiastically to Colombia Valley offerings from Charles Smith.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bin 66 Fine Wine and Spirits
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6966
Tom Bachmann and Tom Poor personally taste every vintage they sell at Bin 66 Fine Wine and Spirits, a favorite for major labels and boutique bottles alike. There are more than 1,000 choices, from Dom Perignon to in-demand Cakebread Cellars. Ask for a recommendation. They’ll oblige gladly. Then sign up for wine tastings, classes and clubs to make yourself an expert.

 

Best Baby Boutique

READERS, UPSTATE | Hansel and Gretel
3603 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-0383

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Solé Kids
110 Rehoboth Ave.,
Rehoboth Beach, 227-6622
 

 

Best Kids Clothing

READERS, UPSTATE | Hansel and Gretel
3603 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-0383

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Solé Kids
110 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6622

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Oranges & Lemons Children’s Boutique
3828 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 427-0323
Staffers at Oranges & Lemons Children’s Boutique know their loyal patrons by name, and will often call them at home with sales alerts. The kids are rocking Roxy sportswear and Petit Bateau pajamas, tees and dresses. Lightweight and flexible iCandy strollers are all the rage in Europe, and Oranges & Lemons is one of the few retailers in the country that has them.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Kid’s Ketch
132 Second St., Lewes, 645-8448
For 20 years, Kid’s Ketch has been keeping children—and parents—happy. Owner Teresa Ford favors Le Top because its swimwear, playwear and dressier clothes (for boys and girls up to size 7) feature great details and are made from comfy materials. Popular this year are Reef sandals. For infants and toddlers, look for Zutano—100 percent cotton clothes in many bright colors. You’ll also find Lewes T-shirts, sun hats and other accessories.
 

 

Greenest Store

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | EcoChic Earth Friendly Boutique
28 S. Walnut St., Milford, 422-4580
EcoChic is dedicated to the fashion-forward, environmentally conscious shopper, so owner Terry Carter strives to carry products that are either organic, sustainable, recycled, fair trade or handmade. She stocks handbags, Jillery recycled aluminum jewelry and several pieces of Fibrations fiber jewelry. Carter also offers Jane Iredale cosmetics and the full Jurlique line of organic skincare products.
 

 

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

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Wilmington Country Store
4013 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-4409
Shop for dads, brothers, sons and boyfriends all in one place at Wilmington Country Store. When it opened in 1951, it attracted mostly women. Now at least a third of the business goes to the guys. Popular brands include Peter Millar, Southern Tide, Tommy Bahama, Psycho Bunny and 7 For All Mankind.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | South Moon Under
118 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3806
At South Moon Under, men shop with a purpose. They head directly toward the rack of collared shirts by the newly tres hip Penguin. There’s a supply of plaid shorts by Stüssy and Billabong, surf trunks by Hurley, Nixon watches and Stüssy hats. Time to dress it up a bit? Tailored shirts by Hugo Boss do the trick.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Trail Creek Outfitters
487 Wilmington Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 558-4006
Trail Creek Outfitters is the place for guys who love the outdoors. Find outerwear by The North Face, Arc’Teryx, Patagonia and Marmot, sweaters and pants by Patagonia and Columbia, shirts by Horny Toad, Ex Officio and Royal Robbins, shorts by Horny Toad and more: surfwear by Quicksilver and rugged footwear by Merrell ad Chaco. Hit the trail in clothes that you can wear straight to BBC Tavern for a cool-down beer.

 

Best Women’s Accessories

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Bloom
92 E. Main St., Newark, 454-7266
Bloom may be in Newark, but it screams Greenwich Village. With Belle and Sebastian playing in the background and the smell of rose petals in the air, this boutique is a world unto itself. Its sizable stock of jewelry, candles, ornaments and clothes is worth a peek.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bella Luna
127 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0267
Once Jennifer Aniston started wearing silk scarves with tiny pompoms, everyone wanted them—so Bella Luna owner Janice Elder stocked them. Elder is on the chunky jewelry trend, and an ample selection of espadrilles is marching off the shelves.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Ashley Austin Boutique
106 W. State St., Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 925-5900
Accessories are always current at Ashley Austin Boutique because its owner, Ms. Austin herself, is a former buyer for Anthropologie. She knows the industry. That explains her glorious collection of handbags, customized jewelry and shoes.
 

 

Honey Kamali in Greenville is one honey of a place to find women's business clothing and much more. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Women’s Business Clothing

READERS, UPSTATE | Lady’s Image
3910 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7921

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Carltons
31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Honey Kamali
4001 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4058
Owners Honey Kamali and Carole Sheehy are up on the business-casual look. The store’s mission is to do more than dress women of all sizes. It’s to celebrate their differences. Its offerings—Farinaz blouses, Bianca jackets and slacks, Elliot Lauren separates—are made for women who go to offices, not models who walk runways.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Carltons
31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990
You won’t find dark pinstripe suits at Carltons. You will find age-appropriate items that can be worn to the office and out to dinner. Carltons is known for its line of Nick + Zoe coordinates, but its Spanner offerings—skirts, slacks, sweaters, outerwear—sell well, too. Here’s the spot to find Mycra Pac all-weather coats, which look good, travel well and pack into a pouch.
 

 

Best Women’s Casual Clothing

READERS, UPSTATE | Lady’s Image
3910 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7921

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Aquamarine Boutique
205 Second St., Lewes, 644-4550

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Ellie Boutique
4017 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 655-7707
The owners of Ellie made a smart decision when they began selling casual duds in 2008. Its hottest items include Trina Turk and Shoshanna swimsuits, Michael Stars tees, and white Capri jeans by anyone, but mostly True Religion and Citizens of Humanity. Jersey dresses are hard to keep stocked. Expect to see ruffles and V-neck beading.
 

 

Most Contemporary Boutique

CRITICS, UPSTATE | NV Boutique
211 Louviers Drive, Newark, 368-4403
If you have time to hit just one shop, hit NV Boutique where you’ll find women’s jeans and gowns in one place. Erin Reynolds and Laura Tuoni stock big labels such as French Connection, For Joseph, Mara Hoffman and Seneca Rising. Color is the trend: Purple, green, and techno-print shirts and dresses dance on the store’s cool gray and blue walls. You’ll have a colorful experience at NV.
Most Contemporary Boutique

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bel Boutique
28 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 741-2340
For such a small boutique, Bel Boutique carries a large range of casual and formal styles. Floral-print sundresses sell well, and ruffles are back. Bel’s biggest brands are Max and Cleo, followed by its little sister line, BCBGeneration. Customers also dig into Bel’s supply of Big Buddha handbags.
 

 

Best Women’s Eveningwear

READERS, UPSTATE | Lady’s Image
3910 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7921

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Aquamarine Boutique
205 Second St., Lewes, 644-4550

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Honey Kamali
4001 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4058
At Honey Kamali, the word in eveningwear is color—coral, red, pink, green. Why? “Women have been depressed,” says co-owner Honey Kamali. “They need the boost.” Feast your eyes on Marisa Baratelli silks, Assar chiffon gowns and stunning formal suits by Frascara. The shop hosts two trunk shows in spring and fall. A big plus: Seamstress extraordinaire Homa Amini does alterations in-house.

 

Best Lingerie

READERS, UPSTATE | Bare Essentials
4009 Concord Pike, Ste. A, Wilmington, 477-4888

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Something Comfortable
70 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6180
 

 

Best Shoe Store for Kids

READERS, UPSTATE | Children’s Shoe Boat
4710 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 994-5057

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Lou’s Bootery
48 N. Walnut St., Milford, 422-4569
 

 

Best Shoe Store for Men

READERS, UPSTATE | Delaware Running Company
4021 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-7463

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Benjamin Lovell Shoes
525 Glen Eagle Square, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 358-0060
If you haven’t seen a shoehorn in 20 years, you haven’t been to Benjamin Lovell Shoes. Remember those old steel foot measures? Benjamin Lovell uses those, too, just to make sure your dream shoe fits like a dream. Men’s brands—Clarks, Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy, Merrell, Tsubo and others—are trendy, but the service is refreshingly old-fashioned.
 

 

Best Shoe Store for Women

READERS, UPSTATE | Peter Kate Shoes
3830 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 656-7463

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Beach Feet
70 Rehoboth Ave., No. 110, Rehoboth Beach, 226-5202

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bel Boutique
28 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 741-2340
Flip-flops, satin stilettos, strappy metallic pumps or sandals—Bel Boutique has them. This summer’s color is nude: nude sandals, nude peep-toe flats, nude wedges. Brands like Seychelles Footwear and Nina Footwear are all the rage, but Bel’s newest and most exciting line is Dolce Vita.

 

Best Shoe Store for Women

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | ViVi G.
587 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 459-5848
July is the pre-fall season at ViVi G. New styles roll in mid-month, so the big summer sale around July 5 means you get great deals on summer shoes. Marching in for fall: Loeffler Randall boots and leopard booties, Tory Burch rain boots and flats, and Delman pumps and boots. Marilyn Monroe wore them for the famous sidewalk grates shot. Audrey Hepburn popularized the flats.
 

 

Jim Fleming of Chick's is ready to hit the State Fair. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Place to Gear up for the State Fair

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Bunny Junction
103 S. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 328-8404
The folks at Bunny Junction have everything for horse and rider. If they don’t have it in stock, they’ll round it up for you. “You don’t have to own a horse to dress like a cowboy,” says manager Michael Chambers. The Junction carries fringe jackets, cowboy hats and boots, and Wrangler jeans. And don’t forget that huge Montana Smith belt buckle.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Chick’s Discount Saddlery
18011 S. Dupont Hwy., Harrington, 398-4630
Not sure what to wear to the Brad Paisley concert? At Chick’s Discount Saddlery (across the highway from the fairgrounds), find the snazziest Western wear around. Black and pecan-colored hats by Bailey are best-sellers around fair time, but dressy bull-hide lids and cooling straw hats are also popular. Chick’s carries Abilene boots, Country Girl fashions and tons of accessories. This ain’t Chick’s first rodeo. It’s been in business for almost 30 years.
 

 

Best Day Spa

(tie) READERS, UPSTATE | Pagavé Salon
1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134
and READERS, UPSTATE | Michael Christopher Salon and Day Spa
2006 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 658-0842

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Made Ya Look! Salon and Spa
20831 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Cielo Salon & Spa
600 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 575-0400
The Cielo Salon & Spa folks have some nerve claiming “Heaven on earth is here.” It’s nervy, that is, until you do A Day in the Clouds. This little excursion offers a deep tissue massage, enzyme facial, manicure and pedicure, blow-dry and style, make-up application and a spa lunch. Heavenly? You bet.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Toppers Spa
1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 857-2020
If you can’t relax at Bali-inspired Toppers, you can’t relax. Licensed aestheticians, hairstylists, nail designers and makeup consultants offer indulgences such as the full-body Bali Massage with the Jamu Spa line of organic oils, lotions, bath salts, aromatherapy spray and shower gel. The spa is in Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, so after your European facial, manicure and pedicure, try the slots.

 

Best Salon for Women

READERS, UPSTATE | Michael Christopher Salon and Day Spa
2006 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 658-0842

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Made Ya Look! Salon and Spa
20831 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400
and READERS, DOWNSTATE | Sherif Zaki Salon and The Oasis Spa
2 Greenville Crossing, Greenville, 656-8813

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Sherif Zaki Salon and Spa by the Sea
19266 Coastal Hwy. No. 18, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8640
The Sherif Zaki salons and spas are premier destinations for beauty. “It’s about the expertise of the team and the high level of service providers that have been working with us for 15 or more years,” says Emon Zaki. Staffers are committed to continuing education and staying up on trends. “We love compliments,” Zaki says. “But knowing what to fix is what matters most when dealing with the public.”
 

 

Best Salon-Barber for Men

READERS, UPSTATE | Pagavé Salon
1601 Concord Pike, Suite 35, Wilmington, 765-0134

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Made Ya Look! Salon and Spa
20831 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1400

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Studio One Eleven Day Spa and Salon for Men
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 225-8365
Studio One Eleven offers services such as cuts and color, scalp treatments, hot towel treatments and shoe shines. The spa boasts massage therapy, facials, ear candling and more. There is a chair massage with every service, free clean-ups between cuts, wine and cheese nights—and a putting green.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Bad Hair Day?
45 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4247
Men’s sales are booming at Bad Hair Day! It’s still a 60:40 women-to-men ratio in the salon, but men are catching on to manicures and pedicures, facials, eyebrow waxing and tinting, cuts and color, and deep-tissue massages.
 

 

Best Bridal Boutique

READERS, UPSTATE | Jennifer’s Bridal
500 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 235-1660

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Tiaras Bridal Boutique
17605 Nassau Commons Blvd., Lewes, 645-6990
 

 

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

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Everything but the Kitchen Sink
425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-6664
Today’s brides don’t want sterling. They want mixed-metal that doesn’t need polishing. Everything but The Kitchen Sink offers myriad mixed-metal trays, bowls and more from companies such as Couzon, George Jensen and Ginkgo. Its registry is available to view online, and orders are managed by knowledgeable personnel. You won’t see these items in department stores, so instead of Mikasa, you’ll find Penzo tableware from Zimbabwe.
 

 

Best Event-Wedding Planner

READERS, UPSTATE | Secretariat Wedding & Event Planning
P.O. Box 3509, Wilmington, 654-4479

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Make My Day
701 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7111

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Planning Factory International
34 Germay Drive, Wilmington, 656-8400
You won’t get a cookie-cutter event with Planning Factory International. Every party reflects the objective of the client, whether it’s a corporate branding function or a sophisticated wedding bash. For one couple’s wedding splash at the Hyatt at The Bellevue in Philadelphia, Planning Factory used wireless lighting units, hired a band from Bermuda and fashioned caviar bars. Planning Factory recently handled the grand opening of HSBC, Bermuda’s largest private employer.
 

 

Best Contemporary Wedding Cakes

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Desserts By Dana
22 Peterson Place, Bear, 721-5798
Desserts By Dana’s Dana Herbert is on the cutting-edge, designing delectables in big, bold colors, whimsical prints and patterns, and asymmetrical stacks. Some brides, as Herbert says, “like the bling.” That means cakes in silver, gold, rhinestones, and more. See him at work on The Learning Channel’s “Ultimate Cake Off.”

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | SugarBakers Cakes
752 Frederick Road, Catonsville, Md., (410) 788-4170
One of the most delicious things about SugarBakers Cakes is its first anniversary program, so don’t freeze that slice. You can have a fresh 6-inch top tier on your first anniversary. All cakes are artful and scrumptious. Popular cakes are yellow and devil’s food, with fillings that include chocolate toffee mousse, raspberry buttercream or ganache. The bakery makes rich buttercream icings, but its cream cheese icing is decadent. You’ll have to contact the store in Maryland, but your cake will be made in Delaware.
 

 

Best Traditional Wedding Cakes

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Liz Marden Gourmet Cakes
1252 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-0728
Hanging on the wall at Liz Marden Cakes & Desserts is a sign that reads, “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not.” Marden and her team bake fresh every week, using quality butter, eggs, cream, Madagascar vanilla, Swiss chocolate and European preserves. Her most requested cake is the chocolate mousse, a combination of chocolate and vanilla cake with raspberry jam and white chocolate mousse filling. Marden bakes works of art. Customers get something to remember.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Sweet Disposition
38290 London Ave., No. 2, Selbyville, 436-3616
Sweet Disposition creates stunning cakes, from multi-tiered confections that serve 200 to its Honeymoon cake for two. All made from scratch, cakes are decorated in classic designs, often accented with fresh flowers, vines and tendrils, or shells. Whether the bride desires white tiers dripping with sugared blooms or chocolate layers topped with fruit, she’ll get the cake she longs for.
 

 

Best Wedding Florist

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Flowers by Mayumi
128 Second St., Lewes, 644-4468
Flowers By Mayumi is known for bridal bouquets, wedding ceremony flowers and floral cake decorations. One standout is the popular rose bridal bouquet, which pairs three types of white and pink roses. Its hand-tied rose nosegay features white freesia, white roses, pink and white spray roses, white hydrangea and cascading ivy. Its Cherished Vows centerpiece explores textures in white by marrying roses, lisianthus and carnations with seeded eucalyptus in a silver bowl.
 

 

Best Wedding Reception Site

READERS, UPSTATE | Hotel du Pont
11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Baywood Greens
32267 Clubhouse Way, Long Neck, 947-9800
 

 

Best Bookstore

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Ninth Street Book Shop
104 W. Ninth St., Wilmington, 652-3315
In an age of big-box booksellers who stock everything from Scrabble to espressos, Ninth Street Book Shop owners Jack and Gemma Buckley have kept their store alive since 1977. That’s saying a lot for a 6,000-square-foot store in downtown Wilmington. The owners have always supported local authors, and continue to offer travel guides and maps, more than 9,000 children’s titles and an African-American section. The Buckleys do some nice gift wrapping, too.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Browseabout Books
133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2665
You couldn’t ask for a better name than Browseabout Books. Here, one can browse about without being stalked by sales types. After all, this shop is located in a resort. So relax. Besides its large book selection, the independently owned shop carries stationery, gifts and a surprising number of toys. Sip excellent espresso in its café.
 

 

Best Fitness Center

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Hockessin Athletic Club
100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, 239-6688
The key to HAC’s success is commitment to families. There’s child-care on site, a gigantic aqua area with a water park, lap pool, adult whirlpool and outdoor pool. There are treadmills, bikes and cross-trainers, a free weight area, strength training equipment and a variety of classes. But the owners didn’t just throw kids a bone. They created a fun space that includes a large gym, martial arts studio, Kids Maze, and more. That said, the center is perfectly fine for single adults, too.

CRITICS DOWNSTATE | Firm Fitness Center
803 Rehoboth Ave. Ext., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8363
Firm Fitness Center’s best asset is its personal training. Owner Paul Timmons is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Head trainer Ted Dabbs has a master’s degree in exercise science. The gym offers 16 pieces of Hammer Strength equipment, as well as non-traditional gear like kettlebells, cast-iron weights with handles for lifting, swinging and otherwise hossing around. The center serves people of all fitness levels.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Forever Fit Foundation
328 Kennett Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 742-8060
Forever Fit Foundation offers the same type of resistance training Olympic swimmer Dara Torres used to get her 41-year-old body into gold medal shape, as well as specialized Gyrokinesis. Certified pros excel at tailoring programs to clients.
 

 

Best Florist

READERS, UPSTATE | Flowers by Yukie
916 N. Union St., Wilmington, 658-8292

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Windsor’s Flowers
20326 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9481
 

 

Best Garden Center

READERS, UPSTATE | Richardson’s Garden Center
1918 Kirkwood Hwy., Newark, 738-9463
2738 Pulaski Hwy., Newark, 836-9898

READERS, DOWNSTATE | East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Road, Millsboro, 945-3489

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Old Country Gardens
414 Wilson Road, Wilmington, 652-3317
Old Country Gardens excels at customer service. Knowledgeable staffers can explain what to plant, why you should or should not plant it, and how to care for whatever it is you do plant. Old Country also offers landscaping. Its Christmas shop is stocked with German hand-blown glass ornaments, nutcrackers, homemade wreaths and more.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Ronny’s Garden World
5580 Dupont Pkwy., Smyrna, 653-6288
Ronny’s Garden World blooms with one of the best selections of annuals and perennials anywhere. It’s also staffed with some of the nicest people. These staffers never give short shrift to neophyte gardeners, and they advise the seasoned pros on how to create natural curb appeal. Flowers, trees and shrubs: it’s all here.

CRITICS, OVER THE LINE | Terrain at Styer’s
914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, Pa., (610) 459-2400
Terrain at Styer’s is a world all its own, a place to escape. Its garden center is just one lovely area among many, each boasting beautiful flowers, plants and shrubs. The center is filled with birdhouses, fountains, outdoor furniture and handmade outdoor art of the kind found in galleries, upscale boutiques and artists’ home studios.
 

 

Best Gift Store

READERS, UPSTATE | Apropos
4001 Kennett Pike, No. 124, Greenville, 656-4880

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Forney’s Too
102 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 734-2425

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Blue Streak Gallery
1721 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 429-0506
Blue Streak Gallery hosts several exhibits of contemporary art every year. The aura carries over to the store, where handcrafted jewelry, glass, ceramics, furniture, gifts and wearable art are available at fair prices. They’re great gifts.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Delaware Bay Trading Co.
102 S. Main St., Camden, 698-3550
John and Tracey Green of Delaware Bay Trading Co. either make or pick every item they carry. That guarantees that gift-seekers will find something unique among the antiques, toys, candles, tinware, collectibles and Colonial-era reproductions. John handles the custom woodworking, Tracey creates pottery on-site and daughter Taylor hand-makes a popular line of jewelry. The Greens like to say that the jewelry is Taylor-made.
 

 

Best Private Golf Course

READERS, UPSTATE | Wilmington Country Club
4825 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 655-6171

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Peninsula Golf & Country Club
32981 Peninsula Esplanade, Millsboro, 947-4760
 

 

Best Public Golf Course

READERS, UPSTATE | White Clay Creek Country Club
777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington, 994-6700

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Baywood Greens
32267 Clubhouse Way, Long Neck, 947-9800
 

 

Best Flooring

READERS, UPSTATE | Pala Tile & Carpet Contractors
600 S. Colonial Ave., Wilmington, 652-4500
 

 

Simply Home in North Wilmington carries unique accessories that will suit anyone's taste. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Home Accessories

READERS, UPSTATE | Simply Home
3628 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0999

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Tulip Ltd.
20819 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2696

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Everything but the Kitchen Sink
425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-6664
It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you first set foot in Everything but The Kitchen Sink. Its two floors house 80,000 items. Upscale home accessories include Cuisinart cookware, Keurig small electronics, Emile Henry bakeware, OXO gadgets, Le Jacquard table linens and Chef’s Choice knives. That’s just the kitchen department. The store also offers bath accessories, toiletries and more.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Carolina Street
503 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2405
Carolina Street owner Dee Dee Phillips has sold antiques at some of the most prestigious venues in the country and has designed a room in Martha Stewart’s Westport Connecticut showhouse. Her store, an amalgamation of cozy cottage charm and Martha’s Vineyard chic, overflows with wooden beach signs, sofas, garden accoutrement, chandeliers and folksy art objects.
 

 

Best Home Furnishings

READERS, UPSTATE | Pala Brothers
1800 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 994-0141

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Johnny Janosik
2311 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 697-7799
U.S. 13, Laurel, 875-5955

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Somethings Unique
3834 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 426-1950
Imagine an upscale country house crammed with the most eclectic combination of furniture and home accessories you’ve ever seen. The “somethings” at Somethings Unique include contemporary and traditional living room and dining room furniture, rugs, mirrors, lights, knob stoppers, planters, urns, artwork and more.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | J. Conn Scott
27 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3780
6 Church St., Selbyville, 436-8205
Decorating should be a joyous experience. If it isn’t, consult brothers Richard and Robert Scott of J. Conn Scott, the third generation to run the business. You’ll never leave guessing about fabrics, colors or styles. The brothers oversee a 35,000-square-foot showroom packed with upscale accessories and furniture, as well as a design library that represents fabric houses such as Brunschwig & Fils, Lee Jofa, Scalamandre and Stroheim & Romann. Furniture collections include Henredon, Century, Sligh, Chelsea House and Ralph Lauren.
 

 

What makes Gidgets and Gadgets in Rehoboth Beach so cool? How about its collection of tin robots. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest Hobby-Toy Store

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Doug’s Trains, Toys & Hobbies
2907 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-7733
Packed wall to wall, Doug’s Trains, Toys & Hobbies thrives even in this techno era. Young and old still love handmade model trains, plastic models, Pinewood Derby kits, die-cast cars, model rockets and kites. Owner Doug Arnold, former manager of the model railroading department at Mitchell’s Department Store, is stocking new materials for making and detailing doll houses.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Gidgets Gadgets
123 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4434
Now in a new, larger space, Gidget’s Gadgets offers an “over-20 line” for adults in need of racy key chains, mugs and ice cube trays. Owner Steve Fallon accommodates “that slightly twisted adult lifestyle” by selling off-color greeting cards that are so funny, people have been known to buy 20 at a time. Fallon is also on top of the bacon craze, stocking bacon belts, watches and other pork-inspired products. The Lego area is bigger, but Fallon’s vintage toys remain the bread and butter.
 

 

Best Party Supplies

READERS, UPSTATE | Fulton Party & Paper Company
1006 W. 27th St., Wilmington, 594-0400

READERS, DOWNSTATE | The Paper Factory
36470 Seaside Outlet Drive, No. 1610, Rehoboth Beach, 226-0403
 

 

Best Place for a Kid’s Party

READERS, UPSTATE | Hockessin Athletic Club
100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, 239-6688

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Kids Cottage
35448 Wolfeneck Road, Lewes, 644-7690

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Bowlerama
3031 New Castle Ave., New Castle, 654-0263
Even kids who hate to bowl love Bowlerama. Its Kid Zone pulsates with a cool arcade, and parents love affordable party plans that include pizza or hot dogs, arcade tickets for each kid and 75 minutes of bowling. That comes out to about two games—just enough to tire the munchkins.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | XBOS
456 W. Glenwood Ave., Smyrna, 653-1800
Birthday packages at XBOS Family Fun Center are reasonably priced. Activities include regular and cosmic bowling, umpteen video games and a range of soft-play units (they resemble giant Habitrails) that let kids climb, crawl and hang out to their heart’s content. A recent addition: Roller Racers—$3 for an all-day wristband.
 

 

Best Place to Drive a Go Kart

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix
4060 N. Dupont Hwy., No. 11, New Castle, 656-5278
The European-style track at Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix is indoors, so weather won’t affect racing, whether it’s by 8-year-old birthday partiers or corporate-types on team-building exercises. The facility provides safety gear. It also features an electronic scoring system so all can see race standings, lap speeds and other stats. Karts approach 40 mph on the straights. Yee-haw.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Midway Speedway Park
18645 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 644-2042
Some of the karts at Midway are painted like NASCAR racers. But did you know there are 10 styles of karts and five tracks, including two for young drivers? Outlaw Sprint Karts are fastest. Super Stock Mini-Cup Karts zip around a high-banked oval, like a mini-Monster Mile. Then there’s the over-under Super-8 track with two-seat karts for parents and kids, and a kiddie dune buggy track. Cool.

 

Best Event for Animal Lovers

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Muttini Mixers
The Muttini Mixer, a pup-friendly event curated by the Delaware Humane Association, is an opportunity for animal lovers to let their hair down for a good cause. The 2010 event, held in April, raised $14,000 for Delaware Humane, and featured martini-shaped doggie biscuits and water dishes for humans and fuzzy companions alike (although the people drinks had decidedly more alcohol in them). A live auction and entertainment from local legend Sean “Sinatra” Reilly helped the Muttini sippers party into the night.

CRITICS, DOWNSTATE | Greyhounds Reach the Beach
In the summer of 1995, 85 people (and 65 dogs) converged on Dewey Beach. That initial gathering has since evolved into Greyhounds Reach the Beach, held yearly during the weekend before Columbus Day (October 9-10). By 2009 the event had grown to such proportions, many “official” aspects of Reach the Beach were eliminated, but greyhound owners still flocked to Dewey to relax, mingle with other greyhound owners and spend time with their favorite pooches.
 

 

Best Afternoon Drive-Time Deejay

READERS, UPSTATE | Paul Lewis
WJBR 99.5 FM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Whiskey
WOSC 95.9 FM
 

 

Best Morning Drive-Time Deejay

READERS, UPSTATE | Michael Waite of WJBR 99.5 FM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Big D and Bubba at WDSD

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Jill Quale of WJBR 99.5 FM
Women love Jill Quale because she’s just like them, only wittier and with a better voice. Guys dig this broadcast veteran because she could throw it right back to co-host Michael Waite (until Dave Cruise took over a few weeks ago). Feisty, smooth-talking Quale can dish out hard news in one breath and celebrity gossip in another. On Monday mornings, her snappy banter just makes the drive easier to bear.
 

 

Best Radio News Anchor

READERS, UPSTATE | Allan Loudell
WDEL 1150 AM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Phil Feliceangeli
WDSD 92.9 FM
 

 

Best Radio Station for Contemporary music

CRITICS, UPSTATE | WSTW 93.7 FM
This 50,000-watt flamethrower blasts hits by Kelly Clarkson, Rhianna and Green Day around the clock, but it’s especially welcome during drive time and at the gym.
 

 

Best Radio Station for Music

READERS, UPSTATE | WJBR 99.5 FM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | WAFL 97.7 FM
 

 

Best Radio Station for News

READERS, UPSTATE | WDEL 1150 AM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | WGMD 92.7 FM
 

 

Best Radio Station for Sports

READERS, UPSTATE | WDEL 1150 AM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | WDSD 92.9 FM
 

 

Best Radio Talk Show Host

READERS, UPSTATE | Big Don Voltz
WDEL 1150 AM

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Dan Gaffney
WGMD 92.7 FM

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Rick Jensen
WDEL 1150 AM
You may not always agree with WDEL host Rick Jensen, a fiscal and small-government conservative and social libertarian. But he’s fair, and he won’t cut you off mid-sentence. Jensen loves a debate, and he’s good, so do your homework. His afternoon show isn’t all politics. Thirsty Thursday segments are hits with beer connoisseurs. His Weasel of the Week Friday segment bemoans the behavior of the unscrupulous. It’s Jensen at his best.
 

 

Readers choice for Best TV News Anchor downstate is Steve Hammond of WBOC. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBest TV News Anchor

READERS, UPSTATE | Jim Gardner
WPVI

READERS, DOWNSTATE | Steve Hammond
WBOC
 

 

Best TV Personality

CRITICS, UPSTATE AND DOWNSTATE | Stephanie Aldrich of WHYY-TV
“First,” WHYY-TV’s Delaware newsmagazine, is hosted by three charismatic celebs: Tom Byrne, Bill Cook and Stephanie Aldrich. No disrespect to Byrne and Cook—we admire them, too—but Aldrich has it, that intangible quality that makes a great TV person. Maybe it’s her slight Southern twang or the way she makes difficult topics easy to understand. Aldrich’s experience as a television news writer, editor, producer, reporter and anchor has included stops in Texas, West Virginia and New York. We’re glad she has settled here.
 

 

Best Mother’s Day Date

CRITICS, UPSTATE | Nemours Mansion & Gardens
1600 Rockland Road, Wilmington, 651-6912
Your mom has been cleaning up after you since the day you were born. On the one day of the year that you are mandated to appreciate her, show her some real beauty at Nemours Mansion & Gardens. Let her see the French neoclassical mansion Alfred I. duPont built for his second wife, Alicia, in 1907. Take her for a stroll through the gardens, where the Long Walk that extends from the mansion to the reflecting pool is graced with Japanese cryptomeria. Then, after you’ve taken your deserving, hard-working, brilliant mom to a fabulously indulgent dinner, do her laundry.
 

 

Anne Marie Cammarato at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington. Photograph by Jared CastaldiBravest Theatrical Production

CRITICS | UPSTATE“10 Months: The Wilmington Voices Project”
Wilmington
When Anne Marie Cammarato conceived “10 Months: The Wilmington Voices Project” for the Delaware Theatre Company, she knew she’d tackle delicate issues. But to truly understand challenges Wilmingtonians face today, she had no choice. The truths were told by real residents, then reenacted by actors. We learned why we were afraid to roam downtown streets at night. We understood how diverse populations were affected—and how profoundly they were affected—by the National Guard occupation in 1968. We realized that we don’t respect each others’ differences. “The show did start quite a bit of dialogue,” says Cammarato. Which is exactly what theater is supposed to do. 

 

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The best places to get what you want.
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Media
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