Riding the Wave
The beach is a culinary destination that just gets better with every season. Meet the new kids on the dining block.
When Jordan and Michael Ferger opened a new restaurant in Lewes, they decided to let patrons eat cake. And cheese plates. And fries made with duck fat—and even flatiron steak. Welcome to Cake Bar (115 Second St., Lewes, 645-2253, sugarbakerscakes.com), which is part bakery and part bistro.
Cake Bar is an offshoot of SugarBakers Cakes, a boutique bakery in Catonsville, Md., owned by Jordan’s mother, Jamie Williams. The family has long had a home in downtown Lewes, which prompted the idea for a beach-area eatery.
“We like it here,” Ferger says. “We always wanted to do a bakery.” When Second Street Grille closed, the family saw the opportunity.
Cake Bar’s bakery space is lined with cases holding cookies, pastries and, of course, cake, as well as gourmet to go. Second Street Grille chef-owner Ray Richardson and Justin Hoffman are running the kitchen for the bistro, which serves lunch and dinner and boasts a full bar.
Appetizers include shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels and Maryland crab dip. There’s a wide range of salads, and the signature soup is the tomato-based “Cape crab.” For entrées, expect shrimp and grits, Delmarva chicken, meatloaf, day boat scallops, crab cakes and “a ton of specials,” Ferger says.
Cake Bar is just one of the new restaurants that, along with established eateries, continue to make the Delaware coast a culinary destination.
In Lewes, for instance, Cake Bar joins Touch of Italy Salumeria Pasticceria (101 Second St., Lewes, 827-2730), a sister location to the Touch of Italy in Rehoboth (33A Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1500). “We are a traditional salumeria pasticceria,” says Bob Ciprietti, one of the principals. Everything is handmade or brought in from the Bronx or Italy.
The shop sells cold cuts—“Whatever you like,” says manager Mike Berardinelli. Think three different kinds of prosciutto, mortadella, Genoa salami, capicola. Other goodies include semolina breads, Italian cookies, tiramisu, stuffed peppers and fresh ricotta.
The restaurants share the street with Agave (137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232, agavelewes.com), which even in the slow season gets packed. Credit Agave’s intimate size and its amazing guacamole—made three ways. Owner Chris McKeown has gained more space by opening into the old Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Not only does the expansion give him more seats—now nearly 70 downstairs—but he also has room for a retail section. While you wait for a table, you peruse the T-shirts, margarita glasses and pitchers. Agave’s popular salad dressings, sauces and guacamole are offered to go, as are desserts.
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A secret: Agave has a second-floor lounge used for private parties off-season. Come summer, however, the public can gather for appetizers, beer, wine and margaritas.
In Rehoboth, JAM Bistro, which opened in June 2010, in May relocated to the old Camel’s Hump restaurant.
JAM (21 Baltimore Ave., 226-JAM, jambistro.com) is owned by Mark Hunker and Jeff McCracken, who since 2005 have also owned Eden (23 Baltimore Ave., 227-3330, edenrestaurant.com).
With JAM, owners could offer a more casual approach to dining, complete with big-screen TVs for sports and a family-friendly attitude. “There’s really good, creative food for a mix of tastes, and it’s very approachable,” Hunker says. “It’s a good place to go with a bunch of friends.”
JAM initially took space in Celebration Hall that had once been occupied by Ovations. But the partners kept an eye on the Camel’s Hump, which had been vacant for about four years. “While we were buying Eden, we’d meet at the Camel’s Hump to talk to Eden’s owner or the Realtor,” Hunker recalls. “We have a great history there.”
The new space will accommodate about the same number of diners—about 90—but the outdoor space is significantly larger, which is a plus at the beach.
To the south, Port Dewey Beach, or Port for short, (1205 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-0669, portdewey.com) also has outdoor seating. The restaurant opened in March in the old Dewey Beach Club. As the name implies, seafood is the star. “We have it delivered fresh seven days a week,” says Zachary King, who, with Mitch King, owns the restaurant. “It’s primarily local fish coming from local vendors.” That is also true of the produce.
King wants to give customers in the Dewey Beach area an affordable but high quality meal that won’t cost a bundle. Most entrées run from $16 to $23. Wines are about $17 to $30 a bottle.
The nifty entrée options let you pick your fish of the day, choose your preparation (fried, grilled, blackened or broiled) and select one of four toppings, which include crab imperial and ginger-soy reduction.
Speaking of seafood, Matt’s Fish Camp (28635 Coastal Highway, Bethany Beach, (539-CAMP, mattsfishcamp.com) is the latest of SoDel Concepts’ restaurants, a family of seven beach spots that starts with Fish On in Lewes and trails down to Catch 54 in Fenwick Island.
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“It’s casual, comfortable, fresh and affordable,” says SoDel Concepts founder Matt Haley of the new project. “It’s kind of camp-like, shack-style fare.” Think Ipswich clams (steamed or fried), crab cakes (broiled or fried), bluefish dip, lobster bisque, clam chowder, shrimp by the half pound, pound—on up to a 10-pound party portion. And then there’s lobster—just about any way you want it.
Specials on the daily “fish board” will feature such goodies as rockfish, swordfish and haddock. Don’t forget the cole slaw, French fries, tartar sauce, corn, mac ’n’ cheese, tomatoes, homemade potato chips and Old Bay. “It’s standard beach picnic fare,” Haley says.
For dessert, Haley borrowed from Cindy Pawlcyna, a Napa Valley culinary force whose campfire pie makes customers giddy. It’s basically a chocolate-marshmallow pie with an Oreo cookie crust.
Italian is on tap on Perucci’s (337 Atlantic Ave., Millville, 829-8727), which opened last year. Lynn and Jim Rickards, formerly of the Bethany Beach Diner, are the creative team behind this classic Italian eatery, which features such favorites as fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna, pork Milanese and good old spaghetti and meatballs. The sauce recipe comes from Lynn’s godfather, Joe Perucci, for whom the restaurant is named.
Also new in Millville is Bonkey’s Ice Cream (35849 Atlantic Ave., Millville, 260-2471, bonkeys.com), the third store in a chain that includes locations in Stewartstown, Pa., and New Freedom, Pa. Why the Bethany area? Owners Bonnie and Keith Gordon have family nearby.
Novel flavors include Birthday Cake and Banana Cream Pie. Bonkey’s specializes in sundaes and banana splits, which are served in a square dish so there’s less mess. The shop sells just about every type of frozen treat imaginable, including chocolate-covered bananas and cheesecake-on-a-stick. Bonkey’s also sells snoballs, which launched the business back in 1993.
The Bethany-Ocean View culinary scene has clearly been busy, and the activity is stretching into Fenwick Island. Steve Hagen, who made a splash last year with Off the Hook (769 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 829-1424) is opening Just Hooked (1 Sunshine Plaza, Fenwick Island). The restaurant, which seats 150 inside and outside, will have a similar concept—fresh local seafood—but a different menu than Off the Hook.
The wine lounge will feature small plates—“fun, light food,” Hagen says—and up to 15 wines by the glass. He’s installed a granite bar that runs the length of the open kitchen for diners who want dinner and a show. “They can sit up there and watch what’s going on,” he says.
And for more seafood, head down Del. 54. The family force behind Nantucket’s in Fenwick Island opened Twining’s Lobster Shanty (37310 Lighthouse Rd., Selbyville, 436-2305, twiningshanty.com). “It’s a totally different menu and feel,” says Janet Twining, who owns the restaurants with her husband, David. Both draw inspiration from David’s New England roots, but the shanty, as its name implies, is casual.
This is the place for quahog and scallop chowder, whole Maine lobster, New England fish stew and an authentic lobster roll, sweet chunks of meat piled into a top-split frankfurter roll, shipped from New England. The extensive burger and steak options will make landlubbers happy.
The restaurant is perched near the back bay for relaxing views. Indeed, a savory meal, a soft breeze and a sweet sunset make for fine beach dining, no matter the concept.