Stone Balloon Restaurant Rises Again

The newest rendition respects the site’s musical past while focusing firmly on its food future.


Published:

Photographs by Steve Legato

The spirit of the razed Stone Balloon Tavern in Newark lives on—subtly. The storied property that hosted rockers like Bruce Springsteen, Bad Company and the Dave Matthews Band until 2005 hasn’t forgotten its niche in musical history. Photos of musicians greet visitors in the front dining room of the new Stone Balloon Ale House on Main Street. A drum kit is mounted on a wall, and guitars are placed strategically. Music from past performers wafts through the space. Even the menu showcases a torn ticket from a 1975 Rush concert held on the site. Price tag: $2.50.

But the restaurant isn’t trying to re-create the old days. “The nostalgia is brought by the individuals who come here,” says restaurant manager Philip DiFebo. Indeed, on my first visit, a woman at a neighboring table regaled her younger companions with tales of visits during Stone Balloon’s heyday. But a celebration of the former concert hall only goes so far in entertaining today’s diners. The restaurant’s focus is very much on updated comfort food. “Our spin is on everyday classics,” DiFebo says.

Executive chef Robbie Jester, a holdover from the building’s previous incarnation as 16 Mile Taphouse, certainly brings cooking chops to the kitchen. The Culinary Institute of America grad previously worked at DuPont Country Club and Piccolina Toscana. “He’s a unique talent,” DiFebo says. “And he’s a genuinely happy, good person.” Jester’s playful disposition comes across in appetizers like the beef & bacon lollipops, and calamari. After polishing off the five lollipops, my teacher husband, our 12-year-old and myself wished we had ordered a double portion of the small rounds of house-made meatloaf wrapped in bacon and brushed with a tomato Dijon brown-sugar sauce. Each morsel was stabbed with a toothpick for easy, delectable munching.

The beef-and-bacon lollipop appetizer.

The calamari passed the cuteness factor as well as the taste test. The tender rings were seasoned with sesame and chives and served in a white Chinese-style takeout box with chopsticks. The charred orange chili sauce was a dipping bonus. The multipage menu, clipped on a board, features several pages of libations, including “Mad Men” cocktails like whiskey sours, old fashioneds and Manhattans, and specialty drinks like a bacon Bloody Mary and spiced pear Collins. Given the Ale House moniker, a daily beer list is offered with local brews Twin Lakes, Mispillion and Dogfish Head among other choices. There is a selection of wine, too, though the restaurant is distancing itself from its previous Stone Balloon Winehouse days.

A history recap: After the original tavern was torn down, condominiums were built with a short-lived Winehouse restaurant on the first floor. Then, 16-Mile Taphouse opened briefly before being bought by experienced restaurateurs Bobby Pancake and Steve Wheat. Their vision opened in February. The new, 100-seat restaurant went through a “light remodel,” DiFebo says. Some of the original stonework connects the past with the present. Diners have a choice of tables, booths or high tops. The youthful serving crew, dressed in black, are sweet but unfazed when your entrées come while you’re still eating your appetizers. “The kitchen wasn’t very busy,” our waitress explained with a smile.

On that evening, when our main courses arrived, we were still savoring an excellent black-bean hummus with house-made chips and an impressive hot wing chowder that we’re still raving about. The hot-sauce-laced, creamy chicken soup came with a blue cheese, corn and celery salad that intermingled thoughtful, carefully blended ingredients. We followed up with a duck shepherd’s pie that gave the traditional British dish a boost with a bourbon and ale broth, and with tacos stuffed with meaty Kennett Square mushrooms.

Asian quinoa.

Another time, we bit into perhaps the juiciest beef burger this side of Kansas City, sourced from Crow Farm in Kennedyville, Md. We chose a classic preparation with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and a dill pickle. But you can mix it up with a black-bean burger or grilled chicken breast and additional accoutrements—California style with avocado, southern cordon bleu with tasso ham, “angry Italian” with hot peppers and roasted tomatoes, or loaded and stacked with braised short rib and candied bacon. The burgers are served on a brown-paper-lined tray with a useful tin can as a container for the accompanying fries. We also were tempted by the mac ’n’ cheese “of the moment”—a silky-cheese-tossed pasta with Carolina pork with Brussels sprouts. 

Just as Stone Balloon takes creative liberties with traditional pub grub, it also follows suit with desserts. If you think cheesecake is ho-hum, think again. Crystal’s mug cheesecake really comes in a practical cup. This Grand Marnier vanilla version is finished with a white-chocolate sauce. Other standouts were The House Bar, layered with peanut butter, toffee and chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell, and a sticky toffee pretzel bread pudding amassed below a scoop of Woodside Farm Creamery vanilla ice cream coated with pretzel crust.

You may leave the dining room with Springsteen’s “Born to Run” playing in your ears, but you won’t be thinking about bolting from Stone Balloon Ale House. By the time you reach the front door, you are already plotting your next visit.

 

Stone Balloon Ale House

115 E. Main St., Newark, 266-8111, www.stoneballoon.com

PRICES: Appetizers $3-$10, burgers and sandwiches $10-$15, entrées $12-$22, desserts $7
 
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Beef & bacon lollipops, hot wing chowder, duck shepherd’s pie, Crystal’s mug cheesecake.

 

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February 2019

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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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Telephone: 130-265-66466
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More information

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View map »


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Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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600 N Market. St
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-983-5710
Contact Name: Susan Coulby

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

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​Brandywine Baroque, Karen Flint, harpsichordr; Laura Heimes, soprano;  Tony Boutté, tenor;Eileen Grycky, flute; Edwin Huizingal, violin;  Martin Davids, violin; John Mark...

Cost: 5-15

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Road
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 302-831-2577
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
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An eclectic mix of paintings featuring Ed Bronstein oils of Philadelphia neighborhoods and cityscapes,​ plein air scenes from Kennett Square and surrounding areas by Dan Chow, mixed media...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville , DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
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Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

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NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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The Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its sale of used books to fund college scholarships for women and is also preparing for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Concord Mall
3737 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
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Sponsor: American Association of University Women Wilmington Branch
Telephone: 302-428-0939
Contact Name: AAUW

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Two-time Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship recipient Ellen Durkan of Iron Maiden Forge, who is both a graduate of and an instructor at Delaware College of Art and Design, will present a solo...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N Market. St
Wilmington , DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-983-5710
Contact Name: Susan Coulby

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Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through discovery, exploration, and hands-on experiences.Ages 2 and up. Visit delart.org for list of books. ...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

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HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

  UHS Used Book Sale 750 Unionville Road Kennett Square, PA  19348    Unionville High School's gymnasium is hosting the annual Unionville High...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unionville High School Gymnasium
750 Unionville Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: UHS PTO
Contact Name: UHS PTO
Website »

More information

For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
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Calling all bicyclists to ride for a good cause. Help the Sea Colony Recreational Association raise awareness and money by sponsoring, pedaling, or cheering on fellow bicyclists. Ride for Delaware...

Cost: General Admission is FREE!

Where:
SeaColony, Freeman Fitness Center
38994 West Way Drive
Bethany Beach, DE  19930
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Sponsor: Delaware Hospice
Contact Name: Jen Neal

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An eclectic mix of paintings featuring Ed Bronstein oils of Philadelphia neighborhoods and cityscapes,​ plein air scenes from Kennett Square and surrounding areas by Dan Chow, mixed media...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville , DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Create a unique design to use as part of a necklace, bracelet, or earrings. The  2 day workshop includes demonstrations and design so that students can leave with a wearable work of art!...

Cost: $160 Members, $180 Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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Cub Scout Tigers—Tigers in the Wild, 9:30am-12pm, Scouts will learn the difference between what animals eat, and whether that makes them an herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, or detrivore. Discover...

Cost: $12 - $5

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

The Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its sale of used books to fund college scholarships for women and is also preparing for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Concord Mall
3737 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women Wilmington Branch
Telephone: 302-428-0939
Contact Name: AAUW

More information

Two-time Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship recipient Ellen Durkan of Iron Maiden Forge, who is both a graduate of and an instructor at Delaware College of Art and Design, will present a solo...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N Market. St
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-983-5710
Contact Name: Susan Coulby

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

GARLAND OF SUCHNESS Karoline Wileczek February 1 - 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Karoline Wileczek's grid pattern work functions...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Engage in a variety of hands-on experiments related to science, technology, engineering, and math, at the DCM's annual S.T.E.M. Expo, led by the Science Ambassadors from the Charter School of...

Cost: Free for Members

Where:
Delaware Children's Museum
550 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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February 23 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Pump It Up! For this Saturday’s activity, visitors will have fun with fluid dynamics and hydraulics - Pascal...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum & Library
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: 302-658-2400238
Contact Name: Laura Jury
Website »

More information

Sat. Feb. 23: Cub Scout Bears: Critter Care, 1pm-3:30pm, Bears Elective Adventure: Critter Care Caring for an animal is a big responsibility! Join us at the Brandywine zoo to learn about different...

Cost: $12-$5

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

  UHS Used Book Sale 750 Unionville Road Kennett Square, PA  19348    Unionville High School's gymnasium is hosting the annual Unionville High...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unionville High School Gymnasium
750 Unionville Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: UHS PTO
Contact Name: UHS PTO
Website »

More information

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   CONTACT INFORMATION Phone: (302) 369-3466 E-Mail: busmgr@newarksymphony.org Website: http://www.newarksymphony.org   NEWARK SYMPHONY FEBRUARY...

Cost: 0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main Street
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 302-369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

More information

The NSO February Chamber concert, conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Rebekah O’Brien, opens with a performance of Jacques Ibert, Concerto for Cello and Wind Orchestra, featuring Douglas...

Cost: $0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main Street
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Newark Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 302-369-3466
Contact Name: Business Manager
Website »

More information

For the month of February, get a full set of Lashes at Premier Spa and Laser Center for just $199.

Cost: $199

Where:
Premier Spa & Laser Center
537 Stanton Christiana Rd #210
Newark, DE  19713
View map »

More information

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