Savor, The Review: A Sure Bet

At the Rail puts a twist on country club fare, making it one of the best dining options between Newark and Wilmington.


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The short rib is braised in a tomato and roasted garlic jus and served with a horseradish pea risotto.

Photography by Thom Thompson

http://www.thomthompson.com

 

 

When slot machine parlors opened at the state’s horse racing tracks in 1995, nobody knew what to expect. Officials hoped the new games would bring in a few million dollars for the state. They were stunned when the take soon topped $100 million a year.

Beyond the financial windfall, though, Delaware’s casinos are far different from those in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. It’s not only the lack of table games. Delaware’s casinos have never emulated their big-city cousins in another important area—fine dining.

In Atlantic City and Las Vegas, casinos have come to dominate the restaurant scene because no stand-alone operation can compete with the dining rooms that gaming moguls can subsidize as loss leaders. They know that gamblers who have filled their bellies at bargain-priced buffets are bound to give back the savings at the one-buttoned bandits, so they entice visitors with a panoply of dining options—varied cuisines, a wide selection of price ranges, anything to keep the customers on the premises in hopes they return to the gaming floor.

By contrast, Delaware’s gambling emporiums are miles apart. Once people are there, they’re not likely to leave for a meal, so there hasn’t been a premium on premium dining. That’s changing, though, now that Pennsylvania racetracks are opening slots parlors of their own. As gambling loses its uniqueness, tracks will have to compete on amenities.

Luckily for Delaware Park, it began branching out a few years ago, carving the White Clay Creek Country Club from the sprawling grounds surrounding the racetrack. And the country club’s restaurant, At the Rail, gives the racetrack a restaurant that should help distinguish it in the newly competitive gambling scene.

Of course, that presumes people will be able to find the restaurant, which is connected more to the golf course than the racetrack or casino. It’s most easily reached from the Delaware Route 4 entrance, far from the grandstand and slot machines. In fact, the name is a bit of a mystery. At the Rail would be a fine name for a dining room overlooking the track, but nothing beyond the name connects this dining room to horse racing. Consider it a missed opportunity to give the restaurant some character.

At the Rail occupies a large, nearly square space that flows from a bar and lounge at one end into an open expanse of dining room. A bold patterned rug and heavy furniture give the room a substantial feel, but a few of the touches come off heavy. What to make, for example, of a row of gold-painted golf bags holding up a velvet rope, a touch Rodney Dangerfield’s “Caddyshack” character might appreciate? Or the roaring fire in the corner, courtesy of a video screen?

 

 

Chef Joe Joyce (left), and manager Mike Pham.

Photograph by Thom Thompson

http://www.thomthompson.com

 

The restaurant, managed by Michael Pham, doesn’t lack for ambition. Several members of the staff are veterans of the Hotel du Pont, and At the Rail has borrowed the idea of a Sunday champagne brunch. That meal has attracted a following for a bounteous spread that encompassed everything from hand-carved prime rib and pork loin to a full array of breakfast favorites, from brunch standards like eggs Benedict and made-to-order omelets to Belgian waffles and cheese blintzes.

At the Rail’s dinner menu isn’t as ambitious. It reads like a cross between an upscale-casual restaurant and a steak-and-seafood house, but it places At the Rail among the best dining choices in the area between Wilmington and Newark. Chef Joseph Joyce has come up with some worthy flashes of inspiration, such as New England clam chowder jolted with a shot of chipotle powder—just enough to make you wonder what that flavor is, not to wonder why it wasn’t called Southwestern clam chowder.

Much of the menu mirrors that approach, sprucing up familiar dishes with trendy ingredients or unusual flavor pairings. If a few of the decisions seem tired or forced—marinara sauce for calamari, for example, or an ill-considered wedding soup with ingredients chopped fine enough for the stockpot but far too large for a soup spoon—chalk it up to the size of the menu. It’s not easy coming up with new wrinkles for more than a dozen entrées, not counting a list of daily specials.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment on our visit was a lobster risotto that wasn’t made from Arborio rice; it appeared instead to be a short-grain white rice. It still made a pleasant backdrop for meaty chunks of lobster and strands of wilted arugula, but the dish bore no resemblance to the creamy but chewy texture of authentic risotto.

I don’t mean to make too much of the lapse. This pilaf by another name was still quite tasty, and it wasn’t the only evidence of a kitchen that knows how to treat lobster. A different recipe for the king of crustaceans is offered among the specials each night, but the menu lists a spectacular lobster tail dish among the appetizers, where it’s easy to miss. That’s a shame, because the preparation, with the shelled meat covered in a crisp macadamia-nut crust and saffron-scented butter, is one of the best dishes on the menu, and a more worthy treatment than lobster usually gets.

Almost half the menu is given over to seafood, from the requisite crab cakes to two different treatments of pan-seared scallops, one as an appetizer, another as an entrée.

One winner was a plate of jumbo shrimp served over fettuccine after a jaunt in the sauté pan with fresh artichokes, pancetta, sun-dried tomato and chili peppers. The ingredients were nicely balanced, all pulled together by a rich truffle butter that acted almost like a cream sauce.

 

 

The smoked salmon roulade is served with tarragon soy reduction.

Photograph by Thom Thompson

http://www.thomthompson.com

 

Perhaps the weakest seafood dish was Chilean sea bass in a wasabi-lemon broth with noodles, mushrooms and vegetables. The preparation didn’t work for me. Fish in broth always runs the risk of tasting like soup, and this one wasn’t distinctive enough to make much of an impression. The fish—which was known as Patagonian toothfish before the marketing department got involved—is firm-fleshed and glow-in-the-dark white, but much less flavorful than a true bass. The wasabi and lemon grass in the recipe would seem to provide more than enough support, but the bold flavors were watered down in the liquid, and the subtle vegetables and vermicelli left the dish without the strong unifying taste it cried out for.

Despite all the seafood, this is still a golf-course restaurant, so there’s plenty of meat on the menu, too. Beef-lovers can opt for a rosemary-grilled Delmonico with a bacon-blue cheese butter on the side or a filet mignon wrapped in apple wood smoked bacon and served with onions reduced in veal stock and red wine. But that would mean passing up the New York strip with its taste-grabbing sauce, a silky mix of brandy and cream aggressively studded with green peppercorns and mushrooms. It arrived cooked as ordered—on the rare side of medium-rare—and its flavor rose above even this assertive sauce. Throw in a side of grilled fingerling potatoes, cooked to the point where they were yielding but not soft, and you’ve got a can’t-miss dish.

The menu is rounded out by a rack of lamb stuffed with broccoli rabe and feta cheese, as well as duck breast, also offered as an appetizer. The duck entrée was nicely cooked, medium as requested. More notable, its skin was cooked to a crisp glow, most of its fat rendered away.

 

 

The coconut curry scallop bisque is served with sugar cane and lime.

Photograph by Thom Thompson

http://www.thomthompson.com

 

The “wine bar” designation might raise expectations too high for thrill-seeking oenophiles. The list is neither particularly long nor tilted toward rarities and high-end choices. Its strength lays in easy-to-appreciate bottles that retail in the $25 range. The mark-up doesn’t double that price.

On the plus

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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

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

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Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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Telephone: 800-448-3883
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Cost: free

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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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More information

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
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View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

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Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
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View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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View map »


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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

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Story Time Thursdays 10:30 - 11 a.m. Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story time takes place in the otter circle, in the main zoo, and may include a craft,...

Cost: $7 - $0

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
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Charity Golf Event to benefit Children's Beach House A great way to start your Memorial Day weekend a day early! Make sure to register as a single golfer or register your foursome ahead of...

Cost: $225 Single Golfer / $900 Foursome

Where:
Peninsula on Indian River Bay
26937 Bay Farm Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: The Ocean Atlantic Companies
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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
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Join us on The Patio, voted Best Outdoor Dining by Delaware Today readers! Happy hour 4PM - 6:30PM, live entertainment 6PM - 9PM, local craft beer, handcrafted cocktails, creative gastropub menu,...

Cost: menu items vary

Where:
Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Enjoy live music on the terrace with friends or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights will be scheduled...

Cost: Museum galleries are open with free admission every Thursday from 4–8 pm

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

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Alexi Natchev: Prints and Drawings will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 4-25, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be held on Friday, May 4 from 5-7 p.m. Alexi...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

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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Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

  Join Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant as they open their doors to the public on May 24, 2018!  

Cost: Free

Where:
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
19815 Coastal Hwy
Rehoboth Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Sixth annual St. Catherine of Siena Community Garage Sale held in Church parking lot. One-stop shopping! Approximately 25 homes gather in one location to make your garage sale shopping...

Cost: $25/Consignors ONLY

Where:
St. Catherine of Siena Parish Parking Lot
2503 Centerville Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: St. Catherine of Siena
Telephone: 302-239-1699
Contact Name: Mary Gispert
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The 11th annual Artisans Fair, featuring unique handcrafted art objects, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26 in Ocean View, DE. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
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Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP Chapter
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A newly acquired cabinet at Winterthur and related objects in the collection emerge as tools in the lucrative business of transatlantic trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. Curated by graduate...

Cost: free with admission

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Crooked Hammock Brewery is celebrating the unofficial start of summer all Memorial Day weekend! The festivities kick off on Thursday, May 24th with the release of their two summer seasonal beers,...

Cost: Free to attend

Where:
Crooked Hammock Brewery
36707 Crooked Hammock Way
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Crooked Hammock Brewery
Telephone: 302-644-7837
Contact Name: Jon
Website »

More information

Science Saturday – River Rangers River Rangers learn how to gauge the health of our local waterways by observing the variety of critters living in it. Visitors of all ages are invited to...

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

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

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