World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware
Hitting A High Note: Musical performers share the spotlight with a solid menu at World Cafe Live at the Queen.
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At a Glance
500 N. Market St.,
Wilmington, 994-1400, queen.worldcafelive.com
Crispy-skinned salmon, WCL burger, blackened chicken sandwich
Salads and appetizers: $4.50-$12
Pizzas and sandwiches: $6-$12
The cherry-red drum kit—DW shells, Remo heads, four cymbals (one inverted China)—shined for a moment beneath the lights of the World Cafe Live stage as the drummer raised his sticks in the air. CLACK. CLACK. CLACK. CLACK. On cue, the five other men on stage unleashed a scorching rendition of Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman.” The opening guitar solo shredded so hard that a graying gentleman in khakis and glasses in the front row surged to his feet and pumped his fist in the air proudly. Faces melted. Hoots were hollered.
And this was just open-mic night.
Yes, the gorgeously reappointed World Cafe Live at the Queen has had the benefit of some high-caliber (and consistent) live rock ’n’ roll programming in its first 13 months of re-existence. National acts like Citizen Cope, the Chocolate Drops and Aimee Mann lent instant credibility and attracted the lively, hip crowd organizers crave so badly. During the Blues Jam Wednesday mentioned above, a striking mix of young and old, hipsters with ear gauges, and grizzled rockers in Punkin Chunkin’ T-shirts filled the room.
And it was a well-fed crowd, because this upstairs lounge, called Upstairs Live, doubles as a full-service restaurant and bar, colorful and welcoming with smooth cement floors and exposed ducts. The industrial vibe is enlivened by color-splashed local artwork, concert posters and hanging stage lights. Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver pump through house speakers between acts.
It all makes for an impressive display. Along with its exemplary table-side and bar-side service and a great craft beer list (including the Dogfish Head exclusive, the Queen’s Golden Crown) World Cafe Live can boast a food and drink program that matches its musical offerings.
Executive chef John Jones’ menu is everything a rock club needs: It’s approachable, it’s casual, but doused with little next-level flourishes that make his burgers blossom and sandwiches shine. Several entrées stood out, too.
Take the excellent crispy-skinned salmon, which flaked gently into blanched hunks of Yukon potato, shaved fennel and frisée. A scrape of the fork across the plate was enough to dab a little limoncello syrup, which added a needed sweet note with its citrusy pop.
His WCL burger dripped tantalizingly through a buttery brioche bun, as a creamy mixture of caramelized onions and sliced mushrooms oozed down the sides. The bracing pungency of local ’shrooms balanced nicely against the thwack of crispy peppered bacon.
Cut loose from a crispy armor of panko crumbs, huge chunks of jumbo lump crab tumbled from a fried cake. Though the meat here was creamy and abundant (and yes, crab-heads, filler free), a nearby haystack of undressed watercress was largely superfluous.
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