Foodies for Fun
The creative minds behind Chelsea Tavern believe in bold flavor, good taste and some culinary wit. It’s a winning combination.
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Of course, much of the buzz surrounding Chelsea is because of its address: 821 Market Street, former home to Restaurant 821, a popular and acclaimed eatery that closed in 2008. The street has been yearning for a replacement since then. Chelsea stands directly across Market from The Grand Opera House—a tantalizing location, but one that’s saddled with the pressure to appease the pre- and post-theater crowds.
Chelsea Tavern makes it clear that it is not Restaurant 821. The owners stripped away some of the ornate aspects of the room to achieve a comfy haute-tavern vibe with a prominent bar and an economically decorated, pleasant dining room. For a few weeks after opening, the plain white walls were bare, but they have recently been adorned with local artwork and photography.
The decree: Chelsea is a place of the people, and not strictly the theater people. It welcomes the happy hour crowds and ballgame crowds to its great bar, which taps a very strong beer list.
It also helps that Chelsea can serve at its bar one of the better pizza pies in Wilmington. Thanks go mostly to McNeice’s crust, which he makes using Belgian yeast, a strain typically used in brewing beer that imprints a distinct citrusy-sourdough stamp on the flavor (the dough being, inarguably, the backbone of a great pizza).
With a million-dollar canvas in the crust, the kitchen keeps pace with the toppings, which range from the austere (sopressata, Provolone and pesto on one pie) all the way to crazy (ground beef, queso poblano sauce, bacon, onion, french fries, cheddar and a side of ketchup for dippin’ on another). My favorite was the duck confit pizza, a pie that oozed flavor while keeping a crispy crust. Sweet and tender shreds of duck meat collapsed into melty goat cheese and found a dance partner in swirls of balsamic reduction.
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