Delaware on the Menu: Great Eats at the Beach

 

Welcome to the Delaware beaches! When it comes to vacationing between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rehoboth Bay, you can’t throw a beach ball without hitting a great restaurant. Affectionately known as the Nation’s Summer Capital, the Rehoboth Beach area receivies multiple kudos from such luminaries as the James Beard Foundation, the Michelin Guide, Zagat, the National Restaurant Association and Wine Spectator magazine, just to name a few.

Budget-Friendly Fare

In my various writings, I have the honor of describing, reviewing and photographing good restaurants here at the beach. And it’s not only about fine dining: There are budget-friendly casual eateries and carryouts to fit every wallet. Which, of course, begs the question: Do you like pizza? There’s no shortage of pizza here on the Culinary Coast! In the first block of Rehoboth Avenue alone, there are three pizza joints that are never without a line in the summer season. In fact, over 50 years ago the founder of the first pizzeria in the area cultivated a following by handing out free slices to vacationers who had no idea what to think of that cheesy delight. Now they know, and it’s everywhere.

Dewey Beach (a minute or two south of Rehoboth), Bethany Beach (about 15 minutes south), and historic Lewes (about 5 minutes north) are connected by U.S. Rt. 1, aka Coastal Highway. As the Delaware Cape Region has flourished, restaurants have sprung up all along this busy thoroughfare, including informal spots that dish up cheesesteaks, pizza, made-to-order tacos, burgers, towering deli sandwiches, kicked up bar grub, seafood, wood-smoked barbecue, Vietnamese specialties, mac ‘n’ cheese, and submarine sandwiches (or grinders or heroes or hoagies or po’boys or torpedoes or zeppelins, depending on where you were born). No matter what you call them, and no matter what your budget, great eating here on the Delaware coast is never more than a walk or short drive away.

Mid-priced eateries at the beach offer relaxed, sit-down dining and reasonably priced fare. In downtown Rehoboth Beach alone you’ll find made-from-scratch gourmet Chinese dishes, raw bars overflowing with fresh seafood, authentic Indian cuisine, freshly rolled sushi, hot & spicy Thai, homemade Turkish dishes and Mexican food— from Salvadorean/Spanish fusion all the way to straightforward Tex-Mex. And don’t forget Italian! House-made pastas, wood-fired pizzas and genuine Italian specialties are all in ample supply.

Dining in Dewey Beach

Locals tout the Dewey Beach “way of life,” and there’s always a party with quesadillas and margaritas on the sand by the bay; huge raw bars and buffets with an assortment of seafood entrees; fried chicken, burgers, dogs, and early-morning breakfast spots— several of which will happily pour you a bloody mary or mimosa to kick start your day at the beach. And many of them proudly declare: “No shoes? No shirt? No problem!”

Dining in Lewes

Downtown Lewes dishes up everything from short rib sliders to lobster rolls, from Belgian delights to gourmet pizzas, fresh baked goods and roasted-before-your-very-eyes coffee. Gourmet candies, homemade ice cream and authentic Italian meats, cheeses and desserts are all just steps from one another in the First Town in the First State.

Dining in Rehoboth Beach

If you come to the beach for fine dining, you will not be disappointed. The very first fine-dining restaurant in Rehoboth Beach celebrates its 46th season in 2020, and several neighboring spots are not far behind. Chef-driven specialties such as rabbit, duck, Angus beef, Berkshire pork and fresh seafood are the mainstays of local upscale menus. A few specialty restaurants allow you to select your own tasting menu from a list of unusual creations. Conventional wisdom suggests that Rehoboth’s Baltimore Avenue is ground zero for fine dining, and with seven popular eateries in those two short blocks, that’s probably a fact. But Rehoboth Avenue, Wilmington Avenue, Coastal Highway and Lewes are not without the classy touch. In fact, Lewes sports two of the region’s nicest restaurants virtually next door to one another!

Click here to read more about restaurants in Rehoboth Beach.

Dining at the Delaware Beaches

Vacationers will not leave Delaware hungry if it’s morning and early afternoon feasts they crave. There are well over 25 breakfast and brunch spots in the immediate area; everything from tiny in-town storefronts where flip flops and bathing suits are the order of the day, all the way to lavish buffets with omelet stations, waffle pods and chefs in dress whites carving standing rib roasts. I’ll give you fair warning: If you are squeamish about restaurants in strip centers, you’ll need to leave that at home when you visit. Space, parking and access are at a premium on this narrow strip of sand, and some of the best restaurants share walls with other businesses.

Locally-Crafted Beer, Wine and Spirits

Local brewers, distillers and wineries are among my favorite guests on my weekly radio show (it’s probably because they bring samples!). Many of these entrepreneurs helped pave the way for in-restaurant breweries, and currently there are eight local brewpubs tapping their own creations as well as those of their cohorts. Distillers range from those that specialize in rum all the way to full lines of vodka, gin and whiskey. Some even offer tours— with the obligatory sample at the end. Reason enough to check it out.

Walking Food Tours of Rehoboth Beach

As a guide for the EatingRehoboth.com downtown restaurant tours, I have the singular pleasure of introducing visitors and locals to new restaurant experiences and upscale gourmet shops. The three-hour walks invariably end with guests telling me how they would never have tried this or that place without being on our tours. And now, armed with the information here in the Delaware Beaches Visitors Guide, you can embark on your own tour of everything food and drink here on the Culinary Coast. You’re at the beach: Enjoy! And bon appétit.

Bob Yesbek, aka The Rehoboth Foodie, publishes the restaurant news & reviews website www.RehobothFoodie.com. His columns appear regularly in the Cape Gazette, Beach Paper and Coastal Style Magazine. Sip & Bite with the Rehoboth Foodie can be heard every Saturday from 3-5 p.m. on Delaware 105.9 FM.

Click here to read about restaurants with outdoor seating.