Coastal Cuisine

The Fresh and Flavorful Tastes of the Delaware Beaches

By Julie Matthews

Did you know “Culinary Coast” has been trademarked by the Southern Delaware Tourism for the Delaware Beaches area? This name fits. Over the past couple of decades this region’s increasingly growing culinary scene, with award-winning restaurants and top-shelf chefs, has truly become exceptional. The small town, beach vibe may feel laid-back, but the dining scene here is elevated. 

After experiencing a few meals, guests will quickly realize that the diverse, creative menu offerings here far exceed standard coastal cuisine with seafood platter variations. Not to worry, you will still find the more traditional coastal menu staples such as crab cakes and other shellfish and fish along with the common sides that often accompany them like corn-on-the-cob and coleslaw. What makes the dining scene in the Delaware Beaches so heightened is the abundance of fresh flavors diners will experience. 

Having both the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay at its front step, and the Chesapeake Bay not far away, ensures that the region has some of the freshest seafood available. While it is best known for its blue crabs and clams, there is no shortage of other fresh catches, including fish, oysters, mussels, clams and more. Not just fried or heavily seasoned, the fresh seafood is often paired with local ingredients, giving it a whole next level of flavor. From reimagined traditional seafood dishes to sushi, the Delaware Beaches will impress food lovers with the highest expectations. 

The Delaware Beaches is not only bordered by water but also farmland. Agriculture makes up a significant part of Delaware’s economy, including Sussex County’s, so restaurants in the area have access to the freshest ingredients for preparing food. Restaurant chefs incorporate local, seasonal produce—including corn, soybeans, lima beans and watermelon—into their dishes and diners enjoy flavorful meals with the highest quality ingredients. 

The state’s poultry industry enhances its strong culinary community, so the availability of fresh chicken further widens the assortment of fresh food options that its restaurants offer diners. The area’s collection of farmers, fisherman, culinary experts and other local food specialists has established a well-connected, culinary network, all of which contribute to the high-quality food produced here.

Phenomenal seafood with matched quality in a variety of other menu choices, including vegetarian, is just one part of what makes for good coastal cuisine. Almost as important as what you eat is where you eat. Outdoor dining by the water is another key factor when it comes to coastal dining. Enjoying an excellent meal while viewing the waves breaking in the ocean or eating on a deck overlooking the scenic bay and watching a beautiful sunset—this is coastal dining at its best. As a complement to your meal, add a local libation from one of the more than a dozen craft breweries, wineries and distilleries in the area, or a fruity mixed drink if that’s more your style. 

However, it’s not all about gourmet in the Delaware Beaches, as comfort food definitely has its place here as well. Boardwalk specialties from pizza and burgers to hot dogs and sandwiches are popular beach eats, as are beach treats such as Boardwalk fries doused with vinegar, flavored popcorn and ice cream. All of these foods can be hard to resist, especially when they have close ties to childhood memories of visiting the beach. 

Did you know that peach pie is Delaware’s official state dessert? While in town don’t forget to grab a slice, especially if it’s made with peaches from a local orchard.

As with so much in life, the food scene in Delaware Beaches is about balance. In this case the balance of meals created from high-quality ingredients but still delivering the feel-good, comfort factor. Delaware Beaches are a refreshing mesh of small town charm meets relaxed beach living meets big city culture. There’s always something new to try or to try in a different way.