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.

Outdoor Dining in the Delaware Beaches

Image from Harpoon Hanna’s

Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining in the Delaware Beaches

The warm weather in the Delaware Beaches beckons you outside for a number of activities. Why not also enjoy a meal outside? Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island and Lewes have several restaurants that offer outdoor seating on a charming patio and even views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Outdoor Dining in the Delaware Beaches

Here are our favorite restaurants for outdoor dining in Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island and Lewes.

Outdoor Dining in Rehoboth Beach

Start your morning with breakfast under the sun at Fractured Prune. The famous donut shop’s location in Rehoboth Beach has charming picnic tables perfect for enjoying your freshly baked donut outside. Try one of Fractured Prune’s 19 glazed donuts complete with an array of toppings.

Outdoor Dining in Bethany Beach

Big Chill Beach Club is Bethany Beach’s premier ocean-front restaurant. Enjoy lunch, dinner or just a refreshing drink on the spacious outdoor patio overlooking the ocean and Indian River Inlet. The main dining area is on the restaurant’s rooftop and seats up to 200 guests. You’ll have 360-degree views of the water while you enjoy your meal and cocktail.

Click here for a Big Chill Beach Club coupon.

Outdoor Dining in Fenwick Island

Named one of the “Top 100 Restaurants in the USA” by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, Harpoon Hanna’s is a year-round, family-friendly seafood restaurant. When the weather is right, take advantage of the waterside tables offering views of the bay. You can even dock your boat at the restaurant and grab a bite to eat.

Click here to read more about Harpoon Hanna’s.

For authentic Italian cuisine, there’s no where better than Mancini’s Brick Oven Pizzeria and Restaurant. In addition to Italian dishes prepared with local ingredients, Mancini’s also boasts some seating outside, perfect for a romantic evening out. Pair your al fresco meal with a glass of wine from the restaurant’s large collection.

Outdoor Dining in Lewes

Summertime is the perfect season to visit Crooked Hammock Brewery. The laidback brewery features a backyard that’s perfect for the whole family, pets or just hanging out with friends. Sip one of the locally brewed beers, munch on an appetizer or entrée from Crooked Hammock’s handcrafted menu then play a few lawn games and enjoy the live music.