The Dish on the Shore's Best Eats
Friday, May 16, 2008
There was a time when beach dining was defined by pizza and the all-you-can-stuff buffet. Now you're bombarded with menus: modern eclectic, big chophouse, fusion fare, tapas, even trendy post-pizza flatbread. Here's a sampling of recommended restaurants along the Delmarva shore that will carry you from date night to dune-strolling carryout.
A popular year-round coffeehouse and breakfast and lunch stop featuring antipasto and frittatas, this Mediterranean kitchen also opens for dinner in the summer. The smaller plates (such as lovely lamb meatballs, seared scallops and an addictive romesco -- a Catalan dip of roasted tomatoes and chilies with ground roasted hazelnuts and almonds served with grilled flatbread) are perfect when you're cooling off from a day in the sun. Tender Arctic char with ratatouille, the tarragon-scented bouillabaisse or the lump crab cake seal the deal.
CAFE AZAFRÁN 109 Market St., Lewes. 302-644-4446. Dinner tapas $7-$14, entrees $12-$28.
Nage gave Rehoboth perhaps its first consistently satisfying bistro menu, and it's still a top pick. Its signature dishes include a huge bowl of seafood, including a half lobster tail, in a fennel broth ("nage") you'll want to sop up; truly lumpy crab cakes; and a prime rib burger with truffle-scented fries that lures post-cocktail locals. Oxtail-stuffed tortellini appetizer is a knockout. And if frog legs make the specials chalkboard, jump on them -- they are lighter than chicken legs and with a slightly viscous texture that goes down easy after a long day.
NAGE 19730 Coastal Hwy./Route 1, Rehoboth Beach. 302-226-2037. Dinner appetizers $11-$15; entrees $15-$35.
With his modern-Mediterranean restaurant Espuma solidly booked, chef-owner Jay Caputo has created a stellar hangout of an offshoot, sort of Espuma-light, just a block away. The old Chez La Mer site has been redone as a gleaming-wood cottage with open porch, deck lounge and off-season fireplace. The menu is ideal for dawdling over drinks but is also kid-friendly. Best bets include tapas-style appetizers, gourmet panini slivers (especially good is the luscious duck confit with dried cherries and pistachio pesto or croque-monsieur-ish country ham and Gruyere), irresistible flatbreads (porcinis, ricotta and black truffles or artichokes, roasted peppers and olives), a half-dozen risottos and a few heartier main dishes, including a homemade chicken pot pie, roast chicken or Portuguese-style mussels with sausage.
PORCINI HOUSE 210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach. 302-227-6494. Dinner appetizers $6-$12; flatbread and panini $10-$13; entrees $10-$25.
Kids love this place, not only for its finger-friendly fare but for the antique red phone booth, pass-through carryout window and placemats that mimic the London subway map. Dinner is surprisingly varied (shepherd's pie, chicken-fried steak, tandoori chicken, macadamia-crusted mahi mahi), but the big draws are still the really good fish and chips, a generous lump crab cake (one of the best in town), beer-battered softshell crabs and (observed, though not sampled) the beer-battered sausages, plus a variety of British beers and ales. One disappointment: fish tacos available only at lunch.