Take the Party Outside

By Fritz Hahn
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, May 16, 2008

This summer, the magic word for bars and clubs at the beach is "outdoors." From Rehoboth Beach to Ocean City, the night life is moving to poolside cabanas, outdoor tiki bars and waterfront cantinas.

Rehoboth Beach

Aqua Grill on Baltimore Avenue will be holding serious parties this summer. After an off-season makeover, the restaurant reopens this weekend as a warm-up for Memorial Day's blowout. Sponsored by PlanetOut, the three-day party features appearances by singer and performer Randy Thompson from Key West, Fla.

The other hot destination for Saturday nights will be Cloud 9 restaurant's Sky Bar. D.C.-based Atmos Events is making a welcome return with C9 Saturdays, when DJs spin until the wee hours while patrons hit the dance floor or mingle on the patio. The season kicks off Saturday, but they're expecting bigger crowds for the Memorial Day Inferno party with DJ Ting Azarcon, a fixture on the D.C. and beach club circuits. (Hint: Wear red.)

AQUA GRILL 57 Baltimore Ave. 302-226-9001. Open Monday-Thursday from 3 to midnight, Friday-Sunday from noon to midnight.

C9 AT CLOUD 9 234 Rehoboth Ave. 302-226-1999. Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.


A few months ago, Agave Mexican Grill and Tequila Bar owner Chris McKeown took a trip to Mexico, touring 15 tequila distilleries and quizzing producers about the intricacies of their favorite drink. "I wanted to open a tequila bar, so I figured I needed to learn more about tequila," says McKeown, who began drinking "Jose Cuervo and all that" in college before developing an appreciation for high-end tequila.

The result of that love affair is Agave, which opened on Lewes's Second Street strip in mid-March and offers about 80 tequilas by the glass as well as a full menu of filling Mexican food.

Besides the dozens of curiously shaped bottles displayed behind its curving concrete bar, Agave's star attraction is its house margarita, which is the finest I've ever had at the beach. It's made with El Jimador, a tequila containing 100 percent blue agave juice and none of the fillers used in less expensive brands such as Cuervo Gold. With freshly squeezed lime juice and a house-made piƱa honey mixture, the margarita is a sunny drink with a pleasant citrus bite and a perfect kick. The bowl-like glasses, featuring painted agave plants, are hand-blown in Mexico.

Prices are reasonable: The standard (large) margarita is $10, a half-size version is $5.50 and the extra-large five-shot version costs $25. Tequila flights feature six one-ounce samples of various brands and styles, though they can be pricey: as much as $160 for top-shelf selections.

The bar has only 10 wide stools, but McKeown says tequila lovers shouldn't be put off if they're all filled. There are 35 seats at tables throughout the homey restaurant, and "you can sit at a table" if you're ordering drinks, he says. "People do that and hang out for hours."

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