A city dweller's guide to Delaware, Maryland beaches: dining, coffee, bike tours

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm a city dweller, one who takes full advantage of the stellar restaurants, cocktail bars and recreation that a Washington Zip code affords. So I don't seem like the sort of person who packs up her bikini every summer and jets off for -- how do I put it? -- the unpretentious pleasures of Ocean City.

In truth, I'm as in love with beach-town traditions -- the annual pilgrimage to Thrasher's fries, the rounds of twilight mini-golf -- as I am with the sea.

But when I'm craving the comforts of the city, I know that the shore also has a sophisticated side: Think posh dinners, craft beer and quaint haunts that offer beachy flavor, hold the Old Bay.

Are you an urbanite weighing a trip to the shore this summer? A few of these city-inspired stops will make it feel a little more like a home away from home.

Sample locally made goods

Beer aficionados and locavores should make a point of stopping in for one of the free tours offered by craft brewer Dogfish Head, which produces about 100,000 barrels a year of its idiosyncratic ale varietals in Milton, 30 minutes west of Rehoboth Beach. Guests -- most seemed to be in their 20s and 30s during my visit -- get a 30-minute peek at the brewery's fermentation operations to learn how the beers are made. Afterward, tour-takers taste generous samples of four beers, which on my visit added up to nearly a pint's worth.

Dogfish Head tours are offered Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Milton brewery, 6 Village Center, Milton, Del. Tickets go quickly, so get them well in advance at http://www.dogfish.comor by calling 302-684-1000, Ext. 0. Free.

Nix the buffet, keep the buff

I'm a vegetarian, and like many others with dietary restrictions, I've had a hard time finding a healthful meal at the beach, where all-you-can-eat crab shacks and pancake houses rule. Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach delivers vegetarian and vegan food at colorful Planet X Cafe (35 Wilmington Ave., 302-226-1928). But who knew that the Rehoboth outpost of Nage also plates up a vegetarian sampler (using locally grown produce) to rival any surf-and-turf? My platter ($21) came with a tangy marinated squash carpaccio with a dollop of horseradish, spice-rubbed carrots, heavenly quinoa and chestnut soup -- all in all, a no-regrets dinner that won't undo months' worth of gym-going. 19730 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach. Reservations recommended. 302-226-2037. http://www.nage.bz.

In Ocean City, wine shop and restaurant Liquid Assets reminded me of Washington's Cork Market. My cheese board came with Spanish Manchego and to-die-for Truffle Tremor goat's milk cheese, not to mention toast points, sliced apple, dried cherries and golden raisins.

The shop also offers a steal of a lunch combo for $8 daily til 4 p.m.

9301 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City. 410-524-7037. http://www.ocliquidassets.com.

Get your coffee fix

Few Washingtonians can get their day started without a decent cup of coffee -- and by "coffee," I really mean cappuccino, red-eye or Americano.

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