Best night-life spots at Delaware, Maryland beaches? Ask the bartenders.

By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 21, 2010

Once you're at the beach, there are two important locations to note: the spot on the sand where you'll spread out your towel and the location of the bar where you'll head once the sun goes down.

Everybody knows certain night-life destinations -- the Starboard in Dewey and Dogfish Head in Rehoboth are Delaware beach perennial favorites. But if you're only an occasional beachgoer, it can be tough to figure out what else is out there. So we went to the experts: the bartenders. They're at the shore year-round, and they know where to hang out.

These guys jump around from town to town, and you should, too -- just because you're staying in Fenwick Island doesn't mean you're stuck there. These beach towns are only a few minutes apart.

Rehoboth Beach

Wes Brooks has been working at Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats for 11 years, so it's no surprise that the 29-year-old looks for places with a great beer selection. (Beer lovers need to have Dogfish on their go-to list, thanks to such brew pub-only drafts as the sublime Billy Budd.) When he's not behind the bar, Brooks recommends Arenas, "a deli with a bar" a few blocks away on Rehoboth Avenue. "They have a 70- to 80-bottle selection," he reports. "There are some drafts, too, but the bottle list is more of the attraction." It features cool, hard-to-find brews, including Oregon's Caldera (in cans) and South Carolina's RJ Rockers, and is really a locals hangout -- the tables are decorated with photos of regulars. There's also a "Hall of Foam" for people who try all 80 bottles offered.

Another good beer destination is nearby: Conch Island, which has "a Key West theme and a good bottle selection," Brooks says. Over in Dewey Beach, where the night life is better known for shots and pitchers of Miller Lite, "I really like Hammerheads," he says. "Dewey's more of a party town, but this bar has a good crowd and a good beer selection."

Finally, for something different, Brooks pointed us to Zogg's in Rehoboth. "They have great rums and an outdoor deck." He was dead on. The fruity, potent rum punch wowed everyone in my group, and the Dark and Stormy was perfectly balanced. There are more than 100 rums to choose from, a long menu with great specials (including soft-shell crab tacos) and a grill on the patio next to the tiki bar.

Dewey Beach

Tom Clayton is a familiar face behind the bar at the Lighthouse's Friday night taco toss happy hour. Clayton, 34, has been working at the Lighthouse since 1995. He jokes that he works so much that his favorite thing about other bars is "they're not here."

"Everybody knows the Starboard for drinks and beer pong," Clayton says, so when he has time off, he also heads for the neighborhoring Que Pasa, a Mexican restaurant that has tables and deck chairs right on the sand. "I love the open air. It's more of a daytime spot -- they open at 11 -- and they have great Mexican beers."

For happy hour, he recommends Scully's, a cozy one-room Irish bar across from the Starboard. "It's good for wing specials and $1 beers." It doesn't look like much, but the place has plenty of deals.

Down the road, "Fins in Rehoboth is a fun spot. It's a raw bar," with a perpetually packed saloon-style bar. "They have a great happy hour with [cheap] clams and oysters."

North of Rehoboth, in Lewes, is Agave, a fantastic -- and tiny -- Mexican restaurant and bar. "We go there a lot," says Clayton, who recommends the stuffed peppers and the mixed drinks. "They have lots of tequilas and great margaritas. That's why we go there."

At the Starboard, "we don't get a lot of time off, so when we do, we're all over," says Travers Downes, a 32-year-old from Smyrna, Del., who's in his 12th season at Dewey's most popular bar.

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