One of the most remarkable features of the Rehoboth restaurant scene is the number and variety of high-quality eateries in an easily walked four- or five-block area. If one menu doesn't cry out to you, just meander 50 yards in any direction. After two decades of faithful restaurant appreciation, we've found you can eat well on any budget in Rehoboth without resorting to fast food. And if you want an upscale meal to rival D.C.'s finest (in quality as well as price), you can dine in a different restaurant every night for a week and still have a few left over for the next trip.
This is my personal Top 10 of Rehoboth restaurants. (I've excluded the Route 1 restaurant scene because I never frequent it; I'd miss the post-prandial stroll around town.) Keep in mind that from now through Memorial Day, most beach restaurants are open at least every weekend, some even Wednesday through Sunday -- and the lack of summer's crowds makes spring a smart time to make those reservations and go.
Best Recent Addition
Yum Yum Pan Asian Bistro, 37 Wilmington Ave., 302-226-0400. Happily situated in the former Square One space, Yum Yum's menu offerings span the Pacific Rim, with reasonably priced "small plates" and "large plates" providing tasty opportunities for grazing and sharing. Savoring house cured "thousand flavor" salmon and a Yum Yum martini while sitting in the fountain courtyard on a warm summer evening is, well . . . like the name says.
Other Newcomers We Like
Third Edition, 59 Lake Ave., 302-227-9063. This beach outpost of the Georgetown eatery opened last July in the old Fran O'Brien's, after a million-dollar renovation. The traditional "seafood and steakhouse" recipes are distinguished by their top-quality ingredients. Dancing nightly to bands or deejays.
Eden Garden Cafe, 122 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3330. Three-year-old Eden has a reasonably priced menu focusing on generous portions and super-fresh local ingredients. The large airy space features hand-painted murals, huge wicker chairs, a non-smoking bar and two small patios.
Plumb Loco, 10 N. First St., 302-227-6870. Not as fun and funky as its predecessor, Dos Locos, this lively Mexican cantina still serves tasty Tex-Mex, multihued margaritas and options for gringos.
Back Porch Cafe, 59 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3674. We've dined here each summer for 20 years and are always happy to see so many familiar faces: the owner Keith, Bee the bartender, the chefs and the servers, several of whom return every season. The intimate dining room displays paintings by local artists; the outdoor dining area is more spacious, romantically lit by candles and tiny white lights. The handwritten menu is eclectic, emphasizing fresh fish and locally grown produce. Last summer's menu featured favorites from the past 25 years; I hope a few dishes make it back this year. (Please, please: more of that lobster parmesan custard!) We also enjoy the scope of the wine list and the selection of wines by the glass.
Cultured Pearl, 19 Wilmington Ave., 302-227-8493. A great sushi place, but also a pearl of a full-service restaurant. Non-sushi fans can enjoy American as well as Japanese offerings; both sides of the menu are equally well crafted. High-quality seafood is the focus here, with an extensive selection of fresh sushi, sashimi and hosomaki to encourage experimentation. We've spied a couple of competing restaurant owners here enjoying their nights off -- as good a sign as there is.
Fusion, 50 Wilmington Ave., 302-226-1940. Offspring of Jonathan Spivak, sibling to Sedona in Bethany Beach, Fusion is a very different restaurant but shares a dedication to creative combinations of high-quality ingredients. I'm not sure which cuisines the menu is a fusion of; it's kind of all over the map . . . Asian, Mediterranean, Caribbean. And the menu changes often -- but you'll always find a scrumptious Peking duck salad here.
Chez La Mer, 210 Second St., 302-227-6494. Another 20-year veteran of the Rehoboth scene, Chez La Mer serves traditional French cuisine in a warren of charming dining rooms, or alfresco on the rooftop patio. The award-winning wine list focuses on France and offers several fairly priced bottles as well as a good selection of wines by the glass. We love its lobster specials, and always delight in having bouillabaisse in a seaside village as it was intended.
Planet X, 35 Wilmington Ave., 302-226-1928. This funky Victorian beach cottage is Vegetarian Nirvana. The casual atmosphere belies the sophisticated, creative cooking. The organic produce sparkles with flavor, the seafood is scrupulously fresh, and the chickens, of course, lead a happy free-range life before appearing on your plate. The wraparound porch is our favorite place to sit (especially now that part of it is non-smoking), but wander inside to revisit the '60s of Greenwich Village or Harvard Square.
Tijuana Taxi, 207 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-1986. The Taxi serves up huge portions of fresh and flavorful Tex-Mex at very reasonable prices. Vegetarian options abound, margaritas are generous, the salsa has just the right degree of heat -- and somebody stop me from eating all the chips in the basket before my dinner arrives!
Others Worth Trying
Zebra, Little Italy in a Victorian house; Celsius, with a new tapas menu that we like a lot; Blue Moon, consistently good (if pricey), innovative cuisine; Espuma, with an ambitious Mediterranean menu; Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats, tasty brewpub grub and great beer made on site; Scalawags, when you're craving crabs and beer around a picnic table; and Nicola Pizza, whose Nic-O-Bolis are legendary and whose pizza beats Grotto by a mile. (Unless you love waiting in line, call for delivery.) Last-but-not-least, the ice cream cones at the Royal Treat are well worth the wait.
For More Info
For lots of information on dining and lodging options, contact the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce (302-227-2233, www.beach-fun.com); the Association of Delaware Shore Inns and Bed & Breakfasts at www.deshorebnbs.com; or the independent Web site www.beach-net.com.
The results of "Escapes Trivia" Contest #7:
What's the county within five hours of D.C. with the most covered bridges, we asked, and what's the nickname for such bridges? Although its Amish communities are better known, Lancaster County in Pennsylvania boasts 30 covered bridges -- or 'kissing bridges' (from the days when romantic couples, much less young Amish men and women, didn't even hold hands in public places) -- which many travelers consider the definition of picturesque. To visit all 30, you can follow five separate routes for more than 200 miles of sightseeing. To check out the maps, directions and historical information, point your Internet browser toward www.co.lancaster. pa.us/bridges/menu.html.
Bill Parker of Germantown, Md. -- chosen by a randomness-certified Travel section staffer from among the many correct entries this week -- is our winner. He not only e-mailed in the correct two-part answer (with the phrase "Escapes Trivia" in the subject field), but provided several footnotes and Web references. So we're sending him the winner's copy of "Escape Plans," The Post's getaway guide. And we're considering asking him to proofread the next edition. (We're kidding about the proofreading, Bill. But you never know . . . )
We've thus successfully emerged into the light at the other end of the tunnel, and move onward to "Escapes Trivia" Contest #8. Moreover, as our collection of absolutely precious but oddly inexpensive (okay, cheap) promotional items is starting to pile up, for this week's contest the grand prize will be the winner's choice of the "Escape Plans" getaway guide, a 15-ounce can of Phillips Seafood Restaurants vegetable crab soup, or a nylon-like Subaru "Leave No Trace" insulated zippered lunch carrier. Can you believe people say newspapering lacks dignity?
Question #8: Where can you stroll down the oldest continuously occupied street in the Western Hemisphere? What's it called?
Deadline for Contest #8 entries is 10 a.m. Monday, April 24. Send entries by email (email@example.com; put the phrase "Escapes Trivia" in the subject field), fax (202-334-1069) or U.S. mail (Escapes Trivia, Washington Post Travel section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Winners, chosen at random from among correct entries, will receive a copy of The Post's "Escape Plans" getaway guide, or other prizes to be announced. One entry per person per contest. Employees of The Washington Post are ineligible to win prizes. Entries become the property of The Post, which reserves the right to edit, distribute or republish them in any form, including electronically. Contest questions and answers are compiled by Amy Brecount White for The Washington Post.
(Mis)mark Your Calendar
The nifty watercolor- and information-packed 2000 calendar we said was published by the Partnership for Warrenton Foundation last week and available for $4 was actually published by the artist, Maria P. Nicklin, herself -- and is furthermore free, either from the foundation (540-349-8606) or Nicklin (703-528-7100). While supplies last, that is.
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