New Castle County Eateries
Fine Italian dining doesn’t come immediately to mind when considering restaurants in the Bear-Glasgow area, but it boasts two of the best. Charming La Casa Pasta (120 Four Seasons Pkwy., Newark, 738-9935) is Giuseppe Martuscelli’s original restaurant, a local classic. Seafood dishes such as frutti di mare are a specialty.
If a carpaccio of octopus suits your tastes, Ristorante Marco (1847 Pulaski Hwy., Bear, 392-2244) is the place to be. Marco serves baked dishes, grilled meats and fish, and excellent spaghetti alla carbonara.
Beer lovers flock to Stewart’s Brewing Company (219 Governors Place, Bear, 836-2739) for favorites like Delaware Diamond Lager and seasonal specials, plus good sandwiches and fun fare like sausage and pierogies.
Though some think of Greenville and Centreville as flowing quietly one into the other, Centreville deserves its own mention for Buckley’s Tavern (5812 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 656-9776). The country-ish Buckley’s has blended blue blood and blue collar happily for more than 75 years. Under owner/chef Tom Hannum, the menu is full of elegant comfort food.
Hit Centreville Café (5800 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 425-5808) for breakfast or, at lunch, a sandwich, all named after flowers. You’ll enjoy it most in the garden.
Claymont boasts one of the best versions of a truly local food: the cheesesteak. You’ll find them at the Claymont Steak Shop (3526 Philadelphia Pike, 798-0013), of course. Neighbors go for good pizza and burgers, too.
Also in the area, El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant (1700 Philadelphia Pike, 791-9566) has pleased the neighbors with all the burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas you’d expect, as well as good grilled meats and seafood. Weekends bring live mariachi players to your tableside.
In just a few years, Bellefonte Café (804 Brandywine Blvd., Bellefonte, 761-9175) has established itself as fun and funky, with laid-back musicians and a menu of terrific food that shows influences from around the world. Fans go for the food and the fun.
The Chicken House (1504 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 793-1504), already established in Newark, was an instant sensation when it opened near Claymont. The Peruvian fare is fun, affordable and savory.
Drip Café, Hockessin
There are three points to the compass in Greenville. North leads you to BBC Tavern and Grill (4019 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 655-3785), a reiteration of the old and hugely popular Brandywine Brewing Company. The dining room is cozy, especially near the fireplace. The menu stretches toward good farm-to-table fare.
West points toward intimate Cromwell’s American Tavern & Taqueria (3858 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 571-0561), a longtime favorite for a burger and beer, but with Mexican favorites, too.
In the east, the sun rises over Pizza By Elizabeths (3801 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 654-4478), the pioneer of gourmet pizza in Delaware. Load yours with everything from a sauce of traditional tomatoes or mushroom duxelles, cheeses from mozzarella to fontina, and toppings from pepperoni to prosciutto. Is the place ever not busy? Skip the wait. Have a seat and a glass of wine at The Cork Bar.
The loosely defined area known as Hockessin contains several very good places. Just off Newport Gap Pike, locals have flocked to the Back Burner (425 Hockessin Corner, 239-2314) for more than 30 years for its upscale country decor and delicious fare like its signature pumpkin-mushroom soup.
A new favorite is The House of William & Merry (1336 Old Lancaster Pike, 234-2255), a Gothic-revival house re-imagined as a contemporary showcase for such seasonal fare as magret duck breast with foie gras-parsnip purée.
Lettie’s Kitchen (1318 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-7816) is all about home cookin’. Outside of Wilmington, it’s the go-to place for carryout fried chicken—and other great home-cooked meals.
On the Limestone Road side of town, The Crownery (228 Lantana Drive, 239-3825) has some of the best Chinese fare in town. Those in the know can ask to order off the menu of real Chinese.
Redfire Grill & Steakhouse (400 Lantana Drive, 235-2600) is the place for excellent beef prepared in a 1,200-degree grill—or an excellent cassoulet, pork chop and organic roasted chicken.
Drip Café (144 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 234-4430) serves coffees from around the world with delicious healthy fare made from local produce.
There’s more to Caruso’s Bistro (262 Dove Run Shopping Center, 449-0000) than great pizza. The homey place also serves all your Italian favorites: baked pasta dishes such as lasagna, specialties like eggplant Parmigiana and delicious chicken and veal dishes. It’s all offered at modest prices and served by a friendly staff.
Tequila’s Restaurante Mexicano and Cantina (431 E. Main St., 378-9900) scores big for authentic mole and good ceviche. The menu is loaded with the standards. The sizzling molcajete is a favorite.
Immediato’s Bistro (39 W. Main St., Middletown, 378-8326) stuns with home-style Italian fare. A favorite: jumbo shrimp and lumps of crab in creamy risotto with white truffle oil.
1861 (423 N. Broad St., Middletown, 376-7956) has emerged as an upscale favorite, with interesting gastropub fare and craft brews served in a contemporary dining room.
In Newark, it used to be that the UD students had their favorite places, the townies had theirs, and the twain never met. One place that has successfully bridged that ever-narrowing gap for decades is The Deer Park Tavern (108 W. Main St., 369-9414), a place where people of every description blend harmoniously. Upscale tavern fare is the order of the day, and the Sunday brunch is an age-old favorite.
A new Sunday brunch favorite: Deerfield (507 Thompson Station Road, 368-6640), which lays out 110 feet of eggs, breakfast meats, waffles and hotcakes, cereals, pastries, shellfish, smoked fish and more, including omelet stations. The expansive dining room looks out on a beautifully wooded golf course. There’s no more breathtaking place to dine on a sunny Sunday.
On Main Street, those with a taste for fine fare can be seen at Caffé Gelato (90 E. Main St., 738-5811), known for its extensive wine list.
Iron Hill Restaurant and Brewery (147 E. Main St., 266-9000) serves very good food at a mid-range price point, along with beer and ale that has won awards around the world.
The 16 Mile Taphouse (115 E. Main St., 266-8111) offers some of the most creative food in the state.
Taverna (121 E. Main St., Newark, 444-4334) presents upscale Italian fare in a beautifully rustic dining room.
If small plates are your thing, cozy Olé Tapas Lounge (1126 Capitol Trail, Newark, 224-9378) is among the best in the state.
Locals and visitors alike enjoy Jessop’ Tavern (114 Delaware St., 322-6111) in historic New Castle. Its Colonial fare includes shepherd’s pie and fish and chips served in a period dining room with a warming fireplace and intimate bar.
Cozy Nora Lees French Quarter Bistro (124 Delaware St., 322-7675) serves great Cajun and creole cuisine, with live entertainment on weekends.
Photo by Ron Dubick
Tequila’s Restaurante Mexicano and Cantina, Middletown
North Wilmington is full of great places to eat, as well as great places to dine. In the latter category, Harry’s Savoy Grill (2020 Naamans Road, 475-3000) has been the standout place for 30 years. Classic decor—beautiful wood paneling, soft lighting—and a menu of traditional favorites with contemporary touches have given it staying power. Sit in the beautiful dining room, go casual in the bar area or split the difference by sitting on the gorgeous patio.
Not too far away is local favorite Culinaria (1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 475-4860), serving uptown fare like rainbow trout with almond butter in a casual atmosphere that is perfect any night of the week.
A drive down the U.S. 202 corridor reveals one great place after another. For well over 50 years, The Charcoal Pit (2600 Concord Pike, 478-2165) has served delicious burgers and ice-cream creations, making it a longtime family favorite.
Bustling Hollywood Grill (1811 Concord Pike, 655-1348) rates for great tasting food, value prices and an all-day breakfast menu. (The Belgian waffles are outstanding.)
Those with a taste for the mildly exotic get their fix of Asian fusion at Le Shio (2303 Concord Pike, 888-0145) and Jasmine (3618 Concord Pike, 479-5618).
Housed in a historic hotel in the Colonial heart of Odessa, Cantwell’s Tavern (109 Main St., 376-0600) started drawing locals and visitors from far and wide as soon as it opened four years ago. Tradition is part of the draw. The dining rooms and bar areas feature replicas of period furnishings and the architectural details of the day. The menu also features touches of tradition, such as good beer-battered fish and chips.
Pike Creek Valley
The original McGlynns Pub (8 Polly Drummond Shopping Center, Newark, 738-7814) has long been the place where Pike Creek Valley folks go for a casual meal, a drink and a game. Tuesday is half-price burger night.
The best Italian food in the area is served at Vallé Cucina (4752 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 998-9999) in Pike Creek Shopping Center. The prices are fair, and the wine list, a labor of love for the owner, is excellent. But don’t stop at Italian. Vallé’s crab cakes are outstanding.
Also on the scene is Soybean Asian Grill (4702 Limestone Road, Wilmington, 636-0800), a cozy, modern place that serves traditional favorites and creative fusion dishes.
Wilmington offers every kind of dining you can imagine, so there are lots of local favorites for lots of different reasons. The Columbus Inn (2216 Pennsylvania Ave., 571-1492) has, for years, been the very definition of a local favorite, now with food and decor that is fully contemporary, yet retains vestiges of tradition.
When the workday ends, downtowners flock to happy hours at two popular seafood places: Deep Blue Bar and Grill (111 W. 11th St., 777-2040) and Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., 777-1500). Both offer good food and drink specials, and raw bars with offerings that often make the perfect light bite—as well as oysters from across the country. When happy hour turns into dinner hour, patrons adjourn to the dining rooms, both sleek and contemporary, for cutting-edge seafood dishes. Both places search the world for delicious fish.
Trolley Square is Wilmington’s party central, so it’s no surprise that locals seek places where they can eat well and have fun. They include Kid Shelleen’s (1801 W. 14th St., 658-4600), which offers fairly priced entrées and pasta dishes, as well as your favorite pub grub. When the weather is fair, the large deck brims with early diners and Sunday brunchers. Before a show at The Grand Opera House, you’ll find the adjacent restaurants humming.
Ernest & Scott Taproom (902 N. Market St., 384-8113), almost next door, wows with fare such as pan-seared beef tenderloin with red-onion marmalade, red-wine gastrique, grilled asparagus and rosemary béarnaise—as well as an ever-changing list of craft beers.
Facing The Grand, Chelsea Tavern (821 N. Market St., 482-3333) takes comfort to the edge with items such as its fish and chips—fried filet of whitefish with sweet basil tartar—and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with a barbecue sauce made of pale ale. If your show is at World Cafe Live at the Queen, you’ll find the restaurant there to be a match for anyplace in town.
Nearby, chef Bryan Sikora’s charming La Fia (421 N. Market St., Wilmington, 543-5574) is an outstanding bistro, bakery and gourmet shop rolled into one.
The Green Room of the 100-year-old Hotel du Pont (42 W. 11th St., 594-3154) remains the height of fine dining in Delaware, a place of soaring vaulted ceilings, rococo decor, Versace china and white-glove service. It is always the hot reservation for Mother’s Day brunch and other special occasions. Yet for all the splendor, breakfast on weekdays costs no more than breakfast anywhere else.
The duo of Washington Street Ale House (1206 N. Washington St., 658-2537) and Mikimotos Asian Grill and Sushi Bar (1212 N. Washington St., 656-8638), neighbors on Washington Street, offer good pub fare and sushi, respectively. Most nights find them packed.