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Food: Take 374

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Whenever we do a dining story, it’s hard to resist the temptation of listing a few places that either fly under the radar or simply don’t quite meet the standard for fine dining. Really, really good restaurants in and around Delaware are legion.

I love food, and I love to dine out as much as anyone, so I have a few faves that didn’t make the list this month. Are they great? This is just one person’s opinion: Greatness may start with quality cuisine, but there is certainly more to it than that. And greatness doesn’t always need to cost $125 a couple.

You’ll find few places where the owners appreciate the clients more than little Café Palermo on Miller Road in Wilmington. The seafood is amazing. The tomato pie is unmatched. And though I don’t want to go overboard on Italian food, half my DNA compels me to tell you that there’s a reason you read so much about the eggplant Parmagiana at Madeline’s on DuPont Street. You can’t believe so many layers can be cooked so perfectly.

It ain’t fancy, but in 15 years, I’ve never tried a dish at El Tapatio on Philadelphia Pike in Claymont that I didn’t enjoy. The carnitas are tops. The skirt steak is delicious. The prices are a bargain. And the decor helps even the slowest night feel like a fiesta.

I rarely go to Hank’s Place in Chadds Ford for anything other than brunch, but that’s OK. If I never order anything other than a mushroom omelet or blueberry pancakes, my life still will have been complete. And though you may think one pancake can’t be much better than another, I promise that Hank’s are sublime in ways words can’t describe. The same can be said of the chicken quesadilla at 33 West on Loockerman Street in Dover. It’s only a quesadilla, but it is an exceptional quesadilla.

Bistro on the Brandywine, I beg of you: Please, please bring back the spinach-goat cheese crepes. There is a hole in my being. And if I could write sonnets, they would be love songs to dinners at DiFebo’s in Bethany. I don’t even know where to start…

…but I know I’d better finish, because I could go on and on and on.
 

Mark’s Day Book
  • Visiting Stroud Water Research in Avondale, Pennsylvania, is always a revelation. Most of us don’t give half a thought to White Clay Creek, but thanks to Stroud, the preeminent waterway research group in the world, it’s as famous as the Amazon in some circles. Thank you, Liz Brooking for the invitation.
     
  • I was most impressed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who visited UD’s Clayton Hall for Vision 2015’s Race to the Top update. It was the day after Jack Markell announced Fisker would take over the GM plant in Newport, so the governor was ebullient. Great education means great workforce means local prosperity. That kind of calculation doesn’t take a math whiz. It was no surprise to see The News Journal’s John Sweeney on the case. John is the consummate pro.
     
  • And speaking of the Journal, I was pleased to bump into former columnist Al Mascitti during Sarah Brown and Ajit George’s Thanksgiving weekend open house. It was a special pleasure to talk about new media with editor David Ledford. Ajit, Sarah, thank you. And welcome home.

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