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The First State’s Best Food & Drink According to Our Editors

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Photo courtesy of SoDel Concepts

Food & Drink

After-Work Drinks

Editors: Makers Alley
When you want to wind down after your 9-to-5, Makers Alley is your ally. The indoor-outdoor space includes a full bar, backyard-style seating with a fire pit and a 1964 Airstream converted into a kitchen for shareable bites. Happy hours run Tuesday through Saturday, 3 to 6 p.m. 804 North Orange St., Wilmington; 482-1299; makersalleyde.com

Artsy Latte

Editors: Milk and Honey Coffeehouse & Gallery and Milk and Honey @ Loma
If you’re looking for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, Milk and Honey creates artistic lattes worthy of your Instagram feed. The shop offers a variety of syrup flavors, milks and toppings. Each drink is artfully made, complementing the café’s walls of art pieces. 807 N. Union St., Wilmington; 654-3738; 239 N. Market St., Wilmington; 654-1101; milkandhoneycafegallery.com

Bayside Dining

Editors: Catch 54

With a marina nestled against its side, Catch 54 boasts breathtaking views of the water from two floors and tiered decks. The open floor plan and high ceilings allow indoor diners to easily enjoy the vistas—when, that is, they aren’t devouring their food with their eyes. Buttermilk-fried oysters, crab cakes and fresh fish complement the backdrop. 39831 Madison Ave., Selbyville; 436-8600; catch54.com

Build Your Own Burger

Editors: Restaurant 55

Creativity must be a job requirement at this burger-and-beer spot. How else to explain the Bluegrass Burger, which comes with gorgonzola and Fifer Orchards’ asparagus, and the Smashed Cowboy Burger, made with brisket and topped with Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce—along with white and yellow cheddar, black peppered bacon, onion confetti and fried jalapeños? Vegetarians can reach for a red bean and rice burger with gorgonzola and creole sauce. Got a better idea? Choose your patty and pile it on any way you like it. 2461 S. State St., Dover; 535-810; myrestaurant55.com

Brunch Variety

Editors: Le Cavalier

Until recently, weekend brunch options were scarce in downtown Wilmington. Enter Le Cavalier, the French brasserie that opened in the Hotel DuPont in 2020. Along with an exquisite dinner menu, Chef-Partner Tyler Akin has created a spot for late-morning and early-afternoon bites on weekends. Enjoy classic French dishes like the croque madame or see the chef’s riffs on trendy dishes like the avocado tartine. Pair it all with a morning libation and you have something to celebrate this weekend: a delicious meal. 42 W. 11th St., Wilmington; 594-3154; lecavalierde.com

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Vegan

Editors: Drop Squad Kitchen

It’s hard to believe Abundance Child’s restaurant is free of animal products— that fatty, saturating goodness that we’re told makes everything taste so good. But she focuses on from-scratch, plant-based meals made with thoughtful ingredients, and each recipe aims to tell a story. 928 Justison St., Wilmington; 984-2773; dropsquadkitchen.com

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Classic Italian

Editors: La Casa Pasta

Generations of diners have celebrated special occasions at this institution founded by Giuseppe, who came to the United States with the Italian navy in 1967. He and wife Anna opened La Casa Pasta in 1978. The extensive menu includes all the favorites, including arancini (fried rice balls), pasta fagioli, chicken and veal Parmesan, and Neapolitan pizzas. 120 Four Seasons Pkwy., Newark; 738-9935; lacaspasta.com

Cocktails with a View

Editors: At the Rail Wine Bar & Grill

It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell the difference between a putter and a 9-iron. The fairways at White Clay Creek Country Club provide the peaceful backdrop for a cocktail with a view—whether you’re inside or out. Located on the clubhouse’s main level, the restaurant was named for the veranda’s golf-themed railing. However, it’s the scenery and Sunday champagne brunches that make the lasting impression. 777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington; 994-6700; whiteclaycreekcc.com

Contemporary Italian

Editors: Piccolina Toscana

You won’t find grilled avocado on many Italian restaurant menus, and pizzas topped with crisped braised short rib, roasted garlic, fontina and melted brie aren’t standard in Trolley Square, but Dan Butler has been thinking outside Italy’s boot-shaped boundaries for more than 20 years. Pan-seared scallops come on lobster risotto, and slivers of beef tenderloin get a vibrant splash of lemon and truffle oil. The Kitchen Salad, as in “everything but,” remains a favorite. 1412 N. Dupont St., Wilmington; 300-1541; piccolinatoscana.com

Photo courtesy of SoDel Concepts

Crab Cakes with a Twist

Editors: Courtyard Bistro—Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware

While the restaurant recently changed its name from café to bistro, the kitchen still crafts some of the best crab cakes in the state. Indeed, the hotel has repeatedly won “best of” accolades for the bronzed orbs, which are lightly seasoned, studded with jumbo lump and served with creole mustard sauce. 400 David Hollowell Dr., Newark; 737-0900; courtyard.marriott.com

Craft Beer Selection

Editors: Wilmington Brew Works

Craft beer is synonymous with the First State, but Wilmington Brew Works isn’t your average microbrewery. The 11,000-square-foot Spanish-style structure, the city’s first production brewery since 1955, is run by brewmaster Craig Wensell, a former high school orchestra director. Now he makes your taste buds sing as he experiments with new and exciting flavors. With over a dozen beers available on tap, IPA, pale ale and cider-lovers alike can all find a pint worth partaking. 3129 Miller Rd., Wilmington; 722-4828; wilmingtonbrewworks.com

Croissants

Editors: The Riverfront Bakery

Goodbye Wilmington, bonjour France. These croissants are so magnifique, you’ll think you’ve been transported to a continental breakfast in Paris. Offering a variety of European-style baked goods, The Riverfront Bakery perfects the pastry in original butter or chocolate. Both pair beautifully with an espresso. 311 Justison St., Wilmington; 521-0550; riverfrontbakery.com

Drinks on the Patio

Editors: BBC Tavern and Grill

In the colder months, this is our cozy go-to spot for a cocktail by the fire (just be sure to reserve the closest table in time). But when the weather’s nice, we like to take that Grapefruit Crush or Summer Sangria outside on the patio! Sit beneath a shady umbrella and enjoy the cool breeze as you sip one of a dozen signature libations; a draught, bottled or craft beer; or a refreshing white wine. Then, order the Tuna Poké and have another. 4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville; 655-3785; bbctavernandgrill.com

European Bistro

Editors: La Fia

Bryan and Andrea Sikora started their culinary hospitality group with this intimate Market Street bistro, which now benefits from the award-winning talents of Chef Dwain Kalup. He and his crew make dishes from scratch in true French fashion, and the charcuterie board highlights cured meats. (A cheese board is separate, à la French.) The techniques are classic, but the food is cutting-edge. 421 N. Market St., Wilmington; 543-5574; lafiawilmington.com

Farm-to-Table Fare

Editors: Heirloom Lewes

Executive Chef Matt Kern’s lifelong love of fishing and foraging in nature became “an obsession” as he carved out a culinary career. Now his passion for turning fresh, locally sourced ingredients into delectable dishes has become an obsession for anyone who’s dined at Heirloom—and has also earned Kern two James Beard nominations for Best Chef. From fine cheeses and charcuterie to delicacies like shiitake mushroom pâté and housemade ramp chitarra pasta, every menu item is worth a taste. 212 Savannah Rd., Lewes; 313-4065; heirloomdelaware.com

Foie Gras

Editors: House of William & Merry

To say William and Merry roduce some of the most original dishes in Delaware is an understatement. Chef Bill loves working with foie gras, duck confit, truffles and caviar. If you spot them on the menu, which changes with the seasons, don’t hesitate. The restaurant is a family affair. Wife Merry is the co-owner, and the couple lives with their children on the restaurant’s second floor. 1336 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin; 234-2255; williamandmerry.com

Fresh Mex to Go

Editors: El Diablo

This is food that bursts with color and flavor inspired by Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. Made with fresh ingredients like mushrooms, kale, mahi, short rib, steak and beans, everything on the menu is a must-try. Picky? Build your own burrito, bowl, taco or salad, and sauce it up just the way you like it. One bite of the rojo brownie or chewy horchata cookie for dessert and you’ll be back for more. Multiple locations; eldiabloburritos.com

Grain Bowl

Editors: Green Box Kitchen

Getting your recommended greens is easy with the Baja Cali Bowl. Available at the Market Street location, it’s made with black rice, walnut taco “meat,” avocado, black beans, tomatoes, pickled red onions, tortilla strips and cilantro, and is then drizzled with Green Goddess dressing. It’s the perfect power lunch or dinner—or both, since it’s pretty big. 400 N. Market St., Wilmington; 274-2195; 111 W. 10th St., Wilmington; greenboxkitchen.com

Gourmet Foods to Go

Editors: Janssen’s Market

Before COVID-19, Janssen’s was the go-to market for residents and professionals alike to pop in at midday or after work for a deli lunch or dinner. We still love it for the fine takeout—whether we’re craving a cheese steak or seared salmon—but we’ll forever be grateful to them for always stocking toilet paper (thanks to the one-per-customer rule) throughout the pandemic. 3801 Kennett Pike, Wilmington; 654-9941; janssensfinefoods.com

Handcrafted Cocktails

Editors: One Coastal

Just about everything at Carlie and Scott Carey’s restaurant has a fresh focus. The restaurant has a garden, and the couple grows vegetables and herbs at home for the establishment, so it’s not surprising that the Carrot Top is one of the featured cocktails. Made with Barr Hill Gin, the bracing beverage includes carrot-and-ancho chili simple syrup and fresh lime and carrot juices. It’s a great way to get your vitamin A. 101 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island; 537-4790; onecoastal.com

Health Food Market

Editors: Harvest Market Natural Foods

Fill your reusable shopping bag with everything from consciously sourced meats and produce to pantry staples like honey, herbs and locally made novelties (including the area’s best sauerkraut). No time to cook? Find already-prepared meals in the kitchen, made with all the same wholesome ingredients on the shelves. 7417 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin; 234-6779; harvestmarketnaturalfoods.com

Homestyle Cooking

Editors: Lettie’s Kitchen

Susan Alexander and son Tom are the friendly faces behind this restaurant named after Susan’s mother, a Hockessin native born in 1922 just one block from the business. The star here is the award-winning roasted chicken, but Lettie’s also has a weekly menu featuring such comfort foods as chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, roasted turkey and meatloaf. 1318 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin; 239-7815; lettieskitchen.com

Hotel Restaurant

Editors: Market Kitchen + Bar at Christiana Hilton

Those who’ve stayed or wed at the Christiana Hilton know one of the hotel’s best-kept secrets: It also boasts one of the finest restaurants in the First State. Cool and modern inside, with a scenic outside patio, this spot prides itself on serving “elevated pub dishes” with sustainable, local ingredients. Nothing about the menu is basic; expect every comfort favorite to come with a fancy twist. Enjoy your meals with a side of live acoustic entertainment like we do? Check the website for a lineup of artists. 100 Continental Dr., Newark; 454-1500; hiltonchristiana.com

Innovative Plates

Editors: Bardea Food + Drink

At this hip downtown bistro, chef Antimo DiMeo aims for fresh ingredients and innovation—always. From small-plate starters (Nordic Cod, Nonna’s Meatballs) to desserts and craft cocktails (Graffie, Spoken Word), artistry meets culinary creativity in every presentation. In our opinion, they’ve also got the best Neapolitan pizza in all the land. 620 N. Market St., Wilmington; 426-2069; bardeawilmington.com

Mocktail

Editors: Torbert Street Social

This swanky pub’s mixologists have a talent for putting artful twists on your favorite classic and modern cocktails, but they’ve really mastered the latest bar trend: the mocktail. An infusion of fruits, vegetables, herbs and even florals, these refreshing beverages deliver the happy hour vibe, sans the proof. 305 Torbert St., Wilmington; 407-6627; torbertsocial.com

New Café

Editors: Park Café

Fast, fresh and affordable are key ingredients to any successful restaurant, and Park Café in Wawaset Park has all those elements and more. The gourmet food eatery offers salads, soups and sandwiches and has a delectable deli case filled with plenty of yummy take-home options (try the artichoke salad). The cozy café also offers homemade desserts and a nice assortment of beer, wine and cocktails, which should be enjoyed on the restaurant’s comfortable, covered patio. 2510 W 5th St., Wilmington; 543-2233; parkcafede.com

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New Menu

Editors: Tonic Steak & Seafood

Last year, this downtown “bar and grill” underwent a redesign of both its space and menu. (And hey, it even got a new name!) While it may now have steak in the name, don’t be fooled: There are plenty of vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options. (We love the pickled mushroom and baby kale salad, as well as the curry coconut chickpea cakes). Snag a seat at the bar or on the patio for a laid-back dining experience. 111 W. 11th St., Wilmington; 777-2040; tonicsns.com

Oceanfront Dining

Editors: Victoria’s Restaurant

There’s nothing like a bourbon crush on the boards, and you can sip your drink and savor an ocean view at Victoria’s in the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. The pretty patio is a go-to spot on any summer day, but the restaurant is particularly known for brunch. Live entertainment from performers like Cathy Gorman and Keith Mack only enhances the sound of the waves. 2 Olive Ave. and the Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach; 227-7169; boardwalkplaza.com

Pasta Dishes

Editors: Capers & Lemons

Housemade pasta gets a dedicated menu category at this Platinum Dining destination. Expect some surprises, including butternut squash agnolotti with pancetta, whiskey cream, shiitake mushrooms and port wine cranberries. Sheets of lasagna are layered with bechamel sauce, tomato sauce and cheese, while ribbons of pappardelle tangle with braised pork ragu and baby arugula. 301 Little Falls Dr., Wilmington; 256-0524; capersandlemons.com

Place to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Editors: Mexican Post

Colorful del sol flags, frescoes of Mexico, sombreros, mariachi music and rounds of frozen margaritas make this North Wilmington joint the perfect place to celebrate on May 5. Don’t let its humble strip mall locale dissuade you. Inside, it’s a daylong lively celebration with colorful drinks and cuisine. Be sure to order nachos, quesadillas, guacamole or any number of Mexican specialties like fajitas, chimichanga or enchiladas. 3100 Naamans Rd., Wilmington; 478-3939

Pre- or Post-Workout Juice

Editors: The Juice Joint

There’s nothing like a fresh juice to get you going, and at The Juice Joint, there’s no shortage of delicious choices made with fresh fruits and vegetables. Already got those endorphins going? Replenish with a heavier smoothie. Owners Lanice Wilson and Renee Sellers are passionate about customers sipping the right juice for their needs, so don’t be afraid to ask for their recommendations! 323 Justison St., Wilmington; 803-6886; thejuicejoint.de

Pub Grub

Editors: Buckley’s Tavern

Buckley’s might reside in the heart of Chateau Country, but this iconic restaurant is never stuffy. For decades, the tavern-restaurant has welcomed blue collars and bluebloods. The tavern fare demonstrates how well Buckley’s crosses the divide. Cheesesteak egg rolls, made in-house, are served with tomato jam. Crab cake sliders are perched on brioche buns, and onion rings are crusted in panko. 5812 Kennett Pike, Centreville; 656-9776; buckleystavern.com

Raw Bar

Editors: Cool Springs Fish Bar & Restaurant

When Chef Dennis Forbes opened Cool Springs in 1999, he proved that an independent restaurant could hold its own against Kent County chains. Forbes survived—and thrived. His take on an old-fashioned seafood house is the area’s go-to spot for fresh fare. 2463 S. State St., Dover; 698-1955; coolspringsfishbar.com

Restaurant Renovation

Editors: Fish On

Located in the heart of the Villages of Five Points, Fish On is a locals’ favorite for its happy hour and seafood cuisine. Lately, however, it’s receiving notice for its makeover, which included a refurbished patio. Chandeliers and pendant lights dangle from the pergola in the attractive al fresco option, which is neatly fenced and landscaped with lush plants. 17300 N. Village Main Blvd., Lewes; 645-9790; fishonlewes.com

Fish On in Lewes is a local favorite for fresh seafood and happening happy hours.Now, it’s becoming an al fresco hot spot for both, with a newly refurbished patio with sleek chandeliers, lush landscaping and fresh air./Photo courtesy of Fish On

Sangria

Editors: Olé Tapas Lounge and Restaurant

The perfect sip to cool down in the summer— or to transport you back to those lazy, sultry days the rest of the year—Olé Tapas’ sangria is refreshing with just enough punch. Brimming with fruit, sangria is white, red or rosé for a flavor to match every palette and cuisine, and pairs perfectly with Chef Juan Manuel Aguiñaga’s Spanish tapas. 1126 Capitol Trail, Newark; 224-9378; oletapaslounge.com

Scallop Dish

Editors: Banks’ Seafood Kitchen

It takes a skilled hand to properly pan-sear a scallop so it’s still translucent in the center. Have no fear. At this anchor restaurant on the Wilmington Riverfront, local scallops are perfectly cooked. Owner-Chef David Leo Banks might serve them with pistachio barley, spiced butternut squash and cherry chutney for a presentation that’s as pretty as it is palatable, especially when served alongside a river view. 101 S. Market St., Wilmington; 777-1500; banksseafoodkitchen.com

Sicilian Pizza

Editors: Vincenza & Margherita (V&M) Bistro

Sisters Vincenza and Margherita Carrieri-Russo are princesses of the pivot. When the pandemic hit, the siblings promoted their family’s legacy dish: Pizza. Social media lit up with praise for the Sicilian pizza—and with good reason. The saucy slices are crave-worthy, and their popularity— coupled with some boozy ice cream concoctions—helped the contemporary Italian restaurant survive 2020. 1717 Marsh Rd., Wilmington; 479-7999; vmbistro.com

Spot for Spice Lovers

Editors: Ubon Thai Kitchen & Bar

Chef Wit Milburn continues his family’s legacy of authentic Thai food at Ubon, where curry, noodles and rice dishes make for a spice lovers’ heaven—whatever your heat level. Start at zero if you like your Thai mild. Go for three if habanero is your style. Feeling adventurous? The Carolina reaper comes in at No. 5. 936 Justison St., Wilmington; 656-1706; ubonthaicuisine.squarespace.com

Traditional Steakhouse Experience

Editors: Walter’s Steakhouse

John Walter Constantinou was just 14 when he stepped up to the cutting table at his father’s restaurant, Constantinou’s House of Beef. It was love at first slice. Fast-forward to 1993, when Constantinou opened Walter’s Steakhouse in Wilmington’s Little Italy section. The city’s “oldest steakhouse” clearly delivers the goods, even if you’re on a budget. There are specials on most days of the week. 802 N. Union St., Wilmington; 652-6780; walters-steakhouse.com

Water Views Over the State Line

Editors: Kitty Knight

Named after Kitty Knight, who helped save part of Georgetown, Maryland, during the War of 1812, this historic home offers visitors a glimpse into the past while providing comforts of the present as a dining and events destination. Enjoy fine American fare; dine on the Lido Deck for scenic sunset views over the Sassafras River. 14028 Augustine Herman Hwy., Georgetown, Maryland; 410-648-5200; kittyknight.com

Weekday Breakfast

Editors: Ciro 40 Acres

On balmy summer mornings, there’s no better breakfast than one enjoyed al fresco. Reserve a patio table and get your day started—check email, pencil in appointments, jot down those fresh ideas that came to you in last night’s dream—over a hearty hash bowl or avocado toast. (We also recommend the baked eggs, stuffed with wild mushrooms and goat cheese, and finished with a truffle vinaigrette.) Get the iced latte to go to keep you moving throughout your day. 836 Lovering Ave., Wilmington; 543-8948; cirofoodanddrink.com

Weeknight Specials

Editors: Stone Balloon Ale House

A Delaware staple since 1972, “the Balloon” has long been a popular place for drinks and live music. This newest iteration pays homage to that past, but with a decidedly more modern vibe. The weeknight specials are as much a draw—Tuesdays are burger nights when patrons can choose from traditional Angus beef, black bean or turkey burgers, served with a side of fries, a beer or glass of wine for $10. Fridays are buck-a-shuck, and “Cheap Date Night” Wednesdays feature two entrées, a bottle of wine and dessert for $35. 115 E. Main St., Newark; 266-8111; stoneballoon.com

Wine Pairings

Editors: Caffe Gelato

Despite its proximity to the University of Delaware, this OG on Main Street is known for wine, not session beers. Indeed, Caffe Gelato has won several Wine Spectator restaurant awards. Owner Ryan German installed a 1,500-bottle wine cellar that holds 100-plus varietals. The restaurant, which makes its own pasta and gelato, also hosts regular wine dinners. Book the cellar or wine room for parties. 90 E. Main St., Newark; 738-5811; caffegelato.net

Wings

Editors: Crooked Hammock Brewery

Crooked Hammock may be best known for local brews and live music, but here’s something you may not know it does really well: Wings. We go coconuts-crazy for the Pineapple Express Wings, slow-cooked, breaded in coconut flakes and served up with a sweet and savory pineapple jalapeño sauce. 316 Auto Park Dr., Middletown; 601-7837; 36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes; 644-7837; crookedhammockbrewery.com

Workday Lunch Spot

Editors: DE.CO

When you’re looking to satisfy every lunch craving in your office, DE.CO food hall hits the spot. Located in the heart of downtown Wilmington, the indoor-outdoor dining space offers a variety of options, from Pizzeria Bardea (a spinoff of nearby Bardea Food + Drink) and Connie’s Chicken and Waffles to Phubs Thai and Al Chu’s sushi. There’s also a rotating pop-up stall and coffee. 111 West 10th St., Wilmington; decowilmington.com