At the Delaware beaches, happy hour has all the festivity—and often the frenzy—of a college town. The distinct difference, though, is that many establishments along the Culinary Coast tailor their specials to more discerning palates. They go beyond discounted nachos or hummus plates, making the food as much of a draw as the drinks.
Here are four of my favorite spots for memorable libations and noshes.
1. Fish On
Arrive early! Locals pace in front of this Lewes restaurant until it opens (5 p.m.), then plant their behinds at the bar’s cushy seats for hours. Fortunately, this is one of the longer happy hours in town, running until 7 p.m. My favorites include the fish tacos (2 for $6) and the peel-and-eat shrimp ($9 for a half pound). My regular happy-hour companion goes for the pan-roasted mussels with chorizo, tomatoes and jalapeno ($6) and the shaved flash-fried Brussels sprouts with pecorino cheese ($5). There are drink specials ($4 Tröegs draft and $4 mixed drinks), but you may be limited to house brands. Oysters, usually from Virginia, are $1.
What’s not to love about this happy hour? It runs Monday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m., and Friday and Sunday from open to 6 p.m. at locations on Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach, in downtown Rehoboth Beach and in Bethany Beach. (The company brand is Fins Ale House & Raw Bar except in Rehoboth, where it is Fins Fish House & Raw Bar.) Along with oysters ($7.75 for a half dozen), you’ll find fish-and-chips ($6.25), fish tacos ($7.99) and chorizo cheese fries ($4.99). Drafts featuring Fins’ sister company, Big Oyster Brewery, are $3.50.
There are now four of these locations, including one on the Wilmington Riverfront and in Glen Mills, Pa.—but for happy hour, I’m partial to the original on Route 1 just outside of Rehoboth Beach, because of the large tiki bar-style area with tables. Oysters are $1.25 each—usually local—and there’s a lengthy selection of $6 and $7 appetizers that could easily become a meal. I love the salmon napoleon (smoked salmon served on wontons) that two can share. I’ve even had enough leftovers to take home.
The cocktails, featuring Dogfish Head spirits, are so gosh-darn pretty here that it’s almost easy to forget about ordering food. But don’t make that mistake! The kitchen offers such unusual happy-hour dishes as fried oyster lettuce wraps ($6) and steamed buns with pork belly ($7).