On January 15, 1913, nearly 300 guests entered the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington for the grand opening. Women draped in fur and jewels and their tuxedoed escorts headed to the dining room, where a string orchestra played in the musicians’ gallery. The tables were set with fresh flowers, fan-shaped napkins and Gorham silverware from a set valued at more than $10,000.
Much has changed over the last centennial, but one thing remains the same: Upscale restaurants in hotels benefit guests and the community, particularly at a time of year when a romantic getaway can dispel the post-holiday doldrums.
A step above
Casual hotel restaurants let travelers grab a quick bagel or burger before hitting the highway. However, a boutique or sophisticated property like The Quoin Hotel in downtown Wilmington takes a more elevated approach.
“The addition of The Quoin Restaurant, as well as its rooftop lounge and lower-level cocktail bar, Simmer Down, significantly enhances the guest experience and adds more value to a night’s stay,” maintains Scott Zoccolillo, director of restaurants at Method Co., which manages The Quoin.
Guests appreciate an on-site dining option close to their rooms, says Heather Sharp, who owns The Blue Hen with her wife, Chef Julia Robinson. The establishment’s bar opens to The Avenue Inn & Spa’s lobby, so patrons don’t need a coat—unless they want to enjoy the outdoor fire pit.
But just because a hotel has a restaurant doesn’t mean they’re connected, which you’ll discover when you try to bill your Blue Hen meal to your Avenue Inn room.
A symbiotic relationship
The Blue Hen rents space from Avenue Inn. Similarly, Lupo Italian Kitchen is in the Hotel Rehoboth building. The advantage is clear—the hotel offers convenient meals for hungry guests.
But culinary tenants set their hours, and room service often isn’t an option, which is why Victoria’s Restaurant is part of Boardwalk Plaza in Rehoboth Beach. “It’s important for us to maintain control, not just for the level of service but also for the hours of operation,” explains marketing director Jennifer Zerby.
Some hospitality brands require a restaurant, which is the case for Coast Rehoboth Beach, part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton. TKo Hospitality opened Sirocco Food & Drink, which specializes in southern Mediterranean cuisine.
“Although there are a ton of restaurants in Rehoboth, we felt there was a void for this type of cuisine,” says Drew DiFonzo, vice president of operations for TKo, which also has the Hyatt Place Dewey Beach. “We thought the concept would do well.”
The Buccini/Pollin Group owns the Hotel du Pont and Le Cavalier, operated by PM Hotel Group and Chef Tyler Akin.
Regardless of ownership, the restaurant must look beyond heads in beds. At Le Cav, for instance, wine dinners, collaborations with James Beard–nominated chefs and holiday events cater to the Wilmington community, says Jeremy Costa, the Hotel du Pont’s managing director.
By focusing on travelers and locals, the restaurant can become a destination, notes Christina Swan, general manager of Via Sophia by the Sea in Bethany Beach Ocean Suites. Indeed, these nine restaurants can stand on their own.
Krazy Kat’s Restaurant, The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa
Because the inn spans several buildings, Krazy Kat’s doesn’t feel like a hotel restaurant. To be sure, the dining room is the former blacksmith shop. However, the smithy would have never pictured the whimsical cat and leopard décor that underscores the theme. The crab cakes and crab soup are menu staples.
528 Montchanin Road, Montchanin; 888-4200; krazykatsde.com
Le Cavalier, Hotel du Pont
The old Green Room still boasts the appointments that made it so grand, but the overall atmosphere has relaxed considerably—there’s now a busy bar in the space. The menu features flavors from North Africa and Provence. Chef Akin has organized several wine dinners featuring guest chefs.
42 W. 11th St., Wilmington; 594-3154; lecavalierde.com
The Quoin Restaurant, The Quoin Hotel
Inspired by southern France and northern Italy’s flavors, this newcomer serves brunch, lunch, dinner and a Sunday family-style supper special for $59 per person. The outdoor patio overlooks the Delaware Historical Society’s picturesque grounds.
519 N. Market St., Wilmington; 446-5600; thequoinhotel.com
The Blue Hen, Avenue Inn & Spa
Chris Bisaha and Joe Baker of Henlopen City Oyster House fame opened The Blue Hen in 2017 with Julia Robinson as the chef and Heather Sharp as GM. The couple purchased the restaurant when Bisaha and Baker opted to sell. Robinson’s work in Italian eateries is evident in the pasta dishes, but the menu is diverse. Fried chicken is a local favorite.
3 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 278-7842; thebluehenrehoboth.com
Sirocco Food & Drink, Coast Rehoboth Beach
Take your taste buds on a trip to Spain, France, Italy and Greece at this restaurant, which opens to the hotel lobby. Two thumbs up for lamb smash burger sliders, whole branzino and grilled lamb chops. Sirocco is open for breakfast and Sunday brunch.
123 Second St., Rehoboth Beach; 227-0400; siroccorehobothbeach.com
Victoria’s Restaurant, Boardwalk Plaza Hotel
The oceanfront location and boardwalk patio distinguish this restaurant—with or without the hotel. The three-tiered dining room guarantees a view even in winter, and the brunch and afternoon teas are legendary.
2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-0615; boardwalkplaza.com
The Bistro at Courtyard by Marriott
The Bistro is located in the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Wilmington. The restaurant serves up breakfast sandwiches, burritos and other classics along with coffee and cocktails. For dinner, enjoy entrees like flatbreads, the bistro burger and more.
1102 North West St., Wilmington; 429-7600; courtyard.marriott.com
Lupo Italian Kitchen, Hotel Rodney
The restaurant has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its all-Italian list. It complements fresh pasta, sauces made from scratch and off-season specials, including half-priced bottles of wine on Fridays.
247 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 226-2240; lupoitaliankitchen.com
Via Sophia by the Sea, Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn by Marriott
The rustic Italian concept, which showcases seafood, replaces 99 Sea Level. While the menu has changed, the dining room still benefits from the beach view, and there is outside seating in nice weather. The flagship Via Sophia is in Washington, D.C.
99 Hollywood St., Bethany Beach; 539-0299; viarestaurants.com