The Murals at These Delaware Restaurants Are Seriously Stunning

Murals enhance the dining experience at these Delaware establishments.

Kent Krech is accustomed to painting murals in homes. But when his friend Greg Vogeley asked him to design one for Roja & Verde Taqueria, Vogeley’s new restaurant in Newark, Krech jumped at the chance despite a 15-day turnaround and frantic construction in the slender Mexican eatery.

“He was super excited because it’s a public space,” Vogeley says. “It’s something that people are going to see.” Since the restaurant’s opening, the colorful desert sunset—or sunrise—has attracted attention. “There is 100% a wow factor to it, which is what I was going for,” he says.

Krech agrees. “It adds to the experience,” he says of a mural. “If you are eating at the restaurant or just picking up food, you have something wonderful to look at. And it’s unique; it isn’t a plain wall with stock images.”

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Roja & Verde isn’t the only Delaware restaurant that gives customers a room with a creative view. Designer Rosemarie Dodd Giroso incorporated murals of octopuses into the décor of Off the Hook in Bethany Beach.

The Rev. Michael Alan’s mural in Simmer Down, located in The Quoin in downtown Wilmington, helps transform what was once the repository for furs and money belonging to clients of Security Trust & Safe Deposit Co., which built the imposing structure.
The Rev. Michael Alan’s mural in Simmer Down, located in The Quoin in downtown Wilmington, helps transform what was once the repository for furs and money belonging to clients of Security Trust & Safe Deposit Co., which built the imposing structure. Photo by Matthew Williams.

“If you are eating at the restaurant or just picking up food, you have something wonderful to look at. And it’s unique; it isn’t a plain wall with stock images.”
—Kent Krech, muralist

“Murals, in my estimation, add a dimension to a space that is hard to achieve otherwise,” says Giroso, who hired Philly artist Nichelangelo. “I like to use deep and enriched dramatic colors to create a sense of depth and movement in the mural.”

More than a pretty wall, a mural can enforce a brand and inject personality into the space.

Up close and personal

For Xavier Teixido, a mural let him put his stamp on Harry’s Savoy Grill, which he received after splitting from 1492 Hospitality Group in 1993. The back dining area, now called the Bacchus Room, was peppered with golf prints reflecting the interest of 1492’s founder, Davis Sezna, not Teixido. The new owner asked his sister-in-law, Iliana, and her father to paint a wine-focused mural to warm the space.

“We made my dad Bacchus, and I have friends, kids and cats throughout it,” Teixido says. “My mother is in one frame as an angel.” Family birthdates appear on wine casks, and one cask is topped with a Michelob beer in honor of a former bartender who favored the brand. It’s fun for those in the know to find the Teixido family references.

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Similarly, guests at Simmer Down, a cocktail lounge in The Quoin in downtown Wilmington, can spot pop culture references. The 1,200-square-foot mural, painted by the Rev. Michael Alan, also boasts famous Delawareans and local landmarks.

To underscore Roja & Verde Taqueria’s brand, owner Greg Vogeley hired artist Kent Krech to create a vibrant desert landscape along one wall of the slim Newark restaurant. The striking scene boasts filmy clouds that form the words for menu items.
To underscore Roja & Verde Taqueria’s brand, owner Greg Vogeley hired artist Kent Krech to create a vibrant desert landscape along one wall of the slim Newark restaurant. The striking scene boasts filmy clouds that form the words for menu items. Photo by Becca Mathias.

“I’m told that President Joe Biden, who visited The Quoin last year, was impressed by his miniature portrait within the mural,” says Daniel Olsovsky, creative director at Method Co., which manages the hotel and restaurant.

In Rehoboth, The Federal in Rehoboth Beach reflects the passions of proprietors Ellen Kassoff and Todd Gray, who also own Equinox in Washington, D.C. They were inspired by the book “Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s,” a talisman for those who grew up in that area during the decade.

“I wanted to bring a piece of D.C. to The Federal and tell the story of the culture that influenced me growing up in D.C.,” Kassoff explains. Subjects include the Corcoran Gallery of Art, frontage of the 9:30 Club, The Bayou, Commander Salamander and the stairs from “The Exorcist,” which appeared in the 1973 horror movie.

Baltimore artists from Supreme Nature Design used red, black, gray and white paint to distinguish the work. The opposite wall’s mirrors reflect the art.

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Something to talk about

As an attorney, Warren Rosenfeld traveled across the country for work, and he often dined at restaurants like The Palm, known for walls covered with caricatures and cartoons. So, when he opened his second Rosenfeld’s Deli, he decided to fill the four dining room walls with caricatures of famous Jewish people.

“I wanted something special that people would talk about and come see,” says Rosenfeld, whose first restaurant is in Ocean City, Maryland. “The murals are on every wall, and I continue to add to it—and will—until each wall has no room left. In all, there are about 70 caricatures and counting.”

One features musicians and singers, while another showcases comedians and comedic actors. (Pee-wee Herman is a new addition.) There is one for Hollywood legends and another for literature. “Then we have one with just brother acts on it—Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges.”

Rosenfeld initially hired Scott Roberts, who drew the personalities freehand in an Al Hirschfeld style. The first drawings were black and white. Later, the restaurateurs hired friend Kathy Denk to colorize the drawings and add some faces, creating two distinct styles in the dining room.

John Berl asked Kyle Confehr to come up with a mural that reflected the barbecue guru’s free spirit, love of music and sense of community. The graffiti-like wall at Uncle John’s BBQ in Claymont represents Berl’s journey from food truck-only operator to brick-and-mortar.
John Berl asked Kyle Confehr to come up with a mural that reflected the barbecue guru’s free spirit, love of music and sense of community. The graffiti-like wall at Uncle John’s BBQ in Claymont represents Berl’s journey from food truck-only operator to brick-and-mortar. Courtesy of Uncle John’s BBQ.

“The response from the customers has been overwhelming,” Rosenfeld says. “Since we keep adding people each year, it might not look the same from one visit to the next, and customers love that. So many take pictures of it, in front of it and with me in front of it. We have cheat sheets for those that can’t name everyone.”

Rosenfeld’s South Bethany deli has 11 caricatures on the wall, including a large one of Rosenfeld. There are also 40 Yiddish words painted in a graffiti-like style on the walls. “People love reading them,” he says.

The black-and-white mural at Uncle John’s BBQ in Claymont might remind diners of artist Keith Haring, who was part of the 1980s New York graffiti subculture. Restaurant owner John Berl is no stranger to tagging. As a kid, his tag was “grape ape.” Artist Kyle Confehr painted symbols of Uncle John’s journey from food truck to restaurant. “It’s fun yet a little wild, with comfort and nostalgia,” says Berl, who provided the themes of love, community, food and music. “And he also threw a guy in there that was supposed to be me.”

Eye-catching outdoor art

Not all murals are in dining rooms. For instance, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats has a vibrant mural of a kraken clambering across the two-story brewhouse wall. According to Ryan Schwamberger, Dogfish Head’s operating manager, the team wanted to create an Instagrammable backdrop similar to the steampunk treehouse on the brewery’s Milton campus.

Artist Holly Fields–Scott’s mythical sea creature also visually connects the brewpub with its sister restaurant, Chesapeake & Maine, and the retail EmPOURium.

In Milton, frequent travelers on Broadkill Road may have noticed The Backyard’s lush look. A mural of Catawba leaves and a tropical flower now grows on the restaurant’s front and side.

“It was time to repaint the building, and I wanted to do something eye-catching and pretty,” says owner Ami Rae, who asked muralist Kim Duko of Wild Rising Studio to incorporate the leaf because a Catawba tree is next to the building.

“It’s a nice, bright change to the building that more closely matches the bright interior of the restaurant,” she says. The addition has led to more changes. Says Rae: “I’m looking forward to changing the signage in the spring to bring the whole thing together.”

Related: This Greenville Home Pairs Modernism With Traditional Touches

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