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Think Globally, Eat Locally

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The pan-seared monkfish is served over roasted
cauliflower and fresh asparagus with port wine
pomegranate gastrique.
Photograph by Thom Thompson

www.thomthompson.com

 

Home Grown Café

126 E. Main St

., Newark, 266-6993

www.homegrowncafe.com

 

Prices
Appetizers $6-$10

Sandwiches and wraps $7-$10

Entrées $16-$23

 

Recommended dishes 
Chicken pot pie, Pot o’ Gold Fries, Southwestern chili, red snapper with truffled mascarpone-orzo mac ’n’ cheese

 

 

With its “cool cat” decor and globally influenced menu, Home Grown Café is too hip for Newark. No other restaurant in New Castle County can boast such a strong list of trendy veggie offerings, and few can simultaneously serve as a restaurant, lounge and music venue. University of Delaware notwithstanding, Newark is not known for funky eateries that are more urban than suburban. Alas, the city’s loss is this small town’s gain.

Like The Continental in Philadelphia, Home Grown takes its cue from old-style lounges. Accent walls are padded, and cozy booths in the side room have high sculptured backs that resemble peaking waves. Tables are illuminated by contemporary lights that dangle like giant earrings, and primary colors make a bold statement. Only the vintage liquor signs, so ubiquitous that Target once sold them, seem passé.

The menu, which changes every two months, is even more ambitious than the decor. The samosadilla—a cross between a samosa and a quesadilla—tandoori turkey wings, Guinness-braised short ribs and buffalo chili remind me of the fare I might find at Serrano, a Philadelphia restaurant known for global fusion served with a bohemian flair.

Chef Paul Egnor, who’s been at Home Grown for two years, finds inspiration from cookbooks and magazines. “I try to pull bits and pieces from places that I think would go together,” he says. Nightly specials give him the chance to test dishes. “If customers like it and we sell out, we consider putting it on the next menu.”

 


Bartender Shirley Seliktar keeps
the bar hopping.
Photograph by Thom Thompson
www.thomthompson.com

Home Grown recently began working with a Lancaster co-op that provides locally produced goods—a huge trend—as well as organic and natural vegetables and meat, such as filets from Paradise, Pennsylvania, and smoked ham from Mount Joy.

Seasonal produce is especially important to vegetarians, and Home Grown gets kudos for vegetarian dishes that put other restaurants’ offerings to shame. One star means a menu item is either vegetarian or the kitchen will make a vegetarian version. Two stars means the kitchen can prepare a vegan version, typically by substituting tofu or a veggie product for meat, chicken or seafood. In all there are about 27 starred selections.

Clearly, vegetarians are in heaven at Home Grown. But so are lovers of wine and beer. The restaurant makes some of the most affordable and diverse offerings in New Castle County: Victory Hop Devil for $4, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA for $6, a glass of crisp, fragrant Huber Gruner Veltliner from Austria, also $6.

As for the mainstream menu, Home Grown’s mission seems evident: Offer innovative food at a good price. My favorite dish was the all-American chicken pot pie. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a pie. Neatly cut chunks of white-meat chicken, peas, diced carrots and tender potatoes nuzzled each other in a gravy so savory that I scraped up every last bit. The crispy square of puff pastry floating on top was a nifty way to deconstruct the classic dish and soak up the flavors. It was an interesting choice in a vegetarian-friendly restaurant.

 


The Home Grown crew includes (from left) sous chef
Brian Mackey, owners Sasha and Eric Aber, executive
chef Paul Egnor and sous chef Joel Crooks.
Photograph by Thom Thompson
www.thomthompson.com

Battling for second was the Pot o’ Gold Fries, an appetizer that lives up to its cutesy name. These golden beauties are served in a funnel of parchment paper tucked into a terra-cotta pot. Fragrant with truffle oil, they paired wonderfully with a horseradish-chive sauce. Indeed, when the server put ketchup on the table, we were almost outraged. Why ruin the delicate yet distinctive flavor with something so overpoweringly ordinary?

Southwestern chili, sans meat, was no less satisfying. The cup was crowded with black and red beans, onions and tomatoes. Though the spice took some time to creep up on me, it did finally make my lips tingle. The menu promised that the pumpkin-sweet potato bisque would be thick and creamy—and the kitchen wasn’t kidding. You could stand a spoon in the purée. A little vegetable broth would have thinned it to the point that it tasted more like bisque and less like dessert. Both the bisque and the mushroom soup, although decent, fell about 20 percent short on seasoning. Pepper was the predominant flavor in the mushroom soup, which would have sung with some fresh herbs.

 

 


April McBride serves an ahi tuna sushi martini and
truffled yukon gold pomme frites in a terra-cotta pot.
Photograph by Thom Thompson
www.thomthompson.com

There’s an appreciated attempt on Home Grown’s part to marry cultures, but the flavors don’t always talk to each other. When you remove a samosa’s potato, pea and curry filling from its usual fried package and spread it between whole wheat tortillas it gets a little, well, bland. It’s up to the diner to introduce the triangles to a tamarind sauce and sweet onion chutney, both served on the side.

Tortillas also sandwich sliced duck breast, wild mushrooms and cheese. But the combination backed down when faced with the fire-roasted tomato-and-corn salsa. There are other duck quesadilla dishes in Delaware that deliver more meat. And my hoisin wrap had so little duck that I wondered if the kitchen wasn’t suggesting that I reconsider vegetarianism.

I found the hearty falafel, made with chickpeas, amazingly fulfilling. The taste of the cumin and cilantro came shining through. Home Grown was also back on the flavor track when it came to the truffled mascarpone-orzo mac ’n’ cheese that pillowed the red snapper. The fig beurre blanc sauce sounds like overkill, but it was quite nice with the fish, giving it a subtle sweetness. The red snapper was perfectly cooked.

I had excellent servers on all my visits. I only wish that either the servers or the kitchen could better pace the meal. Plates came willy-nilly, causing much rearranging of half-eaten appetizers.

Since I am still dreaming of the chicken pot pie, I better return soon in case it slides off the seasonal menu. Better yet, restaurant owners Eric and Sasha Aber might consider purchasing a “second home” in the northern ’burbs. Why should students have all the fun? Able to hit Home Grown at will, I might just reconsider my omnivore status—at least for a night and only if there is no chicken pot pie on the menu.

 

 

 


Photograph by Thom Thompson
www.thomthompson.com

Good to Go
This caterer went mostly organic—for some very big names.

 

When Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton and Clive Davis were trying to get into better shape and smaller jeans, Deberah Sutter prepared healthy meals. She’s hoping a little education and her all natural, gluten-free meals will have a similar impact on Delaware. Sutter, a California native and former New York café owner, moved to Rehoboth Beach in September, when she opened Edible Art Catering on Wilmington Avenue. Working with local growers like Hattie’s Garden in Lewes, she assembles natural, ready-made meals for private homes and businesses. Her line is available at Rainbow Earth Foods in Rehoboth Beach, where she also holds free cooking demos.

Just a few weeks into the job, she fixed up a feast for Drexel Davison, owner of the Bad Hair Day? salons. “Drexel likes crunchy things, so I made some amaranth, toasted nuts with fresh blueberries and maple syrup,” she says. Also on the menu was granola with cooked oats, Caesar salad, vegetable curry with brown basmati rice and roasted rack of lamb.

This month Sutter’s dishes are likely to feature spring lettuce, beets and local fish. Call 226-0795 for more details.
—Matt Amis

 

Candy, Naturally
Science may never develop a candy bar that’s good for you. But Mark and Kelly Leishear are getting close. The Milton couple, creators of mouthwatering all-natural Bella’s Cookies, has unveiled Verdi Good, their line of tempting all-natural candies. Fudge, caramels, English toffee and chocolate rum truffles become a lot less guilt inducing when they’re made from organic cocoa and natural cane juice. “There are plenty of people who make candy, but nobody is doing it with the ingredients we use,” Mark Leishear says. “There’s no refined white sugar, corn syrup, tons of artificial ingredients or partially hydrogenated anything.” Instead, the candies are sweetened with the likes of brown rice syrup. The treats pack fiber and nutrients like magnesium, manganese and zinc, without giving consumers the spike in glucose induced by refined sugar and corn syrup. In scanning cookbooks for old-fashioned candy recipes, the Leishears found even the early-1900s books noted the benefits of natural, homemade candy. “It’s about having control over what you put in your body,” Leishear says. “It’s tough to find stuff today that is not made with genetically modified ingredients or covered in pesticide.”
—Matt Amis

 

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