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These Delaware Restaurants Offer Affordable and Delicious Dining

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Bad economy? Pshaw. You don’t have to eat in every night. Local restaurants and a host of newcomers have responded with lower-priced menus and more to keep you coming—and that’s a beautiful thing.

Braised baby back ribs are a popular special at the new Pickled Pig Pub in Rehoboth Beach. Photograph by PHOTODDGRAPHY.com

The local dining scene changes constantly. To appeal to today’s customers, restaurateurs are touting quality, value and convenience.

Capers & Lemons Market (301 Little Falls Drive, Wilmington, 256-0524) is embracing all three attributes. The market, opened in May, offers the full Capers & Lemons restaurant menu for takeout. Sauces, soups, fig jam, eggplant spreads and fresh mozzarella—all made in house—are also available. “We make the 8-ounce mozzarella balls every day,” says market manager Michael Nye. “You don’t get a whole lot fresher than that.”

Cheeses are selling well, perhaps owing to the complimentary wine-and-cheese samplings held on Saturdays beginning at 1 p.m. Nye, formerly of Back Burner To Go, runs the tastings as late as there’s a demand, making the market a busy spot for diners waiting on restaurant tables.

Capers & Lemons restaurant is doing a brisk business, serving entrées in the $17-$23 range. “Our concept for the restaurant was born on the idea of offering top-notch food and service at that price point,” Nye says. “We’ve carried that over into the market: offering affordability and the best service you can get.”

Capers & Lemons is not the only new market. The owners of The Cultured Pearl (301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493), Rob, and Susan Wood, recently opened Grub Grocery (305 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4782) in a former High’s convenience store. “The big emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Rob Wood, executive chef of the restaurant. “We’re working with local famers.”

 

The only market open all year in downtown Rehoboth, Grub is a 24-hour operation. Each morning, there is fresh-baked bread, and there’s a coffee bar where late-nighters and early risers can get their fix. In the meat case, exotic offerings include elk, boar and alligator. Customers can also grab Cultured Pearl delicacies to go, including sauces, and menu ingredients, such as the colossal crab legs.

Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington now has an offshoot in the Riverfront Market next door. Harry’s Fish Market + Grill (1 S. Market St., Wilmington, 425-0332) offers fresh premium fish for retail sale. Visitors can also nab prepared foods and breakfast and lunch items, such as beignets, breakfast burritos, crab cakes, burgers, and fish and chips.

Speaking of seafood on the Riverfront, Kooma Asian Fusion Restaurant and Sushi Bar (400 Justison St., Wilmington, 543-6732) is doing its fair share. Soaring ceilings and sleek contemporary decor complement Kooma’s sushi—long ago perfected at the original Kooma in West Chester, Pennsylvania—as well as Asian classics such as Korea’s bibimbap, other rice dishes, noodle meals, teriyaki and more.

Some familiar faces have popped up in new places or will soon. Consider chef Jamie Wiest who knows all about quality and affordability. Wiest gained raves when he worked at Sal’s in Wilmington’s Little Italy and Amalfi in Greenville, both fine-dining restaurants that have long since closed.

Then he headed south to open Daddyo’s Restaurant in Fair Hill, Maryland, where oven-roasted pork tenderloin shares the menu with hoagies, cheesesteaks, jerk-seared tuna salad and chicken Alfredo. “Now I am slowly making my way up north,” says Wiest, who also owns Chef Du Jour Catering. Wiest this summer opened the Club Bistro and Pub (3542 Foxcroft Drive, Wilmington, 294-1627) in the former Three Little Bakers clubhouse. The 126-seat bistro, open daily for happy hour and dinner, is upstairs. It’s available for events during the day. The more casual 78-seat pub downstairs offers patio access. The pub serves lunch and dinner.

Both floors share an appetizer menu, but the entrées differ. The most expensive entrée in the pub is $16.95, but most are under $12, including fun burgers like The Pub 5 Alarm, a Cajun-blackened burger with spicy tobacco onions, Tabasco mayo and pepper jack cheese ($8.95).

In the bistro, the butter-roasted, 12-ounce rib-eye with a gorgonzola and wild mushroom demi-glace tops the menu at $34.95, but you can dine affordably on salmon topped with a lemon, black olive and oregano compote ($15.95) or two crab cakes—already billed as “famous”—with roasted corn-and-scallion salsa and green chile sour cream ($25). Golf course views are free.

 

Popular restaurateur David Dietz should be back in business any time now with BBC Tavern and Grill (4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785), in Pizza By Elizabeths’ old location. You may remember that Dietz owned the Brandywine Brewing Company, in whose space Pizza By Elizabeths now resides.

“Basically, this is where I know everybody,” Dietz says. “I was 200 yards up the road for 10 years. I know the merchants, the clientele. So it was a dream come true when this space became available.”

The BBC in BBC Tavern and Grill is an homage to Dietz’s old restaurant. “We had so much brand equity in the BBC,” he says. “Everybody used to call it that, or the brew pub. They never said the full name.”

The restaurant seats 130, including 19 seats at the bar. Dietz says the menu is competitive, with entrées falling in the $18 to $22 range and salads and sandwiches running from $8 to $12. “It’s very affordable for someone who wants to eat lunch here three to four days a week,” he says.

Expect to see the brew pub’s famous pretzels with homemade mustard, huge nachos, and corn-and-crab chowder. Chef Mark Doto, who’s worked at the Inn at Little Washington and Maxine’s in New York City, will undoubtedly offers his own signature creations to put BBC on the culinary map, such as a 14-ounce Delmonico with Argentinean chimichurri sauce.

Just over the state line, Aimee Olexy and Bryan Sikora of Talula’s Table (102 W. State St., Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, 610-444-8255), formerly of Django’s in Philly, are planning to open a 40-seat restaurant across the street from Talula’s. The couple is hoping for an October opening. They’ve signed the lease, but they’re still working on the liquor license and financing.

Matt Moon and Josh Behm from Django’s are already on board, helping with Talula’s catering and wildly popular fixed-price dinners, which are limited to 12 people in the store. (There is kitchen seating available for those who want a behind-the-scenes view.)

Olexy says the menu at the new restaurant will feature “great ingredients simply prepared with nice sparks of Mediterranean influence.” Picture white beans with octopus or grilled chicken with a blood orange glaze. The style is a little European splashed with American ingenuity. The décor will salute Chester County through locally sourced appointments, but the entire look will possess a modern sensibility.

Olexy and Sikora have everything, it seems, but the name. “It’s our worst nightmare,” she jokes. And don’t worry about Talula’s going anywhere. “We’re here to stay,” Olexy says.

 

At the beach, Doug Frampton and wife, Lisa, and Michael Stiglitz and wife, Denise, owners of The Pig + Fish Restaurant Company in Rehoboth Beach, have opened Pickled Pig Pub (18756 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-5444) in the Harbor Square Shopping center. Affordability is the goal of this gastro pub. Most sandwiches are under $10. Entrées are $14 and under. Herb-roasted pork shoulder with bacon-garlic fingerling potatoes, for instance, is $13. Creole meatloaf is $12.50. There’s no shortage of beer on tap or in bottles.

Also in Rehoboth, Charcoal Deli (20200 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 260-9615) opened in April. The restaurant, whose average check tops out at $9, is aptly named. “All we have to cook with is a charcoal grill,” says owner Wendy Adams. The menu includes half-pound burgers, barbecued pork, babyback ribs, pit beef and side salads such as cole slaw, potato salad and macaroni salad. The average check is $9. The restaurant seats 15 inside and 25 outdoors, though most patrons carry out.

Rigby’s Bar and Grill (404A Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6080) since May has resided in Partners Bistro’s old space. John Black, who with John Glenstrup owns the restaurant, says the cuisine is “American bistro,” with entrées ranging from $13 to $23. Crab cakes and hangar steak are big sellers. Happy hour runs 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and late fare is available 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. The restaurant serves Sunday brunch (but no lunch on other days).

 Aqua Sol adds new life to Summit North Marina. Photograph by Dorey NomiyamaAlso new at the beach: Jimmy’s Grille (1809 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-3888). Patrons familiar with the original Jimmy’s Grille in Bridgeville can expect the same great fried chicken and crab cakes. That should make weekly Dewey pilgrims from Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Annapolis very happy. Most of the side dishes are homemade, and the gazebo-like area is most welcoming.

Thanks to one new restaurant in New Castle County, you don’t need the ocean for a water view. Aqua Sol (3006 Summit Harbour Place, Bear, 365-6490) opened last April in Summit North Marina. The South Beach-inspired menu features both full- and half-sized entrée portions. “We try to make it casual so you can stop in, grab a bite to eat and get a lot of different tastes,” says owner Curt Busz. Most people spend $16 or less on food. There’s also a full tapas menu for those who like to nibble on a lot.

The restaurant, which seats 68 people inside and 72 on the patio, overlooks the C&D Canal. There’s live entertainment on weekends, half-price bottles of wine on Wednesdays and crab feasts on Tuesdays.

 

Several old restaurants have new attitudes. At Longwood Gardens, The Terrace (1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square), recently underwent a makeover. The Terrace remains the overall name for the facility, but inside, the rooms have been individually named to pay tribute to Longwood’s history and character.

The fine-dining area is now called 1906 (610-388-1000 ext. 215), the year Pierre du Pont purchased the property. The 78-seat dining room, which opens to a 50-seat patio with a woodland view, is appointed with white linen and sparkling chandeliers. The menu includes the restaurant’s famous mushroom soup, jumbo lump crab cakes with corn chowchow and pan-seared chicken with cheddar grits. Local cheeses come from Shellbark Hollow Farms.

Some new additions are the work of the new concessions contractor, Restaurant Associates, and executive chef Joe Labombarda. “In the two months that they’ve been here, we’ve received so many compliments on the quality of the food and the service,” says Paul Redman, director of Longwood Gardens.

The café, which opens at 10 a.m., goes back to nature with such stations as Pressed for Thyme (grab and go), Harvest Cuisine (main courses and sides), Field of Greens (salads) and Four Seasons of Flavor (pizza, flatbreads and sandwiches). Guests can dine in one of three themed rooms: The Lodge, which boast a center fireplace; The Gallery, a festive room showcasing the paintings of the facility’s continuing education students; and The Founders’ Room, which details Longwood’s history through works of art. There are 129 seats on the patio.

Prices have dropped at The Back Burner (425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-2314), a local landmark. “We are a lot more economy-friendly, but still serving quality food,” says Tim Johnson, the general manager. Some items are available in full or half sizes, including fettuccini with clam sauce. There are pasta dishes for $15 and roasted chicken for $16. The crab cakes are down from $25 to $22, and you can opt for a $14 small size. Pumpkin soup is also available by the cup at $4.

With all the dining deals in Delaware, even the thriftiest consumers have good reason to stop snipping coupons and start sipping a good glass of wine.

 

The dream team of chefs will tailor the menu to the winners.Dream Meal, Dream Cause

Jerry Richard and a dream team of Sussex chefs are out to give away the meal of a lifetime. Until September 9, Richard’s Steakhouse 26 in Millville and other area businesses are selling raffle tickets for a seven-course meal prepared by a gang of acclaimed area chefs.

It’s all an effort to raise $10,000 for the Justin Jennings Foundation, a Bethany Beach-based organization that’s working toward constructing a beach house for families coping with cancer.

Two winners will be drawn in September. Each will have a dinner for six prepared in comfort and style on October 21.

The dream team consists of Nino Mancari of Salt Air, Ronald Burkle of Kool Bean Café, Steve Hagen of Catch 54, Jeffrey Williams of Crab Bag, Jonathan Spivak of Salt Air, Phillip Mastrippolito of Fish On and Inton Mouynivong of Steakhouse 26.

Chefs will tailor the menu and wine pairings when the winners are drawn. “It’s slated as a meal of a lifetime,” Richard says. “It should be the best meal these folks have had in their lives.”

“I just woke up one morning in March with the idea,” Richard says. “Maybe it was a time in my life that I had a calling to do something great for someone else.”

Tickets are $20 apiece or five for $100. They are available at Steakhouse 26, Kool Bean Café in Ocean View, Miken Builders in Ocean View and Salt Air in Rehoboth Beach.

—Matt Amis

Related: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Delaware at These Hotspots

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