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The Great 2017 Restaurant Roundup: What's New on Delaware's Dining Scene

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What happens when a bunch of chain places close? More space becomes available for local places. After a spate of closings in North Wilmington—Macaroni Grill, Lone Star Steakhouse and others—there has been a renaissance of other fast-casual concepts around the state. Notable among them is El Diablo (5329A Limestone Road, Wilmington, 439-4541), which opened at The Shops of Limestone Hills. The wildly popular Cali-style burrito place now numbers four, making it a local chain of sorts.

Delaware has caught onto the poke (say poh-kay) wave. There are now two Poke Bros. (230 E. Main St., Newark, 358-7020; 4571 Kirkwood Hwy., Wilmington, 273-3480), where fans can build their own bowls of the popular Hawaiian sushi.

Gretchen and Alex Sianni, owners of Trolley Square’s De La Coeur et Pâtisserie, took over the Bon Appetit Gourmet Food Shoppe from former owner Mickey Donatello. De La Coeur Café et Boulangerie (3629 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 478-4344) offers a wide assortment of housemade goods, including baguettes, croissants and pastries, in addition to sandwiches and coffee drinks.

Related: Meet the Power Couple Behind De La Coeur Café

De La Coeur owners Gretchen and Alex Sianni//Photo by Leslie Barbaro

In spring, Wilmington said a heartfelt goodbye to Leo & Jimmy’s Delicatessen, which had served breakfast and lunch on Market Street for 87 years. A small ceremony, led by Mayor Mike Purzycki and Marty Hageman, executive director of Downtown Visions, was held in memory of co-owner James “Jimmy” Hackett.

And in October, chef David Leo Banks took over Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500) and Harry’s Fish Market + Grill at the Wilmington Riverfront Market next door, which he had owned in partnership with Xavier Teixido since 2003. Otherwise, the restaurant remains the same. Teixido now focuses on his Harry’s Savoy Grill, which he has owned for more than 30 years, and Kid Shelleen’s.

Noteworthy openings in Wilmington included Dino’s Steaks (7A Trolley Square, Wilmington, 543-7678), which offers classic cheesesteaks and wings, and as of late January is under construction and slated to merge with a renovated Opa! Opa!; Del Pez Mexican Gastropub (400 Justison St., Wilmington, 691-7974), which serves modern Mexican in a contemporary cantina setting; Bull Bay Caribbean Cuisine (900 N. Orange St., 661-1100), the first new Jamaican restaurant to open in years; and Agile Indian Grill (209 E. Market St., Wilmington, 543-4958), where you build your own meal from traditional favorites.

Related: At Bull Bay, Flavorful Jamaican Food in an Upscale Setting

Bull Bay’s oxtail//Photo by Javy Diaz

In Newark, notable openings included Metro Diner (4601 Ogletown Stanton Road, Newark, 273-0850), which was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diner’s Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It offers comfort favorites such as meatloaf and shrimp and grits. In September, the town welcomed Èvero Spezia (1130 Capital Trail, Newark, 444-0500), a new American restaurant with some Italian flair, at the site of the former Soffritto Italian Grill. The Italian name Évero Spezia means “true spice.”

Related: At Évero Spezia, Eclectic Dishes and Astounding Bargains

Tuna tartare at Évero Spezia//Photo by Javy Diaz

Vino Vita at Fromage Culinaria (400 S. Ridge Ave., Middletown, 378-7297) is the new iteration of Fromage, a shop opened in 2011 by owner Christopher Pride. The 40-seat restaurant serves wine by the glass, craft beer and whiskey to complement its offering of small dishes and more than 100 types of cheese.

In Rehoboth Beach, new restaurants have been popping up faster than Dolle’s Candyland can wrap its signature salt water taffy. Among the most anticipated openings of the year was Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar (30115 Veterans Way, Rehoboth Beach, 278-7395). With a massive outdoor deck stocked with fire pits, games and a pop-up stage for live entertainment, the 10th in SoDel Concepts restaurants offers something for everyone.

Related: Two Highly Anticipated Restaurants Debut in Rehoboth Beach

Bluecoast’s wings

Enjoy upscale dining, then dancing to the music of live deejays at G Cask & Kitchen (234 Rehoboth Ave., 278-7677), which opened in Lula Brazil’s former location. Expect influences from around the world, such as ox tails, a Caribbean staple, and ceviche.

Loosen your belt before visiting The Blue Hen (33 Wilmington Ave., 278-7842) in The Avenue Inn. You’ll find sumptuous small plates such as chorizo-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon and lobster toast, as well as comfort-food entrées with a twist. 

Related: Rehoboth’s Blue Hen Offers Unusually Fun Foods

SOFT-SHELL CRABS ATOP GOAT CHEESE RISOTTO AT The BLUE HEN//PHOTO BY LESLIE BARBARO

In Lewes, Gilligan’s Waterfront Restaurant (134 Market St., Lewes, 644-7230) reopened in an all-new, more efficiently designed, more contemporary building. Grab a drink, order the crab poutine, then head out to the expansive outdoor deck for a peerless view of the canal. 

The Pig and Publican (516 E. Savannah Road, Lewes, 313-4487) located in the Beacon Motel, serves Belgian-style pub fare and half a dozen beers on tap, which pair perfectly with its bitterballen (cheese-stuffed meatballs) served with crispy kale and roasted tomato-harissa aioli.

New to Bethany is the Big Chill Beach Club (27099 Coastal Hwy., 402-5300) at the pavilion of Delaware Seashore Park. Created by the owners of Fork+Flask at Nage in Rehoboth Beach and Lewes’ Crooked Hammock Brewery [LaVida Hospitality Group] with the state of Delaware, it is an outdoor scene like no other. The baja-inspired menu complements the outstanding views of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River. (Do not attempt this until the restaurant reopens for the season.)

Related: 7 of the Best Beach Restaurants for Savoring Sunsets

Our Harvest (1106 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 581-0377) sources its products and ingredients daily, hearkening back to a slower, more rustic dining experience. Featuring platter-style “feasts” for two to “smalls” that are suitable for sharing, this concept is for those looking for a quality dining experience using simple, approachable flavors.

Other openings at the beaches include Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls (67 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 727-0411), a sister to the original Mason’s in Annapolis; sleek Miyagi Ramen Bar (19266 Coastal Hwy., No. 6, Rehoboth Beach, 567-2385), which boasts homemade noodles; and Mug & Spoon (15 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 212-5163), which offers fresh coffee and ice cream—sometimes together.

Related: Is Lobster the New Crab? • Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at the Beach

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls//Photo by Leslie Barbaro

Ice cream concoctions at Mug & Spoon

The closing of Pilot Town Fish Co. at Paynter’s Mill made way for A Different Kitchen (16388 Samuel Paynter Blvd., Milton, 313-4014). Since May, the restaurant has served Asian comfort foods such as bao buns, dumplings and pho, as well as entrées such as teriyaki strip steaks.

After the Drunk’n Baker closed in Smyrna, Dover welcomed two new bakeries. Chef Ludovic Bezy, most recently of Michele’s at Dover Downs, and his wife, Anita, opened La Baguette (323 S. Governors Ave., Dover, 741-0180) early last year in the former Frankfurt Bakery space. The menu includes baguettes and other breads, French pastries, sandwiches, soups and other meals to go. Tuesday through Saturday, The Bavarian Bakery (1819 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 744-8598) serves German and European breads to complement its full delicatessen of Boar’s Head meats and cheeses and imported German lunch meats and sausages.

Maverick Texas BBQ and Smyrna Music Hall (19 W. Commerce St., Smyrna, 215-806-2184) serves Texas barbecue and live music four-nights per week. A short walk away is the Lemon Leaf Café (2 N. Main St., Smyrna, 389-8454) in the former Inn at Duck Creek space. It delivers hefty portions of comfort food, from signature chicken and dumplings to Sunday brunch.

Related: This New Restaurant Features Texas-Style BBQ and Live Music

Maverick Texas BBQ and Smyrna Music Hall//Courtesy of Dave Dettra

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