We are a meat-eating nation. American men on the average eat almost half a pound of meat a day, according to the North American Meat Institute. Women ingest about a quarter pound a day. We know there are strong cases for vegetarian and vegan lifestyles (scroll down to see some great meatless burgers), but meat seems to be here to stay. With that in mind, we decided to check out local places where you can indulge in the best dishes in the state.
Whether you order the hickory-smoked pulled pork or the Carolina chopped pork, you’ll be in hog heaven. You’ll also do right by the sliced brisket with smokehouse seasoning and the hand-pulled, sage-rubbed pulled chicken. (The poultry is hormone free and all natural.) If you can’t decide, you can always build your own barbecue platter. Where: 6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500; 18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500, www.bethanyblues.com.
Beef tongue, a lean meat, is a delicacy in many cultures. Pochi’s braised version, lengua nogada, is prepared with walnut cream and served with fluffy rice. Round out the dish with a Chilean salad or olive mix and one of the many Chilean wines offered, like a mellow Chilcas Reserva Pinot Noir. After all, this is a wine bar, too. Where: 220 W. Ninth St., Wilmington, 384-6654, www.pochiwinebarde.com.
You’ll find traditional dishes such as veal Parmigiana, cioppino and pasta fagioli on the menu at V&M Bistro, but it’s the Bolognese we’ve fallen in love with here, especially when it’s served over the restaurant’s handmade gnocchi. The classic, full-bodied meat sauce never disappoints. Owners Vincenza and Margherita Carrieri-Russo offer the real deal when it comes to Italian cuisine. Where: 1717 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 479-7999, www.vmbistro.com.
Thrillist.com recently named Fat Daddy’s the best BBQ joint in the state and one of the best in the country. It especially cited the eatery’s “self-styled ‘Delaware brisket’ dusted with ‘seven seasonings and smoked low and slow all night long.’” The many license plates hanging in the dining room also prove Fat Daddy’s popularity. If you can’t stick around, you can get brisket by the pound to go. Where: 13203 Seashore Hwy., Georgetown, 956-0381, www.fatdaddysbbqde.com.
It’s still Jake’s to us, even though the familiar moniker has been bumped from the official name. And we still think of it as our own. After all, the first store opened in 1991 on Ogletown Road in Newark. There are now locations in 25 states and in Argentina (a beef-loving nation if ever there was one), with more international spots to come. But the juicy, sizzling burgers are as familiar as always. We like it the classic way, with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles. Where: various locations, www.waybackburgers.com.
Owners Dennis Forbes and Desiree DiAntonio have got a beef—albeit a delicious one. The father-daughter team serves probably the most creative burgers in town. Case in point: the cordon bleu burger with grilled ham and Gruyère cheese; the Santa Fe burger with cheddar cheese, bacon, homemade root-beer barbecue sauce and onion confetti; the NFB (not for breakfast) burger, a meat patty laced with sage and topped with a fried egg, bacon and American cheese; and many more. Where: 2461 S. State St., Dover, 535-8102, www.myrestaurant55.com.
This kid-friendly joint has burritos and burrito bowls made from scratch that will please any age group. The short-rib burrito with goat cheese, spicy pico de gallo and pickled peppers in roasted poblano sauce is a special favorite. But there are lots of reasons for a return visit—the lime-grilled steak, citrus-braised pork, adobo-grilled chicken and roasted mushroom wraps are just a few. Where: 13A Trolley Square, Wilmington, 439-4541; 127 E. Main St., Newark, 439-4541; 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 439-4648, www.eldiabloburritos.com.
With its house-cured corned beef and pastrami, this bistro has one of the most interesting gastropub menus in the area. We love the chopped Reuben salad with warm pastrami, but the Reuben sandwich, Cuban Reuben and hot pastrami on rye are also contenders. Check out the pierogi, Scotch egg wrapped in scrapple, and the poutine, too. Where: 92 Clinton St., Delaware City, 834-8000, www.lewinskysonclinton.com.
The Rehoboth restaurant shot to the top of the popularity charts once again after re-opening last May after a short shutdown. Chef-owner Joe Churchman is known for his duck preparations, and a dish we tried explains why. He paired duck breast, sliced to show its rosy hue, with puréed lychee, fava beans, the sweetest roasted Vidalia onion you’ll ever taste and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. You won’t go wrong with any of his adaptations. Where: 315 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7702, www.brambleandbrine.com.
This longtime staple offers much more than one of America’s favorite foods. The turkey sandwich (roasted daily on the premises), for instance, is really good. But let’s face it—the grilled foot-long franks are the draw. Add cheese and chili, and, doggone it, you’re in a happy place. Where: 1200 Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 328-5380.
The lamb gyro is a specialty that rightfully wins raves for its tender meat and warm, puffy pita. But while you’re there, check out Mediterranean and Indian dishes like the kebabs, falafel, lamb shashlik, chicken tika and baklava. Where: 1142 Christiana Road, Newark, 368-7777, www.gyrokabobhouse.com.
Gyro Kabob House in Newark offers Mediterranean and Indian dishes. / Photo by Joe del Tufo
The upscale tavern offers a fun vibe and upgraded comfort food in a casual setting. The house-made meatloaf will take you back to childhood days, when every mom had a version. This one is a notch above. The beef-pork-veal loaf comes with whipped potatoes, green beans and a gravy made from local mushrooms. You’ll want to lick the plate clean. Where: 4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785, www.bbctavernandgrill.com.
A lot of love goes into the cooking at this family-owned restaurant. After you have tasted the veal meatballs with ricotta and smoked mozzarella with San Marzano tomato sauce (a popular appetizer), you realize that not all meatballs are created equal. The original DiFebo’s opened in Bethany in 1989. A second recently opened in Rehoboth, making it easier to indulge in the fine fare. Where: 789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4550; 12 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4550; www.difebos.com.
Veal meatballs with ricotta, smoked mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce from DiFebo’s in Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach. / Photo by Steve Legato
The family-owned operation specializes in dishes that exemplify those of its home region, Ubon. You don’t want to miss Ma’s Penang meatballs, an appetizer using a family recipe for sautéed beef and pork meatballs with vegetables and Penang curry. They can also be made with turkey upon request. Either way, they are delicious, savory rounds of meat. Where: 936 Justison St., Wilmington, 656-1706, www.ubonthaicuisine.com.
The student-run restaurant at the University of Delaware has been winning kudos for its food, most recently from OpenTable reviewers, who ranked it No. 5 on the Philadelphia Best Overall list. The menu changes constantly, but if the grilled Berkshire pork chop is on the prix-fixe menu, place your order immediately. It’s a succulent, plate-sized hunk of meat that sits atop briny pearls of lentil caviar and sautéed broccoli rabe for your eating pleasure. Where: 17 W. Main St., Trabant University Center, second floor, Newark, 831-0500, www.lerner.udel.edu/departments/hrim/vita-nova-restaurant.
John Walter Constantinou of Walter’s Steakhouse rubs a prime rib before roasting. / Photo by Joe del Tufo
Walter’s is a wonderfully traditional steakhouse—seductive surroundings, sumptuous steaks, and stellar cocktails and wines. But prime rib is the star. The restaurant’s signature dish features aged Angus beef that’s been slow-roasted to juicy, rosy perfection. Choose a cut—from petite to Adams—to fit your appetite. Where: 802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780, www.walters-steakhouse.com.
Delaware is a rib-loving state, and there are many BBQ joints where you can gnaw on the slow-cooked, meaty bones. One of our favorites is Locale BBQ Post, which opened in August. The barbecue styles vary from Carolina to Kansas City. While lines often form for the ’que, it’s worth the wait for chef Daniel Sheridan’s ribs, brisket, wings and bratwursts. Where: 1014 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 510-4929, www.localebbqpost.com.
Billy Rawstrom (see a Q&A with the self-appointed “sausage king” here) created a ground-meat haven six years ago when he opened Maiale (pronounced My-all-ay). The chef offers 30 varieties of fresh sausage and more than 10 types of salami. Sausage specialties include sweet and hot links, bratwurst, chorizo, Andouille and chicken blends. Where: 3301 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 691-5269, www.maialecuredmeats.com.
Delaware’s breakfast loaf turns up on a surprising number of local menus. But we have to give a nod to chef Ryan Cunningham at Abbott’s for his mission to publicize the pork slab. Last fall, he faced down 135 chefs in a Hometown Breakfast Battle sponsored by Thomas’ English Muffins. His apple-scrapple English muffin made it to the final four. “I don’t know if the rest of the country knows about scrapple,” the native Delawarean said at the time. “Now, they’ll know.” The scrapple muffin is offered during the restaurant’s Sunday brunch. Where: 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel, 280-6172, www.abbottsgrill.com.
The relaxed vibe and enticing aromas set the stage for the restaurant’s Moroccan, Lebanese and Israeli cuisine, whether you sit on the sofas in the back room or the traditional tables in the front. Definitely try the stuffed grape leaves, falafel and pita wraps, but don’t miss the kebabs. The skewers are laced with marinated lamb or chicken, charbroiled ground beef and even grilled shrimp. Each plate includes two brochettes, rice, hummus and a tabbouleh salad. Save room for the baklava. Where: 175 E. Main St., Newark, 738-1111, www.alibabade.com.
Steaks are fine without any fuss, but we like what Harry’s does to its New York strip, one of the most tender cuts of beef. The slab gets extra flavor from watercress, candied pecans, blue cheese, pomegranate seeds and a Vidalia onion-apple sauce. We follow tradition here, starting our meal with French onion soup and an iceberg wedge. The luxe restaurant also has one of the best wine cellars in town. Don’t miss Half-Priced Wine Wednesdays, with more than 50 bottles available. Where: 2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000, www.harryshospitalitygroup.com/harrys-savoy-grill.
You’ll find classic South of the Border dishes here, including burritos, chimichangas and, one of our favorites, Tampiqueña. In Margarita’s version, tender sirloin strips are served with roasted poblano peppers, refried black beans and a cheese entomatada (a rolled tortilla covered with tomato sauce). Many of the dishes at the restaurant are made from family recipes. Where: 3320 Old Capitol Trail, Wilmington, 407-5675, www.margaritasde.com.
The landmark shop in Claymont, which opened in 1966, is synonymous with delicious steak sandwiches in Delaware. The signature rib-eye sandwich, packed with melted American and provolone cheeses, keeps diners coming back to the original shop in Claymont and newer stores in Newark and on Concord Pike. Other menu items include burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, wings, ribs and more. The hearty, freshly made food has earned the popular eatery several honors, including Best of Delaware and Readers’ Choice awards. Where: 3526 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 798-0013; 57 Elkton Road, Newark, 453-9500; 2720 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-1500; www.claymontsteakshop.com.
Eclipse in Wilmington shines with dishes like the braised veal roast with root vegetables, micro greens and a rich pan gravy. / Photo by Joe del Tufo
Since 1996, Eclipse Bistro, part of the Platinum Dining Group that also runs Capers & Lemons, Taverna and other restaurants, has been serving exquisite cuisine in a cozy setting. Fish, fowl and meat are all treated with respect, but we have to give a call out to the braised veal roast, which resonates with cast-iron-skillet root vegetables, micro greens with truffle oil and a rich pan gravy. Where: 1020 N. Union St., Wilmington, 658-1588, www.eclipsebistro.com.
The award-winning Wilmington restaurant is known for its excellent food and wine pairings. The sommelier will happily make recommendations for whatever dish you order from executive chef Dwain Kalup’s kitchen. A must-try entrée is the seared New Zealand venison loin with juniper-spiced venison sausage, red kuri squash purée, pepita bread crumbs and pickled vegetables. Where: 1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463, www.domainehudson.com.
The veggie burger at Home Grown Café in Newark includes hummus, feta cheese and yellow and red tomato salad. / Photo by Joe del Tufo
Black bean burger with jerk spices, mozzarella and avocado aïoli. Ulysses American Gastro Pub, 1716 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 691-3456, www.ulyssesgastropub.com.
Cauliflower “steak” burger with mushrooms, tomato, cheddar and aïoli. 8th & Union Kitchen, 805 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-9780, www.8thandunion.com.
Garden burger with a grilled veggie patty, smoked tomato-avocado crema, queso fresco, red leaf lettuce, jalapeño, pico de gallo and grilled brioche bun. Two Stones Pub, several locations, including 2502 Foulk Road, Wilmington, www.twostonespub.com.
MOO (mushroom, oats and onion) burger with mushrooms cooked in a smoker for a more intense flavor. Crooked Hammock Brewery, 36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes, 644-7837, www.crookedhammockbrewery.com.
Portobello burger with a grilled, balsamic-marinated mushroom, roasted red peppers, grilled red onions and sweet-pepper mayonnaise. Bethany Blues BBQ, 18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500, also in Bethany Beach, www.bethanyblues.com.
Grilled tuna burger with fresh sashimi-grade fish cooked rare, grilled pineapple and a teriyaki glaze. Restaurant 55, 2461 S. State St., Dover, 535-8102, www.myrestaurant55.com.
Veggie burger with exotic mushrooms, beets, carrots, brown rice, avocado, cocoa, hummus, feta cheese, yellow and red tomato salad, basil and a country roll. Home Grown Café, 126 E. Main St., Newark, 266-6993, www.homegrowncafe.com.