Second Block Hospitality Group Spices up Rehoboth’s Restaurant Scene

The two-year-old hospitality company in Rehoboth Beach is making waves.

Bob Suppies has nearly 30 years of experience in corporate retail. But the Maine native, who has lived in the Rehoboth Beach area since 1997, always wanted to open a restaurant. After retiring in 2017, he teamed up with friends to open The Pines American Bistro downtown.

It turned out one eatery was not enough. Suppies and the team at Second Block Hospitality Group now manage The Pines, Aqua Bar & Grill, Drift Seafood & Raw Bar and Bodhi Kitchen—and they plan to add more.

The company is part of a coastal management trend. Similar operations include Big Fish Restaurant Group, SoDel Concepts, La Vida Hospitality, Fins Hospitality Group and Common Ground Hospitality.

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While some industry insiders and local diners lament the growth of umbrella companies, there are clear advantages, namely the purchasing capital and workforce needed in a post-pandemic world.

It helps that Second Block Hospitality—named for its restaurants’ proximity to the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk—manages diverse concepts that tell the story of the group’s organic evolution.

An homage to old Rehoboth: The Pines

The Pines’ name pays homage to a neighborhood in northern Rehoboth surrounded by an abundance of evergreens.

Owners Suppies and Tyler Townsend met through Suppies’ best friend, Dave Gonce. Although Townsend was a familiar sight behind the bar at Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar, the Rehoboth native was celebrated for his athletic prowess. “He is locally famous,” Suppies says. In 2009, Townsend was drafted to play minor-league baseball for the Baltimore Orioles organization. Unfortunately, injuries ended his career.

The Pines American Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, part of Second Block Hospitality, boasts a second-floor lounge with live entertainment. The show menu could include loaded tots, Trefethen chardonnay and pretzel bites.
The Pines American Bistro in Rehoboth Beach, part of Second Block Hospitality, boasts a second-floor lounge with live entertainment. The show menu could include loaded tots, Trefethen chardonnay and pretzel bites. Courtesy of The Pines.

The new partners found an ideal location on Baltimore Avenue that had been home to Hobos, Java Beach and S.O.B.’s Deli. The two-story building required 18 months of extensive renovations. To fund work on the upstairs lounge and banquet space, they brought in Gonce as a third partner.

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Meanwhile, Suppies asked the community for old photographs and postcards of Rehoboth to decorate the space, menu and marketing materials. He reproduced the images on pine paper, using a filter for a soft, watercolor-like effect.

The restaurant opened in 2018 with a coastal theme and elevated boardwalk dishes. Unsurprisingly, it’s changed since that time, and Kyle Berman, the classically trained chef who came aboard last year, now puts an elegant spin on seasonal, approachable dishes.

Renovations have turned the Top of the Pines space into a “treehouse lounge,” complete with foliage, live entertainment and Sunday drag brunches.

56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 864-7778; thepinesrb.com

“Some of the towns in Delaware are up and coming, and we definitely feel like our brands would fit into them pretty easily. We want to share the food we’ve created with everybody here.”
—Bob Suppies, partner, Second Block Hospitality Group

The fun factor: Aqua Bar & Grill

Less than a year after opening The Pines, the partners took over Aqua, located across Baltimore Avenue. The LGBTQ-friendly establishment had replaced Scalawag’s in 2004 and originally sported a Caribbean vibe and carefree attitude. It’s hard to miss, with most activity happening on the spacious front deck.

“They’re so very different,” Suppies says of the neighboring businesses. “Aqua was more of a beach bar, but it’s so much fun, and being customers, we know it.” What’s more, the partners liked increasing their buying power with vendors.

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From the start, the partners wanted to improve the food quality. So they turned to Lion Gardner, who, along with his wife, Meg, had previously owned the Blue Moon down the street. Gardner later started a consulting business. “We got along great, and it worked out so well,” Suppies recalls.

Now most of the menu is easy finger foods—sandwiches, burgers, pizza. Shareable appetizers include pimento cheese with toasted pita, bang bang shrimp and fried pickle chips with ranch.

This season, revelers will appreciate the new sound and lighting systems. “It should be a really fun year,” Gardner says.

57 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-9001; aquarehoboth.com

Spotlighting seafood: Drift Seafood & Raw Bar

Gardner enjoyed working with Townsend, and the restaurant veterans began kicking around ideas for the former camp meeting house that Gardner and his wife owned. Built in 1890 for camp meeting attendees, the structure had most recently been the Seafood Shack building.

Originally, Gardner pictured a comfortable place where industry professionals could wind down over cocktails or beers—a hip dive bar. But the brainstorming went in a different direction, and the focus became sophisticated seafood, including raw dishes. Instead of a local watering hole, the tasteful dining room is now a cross between a tiny Parisian bistro and an intimate East Coast tavern.

Drift, which debuted in 2022, leverages the small space to the best of its ability. For instance, an opening in the front lets bar guests sit outside, with their backs to the street. They recently covered the patio to guarantee outdoor seating. “We won’t have to worry about a weather report on any given day,” Gardner says.

The restaurant showcases the talents of chef Tom Wiswell, and the menu typically features crudo, small plates and larger portions. You might find New Bedford scallops with blue crab, caviar pancakes, and oysters with Fifer Orchards’ Asian pear and ponzu.

42½ Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 567-2744; driftrb.com

Far East and far out: Bodhi Kitchen

The Drift project gave birth to Second Block Hospitality Group. In short order, the partners defined their roles. Suppies would handle operations and marketing, Gardner would oversee the culinary side, Townsend would be responsible for the design and beverage programs, and Gonce would manage the finances.

The new company wasted no time planning a concept for a First Street space that had housed numerous restaurants over the years, including Jammin Joe’s, Plumb Loco, Twigs and Lily Thai. Happily, there isn’t a trace of the past occupants. Bodhi’s stunning décor would suit a posh Las Vegas lounge.

Second Block Hospitality Group’s Bodhi Kitchen specializes in Asian–inspired cuisine, including dan dan noodles, bang bang shrimp on a bao bun and shrimp toast and soup dumplings.
Second Block Hospitality Group’s Bodhi Kitchen specializes in Asian–inspired cuisine, including dan dan noodles, bang bang shrimp on a bao bun and shrimp toast and soup dumplings. Courtesy Bodhi Kitchen.

Like the Buddha heads and geisha girl mural, the menu moves throughout Asia, from Korea to Thailand to China and Vietnam. Credit Gardner, who does product development for a seafood company.

He’s traveled to Asia and toured umpteen Chinatowns. “I developed an affinity for the cuisine and wanted to share it,” he explains. He liked cooking techniques that differed from those he employed at Blue Moon and Eden.

The dim sum Sunday brunch is a don’t-miss.

10 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach; 567-2129; bodhirb.com

Bodhi invites replication, and the partners are considering several locations for Bodhi—or another restaurant. For now, they are searching in the First State. Wilmington is not out of the question. “Some of the towns in Delaware are up and coming, and we definitely feel like our brands would fit into them pretty easily,” Suppies says. “We want to share the food we’ve created with everybody here.”

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