The Diners, Drive-ins & Dives

Love him or hate him, Guy Fieri has turned the phrase “dive” into a compliment. A dive today is a colorful spot that inspires road trips. We have some of the best in our backyards. (Tip: Hit an ATM before you go; some spots are cash-only.)

1. Angelo’s Luncheonette (Wilmington, 658-8625), which turns 50 this year, hasn’t strayed far from its roots. The corner shop in Trolley Square is a time warp, complete with Elvis memorabilia. Take a seat on a backless counter stool for breakfast or a burger.

2. The Charcoal Pit (Wilmington, 478-2165) is another portal to the 1950s and 1960s. It was founded by the Sloan brothers—Lou, Aaron, Samuel and Aaron—in 1956. The neon sign, jukeboxes and colossal ice cream confections have transcended time. But it’s the chargrilled burgers, soup and crab cakes that keep diners coming back for more. 

3. In the 1950s, the Sloan brothers’ restaurant-and-retail empire also included The Dog House (New Castle, 328-5380). This tiny shop—there are only 17 counter stools—is a must-do pit stop for out-of-towners passing through Delaware and a staple for locals. Hot dogs get all the glory, but there are burgers, hoagies, steak sandwiches and more.

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4. Just down U.S. 13, the sky-high cakes and pies, displayed in a curved case, sweeten the appeal of Arner’s Restaurant & Bakery (New Castle, 322-3279), which opened in 1978. 

5. The Food Network gave the 20-seat Helen’s Sausage House (Smyrna, 653-4200) kudos for its trucker-happy breakfasts. The restaurant, which some call “a wonderful hole in the wall,” is famous for sausage—at lunch and breakfast—but you’ll also find burgers and cheesesteaks.

6. Jimmy’s Grille has three locations in Sussex County, but the original site in Bridgeville (337-7575) has become a rural landmark for those craving cooked-from-scratch entrées with a choice of sides, hot rolls, towering slices of coconut cake and jumbo cinnamon rolls. The fried chicken is legendary.

7. Po’ Boys Creole & Fresh Catch (Milton, 684-0890) is sandwiched between a Dollar General and a Mexican grocery store in a tiny strip center surrounded by farms. But those in the know willingly detour off Del. 1 for some of the best Cajun food outside of New Orleans. Tip: Get the gumbo, which is so good that some buy it by the quart.

8. Warren’s Station (Fenwick Island, 539-7156) has a down-home feeling that would warm Fieri’s heart. A turkey farmer, Warren Johnson started the restaurant in 1960, which explains why turkey soup, turkey salad and roasted turkey with dressing share menu space with crab cakes, shrimp and flounder.

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