Such ingredients are becoming common, with many menus fusing cultures. Consider Hobos in Rehoboth Beach, where menu items might include hummus, quinoa salad, couscous salad and moussaka. The restaurant also caters to people with food allergies and to vegans. At Modern Mixture, Leo Cabrera fuses Latin and Mediterranean food. (A Milton location was under construction in the spring.)
Dedicated ethnic eateries, though, were hard to find in the 1990s. That changed in part when Susan Townley Wood opened the Cultured Pearl in 1993 to feed her sushi addiction. The Rehoboth Beach restaurant tripled in size between 1997 and 2003 and eventually moved to the former Quillen’s Hardware store, where its open-air rooftop and rambling koi pond transport diners to another world.
Now beachgoers have several sushi options, including Saketumi on Del. 1, Sushi Heaven in Lewes and the unique Stingray in Rehoboth, which serves sushi, as well as foods that blend Asian and Latin influences.
The usual Chinese buffets are available on the highway, but most agree that Confucius in Rehoboth, which opened in 2004, is the best spot in all of southern Delaware for Peking duck and Hunan-style spicy dishes. Around the corner, Lily Thai Cuisine strengthens the ethnic scene.
Today, the coast even has dedicated Mediterranean restaurants. John and Semra Tekmen prepare family recipes at Semra’s Mediterranean Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. Turquoise serves the same—with occasional belly dancers—in Bethany.
Latin cuisine has become ubiquitous at the beach, from Agave in Lewes—where the lines of patient customers spill onto the sidewalk—to Mariachi in downtown Rehoboth to Papa Grande’s in Fenwick. Don’t miss El Dorado on Del. 24 just past the McDonald’s, where you can buy Baja-style mahi-mahi fish tacos.
This season, Meg Hudson will open Lula Brazil in the old Cloud 9 location on Rehoboth Avenue. (Lula means squid in Portuguese.) Don’t expect meat on a spit. Brazil boasts more than 4,600 miles of coastline, and Hudson—formerly co-owner of Domaine Hudson in Wilmington—will feature dishes with Portuguese and African flair.
“I wanted to do something new and different that combined my interest in Brazilian culture, which I experienced as an exchange student, and love for the restaurant business,” Hudson says. “People are now looking for different dining experiences.”
Which is consistent with the evolution of beach restaurants—and the tastes of visitors.
“We’re becoming known for creative food and for our chefs,” says Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism. “We’re a destination for culinary travel. Chefs here are really walking the walk.”