As restaurant cult followings go, the horde of regulars who hang their hats at Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville have to be among the most dedicated. How else to explain the pajama-clad congregation that assembled on a cold Sunday in January a year ago for the last in what had become a regular, almost religious experience? Buckley’s legendary half-priced brunch (provided you showed up in your jammies, of course) was just one of many lovingly held traditions that went on pause for nearly 11 months while the chateau country landmark experienced a change in operators, as well as a much-needed refurbishing. Finally, one day before Halloween, owners Bob Applegate and Bob Bolling rang in the Buckley’s-is-Back era with new partners Vance Kershner, Coley du Pont and coaxed-out-of-retirement Tom Hannum, who takes over executive chef duties. The group posed together to hang the original pineapple-emblazoned sign and passed out black-and-white “BIB” bumper stickers for all the pick-up trucks and Rolls-Royces that famously share the parking lot. Then, the onslaught. In its opening weeks, Buckley’s welcomed back its fans en masse, with a crush of well-to-do customers piling into the revamped copper-top bar, and waiting 90 minutes in the refurbished entrance for a table. Luckily, for regulars and neophytes alike, Buckley’s Tavern is better than it’s ever been. Learn more here.
Hot Dog for DMV
You’re headed to DMV, so you know it’s going to be a long afternoon. If you missed lunch, don’t fret. Ed’s Hot Dogs is there for you. “I was standing in line there to get a title transfer, No. 170, and they were on, like, 40,” says owner Ed Fisher. “It took three or five hours. I thought, if anyplace could use a hot dog stand, this is it.” Learn more here.
Just Pho You
Ahn Te and his friends were tired of driving to Philly for their pho fix, so he and wife Thu Te opened Pho Nhu Vu in Bear three years ago. The place is so popular, they recently opened a similar place, Nhu Vu in Middletown. “It’s going great,” Ahn Te says. “We’re still here.” And that’s good news. For more. Look here.
The Anglo File
A dozen years ago, Michael Stone opened Stoney’s Pub because he couldn’t find good fish and chips. He’d hoped that, because AstraZeneca had established its U.S. headquarters just up Concord Pike, some of the UK-based pharmaceutical company’s 5,000 local employees would appreciate his meat-and-potatoes approach to British cooking. They did. “If we could make the English and Brits and me happy, I knew we’d have a shot,” Stone says. Whether you’re looking for the flavor of Britain or a piece of Ireland, it can be found right here. The Wilmington area has authentic British Isles fare covered with places such as The Flavour of Britain Tea Shoppe, Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub and, of course, Stoney’s. “Wilmington is really lucky to have that kind of food exposed in this marketplace,” says Stone. “Most big cities don’t have that kind of food.” At the beach, you can also dig into traditional shepherd’s pie, as well as bangers and mash, thanks to places like Stoney Lonen and Go Fish! All places offer more than your standard corned beef and cabbage and Yorkshire pudding. They provide a friendly pub atmosphere that cultivates a faithful cast of regulars. As with many ethnic restaurants, the recipes and cooking styles often come from the owners’ families. Stone’s sausage roll came from his grandfather, a master baker in England. All other dishes, including the fish and chips, are straight from his mother’s kitchen.
The key to proper British cooking, he says, is elementary. “It’s the old adage, let the ingredients speak for themselves. Don’t overcook and keep it simple. I guess it’s a little bit of history handed down from generation to generation.”
Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 654-9700 • Catherine Rooney’s puts it all together—traditional Irish fare with flair, a customary mural honoring the local police and fire departments and soccer on the telly. The fish in these fish and chips is white halibut. The Wexford boil, an Irish version of the London classic, features flank steak marinated in Guinness, then grilled and topped with roasted garlic and mushroom gravy. The Kilkenny medallions of grilled tender pork loin topped with spiced apple cherry chutney are to die for.
24 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1044 • Go Fish! lives up to its name with traditional fish and chips, a battered codfish sandwich called “The Codfather,” fried fish tacos and beer-battered shrimp or softshell crabs. The fish list swims on with flounder stuffed with crab imperial, honey-glazed or horseradish-crusted seared salmon, and macadamia-crusted mahi mahi served with pineapple salsa, cheddar mash and steamed veggies. Now owner Allison Blyth has opened a sister place, Go Brit! In Lewes, with even more of the same great food.
Jessop’s Tavern and Colonial Restaurant
114 Delaware St., New Castle, 322-6111 • Stroll into Jessop’s Tavern and return to the days when New Castle was Delaware’s capital. The original tavern was established in 1724, but Jessop’s was resurrected from a long dormancy only 15 years ago. Each day, Jessop’s serves a different chowder, catch, sandwich, and salad, along with traditional offerings such as fish and chips and its famous bread pudding.
Stoney’s British Pub
3007 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-9740 • Part of the allure of Stoney’s is personable owner Michael Stone. The former music publicist, who worked with everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Spice Girls, exudes a certain charm that sets the tone at his “local,” as they’d say back home. Stone takes English food seriously. The fish and chips are made of fresh cod from Dawson’s Seafood, a Wilmington fishmonger, as Stone puts it. The batter is flour, water and a couple other ingredients—no beer, says Stone. A traditional Yorkshire pudding is whipped up every Saturday and staples such as steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash, country ham soup, and desserts such as bread and butter pudding are prepared daily. Check out the impressive list of single-malt whiskeys.
316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1873 • Finbar brings a classy touch of England (and Scotland and Ireland) to Delaware’s resort. It’s a fine place to grab a pint and a hearty meal. The original chef returned to his native Dublin, but not before sharing a few recipes. The cod used in the fish and chips is coated in a batter made with Harp and covered with an Irish whisky cream sauce. The cottage pie (beef, not lamb) is topped with a crown of champ (potatoes and scallions).
There’s more on great ethnic dining here.
Pie in the Sky
National Pie Day is coming, and Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pa., is here to help. Jan. 23-27 the popular farm and market will sell more than 40 kinds of pie, including several varieties of good ol’ all-American apple pie and a few cream pies as well. In past they were called pyes and were stuffed with meat, according to our friend Patrick Rizzuto of Breslow Partners. The Pilgrims cooked them to preserve the filling through winter. Now we eat pies with fillings from pecan or pumpkin to blueberry, as we have been doing ravenously since in the 1800s. Linvilla, famous for its offerings, has been baking them for 40 years. For National Pie Day, it will give away a free pumpkin pie with the purchase of any other pie. We say yum. Mark your calendar now. 610-876-7116, linvilla.com
Till then, a happy New Year to you.