Perhaps it’s the salt air. Or maybe it’s the sweet breezes. Whatever the reason, outdoor dining has always been big at the beach. While ocean vistas are a plus, today’s coastal customers can enjoy a variety of al fresco settings.
Down by the water
Restaurants on the water have a built-in appeal, yet no two views are alike.
For example, Grain on the Rocks is beside the bay. The casual eatery offers fire features, a playground and outdoor bars. 43 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes; meetatgrain.com
Meanwhile, Harbour cozies up to the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, and the deck gives guests a close-up view of the marina. Blankets are available come autumn, and if you can’t eat outside, dine at the bar facing the water. 134 W. Market St., Lewes; 200-9522; harbourlewes.com
The patio at Victoria’s Restaurant fronts the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk and is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. 2 Olive Ave & the Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach; 227-7169; boardwalkplaza.com
In Dewey Beach, the Rusty Rudder is the destination for outdoor dining with live music. The deck overlooks Rehoboth Bay, so you can nosh on battered rockfish “fingers” while watching the sunset. 113 Dickinson Ave., Dewey Beach; 227-3888; rustyrudder.com
Near Fenwick, Catch 54’s waterside setting has repeatedly won reader’s choice awards. Enjoy the tranquil scene with a glass of wine; the restaurant has received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for five years. 38931 Madison Ave., Selbyville; 436-8600; catch54.com
Beach beer gardens
Tables with umbrellas and bocce ball courts surround the funky steampunk treehouse at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s headquarters in Milton. Pizza, sandwiches, soup and dips are on the menu. 511 Chestnut St., Milton; 684-1000; dogfish.com
In Lewes, Crooked Hammock has an outdoor area, and the brewpub adds a tent in cool weather. The Lewes location hosts an annual wing contest, so you can’t go wrong with the traditional or boneless. 36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes, 644-7837; crookedhammockbrewery
Farther down Route 1, Thompson Island Brewing Company in Rehoboth Beach made USA Today’s list of the top 10 beer gardens. The tented area offers a fire pit, outdoor bar and games, including cornhole. 30133 Veterans Way, Rehoboth Beach; 226-4677; thompsonislandbrewing.com
Thompson Island’s sister brewpub, Ocean View Brewing Company, has a covered beer garden with a fire pit. Both restaurants feature a “Naptime” entry. For example, OVBC has highlighted a hefty hot dog with chili con carne, beer cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños, onion, hot Cheetos and mustard-ranch sauce. 85 Atlantic Ave., Ocean View; 829-1530; oceanviewbrewingde.com
A little height can sweeten the outdoor dining experience. Consider Above the Dunes in Rehoboth Beach, which overlooks the boardwalk and beach. The former Green Turtle sports bar now promotes nature instead of NASCAR. 101 S. Boardwalk, Floor 2, Rehoboth Beach; 226-2000; abovethedunes.com
For years, the Cultured Pearl’s rooftop deck has made waves at the beach, and that’s still the case. Where else can you dine in a pagoda alongside goldfish? The sushi is as memorable as the atmosphere. 301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 227-8493; culturedpearl.us
In Dewey Beach, the new Starboard Claw’s covered second-floor deck overlooks the action on Coastal Highway in Dewey, which doesn’t ebb in September. There are outdoor heaters, fire pits and even blankets. 1818 Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach, 550-CLAW; starboardclaw.com
The covered second-floor deck at Matt’s Fish Camp in Fenwick extends the bar area thanks to doors that slide back for an open flow. The newest of the three Matt’s Fish Camp locations has a slightly different menu, but there is a raw bar, lobster roll and fried oysters, shrimp, cod and crab cakes. 700 Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island; 375-2267; mattsfishcampfenwick.com
Last chance for 2023
These restaurants are heavy on outdoor dining and entertainment, so enjoy them during the “Second Season” before most, if not all, of the restaurants close for the year.
Now managed by the Big Fish Restaurant Group, iconic Obie’s by the Sea is indeed near the ocean, and it’s been a local watering hole—albeit a scenic one—for generations of visitors. 1 Olive Ave, Rehoboth Beach; 227-6261; obiesrehoboth.com
Big Chill Beach Club is primarily open to the elements, which is a plus in summer. However, the seaside establishment now has a pavilion with garage doors to extend the season into cooler weather. 27099 Coastal Highway, Bethany Beach; 402-5300; bigchillbeachclub.com
Paradise Grill is the summer getaway on the Indian River Bay. In addition to dining, the venue has multiple stages for live music. The marina, beach bars and tropical plants will make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. 27334 Bay Road, Long Neck; 945-4500; paradisegrillde.com