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Newark Rocks Restaurant Week


Downtown Newark’s annual Restaurant Week is coming. From Jan. 21 through Jan. 27, the city hosts a culinary celebration to highlight the downtown’s diverse restaurants. And it’s one of the most affordable restaurant weeks in the state. Special menus at the 19 participating restaurants show off their best. Three tiers of prix fixe meals are offered, with some restaurants offering more than one tier during the week. Friends & Family Fun Meals feeds a group of four for $22. Two-course lunches are $10. Two-course dinners are $22, and three-course dinners are $28. Participating restaurants are Ali Baba Middle Eastern Restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings, Caffé Gelato, California Tortilla, Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Claymont Steak Shop, Cosi, Cucina di Napoli, The Deer Park Tavern, Grotto Pizza, Home Grown Café, Iron Hill Brewery, Kildare’s Irish Pub, Klondike Kate’s, Pat’s Pizzeria/MVP Sports Lounge, Santa Fe Mexican Grill, Stone Balloon Winehouse, Taverna Rustic Italian and The Saigon Restaurant. Check the menus at enjoydowntownnewark.com/restaurantweek.

We’re Here for the Beer (and food, of course…)

We love SoDel Concepts for its awesome program of special beer and wine dinners. Next up, Evolution Brewery at Matt’s Fish Camp. Evo hails from Salisbury, Md. Matt’s is in Bethany Beach. Your menu: spicy shrimp sliders with Evo’s Exile extra special bitter, oyster fritters with brown butter-bacon aioli and baby pickles with Primial pale ale, organic green salad with blue cheese and onions crisps in a cracked pepper vinaigrette with Lot #3 India pale ale, then crispy pork belly with fried quail egg, hash browns and stout ranchero sauce served with Rise Up stout. You’ll have to attend to find out what chef Casey Cunningham has planned for dessert. For rezzies, call 539-CAMP.

The Devil Made ‘em Do It

We welcome El Diablo Burritos to North Wilmington. The Trolley Square store was an instant smash for its combination of convenience, fair prices and unique ingredients, so we’re glad to see the empire grow a notch. With emphasis: El Diabo is anything but a glorified taco stand. Outsized burritos can be had with anything from adobo chicken to braised short rib, pineapple salsa to black bean salad. Speaking of salads, you can order one of them, too, as well as quesadillas with all the same fun fixin’s. Hit the new El D at Branmar Plaza, 1812 Marsh Road.

Downtown Dining

Just for fun, your Insider tried to think of all the restaurants in downtown Wilmington, that is, just the places from Washington Street to King, from 12th down to Second. There are quite a few. Check them out.

A&G Steak Shop: 501 W. 9th St.

B-N-E City Subs: 206 W. 10th St.

Bain’s Deli: 225 N. Market St.

Basil: 422 Delaware Ave.

Benjamin’s on 10th: 204 W. 10th St.

The Bhrand: 212 W. Ninth St.

Brew HaHa!: 835 N. Market St.

Brew HaHa!: 222 Delaware Ave.

Cactus Cantina Mexican Restaurant: 211 W. Ninth St.

Café Mezzanotte: 1007 N. Orange St.

Cavanaugh’s Restaurant: 703 N. Market St.

Chelsea Tavern: 821 N. Market St.

Coffee Money Café: 601 Delaware Ave.

D&H Jamaican Cuisine: 10 E. 4th St.

Deep Blue Bar & Grill: 111 W. 11th St.

Delta Restaurant: 304 W. Ninth St.

Dimeo’s Pizzaiuoli Napulitani: 831 N Market St.

Domaine Hudson Wine Bar and Eatery: 1314 N. Washington St.

Dragon Cuisine: 401 N. Market St.

Ernest & Scott: 900 N. Market St.

Evelyn’s Soul Food: 6 E. 15th St.

Extreme Pizza: 201 N. Market St.

First Step Social Club: 801 N. Shipley St.

French Quarters: 1512 N. French St.

Front Door Café: 1232 N. King St.

Govatos Restaurant & Candy: 800 N. Market St.

The Green Room: 1007 N. Market St.

The Grill at the Hotel du Pont: 100 W. 11th St.

Harry’ Seafood Grill: 101 S. Market St.

Hotel du Pont Lobby Lounge: 1007 N Market St.

ING Direct Cafe: 802 Delaware Ave.

Joyful Garden: 829 N. Tatnall St.

Kennedy Fried Chicken: 620 N. Market St.

La Mer Pizza: 309 W. Seventh St.

Leo & Jimmy’s Delicatessen: 728 N. Market St.

Libby’s Restaurant: 227 W. 8th St.

LOMA Coffee: 239 N. Market St.

Metro Cafe: 700 N. King St

Mikimotos: 1212 N. Washington St.

Minato Japanese Restaurant: 101 W. Wighth St.

Mystic Restaurant: 311 N. King St.

The Nomad: 905 N. Orange St.

NY Pizza & Fried Chicken: 309 N. King St.

Olympic Subs & Steaks: 813 N. Market St.

Omega Pizza: 209 W. Fourth St.

Orange Deli & Fry Corner: 837 N. Orange St.

Orillas Tapas Bar & Restaurant: 902 N. Market St.

Panda Chinese Restaurant: 315 N. King St.

Paradise Palms: 901 N. King St.

Pochi Chilean Cuisine & Wine Bar: 220 W Ninth St.

Presto!: 1204 N. Washington St.

Pure Bread Deli: 500 Delaware Ave.

Qdoba Mexican Grill: 837 N. Market St.

Quiznos: 824 N. Market St.

The Rat Pack Cafe: 300 Delaware Ave.

The Rebel Restaurant: 900 N. Orange St.

Riverfront Market: 3 S. Orange St

Rodney Grille: 920 N. King St.

Shenanigan’s Irish Pub & Grill: 125 N. Market St.

Sterling Grille: 919 N. Orange St.

Steve’s Deli: 218 N. Market St.

Sub City: 701 N. King St.

Subway: 222 Delaware Ave.

Sugarfoot Fine Foods: 1007 N. Orange St.

Terra Café & Grille: 721 N. King St.

Tiki Sub Shop: 210 W. Seventh St.

Urban Café: 1201 N. Market St.

Uschy’s Cafe: 913 N. Market St.

Washington Street Ale House: 1206 N. Washington St.

World Cafe Live at The Queen: 500 N. Market St.

Zaikka Indian Grill: 209 N. Market St

Around the World with Mexican: The New Italian

Like Italians of the previous century, Latin American immigrants have changed Delaware’s dining scene. Mexican restaurants are as prolific as dollar stores, and local icons such as El Tapatio and La Tonalteca now enjoy the same popularity as Italian stalwarts like Mrs. Robino’s. A handful of spots, such as Palacio Maya in Hockessin and Mariachi in Rehoboth Beach have elevated Mexican dining from a plastic-sunflower-in-a-Corona-bottle experience to a white tablecloth and linen napkin experience. Their menus also offer more eclectic choices, including plenty of seafood dishes and South American-influenced cuisine. While we gringos may not be ready to trade our meatballs for menudo (soup made with cow intestines), we are becoming more adventurous. So we need to settle this little matter of authenticity. Almost every Mexican joint claims to keep it real, but authenticity is in the taste buds of the beholder. “Authentic means it’s homemade,” says Humberto Gomez, owner of El Toro in Wilmington. “The key is the perfect mix of ingredients and when you add those ingredients.” Javier Acuna, who owns Santa Fe Mexican Grill in Newark, is calling for a Mexican revolution. He says some local restaurants have trotted out the same menu for 15 years, so he’s challenging competitors to take it to the next level. “It’s time for a new view toward Latin and Mexican food,” he says. “We need to bring Mexican food back to what it is, and it’s a lot more than tacos and burritos.”

Cactus Café

37 N. Dupont Hwy., Selbyville, 436-2750; 4 W. Fenwick Station, Selbyville, 436-4492 • Cactus Café resembles owner Manuel Pavon—it is colorful and mucho jovial. Cactus is a place where customers write their names on the wall, then come back to search for their signatures. In his 18th year in operation, Pavon is now serving his brand of Mexican, Spanish and Mediterranean to a second generation of regulars. Cactus Café 54, a sister restaurant on Del. 54, is nine years old. Both places feature the 1-pound steak-lover’s fajita—16 ounces of prime rib strips wrapped in a tortilla with veggies, guacamole and refried beans. Fajitas account for 42 percent of sales at Cactus. Naturally, Pavon infuses the menu with seafood. Order the chicken or beef chimichanga and you get the usual rice, refrieds, sauce, cheese—all topped with crab imperial. He’s also got grouper, Chilean sea bass and paella. The paella takes a while, so call ahead or show up and sip sangria with your host.

Dos Locos Stonefire Grill

208 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3353 • Owners Joe Zuber and Darryl Ciarlante’s interpretation of Mexican fare includes contributions from Puerto Vallarta, where they like to vacation. A favorite restaurant in the Mexican resort inspired the softshell crab enchilada. When it comes to fish, they prefer Barramundi, an Australian species known for its mild, sweet flavor. Shrimp, crab and lobster quesadillas receive a dusting of Old Bay, another Dos Locos twist. Traditional tacos, burritos and chimichangas grace the menu, but the boys get crazy with the fajitas. Choose from sirloin, chicken, shrimp, lobster, vegetable, tuna, scallop or a combination. If the fajitas don’t flip your poncho, try stone grilling—cook any meat but chicken tableside on a heating stone warmed to 750 degrees. Like its food, Dos Locos eschews the typical bright colors from South of the Border in favor of warm tones of cherry and burnt orange. It’s classy but casual.

El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant

550-560 Eden Circle, Eden Hill Shopping Center, Bear, 836-6477; 1700 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 791-9566 • El Tapatio wants to share the culture. It’s a place to try out your Spanish, groove to mariachi and catch futból on the tube. The novice friendly menu even includes a glossary. The old Mexican decor, with distressed concrete walls and traditional archways, is reminiscent of an old cantina. The various regions of the homeland are all represented on the menu. Spices such as ancho and guajillo peppers are imported from Mexico, as is the mole. Try the burrito de Lugo—shrimp, chicken, two types of cheese, salsa verde and rice or beans. The 2-foot-long giant burrito serves four. Pollo Tapatio and fajita Tapatias are solid choices. Like most Mexican places worth their weight in refrieds, the margaritas are a hit. But Tapatio offers a nice selection of imported brews, including Pacifico, Corona, Dos Equis, Carta Blanca, Modelo and Sol.

El Toro

624 N. Union St., Wilmington, 777-4417 • True, this is primarily a takeout place (it has three small tables), but it’s one you need to know about. Owner Humberto Gomez has built a loyal fan base from this diminutive storefront over the past 11 years. The quesadilla relleñas, stuffed with cheese, beef or chicken, are favorites, along with tacos de carnitas: three tacos, chopped pork, pico de gallo, and tomatillo salsa with flour or corn tortillas and beans. By now, everyone knows about the awesome chile relleño. The secret behind Toro’s raging success? “The red hot sauce,” Gomez divulges. “It’s made with Cajun peppers, tomatillo, onions, cilantro, salt, garlic and a lot of love, man.”

La Poblanita

3804 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 993-0464 • If you blink, you’d miss this tiny Mamí-and-Papí owned by Maria and Pedro Canongo. And it’d be your loss. La Poblanita (a woman from the Mexican state of Puebla) packs a powerful punch with authentic cuisine that includes 13 different tortas (sandwiches), seven different tacos and the best quesadillas around. Americans prefer enchiladas poblanos, chile relleños, burritos and fajitas. But Latinos, who make up 60 percent of the clientele, come for the chuletas ahumadas (smoked pork chops) and the mojarra frita (whole fried striped bass). On weekends, Maria whips up posol (corn and pork soup), menudo (a soup made of cow intestines) and three different tamales: jalepeños, peppers and cheese; red sauce and pork; and sweet tamales. The chips and green salsa, made from green tomatillos, cilantro, onions and garlic, are out of this world.

La Quetzalteca Mexican Restaurant

9 Gravel Hill Road, Georgetown, 856-7003; 25 Georgetown Plaza, Georgetown, 854-0218; 700 Washington St., Millsboro, 934-8077 • Brothers Gerson and Eddy Guox recently converted the Georgetown Plaza and Millsboro locations into Quetzaltecas, but the Guatemala natives already know what their customers like. After all, they came up in the local La Toltecas before striking out on their own. Eddy says Latinos lean toward the grilled dishes of beef and chicken, while gringos go for burritos, chimichangas and enchiladas. All agree that the Quetzalteca Special—sliced beef, chicken, shrimp and chorizo served with fried onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, rice, beans and tortillas—is tops. If you’re looking for an intimate (and far from fancy) dining experience, try the Gravel Hill location, which opened in July. The Georgetown Plaza venue (formerly called El Vaquero) is brighter and larger. It features a grand mural of a Mexican village by “some guy from Mexico,” says Eddy. La Quetzalteca’s selection of native tequilas—Don Eduardo, Reposado, Hornitos, Sauza and Silver Patron, to name a few—is equally impressive.

La Tolteca

2209 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 778-4646; 4015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9477 • These are the last of the local Toltecas, at least in name. The local chain is still owned by the Cedillo family, but the other Delaware locations have been renamed La Tonalteca. They’ve also expanded north of the border into Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Buffalo, New York. See next entry.

La Tonalteca

528 S. Bay Road, Dover, 734-4575; 245 S. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 735-1572; 1000 Midway Drive, Harrington, 398-7644;  4578 Highway One, Rehoboth, 644-3994; 1724 W. Newport Pike, Stanton, 636-9484 • The Mexican food that many a First Stater was raised on remains an old friend, although the name recently received a tweaking. Burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas and tamales are staples of the 200-dish menu, along with chilaquiles—soft tortilla chips cooked with salsa, chicken and topped with cheese.

Mariachi Restaurant

14 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0115 • Dining on ceviche or an enchilada of shrimp and scallops is more enjoyable when you can see the ocean. Location, just a half block from the boardwalk, is but one of Mariachi’s unique qualities. Mariachi is more than Mexican. Yolanda Pineda, a co-owner from El Salvador, offers a diverse menu of Spanish, Mexican and Latin American cuisine. Masitas de puerco is Cuban-style morsels of pork marinated in criolla sauce and roasted in bitter oranges. Lomo saltado is a Peruvian dish of sautéed strips of prime sirloin with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, red onions, green peppers and a special sauce. The seafood enchilada includes two flour tortillas with shrimp and scallops in white cream sauce covered with melted Monterey Jack cheese. Be sure to order the mussels al Gengibre.

Morelia Mexican Restaurant & Bar

4617 Ogletown Road, Omega Shopping Center, Newark, 369-6888 • From the smiling Mariachi statue that greets you at the door to the marionettes that dangle from the ceiling, Morelia is a festive place to get your Mexican on. Let’s start at the bar, which is surrounded by funky painted stools and stocked with 50 different kinds of tequila. As for the food, we turn to Fred Alberer, an aficionado who drives from Claymont at least once a week to enjoy Morelia’s “own little tweak on things.” Alberer recommends the pork chops in mole sauce. Morelia’s mole is made from scratch from 18 different ingredients, including three types of chile peppers, jalapeños, sesame seeds, salt, pepper and, on occasion, chocolate. It takes four hours to cook. The mole alone, Alberer says, will make you cry.

Palacio Maya Bar & Grill

7288 Lancaster Pike, Unit 2B, Hockessin, 239-5590 • The cantaloupe walls, fluted molding and oversized decorative urns lend an upscale feel at Palacio Maya. The message on the menu touts Palacio as a place that “takes things a few rungs up the ladder” from Tex-Mex cooking. Indeed, the menu features many dishes not common to its nearby Mexican cousins, including the stuffed pepper in walnut sauce and the Veracruz-style red snapper, a red snapper filet smothered in chiles, onions, tomatoes, bay leaves, capers and olives, all served with rice. The tangy Yucatan-style pork tacos feature pork shoulder marinated in achiote, other spices and the juice of sour oranges, all baked in banana leaves with orange juice, then served on soft corn tortillas and topped with pickled red onions. The spicy-sweet chiles en Nogada is a traditional dish that features a soufflé-battered poblano pepper stuffed with ground pork and beef, cooked with raisins, apples, pears and peaches, then covered with creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.

Santa Fe Mexican Grille

190 E. Main St., Newark, 369-2500 • Surrounded by the University of Delaware’s diverse student body, it makes sense that Santa Fe would offer a variety of international fare. Many of the countries to our south are represented here. The place even feels tropical, with its pastels, Spanish-style paintings and crafts, and a 12-foot palm tree. Try the grilled Mexican crab cake with capers and smoked chipotle remoulade or the golden chimichanga, fried or grilled. The Santa Fe chicken and shrimp features grilled chicken topped with Mexican spiced shrimp in spicy red wine garlic sauce served over Mexican rice. For dessert, homemade crêpes are filled with nutty chocolate and topped with homemade ice cream of such flavors as strawberry cheesecake or Colombian coffee and banana. The bar boasts 35 brands of tequila, 14 different mojitos, and five warm wines mulled with cinnamon and cloves.

Taqueria La Raza

227 N.E. Front St., Milford, 424-3273 • Taqueria La Raza has all the hallmarks of an authentic Mexican restaurant—sombreros adorn coral-colored walls, Mexican music plays through overhead speakers and it’s located in a strip mall next to a Latino food store. Owners Jose and Julia Lemus, of Monterey, Mexico, opened their “taco stand” three years ago. Customers, about 70 percent of them Latinos, come for the tacos. (What else?) The fried tilapia is prepared Mexican style, breaded and deep-fried with head and tail attached. The beef steak la Raza with fried onions, peppers, tomatoes and Mexican sausage is another favorite. Jose says it’s secret ingredients that set his food apart. He does reveal that his tortilla machine churns out fresh tortillas daily.

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