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Your Complete Guide to Relaxed and Delicious Dining in Delaware

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(Want to see more dining guides? Read about ethnic restaurants, crabs or 175 reasons to dine in Delaware.)

 

There was a time when dining at the best restaurants required coats and ties. We’ve long since said goodbye to white-gloved servers and hello to casual dress—even as we’ve welcomed food that is better than ever. Here are the places where you need to eat now.

 

KICK BACK WITH A BREW

By their natures, brew pubs and ale houses are hip places for creative food and low-key atmospheres, a combination that gave birth to the term gastropub.

Chelsea Tavern

Even when The Grand Opera House is dark, the scene at Chelsea hops—in more ways than one. There are more than 30 craft beers on tap and more than 200 bottled beers, and they run the range of styles. Grab a burger made with Hereford beef with beer-braised onions, or fly high with pan-seared duck breast served with confit potatoes, pearl onions and a cherry-balsamic glaze.

821 N. Market St., Wilmington, 482-3333

 

Big Oyster Brewery

A newbie in Lewes, the brewpub has 16 house-made beers on tap and a great view of the stainless steel brewing tanks from the bar. Take your brewski outside for a game of cornhole or ping-pong beside the farm fields. Big Oyster is part of the Fins Hospitality Group, but the restaurant’s menu covers more than seafood.

1007 Kings Hwy., Lewes, 644-2621

 

Brick Works Brewings & Eats

Items are “made from scratch—from plate to glass.” No wonder. Eric Williams of Mispillion River Brewing is behind the beer, and seasoned restaurateur Kevin Reading is also a partner. Build your own “mac” by adding crab, shrimp, bacon, mushrooms, spinach, brisket and-or jalapeños to classic macaroni and cheese. (Another Brick Works is planned for Long Neck.)

230 S. Dupont Blvd., Smyrna, 508-2523

 

Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats

Now housed in an eye-catching new building, this brewpub put Delaware on beer-lovers’ maps. Sit in the courtyard and try an experimental beer—Dogfish Head tests its creations here before releasing to stores. Pizzas have always been popular, but the new structure has an open kitchen dedicated to a wood-burning oven. And don’t Dogfish Head’s Chesapeake & Maine restaurant next door.

320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth, 226-2739

 

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

Born in Newark in 1996, Iron Hill opened a Rehoboth Beach site in May, bringing its total to three in Delaware—each with an outdoor dining area. (There are 16 and counting.) Iron Hill is so chill that you can take a yoga class in some locations. Regulars love the award-winning beer, large menu and consistently well executed food.

620 Justison St., Wilmington Riverfront, 472-2739; 147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 19815 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 260-8000

 

Rehoboth Ale House

Steps from the boardwalk, the ale house is known for draft beer and live music. But don’t miss chef Matt Reardon’s food. Menu items such as crab cakes with lemon-caper tartar and flat-iron steak might surprise you given some diners wear beach coverups.

15 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 278-7433

 

Stewart’s Brewing Co.

Since 1995, the state’s first brewpub has been a destination for hopheads, as well as a neighborhood family restaurant. Look for the unexpected, such as the wild game burger and the 219 burger, made with locally raised beef. (The steers were fed on spent grain from the brewery.)

216 Governor’s Place, Bear, 836-2739

 

Trolley Tap House

The tap house’s garage-like windows give diners a view of the Trolley Square scene. The menu sticks mainly to items you can share—funnel cake fries and Buffalo tots—burgers and sandwiches.

1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 652-2255

 

Washington Street Ale House

The late Darius Mansoory was among the first to spot the microbrew mania when he opened this restaurant. Now owned by the Big Fish Restaurant Group, the restaurant offers a welcome selection of seafood items. Happy hour is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and the weekend brunch is big in Midtown Brandywine.

1206 Washington St., Wilmington, 658-2537

 

OTHER BREWPUBS & ALE HOUSES

8th & Union: Though billed as a gastropub—aptly—this spot in Little Italy also offers craft cocktails, an admirable wine list and a creative menu with Asian touches and gluten-free options. • 801 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-9780

33 West Ale House & Grill: This downtown Dover classic offers 14 rotating drafts and 20 bottled craft and micro-brewed beers, plus short rib poutine, bacon-wrapped meatloaf and crab cakes. • 33 W. Loockerman St., Dover, 735-9822

Crooked Hammock Brewery: Families flock here for the beer, the music, the sandwiches and the fenced beer garden and game area. A Middletown location is in the works. • 36707 Crooked Hammock Way, Lewes, 644-7837

Dewey Beer Co.: A short walk from the beach, this brewpub has roll-up windows to can catch the breeze—and the action—in this lively part of town. • 2100 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-1182

Forgotten Mile Ale House: This is an ideal pitstop between Rehoboth and Dewey for a pint and conversation. Burgers rule, but “supper plates” are offered after 4 p.m. • 20859 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 212-2151

Hooked Up Ale House & Raw Bar: The sandwiches are tall, the oysters are served on the half shell, and the cute kids’ menu is an illustration for tiny artists. • 38069 Town Center Drive, Millville, 539-4111

The Pickled Pig Pub: Are you adventurous? Try the kung pao pork belly, smoked pork poutine, or a burger with bacon peanut butter, strawberry-jalapeño jam and aged cheddar. • 18756 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-5444

The Pig & Publican: On the ground floor of a motel near Lewes Beach, this pub boasts a Belgian flair with a twist, such as mussels with lamb sausage. • 516 E. Savannah Road, Lewes, 313-4487

Stitch House Brewery: The Market Street newcomer’s communal table lets you can get to know your neighbors over pints, sandwiches, “skillet” dishes and salads. • 829 N. Market St., Wilmington, 250-4280

Stone Balloon Kitchen + Bar: With an expansive beer list—routinely updated online—this Main Street mainstay benefits from the talents of celebrity chef Robbie Jester. • 115 E. Main St., Newark, 266-8111

Two Stones Pub: “Believe Nothing. Try Everything” is the mantra behind this locally based alehouse, which features 2SP Brewing’s beers among others. Taco Tuesdays are legendary. • 843 E. Baltimore Pike, Kennett Square, (610) 444-3940; 2502 Foulk Road., Wilmington, 439-3231; 2 Chesmar Plaza, Newark, 294-1890; 300 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-2200

Ulysses Gastropub: Fun, affordable fare includes lobster rolls, flatbreads and steakhouse nachos. Also visit Ulysses’ sister tavern Six Paupers in Hockessin. • 1716 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 691-3456

 

FINE DINING WITH A CASUAL TWIST

Though these restaurants often chart high on Delaware’s fine-dining lists, they have much to offer customers who seek an unpretentious experience. Just the same, leave your sweatpants and baseball caps at home.

 

Back Porch Café//Photo by Moonloop Photography

 

Back Porch Café

Now in its 45th season, the Back Porch offers exquisite cuisine served on white linen—inside, that is. The preferred tables are on the tree-covered patio, which would look at home in most Caribbean towns. For a good deal, visit at lunch and get the turkey burger with Middle Eastern spices.

59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674

 

Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar

Like fraternal twins, the two Bluecoast restaurants each have an individual look and personality. The original in Bethany Beach has the low-slung appearance of a beach cottage on a bay. The wine list can soar into the hundreds for big spenders, but there are plenty of affordable options. The Rehoboth site has areas for breezy dining, including a patio with a bar and a firepit, as well as a covered porch.

30904 Coastal Hwy., Bethany Beach, 539-7111; 30115 Veterans Way, Rehoboth Beach, 278-7395

 

Domaine Hudson

One of Delaware’s culinary sensations, Domaine Hudson has a bar that is a warm and cozy place to share a charcuterie and wine flight. The restaurant’s Date Night promotion features a bottle of wine and a three-course dinner for $95 a couple.

1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463

 

Fork + Flask at Nage

If you haven’t been to Nage in some time, you’re in for a surprise. A large bar dominates one side. The cocktails are creative, and the menu is relaxed. Chef Sean Corea makes things fun by giving diners a culinary trip around the world on Tuesdays. (The regular menu is also available.)

19730 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037

 

Harry’s Savoy Grill

The scene of countless special occasions, Harry’s is also an approachable hangout for those who want half-priced oysters on Thursdays, the special grill menu—which includes a prime rib sandwich, lobster roll and a softshell BLT—or a seat on the patio.

2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000

 

Heirloom

Meghan Lee’s restaurant, housed in an old Victorian home, and chef Matthew Kern’s seasonal menus have been garnering kudos from regional restaurant critics. In warm weather, sit on the patio, which has a view of the Zwaanendael Museum.

212 Savannah Road, Lewes, 313-4065

 

House of William & Merry

Owned by Bill Hoffman and Merry Catanuto, this restaurant serves some of the finest food in the area. Nevertheless, entering the farmhouse-turned-restaurant feels as though you’re going to visit friends. Maybe that’s because the couple has long lived upstairs. The bar is next to the open kitchen if you want dinner and a show.

1336 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-2255

 

Nantucket’s

Along with the classics, such as filet mignon, crab cakes and the famous bouillabaisse, there are “schmoozin” selections, including Nanny’s crab cake sandwich, party wings tossed in chipotle Buffalo sauce and a spicy chicken BLT.

601 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2607

 

Diners head to Patsy’s Restaurant in Bethany Beach to feast on the whole flash-fried red snapper.//Photo by 
Moonloop Photography

 

Patsy’s Restaurant

Opened in 2000, Patsy’s sports a Key West sensibility and a carefree attitude. Mother-daughter chefs Patsy and Robin Rankin, however, are serious about the food. They use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Grab a seat on the porch, and try the whole flash-fried red snapper. Fried chicken is the Sunday special.

121 Campbell Place, Bethany Beach, 537-2433

 

MORE FUN

A(MUSE.): Chef Hari Cameron’s restaurant is for those who like to experiment and graze adventurously, but many socialize at the bar during happy hour, the dinner hour and late night. • 44 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7107

Blue Moon: Karaoke, cabaret and food/wine pairings on Tuesdays are a few of the ways this celebrated fine-dining spot shakes things up. •  35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6515

Columbus Inn: This landmark has served generations of Wilmington-area residents. There’s a full roster of weekly specials. • 2216 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington, 571-1492

Eclipse Bistro: Owners Carl and Lisa Georigi wisely saw the casual writing on the wall long before most. The dining room is approachable, yet the cuisine is still cutting edge. • 1020 N. Union St., 658-1588

Eden: Eden wows diners with an award-winning wine list and a decor that fosters romance. For a more casual take, try Eden’s sister restaurant, JAM Bistro. • 23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330

La Fia Bistro: Bryan Sikora is the recognized talent behind this rave-worthy restaurant, which has the appeal of a neighborhood brasserie. La Fia’s little sis, Merchant Bar, offers craft cocktails and innovative bites across the street. • 426 Market St., Wilmington, 543-5574

Piccolina Toscana: What’s not to love about a $20 Sunday brunch and half-priced burgers on Mondays? For happy hours, relax on cushy sofas and savor the discounted prices. • 1412 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 300-1541

The Parkway Restaurant: Since 1997, this Bethany hotspot has pleased diners in the southern beaches. Along with the main menu, there is a light-fare selection. • 114 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 537-7500

Sedona: More than 25 years old, Sedona has staying power. Gluten-free and veggie options are available, and small plates appeal to those who prefer to share. • 26 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 539-1200

 

FAMILY FAVORITES

Restaurants that cater to multiple generations can still have remarkable cuisine and a relaxed ambiance.

2 Fat Guys American Grill

2 Fat Guys has built its reputation on beefy burgers and meaty sandwiches. There are also vegetarian options. Items on the kids’ menu and the junior’s menu come with a beverage, side and dessert.

701 Ace Memorial Drive, Hockessin, 235-0333

 

Big Fish Grill//Photo by Moonloop Photography

 

Big Fish Grill

With three locations in Delaware and one just over the line in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, this flagship concept caters to parents, grandparents and children. Seafood rules, of course. Kids can color on the white paper while adults enjoy the complementary, totally addictive smoked tuna dip and saltines that are served before your meal.

720 Justison St., Wilmington, 652-3474; 20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-FISH; 30415 Cedar Neck Rd., Ocean View, 829-8163

 

Cool Springs Fish Bar and Restaurant

Chef Dennis Forbes’ Cool Springs is known for seafood, but the “Nothing Fishy” side of the menu covers steak, chicken and even barbecued ribs. Next, visit the nearby Restaurant 55, which Forbes owns with daughter Desiree DiAntonio. Known for burgers and beers, Restaurant 55 promotes local businesses, including T.A. Farms and Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company.

2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955

 

Crabby Dick’s

Crab is the star of this restaurant. Consider steamed crabs, crab cakes, crab pretzels, crab dips, crab soups and crab-and-shrimp pasta. Landlubbers also have options, including chicken, meat and pasta.

30 Clinton St., Delaware City, 832-5100; 18831 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-9132

 

DiFebo’s Restaurant

Considering DiFebo’s is a family-run restaurant, it’s not surprising that it’s a common choice for groups. Try anything with Bob’s gravy, named for chef Lisa DiFebo-Osias’ father, who supplied the recipe and still makes the sauce. Big Bob also is responsible for the can’t-miss meatballs.

12 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, 226-4550; 789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4550

 

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen

Friends and family men Jim O’Donoghue and Lee Mikles founded Grain as a place where friends could gather in a comfortable atmosphere and still enjoy good food. Grain H2O at Summit North Marina brings outdoor bars and dining into the mix.

270 E. Main St., Newark, 737-2931; 108 W. State St., Kennett Square, Pa., (610) 444-7232; 3006 Summit Harbor, Bear, 365-5795

 

Jimmy’s Grille

When it comes to down-home dining, Jimmy’s delivers the goods. Don’t miss the fried chicken, slippery dumplings (available only on certain nights), big breakfasts, sticky buns and colossal desserts. (The Dewey location has a limited menu.)

18541 S. Main St., Bridgeville, 337-7575; 19724 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4888; 1911 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 260-9914

 

Meding’s Seafood

Kids are captivated by the ship propeller that faces Del. 1 in the parking lot. Parents like the fresh seafood served in a pleasant atmosphere. Try the soups, the crab dishes and the “stuffed” entrées that feature fish baked with crab imperial and cream sauce. Dine inside or out—extra fun when the hot rodders rally in the parking lot.

3697 Bay Road, Milford, 335-3944

 

Touch of Italy

Wood-fueled ovens flown in from Italy and ingredients trucked in from Brooklyn are a few of the ways Touch of Italy separates itself from other Italian concepts. The cuisine is sure to please the nonna and the bambino in the family.

102 Second St., Lewes, 827-2730; 33323 East Chesapeake St., Lewes, 827-2132 (bakery); 19724 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3900

 

MORE FAMILY STYLES:

Bethany Blues: There’s nothing like barbecue to please most age groups. Bethany Blues cooks meat slow and easy in on-site smokers. • 18385 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2500; 6 Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500

Feby’s Fishery: Originally started in 1974 in Elsmere, the DiFebo family’s restaurant is a beloved eatery for diners of all ages—especially on buck-a-shuck and Dungeness crab nights. • 3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9501

Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House & Saloon: With the wildly successful half-priced burger nights on Tuesdays and the Kids’ Day on Mondays, Kid’s is now a go-to spot for families. • 1801 W .14th St., Wilmington, 658-4600

Matt’s Fish Camp: The chef at each of the two sites puts a signature spin on the menus. Try the lobster cobb in Lewes and any dessert in Bethany. • 34401 Tenley Court, Lewes, 644-2267; 28635 Coastal Hwy., Bethany Beach, 539-2267

Pizza by Elizabeths: The artisan crust, the homemade sauce and the inspired mix of toppings makes PBE’s specialty pies a step above most versions. Try its suggested combos or design your own. • 3801 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 654-4478

Summer House Bar & Restaurant: Once known primarily for the bar, this restaurant is now a dining destination for families. Credit owner Big Fish Restaurant Group. Burgers are half-priced all day on Mondays. • 228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895

 

NEIGHBORHOOD GEMS

Every area has at least one place with a loyal fan base that eats there at least once a month—if not every week. The patrons’ enthusiasm for their favorite restaurant creates a buzz that encourages diners outside the area to visit, too.

Banks Seafood Kitchen

Businesspeople have made this riverfront restaurant—formerly Harry’s Seafood Grill—a preferred meeting spot. It’s right next to the train station. Locals come for owner David Banks’ expanded ceviche menu, crab dishes and lobster, as well as the patio and the beautiful bar.

101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500

 

Bellefonte Café

If residents aren’t meeting here for brunch on the porch, they go for the live music. The menu travels from Cuba (black bean soup) to Mexico (huevos rancheros), with plenty of domestic stops (grilled cheese of the week).

804 Brandywine Blvd., Wilmington, 761-9175

 

Buckley’s Tavern

If you’ve lived in Wilmington long enough, you know the drill: Buckley’s is the place where pickup trucks park next to Porsches and their owners take a seat at the bar to exchange pleasantries. The menu under executive chef Tom Hannum is a mix of comfort foods and creative dishes.

5812 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 656-9776

 

Corner Bistro//Photo by Moonloop Photography

 

Corner Bistro

Tucked in a Talleyville shopping center, this bistro has undergone a few makeovers to suit owner Micky Donatello’s changing aesthetic. The menu also stays fresh. Locals like the happy hour that runs from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

3604 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-1778

 

Cromwell’s Tavern

Talk about something for everyone: Cromwell’s has a tavern menu and a Mexican menu. Start with steamed Asian bao buns followed by a chimichanga. End with one of the tavern’s scrumptious new desserts.

3858 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 571-0561

 

George & Sons Seafood Market

Regulars belly up to the bar for the oysters on the half shell, the craft beers and snowy crab cakes with giant lumps. The seafood market occupies the other side of the space.

1216 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-7204

 

Go Brit!

This Route 1 sister to Go Fish! pays homage to owner Alison Blythe’s native country. The fish and chips, of course, are a must. So is tandoori chicken and mashy peas. Save room for the sticky toffee pudding.

18388 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2250

 

Goat Kitchen & Bar

Without much fanfare, Goat has become the hangout for folks in Arden. No wonder. Owner David Weir’s menu appeals to a broad spectrum, including vegetarians and pescatarians. If you like bacon, try the fried green tomato BLT.

1845 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 746-7847

 

Home Grown Café

This longtime Main Street restaurant is a homegrown success story. It’s owned by Sasha Aber, who grew up in Newark and went to the University of Delaware. Its colorful look is complemented by a diverse menu that satisfies most diets. Since the food is made from scratch, the kitchen can often tweak menu dishes for vegans.

126 E. Main St., Newark, 266-6993

 

McGlynns Pub

Who says an Irish-inspired pub has to serve only Irish fare? McGlynns bucks the trend with fried Brussels sprouts, hummus, a grilled Reuben and snow crab legs. There are three locations. The Dover site has a scene-stealing setting on Silver Lake.

8 Polly Drummond Shopping Center, Newark, 738-7814; 108 Peoples Plaza, Newark, 834-6661; 800 N. State St., Dover, 674-0144

 

Metro Pub & Grill

There’s a special or event on most days at Metro Pub, from game nights to live entertainment. As for the menu, there are small plates (buffalo cauliflower), large plates (seared Norwegian salmon) and a lengthy list of sandwiches.

17 Wood St., Middletown, 376-3876

 

Michy’s

In a strip center off Del. 1, Michy’s draws a regular crowd of diners who appreciate Richard Davis’ exceptional cuisine served in a pleasant but unpretentious room. Don’t miss the poke if it’s on the menu. The clams in a garlicky white wine broth are also winners.

19287 Miller Road, Rehoboth Beach, 227-0999

 

Nora Lee’s French Quarter Bistro

Residents of historic New Castle love the Colonial appeal of their hometown. They also like to take their taste buds on a trip to the Big Easy. That’s easy to do given this little New Orleans restaurant in the heart of the historic area. All the familiar dishes—jambalaya, gumbo, blackened entrées—are represented.

124 Delaware St., New Castle, 322-7675

 

Scalessa’s “My Way” Old School Italian Kitchen

If you want Italian-American dishes like your grandmother made, head here for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Order the savory sausage, beans and greens and, anything with “Sunday gravy.”

1836 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 656-1362

 

Stanley’s Tavern

With a history that dates to 1935, you better believe Stanley’s is a Brandywine Hundred tradition. Customers love the craft beer, the burgers, ribs and wings. The soup and salad bar, meanwhile, defy culinary trends—regulars can’t live without it.

2038 Foulk Road, Wilmington, 475-1887

 

OTHER OPTIONS:

Abbott’s Grill: Abbott’s pushes the culinary envelope in an affable fashion. The Milford location has a beautiful outdoor patio with a fireplace; the Laurel site offers river views. • 249 NE Front St., Milford, 491-6736; 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel, 280-6172

BBC Tavern and Grill: BBC’s weekly guest bartender nights make it a must-do for friends who want to regularly catch up on neighborhood news over a brew and a nosh while doing a good deed. • 4019 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 655-3785

Caffé Gelato: This anchor on Main Street consistently wins awards for its wine list, and its fresh pasta has gained a loyal following. Then, of course, there’s the famous gelato. • 90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

Culinaria: A Brandywine Hundred icon, Culinaria sticks with what works, such as salmon with sinfully rich mashed potatoes. Consistency is king. • 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 475-4860

De La Coeur: It might seem odd for a place with crepes and pastries to find a fanatical following near Trolley Square. C’est la vie. The crepes are that good. There’s also a location in Talleyville. • 1836 Lovering Ave., 660-7178

easySpeak: New to Milford, easySpeak is a combination brewpub and distillery with specialties that are cooked in a wood-fired oven, including pizzas and quesadillas.  586 Milford Harrington Hwy., Milford, 858-1875

Jessop’s Tavern: The decor suits historic New Castle, which makes Jessop’s popular with tourists. The Belgian beer, comfort food and conversation appeal to the locals. • 114 Delaware St., New Castle, 322-6111

Po’ Boys Creole Restaurant: The small restaurant has some of the best Cajun food outside the Crescent City. The gumbo is addictive. Make a reservation—it’s that busy.  900 Palmer St., Milton, 684-0890

Mexican Post: Locals convene here to watch a game, sip a margarita and tuck into a weekend brunch special. Happy hour is 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.  3100 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 478-3939

Old Banks Craft Bistro: Situated in the Trolley Square hub, Old Banks touts its fried chicken, whose closely guarded recipe is “in the vault.” • 1711 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 502-3800

Sheridan’s Irish Pub: Area residents love the mix of Irish and American cuisine. The big draws are the 22-foot bar and the rooftop patio. • 42 W. Commerce St., Smyrna, 659-5566

Tonic Bar & Grille: The bar appeals to city residents who want to meet friends, hear live music and take advantage of happy hour specials.  111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040

Trolley Square Oyster House: This local fave has aptly filled the void left by Del Rose Café’s closing—but with a hipper look and lobster rolls instead of chopped salad. • 1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 384-7310

Vino Vita at Fromage Culinaria: Wine, cheese, crepes, sandwiches, brunch and small plates are the focus of this restaurant, which brings Paris to Middletown. • 400 S. Ridge Ave., Middletown, 378-7297

 

BEST BEACH BETS

Beach living means chillin’, no matter whether you’re soaking up the sun or savoring the food. These places provide vacationers and locals with memorable meals.

208 Social

Housed in a cottage-like space, 208 Social’s menu intrepidly runs from shakshouka to bulgogi to kimichi. Or go for organic chicken, a double-patty burger or fish-and-chips. Signature cocktails are the cherry on the sundae.

208 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6700

 

Agave

You can’t argue with the positive praise that diners give this downtown Lewes restaurant—or its steady business. The restaurant’s fish tacos, margaritas and guacamole get as much press as the town’s distinctive architecture.

137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232

 

Big Chill Beach Club

It just doesn’t get any beachier than a tiered deck on the Atlantic. Add some Mexican-inspired dishes from Taco Reho, also part of La Vida Hospitality Group, and you’ve got the recipe for seaside success. Come at sunset when the giant umbrella folds and the Indian River Inlet bridge glows cobalt blue.

27099 Coastal Highway, Bethany Beach, 402-5300

 

El Dorado

Expect to be greeted as an amigo or amiga when you step up to the counter and order some of the best fish tacos in Delaware. Then head to the salsa bar to ladle on the lettuce, pickled onions and hot sauce. Order the rice and beans with your tacos. You won’t be disappointed.

18766 John J. Williams Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-1596

 

Gary’s Dewey Beach Grill

Since 1991, Gary’s has been a hit with the hang ten crowd. Healthy options include the turkey cheesesteak and “turger.” Now with a brewpub license, this locals’ hotspot has taken it to the next level.

2000 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-8519

 

Half Full

The oblong-shaped pizzas, topped with whole milk mozzarella, are addictive, the draft cocktails are novel, and the wine and beer lists are intriguing. Add a soup, salad and sweet—but that’s it. The menu keeps it simple.

125 Second St., Lewes, 645-8877

 

Off the Hook

The first in the Hooked group, this intimate restaurant is a staple on the Bethany Beach dining scene. Roasted corn-and-jalapeño crab bisque, grilled swordfish and cioppino underscore the concept. Sit at the bar to watch the chefs in action.

769 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 829-1424

 

Striper Bites

The local’s hangout has become a vacationer’s tradition. The decor’s aquatic theme suits the historic bayside town, as does the emphasis on seafood. The Striper Bites club, made with mahi-mahi, is a classic.

107 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-4657

 

The Blue Hen

There’s a fire pit on the patio, a happening happy hour and some of the best fried chicken in town, complete with greens. Start with the lobster toast—made with brioche—one of the many small plates designed for sharing.

33 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 278-7842

 

ADDITIONAL BEACH OPTIONS:

Fins Fish House & Raw Bar/Fins Ale House & Raw Bar: The downtown Rehoboth, Bethany and Del. 1 locations have happening bar scenes, family friendly dining rooms and Big Oyster Brewery’s beer. The businesses are related. • 243 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-3467; 19269 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3467; 33544 Market Place, Bethany Beach, 539-3467

Hammerheads: Sip crushes and nosh shareable apps either in the heart of Dewey or the Indian River Inlet, where you can dig your toes in the sand and enjoy spectacular sunset views. • 39415 Inlet Road, Rehoboth Beach, 752-8010; 1818 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 227-7325

Henlopen City Oyster House: In addition to oysters on the half shell and lobster rolls, expect a remarkable roster of craft beers—and a wait. The place is popular. No one seems to mind.  50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 260-9193

Obie’s by the Sea: For more than 30 years, diners have come here for the friendly bartenders, the burgers, barbecue and the boardwalk view. • 1 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6261

Paradise Grill: Get a glimpse of the Caribbean on Indian River Bay, complete with palm trees, outdoor dining, a seafood-heavy menu, water views and live entertainment. • 27344 Bay Road, Long Neck, 945-4500

Salt Air: Themed as a “Delaware beach picnic,” the menu pulls from the sea (grilled Scottish salmon and shrimp fry) and the farm (half a chicken with grits and grilled marinated pork chop). • 50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3744

Shorebreak Lodge: Despite an ownership change, the restaurant has kept its footing as a casual spot for sophisticated cuisine. The happy hour menu is always a hit. • 10 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1007

Twining’s Lobster Shanty: This restaurant has a premium view and the perfect menu for a night on the Assawoman Bay. Try the Shanty Feast with lobster, shrimp corn on the cob and slaw. • 37310 Lighthouse Road, Selbyville, 436-2305

Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill: Don’t let the long bar in this small place fool you. The star is the award-winning crab cake, made with jumbo lump crabmeat. The burgers are also rave-worthy. • 1904 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 260-9945

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