50 Meals Under $50

Yes, you can dine well, while dining inexpensively. Herein, great meals for two. (Available during August. All prices rounded to the next highest dollar. Drinks not included.)

The penne alla vodka at Café Napoli is quite satisfying, especially when preceded by antipasto and enjoyed with warm Italian bread. Be sure to save room for the tiramisu and cannoli. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.comCafé Napoli $38

Antipasto Italiano (shared)
Penne alla vodka entrée
Chicken cardinale entrée
Chocolate chip cannoli

We should dispense with all pretense: Any pasta dish at Napoli will feed a small nation. But for the sake of order and reason, we’ll stick with the formula. Green olives and homemade vinaigrette add extra kick to the antipasto. Penne alla vodka features prosciutto and shallots in a tomato cream sauce, and chefs are willing to make it feistier by adding more crushed red pepper upon request. Chicken cardinale marries prosciutto and roasted red peppers in a white wine sauce. It’s served with noodles. The homemade cannoli are just right: crispy shells, creamy ricotta and a subtle vanilla flavor. Adding two after-dinner cappuccinos still allows a tab under $50.



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The petit-cut prime rib at Walter’s Steakhouse in Wilmington is served with a baked potato. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.com.

Walter’s Steakhouse $50

Raw bar (for two)
Two garden salads
Two entrées: choose from petit-cut prime rib,
     petit-cut filet mignon and chicken Oscar

Enjoy it all, plus homemade baguettes for $25 each, on Sunday, Monday and Thursday evenings. Walter’s excels at beef, of course, but the real deal is its raw bar, which is packed with shrimp, mussels, crab claws, oysters, caviar and clams Casino. Walter’s new menu includes new sides such as thick- sliced sweet potatoes finished with apricot-brown sugar glaze. 802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780



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The cognac minted lamb at Chops Grille in Dover features pan-seared lamb chops flamed in cognac, finished with a black cherry mint sauce and served over piped sweet potatoes and baby carrots. Photograph by Thom Thompson, www.thomthompson.com.Chops Grille $50

Salad (for two)
Cognac minted lamb entrée
Roasted tomato and caper salmon entrée

Because the restaurant, after all, is named Chops Grille, manager Haywood Key suggests that at least one patron order the obvious: the chops. The lamb chops are flamed in cognac and finished with a black cherry mint sauce. The salmon is pan-seared and served over rice pilaf. Both entrées come with large salads. 1570 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, 678-0100



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1776 Restaurant $46

Baked escargot (shared)
Black ravioli entrée
Chicken Sophia entrée
Crème brûlée (shared)

Two new owners and one big makeover later, 1776 is out to prove it’s not just about steak anymore. Co-owner Tom Holmes suggests a starter of baked escargot—a 1776 favorite—dressed in Asian-inspired butter. Black ravioli, so named for the squid ink used to make the pasta, are filled with lobster and topped with a mixture of shrimp and crabmeat. His interpretation of chicken Sophia is stuffed with Gorgonzola cream sauce. A serving of luscious crème brûlée rounds out the meal. Midway Shopping Center, Rehoboth Beach, 645-9355

Ameritage Bistro $49

Littleneck clam appetizer (shared)
Ahi tuna entrée
Parisienne gnocchi entrée
Chocolate brownie puddle sundae (shared)

At this Wilmington newcomer, the clams are steamed with white wine, garlic and shallots, tossed with fin herbs and served with grilled sourdough. Seared Ahi is seasoned with coriander, tomato concasse, a fine paste of kalamata olives and basil pesto. Rich Parisienne gnocchi is served with lobster, Brie and roasted garlic. The chocolate puddle, a flourless cake with ice cream, is a great way to end any meal. 900 N. Orange St., Wilmington, 427-2300

Amici’s Fine Dining $50

Tabouli appetizer (shared)
Shrimp sautée entrée
Chicken with mushroom risotto entrée
Cheese plate (shared)

Flee to this urban-style restaurant just over the state line and nab one of four tables in the intimate couples dining area. The tabouli, with kalamata olives, herbs, feta cheese and heirloom tomatoes served with toasted lavash (a Middle Eastern flatbread) is enough for two. The shrimp sautée is prepared with garlic, plum tomatoes, capers and sweet basil, tossed in olive oil, then served atop linguine. The crispy skinned chicken breasts are served over exotic mushroom risotto and finished with a fresh herb pan sauce. Rather than sweets, Amici’s recommends a plate of assorted cheeses with paired compote, and crackers or toast. 1213 New London Road, Landenberg, Pa., (610) 255-5777

Béseme $49

Prosciutto-pear rolls
Crispy avocado Taco salad
Grilled eggplant salad
Key lime pie
(all shared)

Eclectic cuisine and small bites are the heart of Béseme, in the Hotel Rodney. The prosciutto pear rolls are fresh slices of Anjou pear, arugula and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano wrapped in prosciutto di Parma drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Japanese-inspired Tako salad is marinated octopus with julienned snow peas, fresh ginger, carrot and capers, on a bed of crumbled tortilla chips. Slices of grilled eggplant, chèvre, Parmigianno-Regianno, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and fresh basil go into the hearty eggplant salad. Housemade Key lime pie sits on an Oreo cookie crust. 142 Second St., Lewes, 645-8108

Blue Parrot $48

Voodoo Shrimp appetizer
Pierogie appetizer
Jambalaya entrée
Po’ boy sandwich

You can’t miss with the super popular Voodoo shrimp, which the menu describes as  “hotter than hell.” The pierogies, the second most requested appetizer, are done in an andouille cream with habañeros, bacon and parmesan. Jambalaya, a huge seller, is made by simmering hearty portions of chicken, andouille sausage, kielbasa and shrimp in spicy red sauce for hours. And how can you dine New Orleans style without a fried-oyster po’boy? 1934 W. Sixth St., Wilmington, 655-8990

Blue Pear Bistro $43

Grilled cheese sandwich
Bacon and egg salad
Barbecue beef short ribs entrée
Farmhouse cheddar cheese burger

Small and medium plates abound at Blue Pear, the hip younger sibling to historic Dilworthtown Inn. Grilled cheese may sound like child’s play, but this version gets its kick from extra-sharp and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, tomato confit and cumin-scented tomato bisque. Bacon and egg salad is made with pork belly and a crispy, fried soft-boiled egg on top of a three-bean salad peppered with spicy greens. Slow-cooked short ribs grace a pillow of creamy grits, while the cheeseburger gets topped with onion confit and comes with Blue Pear’s addictive house-cut french fries. 275 Brintons Bridge Road, West Chester, Pa., (610) 399-9812

Big Fish Grill $50

Hand rolled shrimp and vegetable spring rolls (shared)
Big Fish salmon entrée
Cashew-crusted tilapia entrée
Peanut butter pie (shared)

The hand-rolled shrimp and vegetable spring rolls are loaded with cabbage, carrots and green onions with a sweet and sour Hawaiian-influenced dipping sauce. The Big Fish salmon is marinated, cold-smoked and grilled, then served over owner Norman Sugrue’s famous mashers. The tilapia gets coated with crushed cashews and Parmesan cheese, sautéed, then finished in the oven. It’s served over saffron rice with a coconut rum sauce and a side dish. Peanut butter pie in an Oreo-cookie crust is topped with fresh whipped cream, chocolate syrup and baby chocolate chips. 4115 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-3665

Bon Appétit $48

Poached mussels appetizer (shared)
Roulade of chicken entrée
Roast duck with fresh berries entrée

The French-inspired menu at Bon Appétit changes with the season, so it’s hard to pin down an exact menu. But one constant is an appetizer of mussels served in a broth of white wine with garlic, shallots and cream. The plate (actually an overstuffed teacup) comes with 15 big shellfish—enough to share. The restaurant usually has a roast duck in rotation, too. This summer, owner Karen Pedemonte and husband Chino have paired it with an assortment of fresh berries. 312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700

Bonz $50

The August prix fix, times two

Chef Ryan Cunningham counters the dog days of summer by keeping it light on the tummy and on the pocketbook. For August only, a $25 prix fixe deal offers three courses. The enoki mushroom salad with manchego cheese and crispy shallots is dressed with sherry vinaigrette. A grilled Atlantic salmon filet is served with a jicama-apple salad with smoked paprika vinaigrette. A dessert of fresh blueberries, blackberries and strawberries mingle in a mint syrup. The prix fixe menu offers two options per course and changes weekly. Perhaps you can parlay your savings into winnings at the casino. Harrington Raceway and Casino, U.S. 13, Harrington, 398-5348

Buckley’s Tavern $38

Calamari (shared)
Vietnamese salad
Carolina pulled pork entrée
Crème brûlée (shared)

The Vietnamese salad, one of the most requested entrées at Buckley’s, is a large bowl of rice noodles, greens, mint, cilantro, cucumber, and tomato topped with a plume of stuffed shrimp. The pork is slow cooked, but the secret is the “Oink Oink” sauce. If you add two 20-ounce specialty brews and two cups of Buckley’s organic dark roast coffee, the bill still totals less than $50. 5812 Kennett Pike, Centreville, 656-9776

The Buttery $50

Mediterranean tapas
Artisan cheese board
Maryland crab cake entrée
Grilled petit filet mignon entrée
Almond tuile Napoleon (shared)

Turn to the pub menu (available only in the bar and lounge) for a beautifully arranged platter of marinated olives, fire-roasted tomatoes, boquerones and crostini. The imported and artisan cheeses change, but they’re presented with fresh fruit and Carr’s biscuits. The crab cake is served on baby greens with English cucumber and grape tomatoes and topped with remoulade. The filet is served with a vegetable and potato. The almond tuile Napoleon, served with berries and Chantilly cream, is The Buttery’s most popular dessert to share. Second Street and Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-7755

Café Mezzanotte $48

Stuffed oysters (shared)
Stuffed crepes entrée
Risotto Mediterranean entrée

Baked oysters are stuffed with crab imperial, then drizzled in truffle oil. Homemade crepes are stuffed with spinach and chicken served with blush sauce. The risotto Mediterranean is made with sausage, bacon, shrimp, scallops, and peas in a saffron sauce. The Sinatra music is complimentary. 1007 Orange St., Wilmington, 658-7050

Cafe Scalessa’s $48

Our Meatballs (shared)
Sunday pork and gravy entrée
Cheese gnocchi entrée
Butter cake (shared)

SportsRadio 610 jock Angelo Cataldi has said Café Scalessa’s meatballs “change lives.” There is even talk of taking on “an ambitious Philadelphia restaurant for a meatball throwdown,” says chef Danny Profita, and for good reason. The morsels of veal, pork and beef are simply delicious, and they come with a generous side salad. The entrées are also substantial. Sunday pork is served with rigatoni and ricotta. The gnocchi is blanketed in Gorgonzola sauce. Specials are rarely offered at Scalessa’s, but patrons can join its mailing list to receive 20 percent off their bills. 504 Greenhill Ave., Wilmington, 656-0955

Café Solé $43

Cup of  tomato-artichoke soup
Tossed salad
Sautéed crab cake entrée
Pan-seared scallops entrée
Chocolate silk cake (shared)

Chef Lee Stewart’s tomato cream bisque is dressed up with threads of saffron, bits of artichoke and Parmesan cheese. Organic field greens are tossed with the house soy-garlic vinaigrette. Crab cakes—a specialty—are encased in crispy panko breadcrumbs, sautéed, then placed atop field greens with an herb balsamic vinaigrette and roasted garlic aïoli. Day boat scallops are served with sweet roasted corn cut right off the cob and mixed with vanilla vinaigrette. Owner Lauren Cox’s chocolate silk is a fudgey, creamy torte with a pecan-praline crust. It’s a reigning champ of the annual Rehoboth Chocolate Festival. 44 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7107

Caffé Gelato $50

Pancetta mussels (shared)
Rosemary pork tenderloin entrée
Pistachio-crusted chicken entrée

The mussels are sautéed with garlic, pancetta and green onions in white wine. The rosemary roasted pork tenderloin is seasoned with Dijon mustard and served with Dijon cream sauce, mushroom risotto and seasonal vegetables. Chicken breasts, covered in a pistachio crust, are served with a dill cream over cous cous pilaf and sautéed seasonal vegetables. Catch additional savings on Tuesdays, when Wine Spectator award-winning wines are offered for half price. It’s a good time to check out the new wine cellar and bar. 90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811

Casablanca $40

Two  nightly dinners

Casablanca is overlooked as one of the best everyday dining bargains around. Twenty dollars buys a seven-course dinner that includes Moroccan salad, bastilla (phyllo pastry stuffed with chicken, eggs, cinnamon, sugar and almonds), chicken or rabbit, beef kabob or lamb kabob, couscous, fresh fruit, baklava and mint tea. Dining is a two-hour commitment, but the belly dancers (male or female, depending on when you go) will entertain between courses. 4010 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 652-5344

Celsius $50

Tapenade trio
Homemade cheese boule
Duck confit
Sauteed shrimp
Crème brûlée
(all shared)

A reinvented menu loaded with tapas makes Celsius a great place for high-end dining at bargain prices. Chef-owner Mary Jane Stanton’s tapenade trio—a variety of olive mixtures—comes with garlic crostini. Her homemade cheese is flavored with garlic and black pepper and served with seasalt crostadas. Thai-fusion duck confit comes with udon noodles and a scallion-orange hoisin sauce. Sautéed shrimp get a quick flambe with garlic, white wine, butter and chives. Traditional crème brûlée gets an orange kick from a shot of Grand Marnier. 50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-5767

Chesapeake Inn $45

Baby crab pretzel
Tuna bites
Rigatoni Chesapeake
Grouper po-boy

A mini version of the inn’s signature appetizer combines a pretzel, crabmeat and assorted cheeses, all baked golden brown. A new appetizer of lightly seared tuna chunks are seasoned with sesame seeds and served with a cucumber-wasabi drizzle and soy sauce. The rigatoni Chesapeake’s crabmeat and shrimp swim in a creamy pink aurora sauce. The blackened grouper is joined by coleslaw and lemon vinaigrette on a French baguette. Go Monday through Thursday for drink specials, such as half-price bottles of Kendall Jackson wines on Wednesdays. 605 Second St., Chesapeake City, Md., (410) 885-2040

Confucius $48

Vegetarian spring roll appetizer
Sesame-crusted shrimp toast appetizer
Hunan beef entrée
Hot pepper chicken entrée   
Pineapple fried rice (shared)

Pineapple in the rice mitigates the fire in two spicy entrées, one that strikes a balance between coolness and heat or sweet and savory. The Hunan beef is studded with baby corn, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts in an aromatic black bean sauce. Hot pepper chicken rewards with a fiery blast of chili garlic sauce. The entrées are generously portioned. One crispy spring roll and a crunchy bite of shrimp toast each are sufficient for a first course. 57 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3848

Cool Springs $50

Soup du jour
Seafood bisque
Sautéed flounder meuniere
Linguine Alfredo
Coconut cream pie (shared)

Chef-owner Dennis Forbes’ seafood bisque is not traditional—he uses chunks of crab, shrimp and scallops, rather than blending the meat—but it is hearty. The soup du jour will be one of 16 homemade varieties, including popular cream of asparagus with crab, artichoke-cheddar or potato chowder. The sautéed flounder is finished with lime, capers, and brown butter, which provides a nutty flavor. The rich Alfredo sauce in the linguine is a marriage of sour cream, butter and blackened chicken. All entrées include a salad, starch and vegetable. 2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955

Corner Bistro $46

Hummus (shared)
2nd chicken
Key lime pie (shared)

Never mind the cryptic names on the menu (“this salad” and “that salad, “1st” chicken and “2nd” chicken). Do count on Corner Bistro’s fare to be always contemporary, innovative and fresh. The hummus is made with white beans, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. The parmesan-crusted chicken breast shares a plate with tomatoes coated with balsamic-herb vinaigrette. The pasta, or fettuccini, is done in a cream sauce with sweet peas, onion and bacon. 3604 Silverside Road, Wilmington, 477-1778

Domaine Hudson $47

Caramelized Brussels sprouts
New Zealand lamb loin
Three cheese plate
Warm chocolate cake (shared)

Because wine is such a big part of the Domaine Hudson experience, owner Tom Hudson suggests a few for the meal above (though they’re not factored into the total price). Nutty, sweet caramelized Brussels sprouts start things. Enjoy them with a glass of Domaine de la Citadelle Le Chataignier. The small plate of New Zealand lamb is crusted with pine nuts and mushrooms covered with tomato sauce and crisp pancetta. Enjoy with Boxhead Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon. Domaine Daniel Rion Bourgogne Pinot Noir compliments a sampling of three cheeses, if you take Hudson’s suggestion of pungent Gorgonzola cremificato from Italy, semi-firm sottocenere studded with black truffles and queso de la Garrotxa from Spain. Finish with warm chocolate cake and two glasses of Mas Amiel Vintage Reserve Late Harvest Grenache. 1314 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 655-9463

Cromwell’s Tavern $50

Mini crab balls (shared)
Cedar plank salmon entrée
Mushroom Florentine salad
Crème Brûlée (shared)

Night owls get the best deals at pubby Cromwell’s—and it’s far better than Wendy’s drive-thru. This meal, as well as every other food and drink item on the menu, is discounted 25 percent after 9 p.m. to closing Monday through Thursday and after 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 3858 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 571-0561

DiFebo’s $48

Fried calamari appetizer (shared)
Choice of pasta with red sauce and meatball
Penne with fresh tomato and basil
Fruit cobbler (shared)

Chef Jeff Osias’ calamari is fried to a light crisp and served with marinara and lemon. The main course is a choice of pasta, including ravioli or gnocchi, and a meatball—all graced with DiFebo’s awesome red gravy. Our host is especially proud of the tomato and basil tossed with penne and topped with grated Asiago cheese and extra virgin olive oil. The cobbler is made with locally grown fruit. 789 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 539-4550

Deep Blue $50

Mixed field green salad
Baby spinach and purple endive salad
Tapas sampler (shared)
Crème brûlée
Key lime pie

This fantastic variety of exotic flavors includes healthy green salads, savory tapas and two sweet desserts. The field green salad includes Bulgarian feta, piquillo peppers, pine nuts and tomatoes, all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. The spinach salad features poached pear, goat cheese and candied pecans. There are no throwaways on the tapas menu, which is made for sharing. Choose four from among the choices of marinated skirt steak anticuchos, garlic shrimp, tostones bruschetta with crab, pulled pork empanadas, mejillones en Escabeche or croquetas de picadillo. 111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040

Dome $46

Filet mignon with Port demi-glace entrée
Lobster ravioli entrée

The starters and bar munchies are great at Dome, but why not dive right into the deep end? The ravioli is stuffed with ricotta and tender morsels of lobster, then bathed in a sweet Port cream. The 6-ounce filet is served in a savory sage-shallot demi-glace and teamed with creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. With this much succulence, who needs more? 400 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 235-2600

Culinaria $50

Two cups black bean soup
Scottish smoked salmon
Potato-crusted catfish entrée
Southwest salad entrée

Culinaria does seafood very well, so its potato-crusted catfish is a popular Tuesday-only special. It’s served with a black bean salsa and a chipotle sauce. The Scottish smoked salmon appetizer gets its twang from capers, red onions, olive oil and lemon. The restaurant geared up for summer with a few Southwest-inspired menu items like the Southwest salad with romaine lettuce, cilantro dressing, tortilla chips, salsa, cheese, chipotle sauce and, yes, black beans. 1812 Marsh Road, No. 10, Wilmington, 475-4860

Feby’s Fishery $50

Cup of New England clam chowder
Cup of Maryland crab soup
Mussel entrée
Steamed shrimp feast
Chocolate cake (shared)

This menu offers a sampling of Feby’s hearty soups, lots of seafood and a big dessert finish. Repeat: Big. The Prince Edward Island mussels are simmered in garlic, white wine and crushed pepper. The Gulf shrimp come with sides to share. Baskets of fresh semolina bread hail from a family-run bakery in Brooklyn. Then comes the cake: three layers of moist chocolate stuffed with raspberry sauce and two layers of chocolate mousse that’s made with 68 percent dark chocolate. The chocolate ganache icing is sprinkled with walnuts. 3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9501

Krazy Kat’s $48

Amuse bouche
Grilled Jersey white peach
Basil-seared pompano entrée for two
Vanilla panna cotta (shared)

Chef Donny Merrill changes the menu at least twice each season to take advantage of the freshest produce. The amuse bouche is poached Gulf shrimp with watermelon radish and Meyer lemon-cucumber confit. Merill pairs juicy Jersey peaches with citrus ricotta, crisp prosciutto and organic arugula in cape gooseberry vinaigrette. Seared pompano is done with a hash of Peruvian fingerling potatoes, organic rainbow carrot salad, patty pan squash and tomato consommé.  The panna cotta is decorated with brandied Washington cherry compote. Get there soon. Next month, things will change. Del. 100 at Kirk Road, Montchanin, 888-4200

Eden $42

Wood oven flatbread pizza
Rib-eye with housemade ravioli
Banana strudel
(all shared)

Chefs at Eden use a wood-fired oven to prepare everything from mussels to flatbread pizzas. The 6-inch pies are a great alternative to a heftier meal. A favorite is the Mediterranean variety, with artichokes, roasted red peppers, spinach and feta cheese. All pastas are made in house, and all pasta dishes are big enough to share. One popular dish pairs roasted root vegetable ravioli with a 10-ounce barrel-cut rib-eye. The meat is trimmed of fat and peppered with an ancho chili rub. Cool the flames with banana strudel and candied pecans. Trust us: The private booths at romantic Eden are perfect for all that sharing. Take a special friend. 23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330

Finbar $45

Beef filet mignon entrée
Braised spring lamb shank entrée
Homemade bread pudding (shared)

At Finbar, the hand-cut 8-ounce filet, covered in a sauce of Irish whiskey with shallots, checks in at under $20. So does the braised spring lamb shank. It’s braised for hours in an aromatic herb-scotch broth, plated over barley and roasted veggies, and it’s fall-off-the-bone tender. Recipes for bread pudding vary, but chef Ian Mangin always uses house baked soda bread and brown breads. The pudding is usually seasoned with cinnamon, but he will occasionally add a few chocolate chips. 316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1873

Harry’s Seafood Grill $49

Tartar of bigeye tuna and
hamachi ponzu (shared)
Crab cake salad
Portuguese mussels entrée
Belgian chocolate truffle cupcake (shared)

Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than Harry’s two-in-one starter of bigeye tuna tartar and hamachi ponzu served with spicy wasabi and cooling, briny wakame seaweed. Salad lovers will enjoy a broiled lump crab cake atop fresh greens with ripe tomatoes and olives topped with creamy garlic-herb dressing. Mussels get their bite from chorizo sausage and a lightly spiced tomato broth. A cupcake of warm Belgian chocolate truffle is served with crème anglaise and raspberry sauce. It’s perfectly rich, with a deliciously gooey center, and there’s plenty to share. 101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500

Iron Hill $47

Cheesesteak egg rolls (shared)
Pesto chicken and artichoke pizza
Hawaiian-spiced Ahi tuna entrée
Old-fashioned oatmeal cake

Ahi tuna is done medium rare with smashed Yukon gold potatoes, greens in wasabi vinaigrette and Thai chili sauce. Wood oven pizza is a specialty, and the pesto chicken pie made with garlic oil, Roma tomatoes, Asiago cheese and mozzarella cheese is a favorite. Moist, rich oatmeal cake is served warm with vanilla ice cream. Never, ever skip the cheesesteak egg rolls. Iron Hill offers terrific seasonal brews and many two-course dinner specials that include beers. Prices vary, but you can always count on a bargain. 147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 472-2739

The Exchange $46

Fried fish taco appetizer (shared)
Steamed Maine mussel entrée
Fish and chip entrée

Power-lunchers and happy hour patrons dig the ample savings at the Exchange—like $3 tapas on Tuesdays and half-price pork sliders on Fridays. For everyone else, there are awesome dishes like Maine mussels steamed in a white wine-garlic sauce served at your table in a cast-iron pot. Fish tacos of lightly fried mahi-mahi are served with jalapeños, salsa and cilantro purée in warm corn tortillas. The fish with the chips is fried in a light batter and accompanied with veggie slaw. 902 N. Market St., Wilmington, 351-4074

The Executive $45

Seafood skins appetizer (shared)
Tilapia Michael entrée
French pork chop entrée

Dive into skins layered with crabmeat, scallops and shrimp, topped with a wine cream and finished with melted cheddar. Two tilapia filets, cooked with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and a splash of white wine, are served with a vegetable and fingerling potatoes. The 12-ounce center-cut chop is topped with a mustard glaze and pineapple salsa. It comes with a baked potato and veggies. Entrées include a choice of a Caesar salad or the Executive salad of spring greens topped with Gorgonzola, crushed walnuts, cherry tomatoes and sliced strawberries. 556 S. Dupont Blvd., Milford, 422-7530

La Quetzalteca $37

Nachos de chorizo (shared)
Tex-Mex fajitas entrée
Enchiladas poblanas entrée
Banana-fried ice cream

Nachos de chorizo is made with a chile- and garlic-flavored sausage at this undiscovered gem. The flavorful meat is far more interesting than chips and salsa for a first course. The Tex-Mex fajitas come sizzling hot with piles of seasoned beef, tomatoes and bell peppers. The enchiladas poblanas features three heaping enchiladas topped with an excellent mole sauce.  Churros are Mexican-style donuts cut in three pieces, dipped in sugar and covered in creme and chocolate. The banana ice cream, a must at La Quetzalteca, sits in a special tortilla that’s covered with whipped cream, vanilla and chocolate. 9 Gravel Hill Road, Georgetown, 856-7003; 25 Georgetown Plaza, Georgetown, 854-0218; 700 Washington St., Millsboro, 934-8077

Pastabilities $50

Four-way hot appetizer (shared)
Two house salads
Hunters cannelloni (half portion)
Lobster gnocchi (half portion)

The four-way starter includes portobello mushrooms stuffed with deviled seafood, two stuffed clams on the half, roasted peppers and broccoli rabe sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, then splashed with aged balsamic vinaigrette. Tubular cannelloni is stuffed with pork, veal, beef and ricotta. Delicious lobster gnocchi is simmered in sage and butter. Both entrées come with salads and bruschetta. 415 N. Lincoln St., Wilmington, 656-9822

Melting Pot $49

Wisconsin trio cheese fondue (shared)
Shrimp and sirloin entrée (shared)
Pure chocolate fondue (shared)

Resist the server’s sales pitch—Skip the Big Night Out package and go á la carte. The starter is a blend of fontina, Butterkäse and buttermilk bleu cheeses, white wine, scallions and sherry with fruit, breads and vegetables for dipping. Shrimp and sirloin, also with vegetables, is best when cooked coq au vin style. The sinful finale is the reason you went easy on courses one and two. Savor the romance of dipping strawberries, bananas, cheesecake, marshmallows, pound cake and brownies into melted milk chocolate. 1601 Concord Pike, Suite 43-47, Wilmington, 652-6358

Jasmine $44

Dim sum
Jasmine roll
Green peppercorn chicken
(all shared)

At Jasmine, dinner combinations are endless. Chinese dim sum is a combo of steamed shrimp dumplings, shrimp and pork shumai, and veggie dumplings. Steamed edemame are fun to pop into your mouth with a bit of salt for dipping. The Jasmine roll pairs the meat of lobster claws with avocado, cucumber, lettuce, chives, spicy mayo and fish roe. Green peppercorn chicken is a Thai dish with sliced white meat sautéed with Thai basil, bamboo shoots and green peppercorns in red curry with coconut milk. 3618 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-5618

Porcini House Bistro $50

Italian sausage
BLT flatbread
Chicken potpie
Mountain Gorgonzola
Banana split
(all shared)

Spicy Italian sausage comes from—where else?—the famous Italian market in Philadelphia. Chef-owner Jay Caputo prepares the links with sautéed peppers, onions, garlic, sherry wine and chicken stock. The flatbread is a creative twist on a familiar trio, with oven-dried tomato pesto, bacon, chopped watercress and Gruyére cheese on a toasty flatbread shell. The comforting chicken potpie is seasoned with fresh thyme sprigs and black truffles. Earthy Mountain Gorgonzola from Italy and Caputo’s favorite dessert—ice cream with caramelized bananas and homemade caramel sauce—round things out. 210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6494

Palettes $50

Chicken fritters (shared)
Spiced salmon salad
Doubletree Angus burger
Prime pork steak

Palettes, in the Wilmington Doubletree, is an eclectic little gem with a funky decor and a menu crafted by executive chef Dante Iocona. A healthy starter of seared salmon filet is served atop julienne vegetables and baby greens. The Doubletree burger pairs Angus beef with equally beefy portobello mushrooms on a Kaiser roll. The thick pork steak comes with whipped potatoes and a bean medley flavored with cognac-thyme butter. 4727 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-6000

Potstickers $50

Potstickers (shared)
Pan-seared Alaskan salmon entrée
Mongolian beef entrée

Plump potsticker dumplings come stuffed with whatever you want—shrimp and spinach, sweet pork and napa cabbage, and more—and you can have them pan-fried or steamed. Wild Alaskan salmon, lightly dressed with tomato vinaigrette, is prepared simply to uphold the fresh flavor. Mongolian-style beef is prepared with onions to aid digestion, just as Genghis Khan’s Mongols made it. Potstickers’ chefs use certified Angus beef and a housemade hoisin sauce. 1247 Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188

Second Street Grille $45

Fried calamari appetizer (shared)
Caesar salad
Spinach salad
Fettuccini ala carbornara with
sun dried tomatoes (shared)

Chef-owner Ray Richardson keeps his family recipes under lock and key, but he grants a peek at the awesome, big-enough-for-two fettuccini carbonara. The noodles are covered with a sauce of roasted garlic, white wine, nutmeg, sun dried tomatoes and quality Pecorino Romano cheese. The shared spinach salad comes with a salty-sweet warm bacon dressing. Tender fried calamari is drizzled with a chipotle mayo. 115 Second St., Lewes, 644-4121

Smith & Company $50

Baked artichoke crab dip (shared)
Flat iron steak entrée
Chicken Chesapeake entrée

Slide into a high-backed booth or relax on the patio to begin your romantic dinner with a little dip. Fresh crab, artichokes, fontina and spinach are folded together, then baked until bubbly. But the dip is nothing without soft, warm baguettes. Some say chef Phil Lambert’s flat iron steak, seasoned with a house rub, tastes better than filet mignon. The oven-roasted chicken breast is stuffed with lump crabmeat, finished with a mushroom-basil demi-glace and served over mashed potatoes. 249 N.E. Front St., Milford, 422-7750

The Pig + Fish $47

Wasabi seared tuna entrée
Tabasco smoked pork tenderloin entrée
Vanilla ice cream (shared)

A favorite at Pig + Fish is chef Michael Stiglitz’s pork loin marinated in Tabasco, which imparts the tangy flavor of the famous sauce without all the tongue-searing heat. The chef grills the pork, then fans the slices over warm bacon and scallion potato salad. The whole thing gets the treatment from a sage-honey glaze. Stiglitz’s wasabi-seared sesame tuna is served over an Asian salad with napa and bok choi cabbage, iceberg lettuce, cilantro, red onions, wonton crisps and a Chinese mustard vinaigrette. After all that wasabi and Tabasco, cool down with a bowl of ice cream and two spoons. 236 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7770

Lupo Di Mare $48

Marinated olives
Anchovies, bread and goat butter
Lifeguard calamari (shared)
Gnocchi Gorgonzola entrée
Seared sea bass entrée
Panna cotta (shared)

Lupo Di Mare adheres to the notion of light, fresh, bold flavors of coastal Italian cuisine. Imported marinated olives are a country mix served in a fish-shaped bowl. Spanish white anchovies are marinated in red wine vinegar and olive oil, unlike the brown, cured, canned pizza-topping variety. Lifeguard calamari, named for its profusion on Italian coasts, gets sautéed quickly with tomatoes, hot peppers, lemon, olive oil and mint leaves. The 6-ounce sea bass is finished with a squirt of citrus, olive oil and sea salt. 247 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 228-3786

Toscana $50

Caesar Salad  
Carpaccio appetizer
Di Parma pizzette
Today’s gelato (shared)

The ruby-red carpaccio, a snappy first course of uncooked tenderloin, arugula, red onions, capers, avocado, truffle oil and Reggiano, is a nice contrast to the piquant Caesar salad. Di Parma pizzette is made with prosciutto, goat cheese, rosemary, arugula and mozzarella. The flavors in the signature tortellini dish—imported ham, ricotta and a sun-dried tomato cream sauce—mingle beautifully. The gelato is made fresh daily at sister restaurant Deep Blue Bar & Grill. 1412 N. DuPont St., Wilmington, 654-8001

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