Best of Delaware

After nearly 20 years of reader surveys, we’ve learned a thing or two about the places that make the state great. Herein, a list of classics, favorites and upstarts that you just have to try.



Best Cajun-Creole Restaurant
Upstate, critics: Blue Parrot Bar & Grille offers some of the best Creole cookin’ this side of the Mason-Dixon. Add in a hurricane-slingin’ Voodoo bar, friendly service, great outdoor dining and a menu of étouffée, catfish, jambalaya, gumbo and more crawfish than you can swing a beaded necklace at. (1934 W. Sixth St., Wilmington, 655-8990)
Downstate, critics: On occasion, chef Kenn Lucas whips up a batch of Louisiana gumbo or jambalaya at Pig Out, but there’s always Cajun fried catfish in this tiny eatery. Sides are straight from the Crescent City: collard greens, red beans and rice, and garlic fries. Southern-fried ribs are a mainstay, and the pulled pork is cooked for five hours to make it extra tender. (212 S. Governors Ave., Dover, 739-0840)

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Best Chinese Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Potstickers Asian Grill (1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188)
Downstate, readers and critics: Customers flock to Confucius Chinese Restaurant for addictive fried veggie dumplings and sautéed fresh fish. The restaurant prides itself on generous portions, doling out more shrimp and walnuts than one could ever imagine. (57 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3848)
Upstate, critics: Chefs at The Crownery train in Hong Kong and mainland China, which comes as no surprise when you taste the steamed Chilean sea bass or the diced chicken with honey walnuts. All ingredients are fresh, you’ll find none of the canned sauces served at cheap take-aways. Children are not only welcomed—they are encouraged. (228 Lantana Drive, Hockessin, 239-3825)

Best French Restaurant
Upstate, readers: The Green Room (11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)
Downstate, readers: Chez La Mer (210 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6494)
Over the line, critics: Gilmore’s Restaurant has been one of the most popular places in West Chester since 2001. The intimate BYOB occupies a refurbished 18th-century townhouse where chef Peter Gilmore, who spent 22 years as chef de cuisine at Philly’s famed Le Bec-Fin, prepares classic French dishes with contemporary American flair. Favorites include roasted baby pheasant with foie gras bread pudding, raisin-pecan bread pudding with a white chocolate center, and butterscotch crème brûlée. (133 E. Gay St., West Chester, Pa., 610-431-2800)

Best Greek Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Costa’s Grill & Wine Bar (1000 West St., Wilmington, 777-2268)
Downstate, readers: Captain Pete’s Mediterranean Cove (700 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 537-5900)

Best Indian Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Star of India (100 Elkton Road, Newark, 455-0300)
Downstate, readers and critics: For a small place, Taste of India serves a lot of authentic dishes. Try several at once from the bountiful buffet offered on weekends. Service is swift, so even when it’s crowded, the wait is bearable. Paneer pakora (delicious fritters of homemade cheese) make a nice prelude to spicy lamb vindaloo. Order naan or special kulcha stuffed with chicken tikka, minced meat or onion. The ras malai (dumplings of cottage cheese) is excellent. Save room for dessert. (348 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, 677-0121)
Upstate, critics: The beautiful thing about the food at Nirvana Fine Indian Cuisine is that it represents styles from all parts of India well, but in its own way. The seasoning of the tandoori chicken creates a crust, unlike versions of the popular dish from other Indian restaurants. The gi (or clarified butter) that is the basis of most dishes, is richer than most, lending a creamy consistency to meals such as palak paneer. The art glass partitions create an air that is urbane and cool. (1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 652-3846)

Best Irish Fare
Upstate, critics: Dublin transplants Joe and Shirley Sheridan knew what they were doing when they opened A Piece of Ireland in 2001. The bar stretches 42 feet, and there’s a fireplace to warm you. The menu is always authentic, loaded with corned beef and cabbage, Guinness stew, shepherd’s pie and boxty—all for under $10. (2 Chesmar Plaza, Newark, 454-1900)
Downstate, critics: The corned beef and cabbage and the banger sausages are popular at Stoney Lonen. Then again, so are the pecan-encrusted halibut and 12-ounce rib eyes. Get the drift? Stoney Lonen fuses Irish and American influences, but the taps—loaded with Guinness Irish Stout, Harp Lager and Smithwick’s 1710 Original Irish Ale—are all Blarney. (208 Second St., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2664)

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Best Irish Breakfast
Downstate, critics: Books by the Bay Café, where you can grab a quick bite and a good book, is also home to one big repast. Its take on the traditional Irish breakfast consists of two slices of Irish bacon and Irish sausage, two eggs, a grilled tomato and mushrooms. (111 Bank St., Lewes, 645-2304)

Best Neighborhood Italian Place
Upstate, readers: Grotto Pizza (Bear, Fairfax, Newark, Wilmington)
Downstate, readers: Grotto Pizza (Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Lewes, Long Neck, Middletown, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, South Bethany)
Upstate, critics: The fact that Madeline’s has been operating in the same location (across from St. Francis Hospital) for 46 years says a lot. That the landmark is run by third-generation Sparcos (founder Madeline Sparco’s grandson Stephen and his wife, Tammy) reflects the consistency and caring that goes into maintaining a respected neighborhood restaurant. Some staffers have worked there for more than 20 years. The legendary lasagna is still served in huge portions, and the wedding soup remains one of Madeline’s most popular offerings. The restaurant recently underwent a renovation, but don’t worry—it still feels like home. (531 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 656-4505)
Downstate, critics: You won’t find a homier spot than Roma Italian Restaurant. The cioppino is requested so often, it will soon become a menu item. Chef Joe Garramone’s lobster ravioli, veal saltimbocca and wild mushroom risotto are delizioso. Need more? The tiramisu and cheesecakes are made in-house, but try the peanut butter mousse—if there’s any left. (3 President Drive, Dover, 678-1041)

Best Upscale Italian Place
Upstate, readers: Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizzeria (201 W. Main St., Newark, 286-6600; 3596 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 529-0800)
Downstate, readers: DiFebo’s (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4914)
Downstate, critics: Ignore the strip mall façade. Once you’re inside La Rosa Negra, you’re in Italy. The Tuscany Room is for banquets and more formal dining. The Venetian Room is less spiffy, yet classy. Both are suitable for casual family dining. The bar area was recently enlarged, in part because of the list of 80 reasonably priced wines and the popularity of live jazz on weekends. The prices of La Rosa Negra’s 10 different veal dishes are reduced on Thursdays, and the Taste of Italy menu offers half-portion entrées at a discount. The new international menu changes every two weeks. A classic: the rockfish, sautéed and baked in cream and Marsala, topped with sun-dried tomato butter cream and lump crab meat, all served over pasta. Regulars also know that duck is a good call. For dessert, try the award-winning symphony cake: triple chocolate cake coated with raspberry, iced in a mocha whipped cream, then topped with chocolate ganache and toasted almonds. (1201 Savannah Road, Lewes. 645-1980)

Best Japanese Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Utage Japanese Restaurant (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 57-61, Wilmington, 652-1230)
Downstate, readers: Cultured Pearl (19 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493)

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Ali Baba Middle Eastern Cuisine (175 E. Main St., Newark, 738-1111)
Downstate, readers: Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4199)
Upstate, critics: Among breathtaking Mediterranean décor and amply cushioned seating, some of the most elegant cuisine this side of Morocco is served at Casablanca. A seven-course dinner of bastilla, luscious meat courses and baklava, among others, can take two hours or more. But with professional belly dancers on hand, who cares? (4401 N. Dupont Hwy., New Castle, 652-5344)

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Best Mexican Restaurant
Upstate, readers: La Tolteca (203 Newark Shopping Center, Newark, 737-8220; 4015 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-9477; W. Newport Pike, Wilmington, 636-9484)
Downstate, readers: La Tolteca (859 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, 734-9524; 4578 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 644-3994)
Upstate, critics: Tijuana Taco Shop is where Mexican-Americans lead and the rest follow. The place is usually packed with diners that seriously chow down on $4 appetizers and hearty entrées under $10. No visit is complete without the chili con queso or jalapeños relleños. Nachos are smothered in chorizo, ham and bubbling cheese. The burritos are stuffed with fabulous guacamole. Is there room in our growing tummies for the crepes with caramel? Uh-huh. (1815 Lancaster Ave., Wilmington, 777-3565)
Downstate, critics: Known for treating customers like true amigos, Corralejo Mexican and Taquere Restaurant is built upon fast service and authentic cuisine. Its fajitas, pork carnitas flavored with beer and tacos of spicy carne asada are all assembled from fresh ingredients, chopped and prepped every morning. It never hurts to serve great margaritas. (528 S. Bay Road, Dover, 734-4575)

Best New American Restaurant
Upstate, critics: Moro chef-owner Michael DiBianca serves only food that he’d eat. That’s always a good sign. For starters, let us recommend the crispy duck confit with arugula, Belgian endive, Meyer lemon and Parmesan. On to the onion-crusted yellowtail snapper with baby vegetables and vanilla beurre blanc. Or should we try the plank-roasted, maple-glazed salmon with whipped sweet potatoes, grilled pineapple and macadamia nut vinaigrette? They are all DiBianca favorites. During the past year, the a la carte steak and chop menu has gained popularity. Moro serves 10 different steaks, including the Gorgonzola and caramelized onion-crusted 16-ounce barrel-cut rib eye. All beef is dry-aged for 30 days. (1307 N. Scott St., Wilmington, 777-1800)

Best Thai Restaurant
Upstate, readers (tie): Bangkok House (104 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-8555) Pan Tai (837 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6633)
Downstate, readers: Seaside Thai (19 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-9525)


Best Restaurant in Bethany
Readers: Bethany Blues BBQ Pit (6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500)
Critics: Executive chef Michael Johnston and sous chef Tony Magarelli of Sedona oversee a fine menu known mostly for seafood. (Don’t discount the antelope with plum sauce.) For its 15th birthday this year, Sedona got a facelift that features contemporary colors of chocolate brown, turquoise and burnt red pepper, new textured sound panels and track lighting. The wine list has been enhanced with 20 more bottles, including some from green wineries such as Frog’s Leap, which uses only organically grown Napa Valley grapes. (26 Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 539-1200)

Best Restaurant in Claymont
Readers: Claymont Steak Shop (3526 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, 798-5319)
Critics: Someone please tell Mimmo that we realize his Mazzella’s Italian Restaurant is actually in Penny Hill. Can we agree to call it Greater Claymont’s Little Italy? After all, the recent renovation and countless authentic Italian dishes harken back to the old country. The addition of the arches and ceramic tiles helped dress the place up. (We’re thankful the familiar seascape mural was preserved.) Everything on the menu is how it was meant to be, from the Neapolitan sourdough bread to the lasagna to the chef’s specialties, such as Amalfi: sautéed chicken breast, jumbo shrimp, broccoli and roasted peppers in blush wine sauce over linguine. Heck, even the French fries are awesome. (729 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 762-8722)

Best Restaurant in Dewey Beach
Readers: Two Seas (Highway One and Van Dyke Street, Dewey, 227-2610)

Best Restaurant in Dover
Readers: Michele’s Steak and Seafood (1131 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, 674-4600)
Critics: The Southern-style Cool Springs Fish Bar and Restaurant really is the Big Kahuna when it comes to fantastic seafood. The menu consists of mouth-watering flounder, Maryland crab cakes and succulent steamed clams. For the landlubber, there is a selection of dishes such as rack of lamb, pan-fried New York sirloin and center-cut pork chops. And a word to the wise: Cool Springs is a great place to flex your networking muscles. (2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955)

Best Restaurant in Fenwick Island
Readers: Nantucket’s Restaurant (Route 1 and Atlantic Ave., Fenwick Island, 539-2607)

Best Restaurant in Greenville
Readers: Buckley’s Tavern (5812 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 656-9776)
Critics: Krazy Kat’s (named for its eclectic collection of feline art) never fails to surprise and please. And with a menu as colorful as its decor, it serves as a culinary retreat for many locals. All food, a mixture of American nouvelle cuisine and traditional continental fare, is made from scratch Think herb-roasted organic quail, jumbo lump crab and Maine lobster cake, and pan-seared breast of Muscovy duck confit with flowering kale, ginger carrot, parsnip purée and blood orange glaze. (Route 100 and Kirk Road, Greenville, 888-4200)

Best Restaurant in Hockessin
Readers: Six Paupers Tavern and Restaurant (7465 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 489-7287)
Critics: At the Back Burner Restaurant the atmosphere encourages conversation while diners enjoy wonderful food without feeling rushed. The restaurant offers seasonal, American-style selections. Steak and seafood selections are big, but we love the veal Oscar topped with crab meat and Hollandaise sauce. Desserts come from Sweet Somethings in Wilmington. You’d be remiss if you didn’t at least share the hazelnut crunch cheesecake. (425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin, 239-2314)

Best Restaurant in Lewes
Readers: Striper Bites (107 Savannah Road, Lewes, 645-4657)

Best Restaurant in Magnolia
Readers: Cool Springs Fish Bar and Restaurant (2463 S. State St., Dover, 698-1955)

Best Restaurant in Middletown
Readers: Nino’s Pizza (406 W. Main St., Middletown, 449-0911)
Critics: What do an ostrich, buffalo and jazz singer have in common? They’re just some of the many treats you will find at Maynard’s Piano Bar and Restaurant. Unlike the ostrich and buffalo, the jazz singer isn’t served with a side of fries. Delicious food and lively entertainment make Maynard’s a must-do. (423 N. Broad St., Middletown, 376-6066)

Best Restaurant in Millsboro
Readers: The Georgia House (119 Main St., Millsboro, 934-6737)

Best Restaurant in Newark
Readers: Caffé Gelato (90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811)

Best Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach
Readers: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)

Best Restaurant in Seaford
Readers: Bon Appetit (312 High St., Seaford, 629-3700)

Best Restaurant in Smyrna
Readers: Wayside Inn (103 N. DuPont Hwy., Smyrna, 653-8047)
Critics: The Smyrna Diner is a landmark. Great diner food is served by caring waitresses like Charlotte Bleen and Mary Anderson (combined tenure: 70 years) who call you “hon” while doling out the best chicken and dumplings, pancakes and sausage gravy in town. By Christmas, the new Smyrna Diner on Corey Lane (off Route 1) should be up and running. Bittersweet? You bet. But the new joint will accommodate bigger parties. It’ll be handicapped accessible. It’ll house big breakfast buffets on weekends. The manager-owner team of Jamie Compton and her mother, Sandra Margist, promise the same great food (from a larger, more modern kitchen) and more of the best service in the area. (304 N. DuPont Hwy., Smyrna, 653-9980)

Best Restaurant in Downtown Wilmington
Readers: Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)

Best Restaurant in North Wilmington
Readers: Harry’s Savoy Grill (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000)


Best Atmosphere
Downstate, readers: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)
Upstate, readers: Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)

Best Classic Atmosphere
Upstate, critics: The Green Room, the three-star jewel of the Hotel du Pont, has been a favorite since the early 1900s. That would scream stuffy if it weren’t for the renovation that catapulted the French gem into the current millennium. Think of the Green Room as great theater: Soaring gold-leaf ceilings and Versace china are necessary props; the attentive waitstaff are the supporting players. But for tonight’s performance, you are the star. (11 W. Market St., Wilmington, 594-3154)
Downstate, critics: When owner John Donato restored The Buttery, the former Victorian home of Laura Mustard and her husband, Captain Robert Morris, his goal was to preserve the spectacular architecture. After sifting through reams of documents and historical photographs, he did it. From the pale yellow walls to the impressive moldings to the crisp white tablecloths, The Buttery is one of the most exquisite restaurants in Lewes. But don’t take our word for it. Laura Mustard’s great grandson, Robert Morris Mustard Sr., recently visited The Buttery. He was quite pleased. (102 Second St., Lewes, 645-7755)
Over the line, critics: Taking over the historic Chadd’s Ford Inn was no easy task, but Brandywine Prime made it look easy, marrying traditional plank floors and Colonial furniture with a modern and inviting bar and dining areas. The result is a perfect fusion of old and new. (1617 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, Pa., 610-388-8088)

Best Contemporary Atmosphere
Upstate, critics: When Jasmine Asian Cuisine and Sushi Bar was redesigned and expanded more than a year ago, owner Tammy Wang wanted her restaurant to be modern, bold and energetic, with a New York feel. The addition of mood lighting and a waterfall did the trick. Jasmine’s spin on Asian design includes plenty of reds, oranges and yellows. The constantly changing lighting, vivacious servers and large crowds complement the eclectic cuisine. Wang will be going for a Miami look when she opens a Jasmine on Del. 1 in Rehoboth Beach later this year. (3618 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 479-5618)
Downstate, critics: Most likely it’s the food that creates the buzz in Nage’s cozy-but-lively dining room. But the upscale, casual bistro decor helps set the mood. Earth tones are warm and inviting. The service is professional, but not stuffy. The whole place is so neat and clean that customers regularly urge management to hang something on the walls. (4307 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037)
Over the line, critics: There’s a reason no paintings hang at The Orchard Restaurant. Executive chef and owner James Howard thinks guests, food and fresh flowers make more interesting art. White paneled walls and a few well-placed antiques create an air of sophistication downstairs, especially when soft jazz accompanies dinner. No jackets or ties are required in the main dining room. Diners dress up anyway. Maybe it’s the striking crystal stemware. (503 Orchard Ave., Kennett Square, Pa., 610-388-1100)

Best Romantic Atmosphere
Upstate, readers: Moro is named for the most colorful type of blood orange, so roundness and color dominate Moro’s decor, from its semicircular dining pods to circular lamps that cast a romantic, reddish-orange glow. Well-placed booths ensure an intimate dining experience, and they’re numbered so patrons can request their favorite spot upon their return. For added romance, hold hands during live jazz performances on Thursdays. (1307 N. Scott St., Wilmington, 777-1800)
Downstate, readers: Victoria’s Restaurant (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615)
Upstate, critics: We’ll forgive the hard sell at The Melting Pot, where every server is trained to pitch The Big Night Out, a gluttonous four-course combo. Decline politely. (Nothing says turn-off more than bloat.) Instead, you and your guest can dip apples into cheddar cheese and shrimp into coq au vin broth in the privacy of your own booths. The Bailey’s Irish Cream Dream fondue could pass for foreplay. (1601 Concord Pike, Suite 43-47, Wilmington, 652-6358)
Downstate, critics: Call ahead if you require one of Eden’s sheer-curtained booths. There are six downstairs and three upstairs, and they’re always at a premium because they lend an air of privacy. Just remember: They are curtains, not walls. The candlelit veranda is another option for a romantic meal. Decorated with flowers and herbs, it overlooks Baltimore Avenue, and when the wind is right, you can hear waves crashing on the beach. (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330)
Over the line, critics: Try not to swoon upon entering the Dilworthtown Inn, where gas lamps, Colonial antiques and cozy fireplaces await at every turn. Since 1754, the inn has been creating lasting memories with its amazing flavors and undying romanticism. (1390 Old Wilmington Pike, West Chester, Pa., 610-399-1390)

Best Outdoor Dining
Upstate, readers: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 710 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 658-8200)
Downstate, readers: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)
Upstate, critics: The patio at Kelly’s Logan House sits a bit higher than street level, providing the perfect pad to observe the comings and goings in Trolley Square. There’s a tiki bar with its own sound system—an ideal site for private and corporate gatherings. Enjoy the shade of a rare, 100-year-old Japanese sycamore. The CSX and 50-car Tropicana freight trains that occasionally rumble past provide another opportunity for patrons to—as they like to say at the Logan House—sit back, relax and watch life roll by. (1701 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 652-9493)
Downstate, critics: Back deck, upper deck, either deck will do at The Back Porch Café—the spot for upscale, outdoor beach dining. Rustic, elegant extensions of a turn-of-the-century guesthouse, the decks are hard to beat for casually romantic evenings or delightful Sunday brunches. The food, whether king salmon for dinner or traditional eggs Benedict on Sunday morning, matches the ambiance. Smell that ocean? Dining here makes you realize one thing: You can’t take a single nice summer day for granted. (59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674)

Best Water View
Upstate, readers: Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 777-1500)
Downstate, readers: Victoria’s Restaurant (2 Olive Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0615) Over the line, critics: The decks at the Chesapeake Inn Restaurant offer a priceless view of the Back Creek Basin, C&D Canal and the Chesapeake City Bridge. There’s no finer place to dine in summer. (605 Second St., Chesapeake City, Md., 410-885-2040)


Best Crab House
Upstate, readers: Joe’s Crab Shack (600 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 777-1803)
Downstate, readers: Lazy Susan’s Seafood Deli (1422 Highway One, Lewes, 645-5115)
Upstate, critics: You know you’re in a cool crab joint when there’s a glass-encased model of the Budweiser Clydesdales pulling the famous beer wagon above the bar. In fact, that bar area is the only part of Lestardo’s Crab House that survived a recent remodeling. (The place is pushing 40, after all.) The expanded dining room, which now seats 140, is much brighter, without the familiar dark wood paneling. Rest easy, regulars: The mounted sailfish (caught by a customer) and his other saltwater friends are back on the wall. Lestardo’s offers a full menu, but we’re talking crabs here. These babies are from Texas and Louisana. They’re served year round, and they’re spiced with the founder’s secret seasoning. Try Krista’s spicy crab sauce if you’d like your backfin to bite back. (135 Christiana Road, New Castle, 328-5070)
Downstate, critics: For about 50 years, the dockside Sambo’s Tavern has sold crabs and fish straight off the boat. We love the fried fish, oysters, clam strips, scallops and shrimp, but the crabs keep bringing us back. Unfortunately, we come back only from April to November. Sambo’s is seasonal. And it’s not a place for kids. We love it anyway. (280 Front St., Leipsic, 674-9724)
Over the line, critics: Hilltop Crabhouse Restaurant is everything one would expect from a traditional crabhouse, except that it’s a bit inland—about a mile over the state line. The main dining room’s long tables are covered in brown paper. There are little wooden mallets. And the crabs are sprinkled with seasoning from Harbor Spice Company in Baltimore. Hilltop is billed as the home of the year-round, all you-can-eat crab special. For $23.95, you get all the steamed blue crabs you can handle, plus fries and slaw. Owners Richard Mason and Curtis Mason Sr. say their homemade, tomato-based dipping sauce is similar to DiNardo’s famous concoction. What more could you want? How about at-the-table pourers that hold two pitchers of your favorite brew. (8980 Newport-Gap Pike, Avondale, Pa., 610-268-2766)

Best Family Place
Upstate, readers: Charcoal Pit (2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2165; 741 Greenbank Road, Wilmington, 998-8853; 5200 Pike Creek Blvd., Wilmington, 999-7483)
Downstate, readers: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)
Upstate, critics: Seasons Pizza loves families, as evidenced by the balls of pizza dough the friendly waitstaff gives kids to play with, or maybe it’s the crayons, coloring books and balloons. Tables and booths are spacious in this Tuscan-style restaurant. Servers appreciate well-behaved children, but they’re patient with those who’ve missed their naps. Kids love the pizza and garlic bread, but the Krazy Fries with cheddar, mozzarella and bacon bits and large portions please the whole gang. Think of Seasons as a family that understands families. (3901 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2009, and other locations) Downstate, critics: Kids and pizza go together like, well, kids and pizza. That makes Grotto Pizza the standard when it comes to family dining. Whether you go for a birthday party or an anniversary dinner, a few Grotto pies, some cheese fries and a couple pitchers always do the trick. Some locations have rooms with video games, air hockey and Foosball. Half-price burger and special pasta nights allow budget-conscious families to get out for a bit. And let’s not forget the free popcorn and helium balloons. Did we mention the pizza? (Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Lewes, Long Neck, Middletown, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, South Bethany)

Best Seafood Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Red Lobster (309 Rocky Run Pkwy., Wilmington, 479-5582)
Downstate, readers: Big Fish Grill (4117 Highway One, Rehoboth Beach, 227-9007)
Upstate, critics: Inside the sleek, contemporary interior of Deep Blue Bar and Grill beats the heart of a marina fish house. It has to be, what with the restaurant’s impressive raw bar and perfectly prepared favorites such as five spice ahi tuna, macadamia-crusted cod, and luscious lobster and shrimp chowder. (111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040)
Downstate, critics: To find the tastes, smells and feel of great East Coast cuisine, look no further than Blue Coast Seafood Grill, where fresh ingredients combine with quality service and value. Owner Matt Haley buys only the freshest fish for dishes like Delaware seafood stew, which is crammed with local fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops and chorizo. (111 Highway One, Bethany Beach, 539-7111)

Best Steakhouse
Upstate, readers: Longhorn Steakhouse (1299 Quintillo Drive, Bear, 834-5729)
Downstate, readers: 1776 Restaurant (Midway Shopping Center, Rehoboth Beach, 645-9355)
Upstate, critics: When it comes to steak, customers at Walter’s Steakhouse demand two things: flavor and tenderness. Owner John Constantinou starts with a quality cut of certified Angus beef. (It has more specifications than either choice or prime.) Walter’s then ages the meat, sometimes up to 35 days. Tender filet mignons come in 8- or 12-ounce portions, but Walter’s built its reputation on prime rib. Constantinou comes from great stock: His father, George, owned the beloved Constantinou’s House of Beef, which we still miss, 20 years after it closed. (802 N. Union St., Wilmington, 652-6780)
Downstate, critics: It goes without saying that Chops Grille is all about the steak. Prime cuts of certified black Angus—the 20-ounce Porterhouse, filet mignon or bone-in Kansas City strip steak—are seared on a 1,800-degree Montague grill that creates a flavorful outer crust, seals in juices and locks in the flavor. (1570 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover, 678-0100)

Best Sushi Place
Upstate, readers: Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse (215 Astro Shopping Center, Newark, 456-3308; 5607 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-0194)
Downstate, readers: Cultured Pearl (19 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493)
Upstate, critics: Chef Al Chu’s energetic, innovative approach will make you love sushi. He’s one of the reasons Mikimotos Asian Grill & Sushi Bar continues to be the city’s sushi central. Among Chef Al’s latest creations is the Green Hornet roll (he’s on a super hero kick): eel and cream cheese wrapped in green soy paper (soy is the new seaweed) and topped with eel sauce. The sushi happy hour—a two-for-one deal that includes specialty rolls—is the perfect opportunity to grab a Hairy Mexican: a fried salmon and avocado roll topped with eel sauce. Crab sticks lend the hairy appearance. (1212 N. Washington St., Wilmington, 656-8638)


Over the line, critics: Cutlery isn’t the only thing that’s big at Big Fork Restaurant. The dining room features lots of open space, and the menu blends flavors from around the world with local ingredients and progressive cooking styles. Check out the double-cut pork loin with sweet potato purée and the lamb tenders wading in delicious juices. Bring your own wine. (100 Ridge Road, Chadds Ford, Pa., 610-358-8008)

Best New Chain Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Potstickers (1247 New Churchmans Road, Newark, 731-0188)
Downstate, readers: Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries (111 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 539-3970)

Best New Local Restaurant
Upstate, readers: Pat’s Family Restaraunt & MVP Sports Bar (160 Elkton Road, Newark, 738-0808)
Downstate, readers: Finbar (316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1873)
Downstate, critics: The owners of Half Full have done a lot with the 500-square-foot space that was formerly the Splish Splash Soap Company. The walls are painted deep red and lend a feel of a hip, urban wine bar. The Lewes-Rehoboth Canal is a block away. The 15-bottle wine list, culled from the offerings of smaller vineyards, is rotated often, as is the small but diverse beer selection. Wine is served by the bottle and by the glass. Half Full opened in January, but the dinner-only establishment created an instant buzz with its nine varieties of homemade pizza. Favorites include the braised beef (marinated flank steak) with bleu cheese and the pepperoni and artichoke with goat cheese. If those don’t suit, look for the pizza of the week or build your own. (113 Market St., Lewes, 645-8877)
Over the line, critics: Chef Dan Butler has worked his magic several times in Delaware (see: Toscana, Deep Blue), yet his latest venture may trump them all. Brandywine Prime features an impossibly fresh raw bar that includes oysters from the Pacific Northwest and the coup de grâce—perfectly prepared dry-aged steaks. (Routes 1 and 100, Chadds Ford, Pa., 610-388-8088)

Best-Kept Secret
Upstate, readers: The Blue Crab Grill (322 Suburban Drive, Newark, 737-110)
Downstate, readers: The Blue Crab (210D Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 537-4700) Upstate, critics: Mazzella’s Italian Restaurant replaced Enzo’s about 10 years ago when Domenico “Mimmo” Mazzella took over. Mazzella immediately went authentic, from appetizers to desserts. The wide selection of gourmet pizzas and traditional Italian dishes is worth the trip across city or county. An expansion last summer added 1,000 square feet to the restaurant. The beneficiaries are the kitchen and, by extension, the customer. Mazzella’s also expanded from wine and beer to a full bar. Those who’ve already discovered Mazzella’s know about the Cajun chicken, tomato and cheddar piz

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