Wilmington: Dining in Delaware

Wilmington offers every kind of dining you can imagine, from Italian to Thai and traditional to contemporary, so there are lots of local favorites, all for different reasons.

One of the biggest developments on the dining scene was the return of the Columbus Inn (2216 Pennsylvania Ave., 571-1492) a couple years ago. For years the inn had been the very definition of a local favorite, a place known for fine beef and seafood prepared in traditional ways served in a historic home. It closed when a developer bought the property, then reopened when the builder scuttled his project. With a new owner, new improvements and an all-new menu—food and decor that is fully contemporary, but maintains vestiges of tradition—the reopened Columbus Inn was an instant hit. Old friends have returned in droves.

When the work day ends, downtowners flock to happy hours at two popular seafood places: Deep Blue Bar and Grill (111 W. 11th St., 777-2040) and Harry’s Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., 777-1500). Both offer good food and drink specials, and raw bars with offerings that often make the perfect light bite—as well as oysters from across the country. When happy hour turns into dinner hour, patrons adjourn to the dining rooms, both sleek and contemporary, for cutting edge seafood dishes. Both places range the world for delicious fish.

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Trolley Square is Wilmington’s party central, so it’s no surprise that locals seek places where they can eat well and have fun. They include Kid Shelleen’s (1801 W. 14th St., 658-4600) and the Del Rose Café (1707 Delaware Ave., 656-3015). Kids offers fairly priced entrées and pasta dishes, as well as your favorite pub grub. Del Rose serves very good—and inexpensive—Italian fare. Both offer outdoor dining in season. The large deck at Kids often brims with early diners and Sunday brunchers. The courtyard at Del Rose cafe is lovely, with wrought iron gates and stone masonry.

Before a show at The Grand Opera House, you’ll find the adjacent restaurants humming. Orillas Tapas (902 N. Market St., 575-9244) stuns with a menu of Spanish dishes and chef Julio Lazzarini’s own creations. Ernest & Scott Taproom (902 N. Market St., 384-8113), almost next door, wows with fun fare such as pan-seared beef tenderloin with red onion marmalade, red wine gastrique, grilled asparagus and rosemary béarnaise—as well as an ever-changing list of craft beers. Facing The Grand, Chelsea Tavern (821 N. Market St., 482-3333) takes comfort to the edge with items such as its fish and chips—fried filet of whitefish with sweet basil tartar—and bacon-wrapped meatloaf with a barbecue sauce made of pale ale.

The Green Room of the 100-year-old Hotel du Pont (42 W. 11th St., 594-3154) remains the height of fine dining in Delaware, a place of soaring vaulted ceilings, rococo decor, Versace china and white-glove service. It is always the hot reservation for Mother’s Day brunch and other special occasions. Here’s a secret: for all the splendor, breakfast on weekdays costs no more than breakfast anywhere else.

The duo of Washington Street Ale House (1206 N. Washington St., 658-2537) and Mikimotos, Asian Grill and Sushi Bar (1212 N. Washington St., 656-8638), neighbors on Washington Street, offer good pub fare and sushi, respectively. Most nights find them packed.

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