Labor Day has passed and 1) the crowds have left the beach, 2) The kids are back in school. Summer feels like it's over, but here's a little secret: it's not. Not for another couple weeks. In fact, it's the perfect time to head to the beach. Why? Well, see #1 and #2 for starters, plus the fact that the weather is still beautiful, arguably better since it's sunny but not aggressively hot. It's pretty much perfect.
And the restaurants are less packed, although some of them (like Royal Treat) close for the season soon. We hit the beach over busy Labor Day weekend, but you cold certainly enjoy where we ate in the next few weeks. Here's where we dined in Rehoboth Beach this year.
|Salt Air: Roast Half Chicken with Bacon Baked Beans, Corn and Cornbread|
On our first night, we headed to Salt Air, one of last year's favorites. They don't take many reservations, and on the weekends during the summer, they are jam-packed, but midweek it's not bad (and I suspect after Labor Day it's even better). We weren't disappointed with our food. I loved my roasted half chicken with Benton's bacon baked beans (a shout-out to my favorite brand of bacon, how could I pass that up?), corn on the cob and cornbread. Chris's crab cakes with basil smashed potatoes and roasted asparagus was just as satisfying. We also liked our starter, a watermelon and radish salad with mizuna greens, cucumber, feta and peanuts. I'm loving the frequent use of nuts I'm seeing in salads this year. Salt Air also serves a great Manhattan, made with both bourbon and rye and a cherry compote.
|Bramble & Brine: Salmon with Leeks and Tomatoes|
While Chris had the "surf" and I the "turf" at Salt Air, we switched places at Bramble & Brine, where I enjoyed salmon with tomatoes, leeks and bean puree, while Chris opted for the rib eye steak with roasted vegetables and twice-baked potato, which comes served a potato "tower" of sorts. Both entrees were delicious, as were our starters of deckle--an alternate cut of rib eye that was perfectly medium-rare and served with corn and red onion--and a pea tendril salad with beets, cucumber and feta cheese. I also love the setting of the restaurant, a peacefully decorated house with light colors and lots of natural wood. Bramble & Brine also makes a fine Manhattan. Frankly, it's amazing that the Manhattans we drank in Rehoboth Beach this summer were markedly better than the Manhattans we ordered recently in, well, Manhattan.
Craving pasta? A stop at Zebra Ristorante isn't a bad option. Although the decor is a little garish, the pastas we had were satisfying, despite a surprising affinity for truffle oil, an ingredient once beloved but now shunned by many restaurants. Sure, it was in both of the pastas we ordered, but they were tasty, both the pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and the penne with Italian veal sausage, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. The watermelon and feta salad with arugula made me really want to make some watermelon salad while the juicy melons are still in season.
|Papa Grande's: Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas|
With seafood and meat under our belts, it was time to turn our attention to our real beach craving: good Mexican. I've mentioned that lately we've been dissatisfied with the Tex-Mex options in D.C. We have no such problem at the beach: we head straight for Dos Locos, a long-time favorite that consistently performs with excellent food, drinks and service. The grilled chicken fajitas were just as good as we remembered them--perfectly grilled but still juicy and served with sweetly charred onions and peppers. Chips and salsa are an afterthought at a lot of Mexican restaurants, but at Dos Locos they are really quite good.
This summer we also tried a relative newcomer just around the corner from Dos Locos, Papa Grande's, which opened last year in the space vacated by a previous Mexican restaurant, Cabo. Admittedly, it's no Dos Locos, but Papa Grande's is pretty good. I thought the steak fajitas were flavorful and tender and I liked that they were served with corn tortillas instead of the usual flour. The salsa was good too, although the chips weren't as fresh as I'd have liked. And while the margaritas at Papa Grande's are quite good, the frozen margaritas at Dos Locos are just stellar--the best frozen margaritas we get in any casual Mexican restaurant.
Unfortunately, our previous favorite breakfast place, Corner Grille, is now closed, so we had to find a new place to fill up before hitting the beach. And that place this year was The Royal Treat, an old favorite that I felt like we rediscovered all over again this year. Of course, their buttermilk pancakes are famous, and we enjoyed a plate of them served with syrup, butter and sausage. But their omelets were the breakfast find of the summer. They are fabulous! Cooked through, but not browned around the edges and stuffed with ingredients like browned sweet onion, peppers, ham and a cheddar-jack cheese blend. Best omelet I've ever had at the beach. Lines for The Royal Treat can be pretty long, so plan ahead and consider getting there early.
The Royal Treat closes September 14, so you'd better hurry if you want to enjoy it this year. And don't forget to come back at night: they also sell the beach's best ice cream. The peanut butter and vanilla swirl is my favorite.
Lastly, I want to talk about the service we get at Rehoboth Beach restaurants, which is consistently good year after year, and this summer was no different. There are many servers at the beach that go the extra mile and we really appreciate it. Dos Locos has a particularly talented serving staff. We stopped in one afternoon for margaritas, and John treated us like kings, making sure our water, chips and salsa were kept topped off. On a very busy weekend night, Cher seemed to turn up at exactly the right moment to make sure we got another round of margaritas and were satisfied with our food. And on our first day, when half of our Baker's Choice pizza at Grotto Pizza inexplicably slid off the serving pan and onto the patio floor, our kind server (who's name, I unfortunately do not remember) brought us a small replacement pizza and covered our embarrassment by ensuring us it happens "all the time." Perhaps, but what doesn't happen "all the time" is service this good. Thanks to the staffs for helping make our recent beach vacation another great experience.
Bramble & Brine, 315 Rehoboth Avenue (between 4th and 5th Streets), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 227-7702. Reservations: Open Table
Dos Locos, 208 Rehoboth Avenue (near 2nd Street), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 227-3353. Reservations: Open Table
Papa Grande's, 210 Second Street (at Wilmington Avenue), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 212-2409.
The Royal Treat, 4 Wilmington Avenue (near the boardwalk), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 227-6277.
Salt Air, 50 Wilmington Avenue (between 1st and 2nd Streets), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 227-3744. Reservations: limited availability for early hours (call the restaurant).
Zebra Ristorante, 32 Lake Avenue (north of Rehoboth Avenue near the convention center), Rehoboth Beach, Del. (302) 226-1160. Reservations: Open Table
Rehoboth Beach Dining Guide Part 1 (Dos Locos, Pig + Fish, Grotto Pizza, Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats, Robin Hood, Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, The Royal Treat, Dolle's, Kohr Bros.)
Rehoboth Beach Dining Guide Part 2 (The Back Porch Cafe, Dolles, Espuma, Nicola Pizza, Salt Air, Thrashers Rehoboth)