Delmarva’s beaches are famous for the surf, the sand and the boardwalks. But the resort-area towns also have become a destination for foodies. Here are 33 eateries we think are worth a visit.
When it comes to pizza, longtime visitors have their favorites, and the debates get heated. The most visible is Grotto Pizza, which opened in 1960. The store’s original pizza had a zigzag of sauce across the pie, but it became a swirl because it’s easier to replicate. What’s the secret to its taste? There’s cheddar in the cheese mix. There are multiple locations, but fans maintain that the downtown Rehoboth site slices the best pizza.
36 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-3278, grottopizza.com
Nicola Pizza opened in 1971 after owner Nick Caggiano Sr. gained fans by selling pizza from his Rehoboth Beach home. There are now two locations to handle the demand. Longtime fans prefer the First Street site in large part due to the decor, which includes a carousel horse, a G-scale model train that runs on a track near the ceiling, and walls covered with framed tributes to the past—and past patrons. The pizza is popular, but Nicola’s claim to fame is the Nic-o-Boli, a stromboli with ground beef, pizza sauce and a blend of cheeses.
8 N. First St., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-226-2654; 71 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-6211, nicolapizza.com. (The Rehoboth Avenue location offers takeout.)
A few steps from the boardwalk, Blue Moon opened in 1981 and is now in the hands of four longtime employees, including Executive Chef Lion Gardner and his wife, Meg, a sommelier. In the quiet dining rooms, start with the fried green tomatoes, topped with
herbed cheese. Then try Gardner’s local rockfish, if it’s available, or smoked duck breast. For dessert, share the sky-high wedge of ice cream pie—four ice cream layers on an Oreo crust covered in meringue. Then get ready to party. The separate bar area turns into a colorful nightclub after dark. Don’t be surprised to see a drag queen—or two.
35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-6515, bluemoonrehoboth.com
As for fine dining, The Back Porch Café started the culinary renaissance in Rehoboth when it opened in 1974 in a former guesthouse. The “back porch” is really a patio with a balcony deck shaded by a mature tree. Much of the menu is seasonal, but you’ll usually find jumbo lump crab-and-shrimp cakes. End with the house coffee, which is flamed tableside. A tip: Go for lunch for affordable upscale fare, including the bunless turkey burger with Mediterranean spices. At lunch or dinner, order a drink from bartender Bee Neild, who, like co-owner Keith Fitzgerald, has been with The Back Porch since the start.
59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-3674, backporchcafe.com
A(MUSE.) is owned by James Beard Award nominee Hari Cameron, who loves to push the envelope. Take, for instance, the scrapple fried rice. More familiar fare might include local fluke with collard greens and turnips, or duck with wild rice and verde sauce. The potted chicken rillettes with foie gras and port is a menu mainstay. If you have the time, do the tasting menu. Locals tend to sit at the bar, especially after 9 p.m., when the late-night menu offers up charcuterie, artisanal cheese, Roman egg drop soup with rabbit confit and, if you’re lucky, Chesapeake soft-shell crab.
44 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-7107, amuse-rehoboth.com
Speaking of late nights, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats’ new building (opened in 2017) has a stage with a professional sound system for live music, which is often offered after 10 p.m. on weekends. It also has an exposed wood-burning oven for pizzas and a wood-fired grill for wings, burgers and steaks. Hopheads flock to this location to try one-off experimental beers made in the expanded on-site brewery. Families appreciate the kids menu.
320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-226-2739, dogfish.com/restaurants/brewpub
Dogfish’s sister restaurant, Chesapeake & Maine, serves dishes found in both of those regions. (The brewery was named after Dogfish Head, a point of land in Southport, Maine.) Picture lobster rolls, whole lobsters, clambakes, crabcakes and, of course, oysters. C&M is a platform for cocktails made with Dogfish Head spirits, which, like the nautical decor, are laced with whimsy. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a dessert drink named for the popular Amazon Prime show, contains coffee and Dogfish Head Fruit-Full Fort.
316 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-226-3600, dogfish.com/restaurants/chesapeake-maine
There are numerous ethnic options at the beach, but The Cultured Pearl paved the way for sushi when it opened in 1993 on Wilmington Avenue. The Pearl grew so popular that it needed new digs. In 2007, the restaurant moved to Rehoboth Avenue, where it occupies the top floor of a 22,000-square-foot building and has a rooftop deck, pergolas and canals for goldfish. The menu has expanded over the years, but unlike some sushi-centric restaurants, The Pearl takes no shortcuts; fish is still broken down on site. The restaurant hosts live entertainment on Friday nights all year. The lineup is a mix of pop, blues, rock and country.
301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, 302-227-8493, culturedpearl.us