Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Winter at the Beach
No longer are the Delaware beaches like a ghost town in the off-season. With festive holiday events throughout the season, plus concerts, classes, historic tours, and a wide selection of craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries to choose from, many are discovering that winter on the coast is worth a visit.
The Delaware Beach towns of Rehoboth Beach and Lewes are awash in bar, pub and dining options that are open year-round. A couple of new locations just opened in 2017 and are attracting locals and visitors with their unique take on great food and drink.
The Big Oyster Brewery
A spinoff from Fins Hospitality Group, who have four raw bar restaurant locations on the Delmarva Peninsula, the Big Oyster Brewery on Kings Highway is located halfway from the Cape May Ferry landing to Highway 1 in the town of Lewes. Already popular with locals since opening in September, the Big Oyster brings a creative line up of house-brewed beers and excellent lunch and dinner fare. Soaring ceilings reveal a collection of small, vintage outboard motors, fishing rods, oyster rakes, and other seaside paraphernalia. In addition to the main dining room, customers can grab a seat at the kitchen counter for up close chef-at-work views, at the bar, or outdoors on their patio when the weather is nice. The beer line up is described on a daily list and breaks down into one of three categories: IPAs, Seasonals, or Funky/Barrel Aged/Sour.
On the IPA list, a brew called “Milkshake” delivers a fine mug of vanilla-and-orange-peel-scented suds. Bypass your questioning inner voice and try a sample - chances are you’ll be ordering a half dozen oysters to pair with your brew, and can tell your friends you had oysters and milkshakes! While some of the craft brew items have fun names, the food preparation is serious stuff. The kitchen is well-staffed with a full team of chefs who make most everything on the menu from scratch, a tall order because the regular dinner menu and the daily specials number over fifty mouth-watering items each day.
On a recent visit, the daily features menu had 15 choices, including a delicious dish of stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon and filled with pulled pork, wild rice, onions, bacon, and chipotle mayo sauce; followed by the mac and cheese bake with brisket, jalapeño beer cheese sauce, with orecchiette pasta. The daily features change a bit each day with three to four items being dropped and new items taking their place.
> 1007 Kings Highway, Lewes, 302-644-2621
The Vineyard Wine Bar and Bistro
Some say one of the types of establishments missing from the Rehoboth Beach area was a quality wine bar. Joe Lertch, the owner of the Vineyard Wine Bar in Havre De Grace, Maryland, had been vacationing in Rehoboth Beach for years and was planning to retire there. When the right building came up for lease on Wilmington Avenue just a five-minute walk to the beach, it was time to open a second location.
Joe comes from a wine industry background as a distributor and has a vast knowledge of wines throughout the world. A comprehensive list of over eighty wines by-the-glass awaits wine lovers who drop in to sample the wares. Can’t decide which wine to try? The Vineyard makes that easier by offering a 3-ounce taste-size glass.
Soft jazz playing in the background sets the mood for a happy hour visit, which starts at 3:56 pm and goes until 6 pm, Tuesday through Friday. Wines-by-the-glass and classic cocktails are discounted $2 each, and there is a happy hour special menu of artisan dishes for $8 per plate. Tapas Tuesday is another special at the Vineyard, offering complimentary tapas with each glass of happy hour wine purchased. A regular tapas menu is also available, including an appealing selection of flatbreads, salads, cheeses, cured meats, and patés. The Vineyard also serves larger entrée options like Steakhouse Filet, Gaucho Lamb, Salmon Wellington, and Wild Boar & Gnocchi. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.
Note: At press time, we learned that the Vineyard Wine Bar and Bistro in Rehoboth Beach experienced a kitchen fire and will be closed during the renovations. Until the reopening, visit their location at 142 North Washington Street, Havre de Grace, MD 443-502-2551
Where to Stay
With so much to see and do, and without the summer crowds, it’s no wonder the off-season is becoming more popular. The area still offers up a good walk on the beach, with the crashing waves playing a natural symphony during an otherwise quiet time. Gone are the crowds of summer and some days are warm enough to go barefoot in the sand. So if you are craving a winter break, consider spending a few days at the beach!
For a treat-yourself-to-luxury option, the Bellmoor Inn and Spa is the best place around. They are open year-round and in the off-season their basic rooms are about $180 and deluxe suites $300-$400 per night. The beach is just a short ten-minute walk and the town’s restaurants and shops are even closer. Service is top-notch and a full breakfast is included. 6 Christian Street, Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-5800
The Dogfish Head Inn in Lewes is funky and fun, located just steps from shops and restaurants and a good home base for checking out the area. They’re offering a great weekend package to celebrate the Dogfish Head Spirited Weekend Jan 12-14, with an up-close look at all their coastal Delaware locations. A perfect way to start the new year. 105 Savannah Road, Lewes, 302-644-8292
In Rehoboth Beach, the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel is offering a Cozy Winter Weekend with 2 nights and lots of extras for just $499 per couple. This beachfront location has everything to love and has all the full-service amenities of a large hotel with the personal service and friendly feel of a B&B. 2 Olive Avenue & The Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 302-227- 7169