REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE
You may think that the biggest challenge of taking nine adults, two children and two toddlers out to dinner would be finding a place that everyone can agree on. Nay nay. For years, we did seafood buffets with people in tow that do not eat fish. Our problem is squeezing a group of 13 into a restaurant at dinnertime.
One of the issues we ran into in Rehoboth Beach was reservations. Few restaurants outside of the “high-end” description take them. Otherwise, it’s first-come, first-served. Or, as I like to call it, wait at the bar.
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats is located on the fringe the seaside town’s dense commercial area. The restaurant is a stillpub, not a brewpub. The building housed the microbrewery’s original operation, now located in Milford. The upstairs dining room now overlooks the state of Delaware‘s only legal distillery. Dogfish Head also has the distinction of being the only restaurant with a parking lot east of the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal bridge on Rehoboth Avenue.
Our group of 13 found a one-hour wait when we called at 4:45 on a Thursday evening, which is impressive when you think about it. A few of us went to the restaurant to get our name on the list and belly up to the bar, while others wandered the town. When we were seated approximately 45 minutes later, we found an affordable gastropub menu that married typical pub fare with more gourmet offerings.
I started with a five-beer sampler, featuring 4 oz. portions of their draft offerings. The pricing of the flights varies based on the beers selected. My five, which included some of the rarer offerings (Theobroma and My Antonia) came to a surprisingly cheap $7.50.
The Wife and I started with an order of deep-fried pickles. Battered and fried, six kosher dill spears were served in a mini deep-fryer basket with a side of truffle mustard made with the brewery’s 60 Minute IPA. It’s easy to screw up fried pickles. Unless the batter is thick, the oil will make the pickle soggy and limp. These had the crisp snap of freshness, with only the batter and warmth reminding you that they had been fried.
The Dogfish Burger Experience, as the menu calls it, begins with locally-sourced beef fed barley provided by the brewery. Burgers start at $8 and are served with lettuce, tomato, onion, fries and a pickle. Diners can build their own burger from a list of cheeses, housemade bacon and other accoutrements. The Wife went with goat cheese and bacon. Her only comment was, “This is a hell of a burger.” She didn’t talk much while eating.
Pizzas are cooked over a wood-fired grill with dough made from wheat, barley and unfermented ale. I’m not sure what the latter is, but I’m guessing it gave the crust its slightly sourdough-like flavor. The pizzas can be custom built at $8 with toppings at $1 or $2. I chose one of the menu offerings: The Revolutionist. The crust was topped with roasted garlic olive oil, aged goat cheese, caramelized onions, green apple and fresh thyme. The pizza crust was brittle and crisp and had the aforementioned sourdough taste. My only complaint was that the cheese lacked the creaminess you hope to taste from goat cheese. Instead it came out with that slightly overcooked appearance. Overall, the flavor was great.
Traditional entrees included had mushroom mac and cheese ($12), braised short ribs ($14), and crab cakes ($20), to name a few dishes.
We skipped dessert, though some friends went back the next day for a dessert lunch. Reports placed the Chicory Stout Bacon Chocolate Cheesecake ($8) as very rich, but very good, but gave top honors to the White Chocolate Chicory Stout Bread Pudding ($8).
It’s no surprise to see why Dogfish Head commands one-hour waits in the early evening and up to three-hour quotes as the evening picks up. The restaurant treats food with the same attitude and attention that it does with beer: use quality ingredients and focus on details. It’s a first-rate combination.
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats is located at 320 Rehoboth Ave. in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Reservations are not accepted. Limited parking is available in an adjacent lot. Dinner for nine adults and two children was $238 with a 20 percent gratuity applied.