The Best Food and Drink in Delaware for 2019
December 20, 2018
The First State has its own Number Ones
The Best Food and Drink in Delaware
The First State definitely doesn’t lack for dining options. Delaware’s mid-Atlantic location is perfect for seafood and snuggled between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., means plenty of high-caliber chefs are able to set up shop at a slightly more reasonable rate. Find out the details in our second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
This narrow slip of a state sure packs a lot into its 35-mile width. Dogfish Head produces enough beer annually for each resident to down two bottles a day every day and rises to the top of a number of lists: best bar, best craft brewery, and best beer. The popular craft beer has been getting more recognition over a number of years. Look to the coast for some of the best dive bars and crab dishes in the state.
Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Delaware gallery ahead.
Best Bar: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (Rehoboth Beach)
Jennine P. / Yelp
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats describes its beer as “off-centered ales for off-centered people.” Indeed, atypical ingredients are used to craft a range of unique beers at this brewpub established in 1995. The Rehoboth Beach location has a rustic, beach-casual vibe and a small brewery where experimental batches are made. There are 23 beers on tap from Dogfish Head (No. 4 on The Daily Meal’s list of best craft breweries in America) including cask and exclusive house-made varieties. There is also a selection of Dogfish’s eponymous bottled beer including vintage brews. For non-beer drinkers, the brewpub offers nearly a dozen cocktails made from spirits like vodka, gin, and rum, all distilled upstairs. The signature cocktail is the blood orange cosmo (house-made Dogfish Head vodka infused with blood oranges and limoncello). Pair this with brewpub food like the crab and corn chowder, a staple of the menu and a favorite of regulars.
Best Beer: 90 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton)
Dogfish Head has a wide array of beers that could be considered top of their class, but it’s still hard to beat their signature 90 Minute IPA. Brewed continuously with hops for — you guessed it — 90 minutes, this amber imperial IPA tastes vaguely of brandy and caramel, but it’s beautifully balanced with a ton of hops. There’s a flavor here for everyone.
Best Brunch: Deerfield (Newark)
The Sunday brunch served at this popular golf club and wedding venue is nothing short of spectacular. Served from late September through early May, this 111-foot brunch spread features a seafood station (don’t miss the crab cakes and oysters Rockefeller); made-to-order omelettes and eggs Benedict; a carving station with lamb, strip loin, and salmon; a pasta station; a vegetarian stir-fry station; soups and salads; bagels and breakfast pastries; a yogurt parfait station; a kids’ buffet with fun foods like chicken tenders, mini pizzas, and a “doughnut wall;” and a huge dessert spread. And if you want to make your own mimosas, they’ll be happy to supply a bottle of the good stuff and juice.
Best Burger: Farmer & The Cow (Wilmington)
Nobody is Wilmington is doing better burgers or shakes than this newcomer, which sources high-quality ingredients to create its astounding good burgers. Don’t miss the FTC (with bacon, fried onions, special sauce, and American cheese), the Morning Glory (with bacon, scrapple, a fried egg, and spiced maple syrup), the Goomara (tomato jam, soppressata, pesto, and mozzarella), the Bushwood (bourbon apples, prosciutto, and smoked Gouda), and the Bleu Steel (bacon, stout-braised onions, and blue cheese). Make sure you start your meal with fried chicken skins tossed with Nashville dry rub.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Tree Garden (Wilmington)
Sarah L. / Yelp
In Wilmington, locals know that for fresh and tasty Chinese-American fare, Tree Garden is the place to go. Its dumplings (both steamed and fried) are the best in town, Peking duck is spot-on, and its $6.95 lunch specials are a steal. Also worth noting are the Japanese specialties, especially the avocado ball: spicy crab, yellowtail, tuna, and salmon wrapped in avocado and topped with tempura crunch and spicy mayo.
Best Chocolate Shop: Govatos Candies (Wilmington)
Best Coffee Shop: Drip Café (Hockessin)
Using sustainable methods and a determination to offer everything fresh, Drip Café is determined to bring their customers ethical, fresh, and delicious coffee and food. The café is both coffee-novice friendly and eco-friendly, using a full, single-stream recycling program as well as composting all their filters, grounds, and vegetable waste to help save the planet.
Best Craft Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery (Milton)
Since 1995, this brewery has been creating craft beer that is approachable and relatable to all tastes. Their dedication to quality is what garners the brewery such a respectable reputation in the Rehoboth Beach area and around the country. Try the year-round Belgian-style white beer Namaste, made with “dried organic orange slices, fresh-cut lemongrass, and a bit of coriander,” for a refreshing reminder of why Dogfish Head Brewery has been near the top of our list for the last few years.
Best Cupcake: Sweet Somethings Desserts (Wilmington)
Lee S. / Yelp
Adorning their creations with a fancy wax paper protective liner and an impressive frosting presentation to boot, Sweet Somethings has been catering to its patrons for more than a decade. Though stocked with pies, tarts, and other pastries, Sweet Somethings’ cupcakes continue to blow customers away. The menu is packed with sweet options that range from a chocolate cupcake with Oreo cookie mousse to a light toasted coconut option.
Best Dive Bar: Zoggs Raw Bar and Grill (Rehoboth Beach)
This hideaway in Rehoboth Beach isn’t your typical dive bar, but Zoggs Raw Bar and Grill still ticks all the boxes. The food (such as its Caribbean paella) is phenomenal, the staff is friendly, and the drinks are reasonably priced. It’s the perfect low-key place to duck in to during a day at the beach.
Best Doughnuts: Gooey Donuts (Milton)
“Best doughnuts ever.” That’s what all the Yelp reviews say about Gooey Donuts. It’s hard to deny that title while this Milton mainstay has offerings such as a chocolate-covered strawberry doughnut, a caramel-frosted doughnut, and a variety of doughnuts topped with favorite childhood cereals. Beyond the inventive flavors and frostings, these doughnuts are fried fresh, so you’ll always be getting a fluffy, perfectly hot pastry.
Best Food Truck: Kapow (Wilmington)
When it comes to food trucks in America’s first state, the number one pick has got to be Kapow. Seamlessly fusing the cuisines of Thailand, Korea, and Hawaii, Delaware’s “Thai Guy” prepares rice bowls with Peking duck, Thai curry, and bulgogi steak; a variety of tacos (like Delaware’s original kimchi taco — three for $7); Thai fried chicken; fried spring rolls; and Thai Guy’s wings. The truck is run by husband-and-wife team Wit and Jody Milburn, who can be found roaming around Wilmington or setting up shop at the town’s Rodney Square Farmers Market or the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. They are committed to using only quality, fresh ingredients in all of their dishes, spending the extra money to ensure they’re using free range chicken and beef and locally grown produce.
Best Fried Chicken: Lettie’s Kitchen (Hockessin)
Opened by the mother-son duo of Susan and Tom Alexander inside an old farmhouse in 2011, Lettie’s Kitchen serves fried chicken made according to Susan’s mother Lettie’s recipe. The chicken here is pressure-fried (or “broasted”) to order, which gives it a crisp exterior while keeping the meat moist and delicate. Be sure to get some house-made potato salad on the side.
Best Grocery Store: Janssen’s Market
Janssen’s Market: Although it may be on the more expensive side, this is still a favorite of many who call this small state home. As one Google reviewer put it, “I love Janssen’s. It's too expensive to be my only place to go for groceries but it's great for a quick to-go lunch and I always find the best stuff in that store. The produce is always fresh and delicious. Best cheese in town and helpful and courteous staff.”
Best Hot Dog: Deerhead Hot Dogs (Wilmington and Newark)
“It’s the sauce” that keeps customers coming back to Deerhead Hot Dogs, which has been serving Delaware since 1935. Today there are locations in Wilmington and Newark, as well as a food truck, and the sauce in question is a rich, thick meat sauce with a top-secret recipe that tops their “Everything” dog along with onions and mustard. It doesn’t stop there, though: Don’t miss the DiNardo (with Old Bay, ketchup, and fries), the pulled pork dog (with fried onions, barbecue sauce, and provolone), or the breakfast dog (with a fried egg and American cheese).
Best Ice Cream Stand: Woodside Farm Creamery (Hockessin)
The Woodside Farm Creamery uses an entire apple pie in a batch of their cinnamon apple pie ice cream. The shop also has a flavor called Motor Oil made with coffee ice cream swirled with green caramel (yes, green) and fudge. Not feeling ice cream? That’s OK, you can buy grass-fed beef patties and steaks on their premises.
Best Italian Restaurant: Mrs. Robino’s (Wilmington)
Mrs. Robino’s Restaurant/Yelp
Mrs. Robino’s has been serving classic Italian-American fare for nearly 80 years, and it remains a Wilmington favorite to this day. It got its start in Tersilla Robino’s home kitchen in 1939, when she started serving local Italian immigrants, and it moved into its current building the following year; today it’s run by the fourth generation. Pastas are homemade (try the Tour of Italy, with spaghetti and ravioli topped with meatballs and sausage), and other longtime favorites include greens with garlic, lasagna, cannelloni Florentine, veal and chicken parm, and roast pork with mashed potatoes and broccoli rabe. Homemade soups and thin, crispy pizzas are also popular.
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Pique (Wilmington)
This tiny hole-in-the-wall gets packed on a daily basis, but it’s still easy to pass by. Head inside and you’ll encounter just a few tables and behind the counter, a plancha manned by two ladies cooking an astounding variety of proteins, including hard-to-find cuts like pork snout (trompa), beef head (cabeza), and a combo of all different types of offal (surtida). The best move is to go for the birria, made with lamb. It’s super-flavorful and incredibly tender, crisped up on the griddle and served with onion, cilantro, and your choice of three sauces.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Harry’s Savoy Grill (Wilmington)
Harry's Savoy Grill/Yelp
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Chelsea Burger Challenge, Chelsea Tavern (Wilmington)
Take on six half-pound patties stacked with cheese and bacon throughout, served with a 1-pound side of french fries. Finish it all within 45 minutes and not only is it free, but you get featured on Chelsea Tavern's Wall of Fame.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Green Room (Wilmington)
The Green Room, located inside Wilmington’s elegant Hotel Du Pont, is about as ornate and romantic as a restaurant can get. The walls are oak-paneled, the ceiling is coffered and oak-beamed, rich draperies hang from the windows, and lighting is provided by ornate chandeliers and sconces. It’s also been recognized with the AAA Four-Diamond Award and Forbes Four-Star Award. Even though the setting may be dripping with Gilded Age opulence, chef Keith Miller’s menu is anything but staid. Standouts include pan-seared sea scallops with smoked blueberry purée and Cheddar grits; grilled veal porterhouse with roasted garlic demi glace, creamed fingerlings, and tri-color baby carrots; and filet of salmon with red curry coconut cream sauce, forbidden rice, and local asparagus.
Best Pancakes: Drip Café (Hockessin)
This small-town coffee shop specializes in using local and sustainable ingredients, and its pancakes (which are available in stacks of one, two, or three) are made with buttermilk and topped with high-quality butter and real maple syrup. They’re also available studded with bacon and topped with roasted apples, bacon, and housemade salted caramel sauce.
Best Pasta Dish: Gnocchi Sorrentina, La Casa Pasta (Newark)
Yelp/ Susan H.
Since 1978, La Casa Pasta has been serving housemade pastas and authentic Italian fare, overseen by chef-owner Guiseppe Martuscelli, who travels back to Italy yearly to learn new recipes and discover new ingredients. His expertise is best exemplified in the classics, however: The must-order gnocchi Sorrentina starts with light and pillowy fresh potato gnocchi, and it’s tossed with house-made tomato sauce. It’s about as simple and comforting as a pasta dish gets.
Best Pizza: The Wood Fired Pizza Shop (Newark)
Yelp/ Laura M.
What got its start as a traveling wood-burning oven in the back of an old red Ford pickup making stops at farmers’ markets and private parties is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant serving the best pizzas in Delaware. Dough is made from scratch using unbleached, unbromated flour; toppings are organic and locally-sourced whenever possible; and ingredients including sausage and pickles are made in-house. Twelve-inch pizzas are separated into three menu sections: Classic (Margherita, pepperoni, bianco); All-Stars (the Spicy Italian, with hot Italian sausage, pepperoni, fresh jalapenos, tomato sauce, and mozzarella); and Seasonal (Sweet Italian, with sausage, local rainbow Swiss chard, local organic Crimini mushrooms, tomato sauce, and mozzarella).
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Angelo’s Luncheonette (Wilmington)
In business since 1967, this picture-perfect corner lunch counter is run by August Muzzi (who inherited the restaurant from his father, Angelo, and can usually be found manning the griddle) and his family. Full of regulars and dripping with old-school charm, Angelo’s has just 12 stools and a handful of booths, and still retains many of its original fixtures and just about all of its original menu. The bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich is a masterpiece of the form, the pancakes are flawless, and we’ll let you guess how great the grilled cheese is. It’s open from 7 a.m. daily, and closed Sundays.
Best Sandwich: Roast Pork Supremo, Ioannoni’s Specialty Sandwiches (New Castle)
Ioannoni’s is a lot more than just a sandwich shop. The Italian hoagies are well-balanced and full of freshly sliced meats, and the Italian roast beef is slow-roasted and juicy. But it’s the Italian Roast Pork Supremo that’s truly put this place on the map: Slow-roasted pork, dripping with jus, topped with tender broccoli rabe and sharp provolone. It can go head-to-head with any of Philly’s best.
Best Soup: Cream of Crab Soup, Meding’s Seafood (Milford)
Yelp/ Traneshia C.
This maritime-themed seafood shack on the road to Delaware’s beaches serves some of the freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere. The region is known for its crab, so you’ll definitely want to sample the crab melt (Maryland crab and cheese broiled on an English muffin) and make sure you start with their famous cream of crab soup, made with fresh crabmeat and topped with a sprinkle of Old Bay. Their oyster stew is also made to order and worth sampling.
Best Steakhouse: Walter’s Steakhouse, Wilmington
Wilmington’s oldest steakhouse also serves some of the best prime rib you’ll have anywhere, available in four different sizes (ranging from 10 to 34 ounces) and cut from either the chuck or sirloin side. (It’s also available on a fresh onion roll with horseradish cream.) Ribeye steak, filet, New York strip, and porterhouse round out the steaks, and guests who dine there on Sundays and Thursdays can visit a complimentary seafood bar.
Best Taco: Lamb Birria: El Pique (Wilmington)
This tiny hole-in-the-wall gets packed on a daily basis, but it's still easy to pass by. Head inside and you'll encounter just a few tables and behind the counter, a plancha manned by two ladies cooking an astounding variety of proteins, including hard-to-find cuts like pork snout (trompa), beef head (cabeza), and a combo of all different types of offal (surtida). The best move is to go for the birria, made with lamb. It's super-flavorful and incredibly tender, crisped up on the griddle and served with onion, cilantro, and your choice of three sauces.
Best Thing to Eat: Blue Crabs, Sambo’s Tavern (Leipsic)
Open only from early April to late October, Sambo’s is a tavern located right on the Leipsic River founded over 50 years ago by Sambo Burrows. The crabs here are as fresh as can be, boiled and seasoned with plenty of spice mix, and served to hordes of natives who flock to this out-of-the-way locale. Make a reservation for a table overlooking the river, and make sure to order some hush puppies on the side.For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.