Barkeep mixes up tequila, Philly sports and the ponies
It’s the eternal question that has plagued mankind for centuries: Where can you go in Rehoboth to talk Phillies baseball, Eagles football, Flyers hockey, college athletics from Villanova and St. Joseph’s, local gossip, current weather - and pretty much anything having to do with the Kentucky Derby? Oh, and don’t forget to include a frosty margarita (salt, please) and a mountain of nachos.
If you answered “Dos Locos,” you’d be partially right. If you said, “Dos Locos with Gene 'Geno' Harris behind the bar,” then (insert cool buzzer sound here) you hit the jackpot.
Geno’s been a sports nut for as long as he can remember. His parents and grandparents owned The Short Stop, a sports-themed eatery in Stone Harbor, N.J., and a favorite hangout for baseball fans and players alike. Geno grew up there, sweeping floors and hobnobbing with vacationing Philadelphia sports glitterati. His father coached high school athletics and now works for the Phillies in their front office.
Not to be outdone, mom not only taught school, but coached girls' baseball and field hockey. In fact, don’t even try to outdo her: She was crowned Miss Atlantic City, Miss New Jersey and was first runner-up in the Miss America Pageant!
Though Geno loved sports, he dreamed of a career in retail. The clothing store he managed in Baltimore opened two places here in the early ‘80s (Saeno and Passport). He managed both until he moved to Ft. Lauderdale to open his own stores. His Rehoboth branch, Effxx, specialized in trendy sportswear and was located in the long-gone cut-through where Browseabout Books is now. He marketed himself by supplying fashionable logo shirts to high-profile bartenders and sports celebrities.
As is often the case with resort retail, things eventually came to an end. That ordeal coincided with the termination of a long-time relationship, so he returned to Philadelphia to rethink and regroup. Nothing if not resilient, Geno returned to Rehoboth in the early ‘90s to take a job at Mano’s restaurant on Wilmington Avenue. After the unfortunate fire (from which Mano’s never really recovered), he ended up as bar manager at Cloud 9, learning the trade from then bar manager Chad Awkland. They became great friends: “Chad taught me the art of mixing drinks - especially how to make a really good martini.”
As fate would have it, Geno returned to the former Mano’s location - now occupied by Darryl Ciarlante and Joe Zuber’s Dos Locos, fresh from the tiny storefront on First Street (where Lily Thai is now). As Geno honed his mixology skills behind the bar with Darryl, he silently chafed at the all-day all-night Lifetime Channel on the bar TVs. He had had his fill of Dorothy and the gang’s "Golden Girls" reruns, and switched over to sports every time Darryl looked the other way. He got caught: “What are you trying to do, turn this into a Mexican sports bar?”
Fast-forward to the present: The multiple HD screens at Dos Locos’ current location on Rehoboth Avenue are never without baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey and horse racing. (Before he moved to Rehoboth, Geno was a cashier at Laurel Park and Pimlico racetracks.) Customers make a point of quizzing him on the latest odds, scores, winners and losers. “I like to think of myself as the ambassador for this town,” he says proudly. “I know what the sports lovers want to know when they’re at the beach. I even stay up on the weather - and I make a phenomenal margarita.”
Dos Locos plays host to a wide variety of guests, from vacationing families with kids to singles, couples and local barflies alike. Geno’s legendary Martini List has morphed into a rogues' gallery of favorites, including his exclusive chocolate espresso martini. Geno tells me that everybody who is anybody in his and his partner’s families lives and works nearby. “Family has anchored us here,” he beams. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Those of us who love to slip into Dos Locos for a spicy burrito, a frosty beverage and the latest Phillies stats couldn’t agree more.