Catch a wave at Shorebreak Lodge
How many of you remember Mimi’s Fruit Bowl? The little health food stand opened almost 29 years ago on the ocean block near Louie’s. The owners’ son, Rob, commuted from Pennsylvania to help his mom and dad on the weekends. They eventually moved across the street where Cilantro restaurant now stands; naming the modest snack bar Eden Garden Café.
It was just sandwiches, pastas and salads, but Rob loved the larger space. His entrepreneurial spirit came to life when a friend graduated from culinary school and suggested he bring New World Cuisine to the beach. Young Rob liked the idea of managing an upscale eatery - until his friend left for greener pastures. He had no choice but to don an apron, grab a spatula and cook. Undaunted, he added a bar in season two.
Around that same time, Pizza by Elizabeths was churning out Wilmington-style pies next door to the Middle-Eastern-flavored Camel’s Hump over on Baltimore Avenue. Betsy LeRoy still whips up pizzas in Greenville, but the Rehoboth location morphed into the upscale and jazzy Ocean Club. Shortly thereafter, the now full-fledged restaurateur Rob Stitt moved into that space - the home of today’s Eden.
The 24/7 commitment of restauranting can take its toll. By year three, Rob had had it. He assumed there weren’t many people crazy enough to make that commitment, but he listed it for sale anyway. It sold in two weeks. Jeff McCracken and Mark Hunker were just crazy enough to not only keep Eden very successful, but to spawn JAM Bistro, now located in the Camel’s Hump spot. “I relaxed,” Stitt smiles, “and took off for 18 months. I worked here and there, but mainly I relaxed.”
“Here and there” included the head chef position for Regan Derrickson’s new Ponos and Nalu restaurants in Dewey Beach. It was there that Rob met bar manager and inveterate surfer Matt Sprenkle. Matt emigrated south to Matt Haley’s Catch 54, but was itching to do something on his own. Like most of us who thought retirement would be fun, Stitt’s “relaxed” quickly morphed into “bored.” After a year in Dewey Beach, he tended bar at Jonathan Spivak’s Salt Air and eventually opened Bayside Bar-BQ in Long Neck.
In the meantime, where Wilmington Avenue meets the ocean, Beal Thomas (who opened Iguana Grill in ’94) and transplant Ken Gerhart were struggling with their new and increasingly unwieldy Cosmopolitan Grill. Stitt and Sprenkle both knew that the worst time to open a resort eatery is at the end of the season. But Cosmo was nicely appointed, and the owners were anxious to move on. So, in late summer 2011, the guys slapped on a coat of paint, changed this and that, and drew on Sprenkle’s surfing lingo to launch Shorebreak Lodge. Rob tapped Dom Pandolfino, his old friend who cooked at Eden from ’04 to ’06, to be Shorebreak’s chef de cuisine. “In all honesty, he does about 90 percent of my work,” says Rob.
“We modeled the place after my all-time favorite, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami’s art district.” Within a week, Shorebreak Lodge became a locals’ hangout. Sprenkle’s surfer dude persona and the culinary union of Stitt and Pandolfino were the perfect match. But one ingredient was missing: Creative homemade desserts.
Dru Tevis tended bar and managed Glenda Adkins’ Blue on Rehoboth Avenue. After it closed, he went north to earn his certification at New York’s French Culinary Institute, landing a position at the hoity-toity Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan. Tevis commuted back and forth on weekends to bake at Cloud 9 and Hobos, but he missed life in Rehoboth Beach. Next thing you know, I’m at the bar munching on his made-to-order palm fruit cinnamon-curry doughnuts.
Evil, sign-blocking trees keep Shorebreak Lodge one of Rehoboth’s best-kept secrets. But word of mouth keeps the cozy eatery going full tilt. Even that insufferable Rehoboth Foodie guy gave them a great review, so it looks like Wilmington Avenue’s beach boys are in it for the long haul. So get amped, jump into your board shorts and slide into the pocket over at the genuine Shorebreak here in Rehoboth.