Cape Gazette
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The Business of Eating

If you build it, they will come - if you run it well

By Bob Yesbek | Mar 18, 2013
Photo by: Amanda Ponko Matt Haley rallies the troops at the future Papa Grande's in Fenwick.

I love it when I hit a nerve. After all, feedback from readers is the only way I know that somebody’s on the other end of this keyboard. In last week’s column, I questioned the credibility of failed restaurateurs who are quick to blame “the economy” rather than their bad business decisions. The great majority of your responses were positive, though one reader did call me “snarky.” (Me? Snarky? I consider that a compliment. Please don’t tell anyone.) OK, so maybe I did make veiled references to several semi-local examples – and maybe the references weren’t quite as veiled as I thought they were. Oh well, if the shoe fits….

As I wrote last week, there are many who understand The Business of Eating and know how to make it work (“work” being the key word here). In fact, all manner of remodeling, construction and general revamping is happening right here at the beach even as we speak. While some will desperately cling to their cherished excuses, others are out there making their success happen.

George Vrentzos and his daughter Irene are doubling the size of The Corner Grille at First and Wilmington. Chef George owned an upscale Greek restaurant before he transplanted to the beach, and he has dreamed of expanding the little carryout into a sit-down restaurant. Homemade Greek specialties will be the theme, and nobody does it better than George.

Just behind The Corner Grille, the Avenue Inn is upgrading and enlarging its lobby. The fun part is that they plan to put in a lobby bar (I love lobby bars) with featured beers and wines. What a great idea, and what a great location for it.

Restaurant guru Matt Haley’s latest SoDel Concept is Papa Grande’s in Fenwick Island, adjacent to his successful Catch 54. He’s quick to correct me when I call it a Mexican restaurant. “It’s a coastal taqueria,” he explains. The menu is the first hint, touting such non-Tex-Mex fare as pozole rojo shredded pork with hominy garnish, poached shrimp ancho chile with radish and lime, goat empanadas, and crispy rockfish belly tacos. Though “taqueria” suggests the street vendors of Mexico and points south, Papa Grande’s huge bar and wraparound deck with the view of Ocean City suggest a bit more than a food cart. But the inspired menu makes a delectable nod to these home-grown traditions.

Lou and Frankie Bascio have resurfaced, hammers and saws in hand, at 58 Baltimore Ave. (next door to Hobos). The perpetually friendly brothers plan to open Lou & Frankie’s Italian Specialties sometime around Easter. One of their specialties will be homemade Italian dishes ready for takeout, served with a side of laughter and warm Italian hospitality.

Former Eden sous chef Joe Churchman and his wife Megan are busy giving birth to Bramble & Brine House in the old South Pacific Florist spot at 315 Rehoboth Avenue. They can’t wait to debut their eclectic décor, and although Joe’s talents certainly lean toward the Mediterranean, he’s thinking out of the box at what I’m dubbing “B&B.”

Another Touch of Italy? Yup, and it’s sandwiched conveniently between Root Gourmet and Outlet Liquors in Shore Plaza (across from Tanger Seaside). Owner Bob Ciprietti will be able to seat 100 diners, feeding them from two wood-burning ovens and fully packed deli cases. It doesn’t look like there’s much going on in there, but there is. Trust me.

This week, former Agave kitchen boss Leisa Berlin (remember Second Street Popcorn & Candies?) opened her brand-new Edie Bees Confection Shop in the recently vacated Cake Bar spot in Lewes. Juices, gourmet chocolates, Easter goodies – you know it’ll all be good from the talented mom of Agave boss Chris McKeown.

Even Starbucks is getting in on the act with simultaneous remodels of both their stores. They reopened just before I began to exhibit early symptoms of Venti Iced Skinny Quad Latte withdrawal.

Is the economy a mess? It sure is. But everybody has to eat, and restaurants done right will survive and even flourish. My hat’s off to the local entrepreneurs who risk it all to bring even more dining choices to Rehoboth Beach.

A new lobby awaits the Avenue Inn’s faithful guests. I’m staking my claim at the lobby bar! (Photo by: Bob Yesbek photo)
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