Savor flavors past – at Beach Eats!
Last week I was pleased to conduct an informal tour through the Rehoboth Beach Museum’s new exhibit, Beach Eats! That’s the good news. The bad news is that the tour was for the members of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society; it was a shining (if not humbling) example of the tourons knowing more than the guide. In spite of the attendees’ polite attention to my babbling about stuff they probably already knew, I was actually able to get in a few new stories of my own. Do you love Rehoboth Beach? Have you exhibited the ability to eat? If you answered “yes” to those questions, then I urge you to drop by the museum and dig in to a heaping plateful of memories.
Relive the surreptitious sniffing of the mimeograph ink on the menus at the Avenue Restaurant. Or dining at Bob Ching’s (before Fran O'Brien's, Third Edition, 59 Lake and Stingray). Or late nights listening to music at Terry Plowman’s Front Page from April ’84 ‘til Halloween ’93 (after Dr. John’s, but before Iguana Grill).
Munch your way through memory lane by digesting archived pages from the Cape Gazette’s popular Cape Cuisine section (each in its own menu-style jacket). Promotional articles about Fusion (before either of the Salt Airs), the Crab Barn out on the highway, Sir Guy’s (before Fins), the Sea Horse (Chef Mike Clampitt now cooks at Baywood Greens), Joanne and Charlie Hopkins’ Sir Boyce’s, Ground Zero and Celsius (where Henlopen City Oyster House now resides) are just a few of the tidbits that will keep you devouring these pages. Even the little ads bring back memories: The Lamp Post, The Corner Cupboard, Manos, Boomers, Potpourri and Twig’s, just to name a few.
Several of the exhibits stand out not only for their content, but for the emotions they evoke. Marcia and Richie Shihadeh’s legendary falafel and hummus are now just appetizing recollections of the Camel’s Hump, sadly shuttered after Marcia’s untimely passing. Sydney Arzt was so frustrated with her isolated, wilderness location - the ocean block of Wilmington Avenue - that she changed the name of her American Pie bakery to the Side Street Café. She went on to open her fabled jazz nightclub just a few blocks west (where Pig & Fish is now). She was also a prime mover in the creation of the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival.
Museum director Nancy Alexander and project coordinator Barb Smith have sprinkled all sorts of tasty morsels throughout the exhibit. How can you chew through another day without knowing the history of salt water taffy? Or learning the secret behind Thrasher’s signature fries - darkly delicious on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside? Denizens of Rehoboth Avenue’s ocean block will thrill to the “Have You Had Your Potatoes Today” sign snatched from the attic of … nope, I’m not telling you. You have to go.
I was pleased to see a record album on display from my old friend Sammy Ferro, aka Mr. Rehoboth. This former Washingtonian kept the music playing at the Henlopen Hotel until his passing in November 2001. Other Boardwalk memories include items from the convent that contained a restaurant (mum’s the word - another reason to visit the museum!); the landmark Belhaven Hotel on the south side corner of the Avenue and the Boardwalk, and of course, the Pink Pony.
For those of you who just landed here in Rehoboth Beach, the museum is just west of the circle, next to the Visitors’ Center and the Chamber of Commerce. Admission is free, but there’s a nice big tip jar where you can show your appreciation for the incredible effort and generosity that went into cooking up this scrumptious retrospective.