Cape Gazette
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The Business of Eating

The perfect kickoff for July Fourth week

By Bob Yesbek | Jul 04, 2014
Photo by: Bob Yesbek photos The Lewes Fire Department Inc. put the icing on the cake with their Pierce 85-foot ladder truck flying a huge American flag.

I am always careful to leave the subject of recipes to Denise Clemons’ Cape Flavors column here in the Cape Gazette. Hers are feet upon which I do not wish to tread (her husband sets off rockets, for goodness’ sake!). Of course this is the week for rockets (and the associated red glare), and last Saturday provided the perfect blend of ingredients to jump-start July Fourth week right in the middle of the medical mile on Savannah Road in Lewes.

The day started as a quickie trek northward to check out the popular Savannah’s Deli & Grille. In fact, the little gas station/eatery combo had been suggested by none other than Dennis Forney (Cape Gazette publisher and signer of my checks). I can take a hint, and having been in the barbecue business myself, I’m drawn to any place that has a stack of seasoned hickory next to a big ol’ smoker - mounted on a trailer, yet.

I heard the music from a block away. Traffic seemed to be snarled in front of the place. On a bright and sunny day at the beach, could this many people be chowing down on pulled pork and fried chicken? Well, it turned out to be a lot more than that. Surrounding the restaurant and spilling out over the neighboring businesses was the second annual Lewes Custom & Classics Car Show held by the Historical Vintage Car Club of Delaware, established in 1969. Across the street is Auto Gallery used car dealership, owned by the always smiling and bigger-than-life Bryan Hecksher. He has no problem telling anybody and everybody that he knows two things best: cars and calories! And both were in abundance last Saturday.

As I munched on a lightly sauced and shredded North Carolina pulled pork sandwich (extra slaw, please), Bryan explained the event draws attention to the fact that there are thriving businesses in Lewes that are not downtown. And a long list of sponsors agree, including Hazzard Auto Repair, Irish Eyes, 2 Dips Ice Cream, NAPA Auto Parts, Manlove Auto Parts, Faust Sheet Metal Works, DE Realty Auctions, James L. Ford III Custom Carpentry, Below Book Auto Sales, JD’s Café, Wharton’s Landscaping, and of course Bryan’s Auto Gallery and Savannah’s Deli & Grille. Local band Just Us provided live entertainment, and Hazzard employee and part-time DJ Larry Love spun records that fit perfectly into the ‘50s and ‘60s sensibilities of the event. As I pulled up he was playing John Otis’ classic hit from 1958, “Willie and the Hand Jive.”

I got into the spirit of things and ordered some fried chicken for dessert. Mr. Forney, though he doesn’t cast quite the shadow that I do on a sunny day, certainly knows his fried chicken. And Savannah’s is very good. Especially with a biscuit. Or two.

I was about halfway through a perfectly spiced thigh when I turned the corner and there it was: A bright red ‘60s vintage Ford Falcon - the same as my very first car! I have fond teenage memories of that car (three on the column, thank you). I’d cruise over to the Hot Shoppes where roller-skate-clad carhops would clamp a shiny metal tray to the front door. Shortly afterward, the tray would hold … yes, a barbecue sandwich and Hot Shoppes’ signature Orange Freeze. Of course, at 16 I was skinny as a rail and still knew every server by name. That is not the case now, though there could be some correlation with the fact that I had just ordered half a chicken for dessert.

Bill White, Savannah’s co-owner, took me on a quick tour of the smoker and even dished up some of his delicious barbecue brisket for me to taste. The guy knows his smoke, and his BBQ sauce is particularly good, not too sweet or acidic, with a smooth, smoky finish.

There were 85 beautifully restored cars surrounding the restaurant and the Liberty Gas Station complex, and 45 trophies were awarded. In fact, that delicious red Falcon won the Participants’ Choice trophy. So the recipe for the week of July Fourth was complete: chrome, gas and oil (“…it’s in our blood,” smiles Hecksher); barbecue, fried chicken and golden oldies just minutes from the beach. Proceeds from the afternoon’s merriment benefitted the Home of the Brave Shelter for Women in Milford.

Vintage car aficionado and Auto Gallery owner Bryan Hecksher admires a meticulously customized 1951 Nash Rambler wagon.
The fried chicken at Savannah’s Deli & Grille is some of the best in town.
Savannah’s co-owner Bill White is the resident pitmaster, cookin’ up pork, chicken and beef regulation style: Low & slow.
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