Memorial Day 2018 is nearly here and now is the time to begin planning to spend more time in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Many visitors now come to the beach all year long but it’s not the same as the experience you get between Memorial Day and Labor Day. There is something magical about summer at the beach and Rehoboth with its one-mile boardwalk and acres of sand is the place to be.
New Mayor Paul Kuhns and the commissioners with whom he ran — Lisa Schlosser and Kathy McGuiness — are doing great work. One sad note from the off-season is that we lost one of Rehoboth’s pioneers. Steve Elkins, who along with his husband Murray Archibald founded CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBT community center, passed away in March. The town was lucky to have Steve for as long as it did and hundreds showed their affection for him by honoring him at a memorial service at Epworth Church. He and Murray began CAMP with a dream and a vision. Steve helped make Rehoboth Beach into a better place and the welcoming destination it is today for the LGBTQ+ community. So Steve, surely you are looking down on the town and know everyone miss you and will never forget you, but in your honor they will all strive to make this the best summer ever and continue to build on the legacy you left.
Walking around town at the end of April, it was clear that many of our favorite haunts are still busy. Stopping into any one of them gets you the latest gossip, after all Rehoboth is a small town. Places like Steve Fallon’s Gidget’s Gadgets on Rehoboth Avenue and the always fun Purple Parrot Restaurant and Biergarten, which is getting busier and better each year. Owner Hugh Fuller is doing a great job and it’s nice to know bartenders Chandler, Jamie and Matt are still there. The old standby The Back Porch will once again serve great food in a beautiful setting. Don’t miss visiting the new Diego’s Hideaway, which is the old Double L leather bar, now owned by Darryl and Joe Ciarlante-Zuber. They made some needed changes, including fixing up the outdoor patio to give it a more tropical feel. They plan to continue Man Dance on Saturdays and Gear it UP on Friday nights.
A walk on Wilmington Avenue past the Henlopen City Oyster House, Salt Air and Mariachi confirms it’s still a busy block on which to eat. New to the block this year is Azzurro Italian Oven and Bar, which replaces Papa Grande’s. Azzurro features a respectable wine list and is one of the few places to enjoy a meal or drink outside on the upstairs patio. On the way back to Rehoboth Avenue, stop in the always fun Frog Pond, which frequently features live bands. Then walk through the mews next to Browseabout Books and stop at the Coffee Mill, with its unrivaled selection of coffees to buy by the cup or take home a few pounds of beans. Then there is the gayest block in Rehoboth, Baltimore Avenue. One hotly anticipated new addition to the block is The Pines, a large restaurant and bar with outdoor seating on the deck upstairs overlooking the bustling Aqua patio. The Pines is being opened by Tyler Townsend and Bob Suppies. The first floor will be a coastal eatery featuring healthful comfort food at reasonable prices. The second floor is planned to be a lounge with music and piano and featuring small plates and the outdoor balcony.
Bill Shields’ and Andres Bonell’s Aqua Grill opens the weekend of May 18 and by Memorial Day will have all the new hot lineup of bar boys serving drinks on the deck. Returning this year are Anthony, AJ and Mike. Aqua will once again have VIP cards so you can earn points toward meals for each dollar you spend. Happy hour on the Aqua deck is the place to be seen on summer evenings. There’s a simple but excellent low-priced menu. Across the street there’s the Iguana Grill, a fun bar and restaurant now back to its old excellence under Hugh Fuller’s ownership. Of course, there is the grand dame of Rehoboth restaurants, the Blue Moon. Executive Chef Lion Gardner is still creating his magic there and it’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. Pamala Stanley is back to entertain in the bar five nights a week, including her ever-popular and packed Sunday tea dance and cabaret nights Monday-Thursday.
Baltimore Avenue has plenty of shops, including the Philip Morton Gallery with fine art and beautiful eclectic furniture. Stop to chat with Peter Antolini, the most knowledgeable person at the beach when it comes to art and furniture. Then the Ward Ellinger Gallery, which has doubled its space this year. Ward is a talented artist. Joining him in the CAMP courtyard is Lori’s Café, offering the best chicken salad in town (and they deliver lunches to the beach). Further down the block is Elegant Slumming owned by Philip Livingston, designer of the most stunning jewelry you can find anywhere. One Day At A Time Gift Shop has opened on Baltimore Avenue. The new store offers 12-Step Addiction Recovery items, LGBT novelties and gifts. Come visit owner AmyLynn Karnbach at the store at 46 B Baltimore Ave. next to A(muse). Rehoboth lost its only LGBT bookstore last year. Amylynn saw the opportunity and stepped up.
And the gay-owned Beach Essentials, which has the best selection of men’s swimsuits and more in town. Michael Thanner opened his MGT & Co. Toggery Shop last year and it’s filled with stylish men’s clothes and unique home décor items. Head toward the beach to Eden, a fine dining restaurant, and its more casual cousin Jam. Across the street is Café Azafran, featuring Holly Lane, last year’s winner of Best Rehoboth Bartender in the annual Blade Best Of competition. Every Thursday night Lane sings and is accompanied by the talented John Flynn. Then there is La Fable, a fabulous French restaurant whose owner Megan Kee just opened a steakhouse in town, the Houston White Co. La Fable recently made the Forbes list of 100 most romantic restaurants in the country.
After dinner, catch a show at Clear Space Theatre, which boasts a remarkable lineup of summer plays, including “Fun Home” (with final performances May 18-20) and “The Rocky Horror Show,” running from June 26-Sept.1.
If you’re planning to get married at the beach, there are plenty of venues but none more beautiful than the Virden Retreat Center at the University of Delaware in nearby Lewes with its stunning coastal wetland setting. If you need a place to stay, the venerable Shore Inn on Rehoboth Avenue Extended offers 14 rooms and a clothing-optional sun deck and hot tub.
Dreading the beach traffic? Leave your car at home and take Best Bus, with convenient stops in Rehoboth and Dewey beginning Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day from Dupont Circle and Union Station. With free wifi and ample AC and USB outlets, you can be productive on the drive.
Rehoboth has something for everyone, so come join the fun.