Connect with us

a&e features

Rehoboth Women’s FEST: We’ve come a long way, baby

Annual beach celebration features dances, speakers, yoga, and much more



Singer Chely Wright plays Women’s FEST in Rehoboth on April 9.

It’s taken more than two decades for an idea born of fear, frustration, and tragic stories to turn into a joyous four-day festival celebrating more than 20 years of bringing women together at the beach.

When CAMP Rehoboth’s Women’s FEST kicks off on Thursday, April 7, the event celebrates more than 20 years and the societal changes in attitude and legislation achieved for the LGBTQ community during these past two decades. The FEST, mirroring society, has grown and changed with the times. For 2022, it’s a time for camaraderie, nationally known entertainers, education, sports, speakers, and fun. 

But back in 2000, prior to marriage equality laws, there were too many horror stories. Area women could lose everything they owned because they lacked the proper legal paperwork to claim their rights to homes or bank accounts after a bad romantic break-up or the death of a partner. 

Too often, a grieving, long-time partner would be left homeless and helpless as parents or siblings of the deceased swept into town, claimed the home, and evicted the partner. This happened more than most people realize.

Likewise, in 2000 there were far fewer LGBTQ-welcoming medical practices. Many women avoided doctors or screenings for fear of coming out as lesbian to providers. Sadly, this reticence to seek treatment sometimes led to tragedy. 

To try and help halt these horrors, at the turn of the millennium a handful of women worked with CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ non-profit service organization on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, to get something started.

What Did These Gals Do?

In April 2001, nine women volunteers, this author among them, put together a half-day event hosting speakers on women’s health, financial planning, and legal protection for lesbians. The speakers provided advice and identified gay-friendly resources for women whose fear kept them from taking actions they needed for wellness and security.

Now-retired attorney Ellen Feinberg says, “At that time, in Delaware, there were absolutely no legal protections for lesbians, and many women did not know what legal paperwork they needed to protect themselves, their relationships, and their finances.” 

That first morning conference, upstairs at the Rehoboth Library, saw 75 local women packed into the small space, eager to hear advice specifically pertinent to their lives. 

They learned about mortgages with “rights of survivorship” so the family of a deceased partner could not claim the couple’s home; they learned of medical practices that treated gays and lesbians with respect; they learned from medical and financial professionals how to find the resources they needed.

From those original planners — Andrea Andrus, Ellen Feinberg, Joan Glass, Maggie Ottato, Leslie Rogan, Maggie Shaw, Libby Stiff, Bea Wagner, and me—came a second conference a year later. Added volunteers helped produce a full-day event at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, complete with opening remarks by Delaware’s then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner. 

Her speech was about women in politics, without a single mention of the word ‘lesbian’ or the LGBTQ community. “But she came to us to speak,” a committee member said, “and for that we were thrilled.”

Leslie Rogan recalls more than 200 women attending that second year, which, along with Gov. Minner, included nationally known 1970s activist and musical icon Margie Adam. “Actually, it was 236 people attending,” Feinberg adds, “not that I was counting,” she says, smiling. 

Following that weekend, Feinberg and Rogan, and friends Barb Fischel and Wendy Grooms, formed an entertainment committee to find performers willing to come to Rehoboth. “We started by looking to see which entertainers were booked on Olivia’s women’s cruises,” says Leslie. 

“We really had no idea about producing; we were flying by the seat of our pants,” Feinberg recalls.

By 2003, the event became Women’s Weekend, headlined by comic Suzanne Westenhoefer and Olivia Records legend Teresa Trull. In addition to educational seminars, some fun sessions included Mixology and Two-Stepping.

By 2004, the word was out. Women converged from Virginia, D.C., New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to hear women’s music pioneer Cris Williamson, with the event drawing the largest crowd yet. 

As news spread, agents and entertainer reps reached out to CAMP Rehoboth with inquiries from their clients. Over the next few years, well-known lesbian comics Kate Clinton, Vickie Shaw, and Karen Williams appeared, along with songwriter Tret Fure and famed singer Holly Near. 

When the iconic women’s travel company Olivia came onboard as a sponsor, many, many local women learned about the company and signed up for their all-women Caribbean cruises, where they could mingle with gay women from all over the country.

On one cruise, as a swarm of women posed for photos in their Rehoboth T-shirts, a bystander asked “What’s Re-Ho-BOTH, a sorority? A church? A college? What is it?”

Linda Kemp, Olivia’s director of strategic sales and marketing, answered, “Rehoboth is a gay-friendly beach town in Delaware where all these women are from.”

“But where’s Delaware?” the onlooker asked. Linda rolled her eyes and offered a geography lesson. 

Not only was Women’s Weekend promoted, but women from all over the country learned about the resort town of Rehoboth Beach. 

Sometime in those early years, artist Geri Dibiase offered up a vibrant photo design for a Women’s Weekend T-shirt to be sold at the event and she’s been donating new designs each year since. In addition, Geri donates the original artwork to be auctioned off to raise money for CAMP Rehoboth. 

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to produce the T-shirts and proud to have my art featured in this nationally recognized event,” Dibiase says. 

By 2008 and 2009, as the CAMP Rehoboth office expanded into a Community Center, it provided a welcoming hub for all the women converging downtown each April. And there was a new intimate performance space for musicians plus theatrical events like a production of “The Vagina Monologues” and a one-woman show about journalist Molly Ivins.

Women’s Weekend now had nine years under its belt, and included events like golf, craft fairs, and more to make it a beloved spring custom.

And Then Came FEST

For the 10th anniversary in 2010, the weekend became FEST, an acronym for Fun, Entertainment, Spring Tradition. 

New partnerships saw Olivia as presenting sponsor and a collaboration with Ladies 2000, the famed Philly dance promoters, bringing a fantastic Tea Dance to the mix. Wednesday was now Locals Night with a big Welcome Party (now funded by an endowment from the late Georgette Krenkel), plus added events like a bike ride, Rehoboth walking tour, juried photo/art show featuring women artists, and singles speed dating.

“My now-spouse Diane and I started dating right before Women’s FEST 2010,” says Rehoboth resident Jennifer Rubenstein, “and it was very odd going to speed dating, where we did the round robin with a bunch of other singles but kept a watchful eye on each other.” It turned out well.

A decade in the making, the 2011 FEST was now the largest women’s event in the mid-Atlantic. A partnership with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) added the Broadwalk on the Boardwalk, a walk to help raise funds to fight breast cancer and honor those affected by it.  

“A flood of pink-wearing walkers showed up, some with their dogs, also in pink, and some supportive guys in pink boas and drag,” says one participant. “It was fun, and also serious, with a moving ceremony at the end. I loved it.” 

Volunteer Kathy Wiz, whose sister had the disease, helped bring CAMP Rehoboth and DBCC together for the event. ”For me, the Broadwalk is a way of showing gratitude for my sister’s survival.” 

Since 2011, Broadwalk on the Boardwalk has raised over $75,000 in donations benefiting the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition.

Of course, over the years dozens and dozens of volunteers populated the official FEST Committee, with steadfast support from the CAMP Rehoboth staff and Board. 

“I clearly remember that first event, filling 75 seats at the library, hearing the presenters, and thinking this was new, uncharted territory, and hoping it could be expanded,” says long-time CAMP Rehoboth Board Member Jane Blue. “Boy, that was an understatement!”

In conjunction with national advances in LGBTQ rights, specifically the lifting of the ban on gay and lesbian service members, the 2012 FEST welcomed special guest Col. Grethe Cammermeyer. Instrumental in overturning the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law. Cammermeyer hosted a Saturday Q&A after the showing of the film “Serving in Silence,” based on her life story and starring Glenn Close. 

Musician Tret Fure recalls sitting with her hero, Col. Cammermeyer, in the front row at comic Suzanne Westenheofer’s show. “When my friend Suzanne looked down and saw us together in the front row, she almost fell off the stage.” 

But 2013 brought drama. Out and proud country singer Chely Wright, pregnant with twins, was to be the headliner. Unfortunately, her doctor put her on bed rest a week before the show. She sent her apologies and the committee freaked out! 

“We sold 700 tickets and had no entertainer. We were hysterical,” recalls Committee Chair Dottie Cirelli. Frantic committee members hit their phones and by the end of the day, comic Kate Clinton shuffled her schedule and bailed the event out. It was another huge success and Chely Wright’s twins were born happy and healthy.

Making good on her earlier promise, Chely performed to a packed house the next year and the Broadwalk was bigger than ever—honoring not only survivors and sisters lost to breast cancer, but adding women and men touched by all cancers. 

By 2015, with stunning LGBTQ victories like marriage equality and protections for transgender rights, the FEST’s original workshop concept morphed into invited guest speakers sharing their stories. Guests have included Feminist Majority leader Eleanor Smeal, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, transgender activist Sarah McBride, and the brave D.C. law enforcement officer who helped save lives during a mass shooting at a congressional softball game.

Two-time headliner comic Poppy Champlin performed and offered a stand-up comedy workshop. “I’ve loved my times at FEST, the spirit of the women, the huge number of women flocking to town. And doing a show for 800 women is a real thrill for a comedian.” 

The rest, as they say, is herstory. 

In 2018, FEST statistics showed 3,832 seats filled at 23 different venues plus a new partnership with Beebe Medical Center for a health fair at the community center—further fulfilling one of the original Women’s Project goals.

For 2019, the numbers were even bigger. And while there was still emphasis on topics especially important for lesbian and transgender women, the FEST had become popular with a diverse group of attendees.

Rehoboth resident Deb Ward said, “My mother-in-law started visiting us on Women’s Weekend and loved it—and as a breast cancer survivor walked in the Broadwalk. Next thing I knew, her sister started coming, then my own sister joined us. It’s a spectacular event for all women, and it’s become a family tradition.”

It was different, 22 years later, far from when women had no idea how to protect themselves legally or find a welcoming doctor. “Our community is being courted now,” Ellen Feinberg said, “and everything is so open and accessible.” 

It was a long way, baby, from those turn-of-the-century workshops at the library. That fledgling Women’s Project Committee launched the event, then they and so many other hard-working volunteers took the idea and ran with it—with no plans to stop celebrating anytime soon.

Then Came 2020

The 2020 FEST, a special 20th anniversary event featuring The Indigo Girls, was canceled due to the COVID pandemic. Bummer! 

One bright spot was that all of our wonderful sponsors kept their money in the FEST pot for the future. We love our sponsors! Especially presenting sponsor Olivia Travel and Legacy sponsors Jenn Harpel, Jeanine O’Donnel, and Lana Warfield.

The 2021 FEST happened online, with a few Zoom events and some fun in the midst of the dark days.

But now, FEST is live again for 2022. Our wonderful sponsors are back, country singer superstar Chely Wright and the hilarious Funny Girlz will be performing (among others), and we are back on track.

FEST Passes are now on sale, as are individual event tickets—visit to purchase yours.

Oh yes, we HAVE come a long way, baby! 

There are many events associated with Women’s FEST. Visit for the full schedule. A few highlights:

• Thursday, April 7, 7 p.m., Georgette Krenkel Welcome Dance Party – free, Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. 

• Friday, April 8, 12-1 p.m., Concert: Singer Regina Sayles—$20. CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.

• Friday, April 8, 8 p.m., Chely Wright concert— FEST Pass or $40 individual ticket. Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

• Saturday, April 9, 9 a.m-3 p.m. Women’s FEST EXPO – free. Rehoboth Beach Convention Center

• Saturday, April 9, 12-1 p.m., keynote speaker Del. Sen. Marie Pinkney — free. Rehoboth Beach Sands Hotel Ball Room 1

• Saturday, April 9, 6-10:30 p.m. Women’s FEST Dance Party, $15. Located at the Sands Hotel Ballroom

• Sunday, April 10, 9-11 a.m. 12th Annual Broadwalk on the Boardwalk—free at CAMP Rehoboth. Fundraiser for Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

Author Fay Jacobs is one of the founders of Rehoboth’s Women’s FEST.

(This story was originally published in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Fay Jacobs is the author of five published books and is touring with her one-woman sit-down comedy show, Aging Gracelessly. Her reports on Rehoboth’s LGBTQ history can be heard on RadioRehoboth, 99.1.)


a&e features

The Washington Renegades: 25 years of kicking and camaraderie

Nation’s first LGBTQ rugby club heads to Rome for major tournament



The Washington Renegades are celebrating 25 years.

In June of 2003, Ned Kieloch decided to go to an LGBTQ-inclusive men’s rugby practice on one Tuesday. He jokes that he never left. 

It was a long time coming — Kieloch had picked up a flyer for the team, the Washington Renegades, about three years earlier at Millennium March on Washington in 2000. He forgot about it until he moved to D.C. in 2003 when he got more information at Pride. Kieloch realized the practice was right down the street from where he lived at the time. 

Kieloch, who’s the current president of the Washington Renegades all these years later, has been actively involved since that first Tuesday practice. He took on his first officer position after just six months of joining the team.  

“I just fell in love with the game and with the guys, and I’ve never looked back,” Kieloch said. 

The Washington Renegades, founded in the fall of 1998 in D.C. as the first LGBTQ inclusive men’s rugby club in North America, is gearing up to commemorate its 25th anniversary. The group, made up of mainly men, is also traveling to Rome to play in an international gay rugby tournament this month. 

Kieloch played on the team for about a decade, then went on to support the team off the field. Since his time with the Washington Renegades, he’s seen the team through 100-point losses and winning seasons. 

Now, he’s heading to Rome with current players and team alumni to take part in the Bingham Cup, the biennial world championships of gay rugby. 

Washington Renegades (Photo courtesy of the Renegades)

Jetting to Rome 

This tournament first took place in 2002 in Mark Bingham’s memory, who was a gay rugby player among the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93. Along with a few others, he fought against hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. This effort resulted in the crash of the plane in Pennsylvania, which prevented the hijackers from crashing it into a building in D.C. Bingham played for the gay rugby team the San Francisco Fog and helped to organize the Gotham Knights team in New York City. 

The Bingham Cup has been hosted in San Francisco, Nashville, London, and Amsterdam, among other cities around the world. 

About 60 people with the Washington Renegades will travel to Rome for the Bingham Cup, which runs from May 23-26. More than 100 teams will be participating, with about 5,000 players in total. 

Kai Walther, the team’s community engagement chair, said he’s looking forward to connecting with and learning from other queer people from other global teams. The LGBTQ rugby community is only so big in the United States, he said, and he’s excited to meet more people with his same passion. 

“There’s an understanding,” he said. “We all play this sport. We all are putting our bodies on the line for this.”

Nick DiNardo, who’s been a part of the Washington Renegades for two seasons, was looking for a place to play sports that was also connected to his identity. He got in contact with Kieloch, and like his own experience two decades ago, DiNardo was immediately all in. 

Growing up playing sports and hiding his identity, DiNardo said having queer-focused teams like the Washington Renegades is integral to building safe spaces where people can bond while doing something they love. 

“I’ve really developed a family,” DiNardo said. “We … support creating a space that’s open, inclusive, and safe for anyone who wants to come and learn and have a good time.”

Straight people are also a part of the team, which Kieloch says reflects the team’s values. 

“I think that’s one of the best things about our club,” Kieloch said. “I just love the camaraderie of it.”

Walther joined the Washington Renegades in the summer of 2023. He loves being on the team for several reasons — to meet new people and be able to be a part of a team where he feels he can be his entire queer self.

Because of the nature of the sport, trust is necessary, he said. This comes easier when everyone on the team has the same inclusive and accepting frame of mind. 

“There’s so much happening on the field. Like hitting other people, we have to get really close to each other, and support each other on tackles against other teams,” he said. “And so when we’re all on the same page, it makes us a lot stronger.”

Washington Renegades (Photo courtesy of the Renegades)
Continue Reading

a&e features

My Rehoboth Beach culinary tour

Myriad answers to the age-old question: ‘What’s the best restaurant in town?’



(Photo by Ethan Bean)

I’ve had the privilege of indulging in Rehoboth’s evolving culinary scene for decades — from dining on Chez La Mer’s rooftop to sipping cocktails at the Blue Moon bar before the roof was installed.

The last 30 years have brought almost unthinkable change to the once seasonal small town getaway. New town homes that overlook Route 1 are going for more than $1 million. There’s not much off-season at all these days with food festivals and other events that draw tourists year round. Indeed, hotel occupancy rates for October’s Sea Witch Festival exceed those for July Fourth weekend. 

The upside to all this growth and change? Rehoboth’s culinary scene has exploded with high-quality restaurants and bars proliferating in town and thriving up and down Route 1 from Lewes to Fenwick Island and even Ocean City. In fact, the chef at Fenwick’s One Coastal was just nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award. Matthew Kern will be the first-ever Delaware chef in James Beard Awards’ history to be named a finalist in any culinary category, according to the Delaware News Journal. He will be among five chefs competing for the title of best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. The awards are announced June 10.

As a part-time Rehoboth resident, I frequently field questions from visitors wondering: “What’s the best restaurant in town?” That usually leads to a prolonged text exchange with me offering endless choices in various categories. In an effort to answer that age-old question in a more organized fashion, I offer this roundup of my favorite haunts in the Rehoboth area in a range of styles and budgets. (And please note: These are just my opinions based on lots of experience. Inclusions/omissions are not intended to slight anyone. These things are subjective so it’s OK if you don’t like my picks.)


Rehoboth offers a handful of options for a truly high-end experience. For a traditional steakhouse, there’s Houston White Co. (315 Rehoboth Ave.), where an eight-ounce filet runs about $45 and a USDA Prime Porterhouse is $85. Side dishes are priced separately and shared, ranging from a $6 baked potato to $11 onion rings. The setting is probably the most formal in town. A small bar in front is always busy and staffed by friendly, knowledgeable mixologists. 

Eden (23 Baltimore Ave.) has a beach chic vibe and the menu is probably the most reliable in town. The ahi tuna — my go to — is perfectly seared and delicious rare. There’s an extensive wine list and the bar is always lively with entertaining staff. The upstairs dining room is ideal for a large party or special event. 

By far the best new restaurant to open in recent years is Drift (42 1/2 Baltimore Ave.). If you’re looking for an upscale, special occasion seafood indulgence, this is the spot. The lobster French toast gets all the press, but the entire seafood menu is as good as any in D.C., from local oysters to the crispy Atlantic swordfish schnitzel. The coveted bar seats go fast and there are only a handful of them at the unique bar that opens to the outside so go early. And this isn’t the place for a large party; the kitchen is small so take a date here if you really want to impress. The outdoor patio is lovely in good weather but the interior is beautifully decorated so that’s the better bet.

Since 1981, the Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.) has been at the forefront of Rehoboth’s restaurant and bar scene, constantly evolving and working to feed and entertain us all. The restaurant is consistently rated among the best in town. It’s intimate and charming and some of the wait staff have been here for many years making it feel like a homecoming when you arrive. The Sunday brunch remains among the best in town, complete with white tablecloths and welcome scones. In the off-season, you can’t beat Tasting Tuesdays, a three-course dinner with wine pairings for $49. Many of us miss the old days of the Moon as a sometimes-raucous bar and dance club, but happy hour is back with half-price cocktails and appetizers, Monday-Friday, 4-6 p.m. So go for a drink and stay for dinner and enjoy crab cakes, lobster risotto, duck breast, and more.

Ah, the Back Porch (59 Rehoboth Ave.) — a true pioneer in establishing Rehoboth as a culinary destination. So many naive tourists walk past the Back Porch because it’s set back from the street, down an alleyway. But those who make the stroll are rewarded with French-inspired food and a convivial bar that’s vaguely reminiscent of Key West. It’s not fancy and fussy; it’s worn and welcoming with an elevated menu and a spacious two-story outdoor dining room. Rehoboth is inexplicably lacking in outdoor dining spots; there aren’t nearly enough al fresco options for a beach town. If you’re on a budget, give it a try for lunch or brunch. The menu doesn’t seem to change, but that’s OK when the food is this good. A true locals place, there’s always a friendly face at the bar and everyone misses bartender Bee Neild who retired last year after nearly 50 years. The Back Porch is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; let’s raise a glass to the next 50.  

La Fable (26 Baltimore Ave.) is owned by Megan Kee, a beloved restaurateur in town with an impressive track record (she also owns Houston White and Bramble & Brine in Lewes; more on that later). Kee’s unmistakable style — pairing antique furniture and tableware with modern flourishes — can be seen everywhere from the piano-turned-bar to the mismatched vintage china. She pulled off a remarkable feat, turning the rather unappealing basement setting at La Fable into an authentic and charming French bistro. You’ll find all the French favorites here, from escargot to boeuf bourguignon to steak frites. The space is small so make a reservation. 

I offer these high-end options with two caveats/pet peeves. When paying in excess of $45 for an entree, I do not expect to sit on a plastic chair. Also, I do not appreciate overly familiar service just because the waiter is “gay too!” At those prices, a comfortable chair and formal service should be the norm.


The high-end scene may be small but there are a plethora of quality mid-priced restaurants that beckon. 

My favorite in this category is the always-reliable Henlopen Oyster House (50 Wilmington Ave.) with its wide selection of fresh raw oysters and equally impressive draft beer list. Henlopen does the high-low thing so well, for example pairing an indulgent dozen Wellfleet oysters with a pint of cask beer. There are lobster rolls, salads, the best steamed shrimp in town, and much more on the menu. It’s a popular place, usually with a line forming before it opens. So go early and be patient — it’s always worth the wait (they don’t take reservations). No matter how packed the bar gets, the two Amys always offer the best service with a welcoming smile. This is my go-to when asked for seafood recommendations in Rehoboth.

As I mentioned, there are too few places for quality outdoor dining/drinks in Rehoboth Beach. You’ll find a handful of touristy hotel restaurants on the boardwalk along with the requisite fast food and Grotto’s pizza joints but there just aren’t enough places for an elevated bite. Above the Dunes (101 S. Boardwalk, 2nd floor) has the best view in town; sit at the bar and try one of their grain bowls. One of the best outdoor spots is the rooftop at JAM (210 2nd St.). The space has seen multiple concepts come and go in recent years, including the aforementioned classic Chez La Mer, Papa Grande’s, the disappointing Unwined, and before that the much-missed Azzurro. But JAM took over the space last year after relocating from Baltimore Avenue and offers the same quality food (burger specials and the salmon salad are highlights) but with a view. Grab a seat on the second floor outdoor deck and enjoy the breeze.

JAM’s rooftop is one of the few places to enjoy a great meal al fresco in Rehoboth Beach. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Across the street from JAM is the charming and underappreciated Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine (208 2nd St.). If you like hummus with homemade pita, falafel, kebobs, koftes, and more from the Med, then this is your spot. Try the hummus flight with three samples, including sundried tomato. Delicious.

A Rehoboth stalwart, Café Azafran (18 Baltimore Ave.) never disappoints with its small plates, dinner specials, and, of course, bustling bar featuring Washington Blade three-time Best Rehoboth Bartender winner Holly Lane, who sings (sometimes in French) while pouring drinks. Take a group of friends and order an array of small dishes to share, like the shrimp a la plancha, stuffed arancini, and ratatouille Provencal. There’s no better way to embrace family style dining. 

One of the biggest and happiest surprises in Rehoboth’s dining scene came the night I reluctantly walked into Michy’s (19287 Miller Rd. on Route 1). Reluctantly because the restaurant sits unassuming in a strip mall off Route 1 surrounded by supermarkets and nail salons. You couldn’t find a more unexpected location for one of the area’s best restaurants. But don’t let the location deter you; inside, the décor is warm and eclectic with a small bar and lively dining room. There’s a top-notch menu, including short ribs, sea scallops, and a spicy horseradish crusted salmon, but the daily specials are the stars here so be sure to order whatever special the chef is offering. There’s always a local fish option with a creative preparation. 


Let’s face it: When you’re at the beach, you don’t always want inventive and elevated. Sometimes you just want to wander into a place in your bathing suit and still find a good meal at a fair price. 

For that moment, there’s nothing better than the Starboard (2009 Rt. 1), just down the highway from Rehoboth in Dewey Beach. The Bloody Mary bar is legendary and now comes with a dedicated “sommelier” to assist in choosing from dozens of mixes, hot sauces, pickled vegetables, and more. But the real standout here is the crush — orange, grapefruit, watermelon, lemon, and more — cranked out by the busiest and best bartenders in the area (especially Doug and Shelley). The food is consistent and satisfying, if heavy on the portion size. The crab cakes, burgers, and salads are a good bet. If you’re nursing a hangover, the breakfast skillets will ease your pain. You can design your own omelet or choose from many of their egg creations. Pro tip: Share an entrée as the portions are huge. This used to be dominated by college kids enjoying summer break, but a more mature crowd, including the gays, have discovered Starboard’s many charms, which include a DJ and live bands all weekend.

Back in Rehoboth, the gay-owned Goolee’s Grille (11 S. 1st St.) offers some of the best breakfast dishes in town, including chipped beef, waffles, sandwiches, and more with a mimosa or Bloody to wash it down. There are occasional drag brunches and watch for the popular Greek night dinner specials. If the lines are too long in town for breakfast, venture across the highway to the new Eggcellent (19730 Coastal Highway), a locally owned restaurant that is open seven days 7 a.m.-3 p.m., meaning no dinner. So the focus is breakfast all the time with omelets, avocado toast, pancakes, and more. Don’t let the strip mall vibe fool you; the interior is gorgeous. 

Need a break from pizza and crab cakes? Grab a table on the second floor deck at Mariachi Restaurant (14 Wilmington Ave.) and enjoy some of the best Mexican and Spanish fare in town. You’ll likely be met at the door by Yolanda, the tireless owner who greets locals with a gregarious hug before bringing pitchers of irresistible margaritas to your table. The vast menu offers traditional pollo asado and carne asada along with paellas and assorted seafood dishes. The chips are plentiful and the salsas perfectly spiced. Mariachi opened in 2006 and won over locals by staying open during the off-season so the crowd is always a spirited mix of tourists and residents. 


For the ideal rustic beach bar, complete with sand, the ever-popular Purple Parrot Biergarten (134 Rehoboth Ave.) beckons. The food is standard bar fare but go for the vibe — beers and cocktails outside served from a bar with a flower-covered roof and bartenders in bathing suits. Aqua Bar & Grill (57 Baltimore Ave.) offers outdoor dining and drinks as well and is always packed with gay revelers all summer long.    

Looking for something new? Check out the Libation Room in the back of Summer House (228 Rehoboth Ave.), a restaurant with a dark, speakeasy vibe or the brand new outdoor garden arranged around a gurgling fountain.

If you’re not counting carbs and are looking for a satisfying lunch to take to the beach, pick up a hulking sandwich at Frank & Louie’s (58 Baltimore Ave.) or the iconic chicken salad at Lori’s Café (39 Baltimore Ave.).


If you’re an old pro and have already exhausted Rehoboth’s many dining options, venture up or down Route 1 for something different. Ocean City isn’t known as a fine dining destination, but things are changing. Check out Liquid Assets (9301 Coastal Highway) and don’t be deterred by the entrance in a strip mall through the liquor store. The restaurant’s high-end menu includes Maryland crab, blackened rockfish, steamed local oysters, along with steaks and even vegan options. Browse the extensive wine list or, better yet, wander around the shop and pick a bottle from the shelves. Not far away is Ocean View/Millville with its own growing roster of appealing restaurants. One of the best is Melissa’s (35507 Atlantic Ave.), with a small menu featuring a fish of the day, seafood pasta, and shrimp or lobster fried rice. Back north in Lewes is a gem of a new discovery. Located behind Bramble & Brine (102 2nd St., Lewes, the former Buttery) is the Pink Pony, a bar and restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner that pays homage to one of Rehoboth’s first gay bars of the same name. Owner Megan Kee can often be found on her laptop at the bar and seems to know everyone who walks through the door. It’s welcoming, friendly, and the décor a real throwback. Check it out.

Our independent restaurateurs and their dedicated staff need support, so skip the chains and enjoy the diverse array of Rehoboth-area restaurants this summer.

Continue Reading

a&e features

What’s new at Rehoboth Beach for summer 2024

Higher parking fees, Pamala moves to Diego’s, and more



Rehoboth favorites Magnolia Applebottom and Pamala Stanley are reunited this summer at Diego’s. (Blade file photo by John Bator)

Another Rehoboth Beach season is upon us. I have been going to the beach for more years than I can count, and always love it. Some now consider Rehoboth a year-round community, and in many ways they are right. But summer still brings out tens of thousands of tourists, from day-trippers, to those with second homes at the beach. Others book a weekend, or longer, at the many great hotels. They all come to the beach for the sun and sand, food, and drink. Some like to relax, others to party, and you can do both in Rehoboth. 

So here is some of the good (and a little of the bad) of what’s new this season. First the bad: Parking at a meter will now cost you $4 an hour. Meters are in effect May 15-Sept. 15. Parking permits for all the non-metered spaces in town are also fairly expensive. You can find information on both transferable and individual permits, online.

Now for the good — and there is lots of it. First, Aqua Bar & Grill has reopened for the season. During Women’s Fest they were packed, with many sitting around the outdoor heaters, and that included lots of good looking men. I recommend taking advantage of the Thursday Burger night. Then the Blue Moon just announced John Francis Flynn will be on the piano from May 26-June 26, Sunday to Thursday, 6-8:30 p.m. He will then be back again on the same schedule from July 30-Sept. 11. During July, Nate Buccieri returns to town for a month-long runs of shows.

My favorite place at the beach, The Coffee Mill, in the mews between Rehoboth and Baltimore Avenues, opens every morning at 7 a.m. Whenever I am at the beach I am there. Mel, who also owns Brashhh! on 1st Street, announced he is starting his own clothing line, called FEARLESS! 

The Purple Parrot, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year so be sure to spend some time there raising a glass. The Summer House last year opened the upscale Libation Room, with drinks like a Bacon Maple Old Fashioned. This year, they opened a nice garden looking out on Rehoboth Avenue, with a fountain. With the renewed interest in vinyl records you may want to stop in at Extended Play. Traveling a little beyond the town is the new 302 Local, located in Coastal Station behind Iron Hill Brewery. It is themed as a 1920s-era speakeasy. If you are in town on a Sunday for T-dance, you will have the chance to hear Pamala Stanley perform at Diego’s Bar and Nightclub. This is the perfect venue for Pamala’s talents in an indoor-outdoor setting that is already drawing packed crowds. Don’t miss it. Speaking of Diego’s, Pamala and Best Rehoboth Drag Queen winner Magnolia Applebottom are reunited there this summer. Don’t miss Magnolia’s Memorial Day Thursday party on May 23 from 8-10 p.m. featuring “naughtee bingo.”

If you are looking for culture Rehoboth has some of that as well. There’s Clear Space Theater on Baltimore Avenue. This year’s shows include The Bodyguard, The Roommates, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages and The Prom. Tickets sell fast so I suggest you book early and they are available online. Then there is the Pride Film Festival, June 14-16. More information on that can be found at CAMP Rehoboth, the LGBTQ community center. CAMP plans the annual Sunfestival each Labor Day weekend, a not-to-miss event each year. On the CAMP website you can also find information on its speaker series, concerts, and other special events that will be going on during summer. This year Rehoboth Beach Pride takes place July 18-21. Sussex Pride is taking the lead on the festival, which will happen at the Convention Center July 20 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. If you visit CAMP, or are just walking up Baltimore Avenue, make sure you pick up a copy of the Blade in the box in front of the building.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the other restaurants and clubs in town. Just a reminder, during season you often need reservations. Come to the beach often enough, and you can try them all: The Pines (and their Monday steak night) and Top of the Pines are at the epicenter of the fun on Baltimore Avenue. Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant offers a busy summer of events and entertainment. Rigby’s remains a go-to spot for the LGBTQ community on Rehoboth Avenue. Bodhi Kitchen is back in its second year offering delicious modern Asian cuisine “with a twist.” These are only a few of the great places to eat and drink at the beach.

Remember to book your reservations for hotels and restaurants early. Rehoboth is a happening place and very busy. Here’s wishing you fun at the beach. 

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade