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Rehoboth’s food scene offers exciting new options

Bodhi to debut, JAM’s new location features expansive roof deck, and more

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Rehoboth’s dining scene continues to evolve as the new summer season gets underway. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The food scene in Rehoboth is always changing and bringing something new to the table and 2023 is no exception.

As the popular beach town continues to evolve, locals and tourists alike have more options than ever for nightlife and dining. 

From Asian fusion to a speakeasy, there’s no shortage of new food to try, new drinks to sip, and new things to do. 

Bodhi and Drift

Drift (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Second Block Restaurant Group — owner of favorites like The Pines and Aqua Grill — is bringing Southeast Asian fare to 1st Street. This comes only a year after Drift opened on Baltimore Avenue, a high-end seafood restaurant and raw bar. 

Bodhi’s dining experience was described by its owner as an Asian fusion experience inspired by street food. The corporate chef of Second Block, Lion Gardner, has traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, inspiring a shared vision among the owners of a place for dishes like dumplings and noodles. 

The restaurant will occupy the spot that was held for many years by Lily Thai, which closed a few years ago after a very successful run. Now, Second Block hopes to bring Asian cuisine back to downtown Rehoboth in that space, most recently occupied by Square One Grill. As of this writing, Bodhi had not yet opened, though the chef has been testing the menu at takeover events in sister restaurant The Pines each Sunday until opening the new space.

The Second Block Restaurant Group is fairly new to the Rehoboth scene. It was only recently that Drift, The Pines, and Aqua all merged to form the group, with Bodhi as the next restaurant under the umbrella. 

Tyler Townsend, who represents Bodhi, spoke about the impact that Second Block hopes to have on the gay community in Rehoboth. He spoke extensively about the group’s desire to maintain and expand LGBTQ culture through events like drag shows. 

“We opened The Pines to bring something to Rehoboth that we felt was missing. Provincetown is my favorite place in the world to go, and we just felt like Rehoboth was missing an opportunity to bring in big name acts and provide a different level of entertainment than what was in the town.”

Townsend says that Rehoboth is evolving from the house party scene that he saw in years past to the bustling vacation center it is now. Second Block is committed to ensuring that gay community and culture not only stay alive in Rehoboth, but remain a focal point of the town. 

JAM’s new location

The duo of Eden and JAM has been a mainstay on Baltimore Avenue for years. The sister restaurants provide two distinct yet equally elevated experiences of quality drinks, food, and service. 

Owners Jeff McCracken and Mark Hunker have been providing both Rehoboth and D.C. with some of the best eats around for decades. Now, JAM has taken over the corner of Bayard and Wilmington, in the building occupied last year by UnWined at the Beach. There have been a number of businesses in and out of that space over the past few years — most notably the much-missed Azzurro — so a popular spot like JAM will give it some stability. 

More importantly, South Rehoboth now has another high-end restaurant in its backyard. With Henlopen City Oyster House, Mariachi, Salt Air, and now JAM, there’s no shortage of elevated cuisine on the other side of Rehoboth Avenue.  

“People keep telling us ‘Oh, I live on King Charles’ or ‘Oh, I live on Munson’ and they’re so excited for us to be there, because they never make the trip across Rehoboth Avenue,” said McCracken. 

“For those of you that are familiar with JAM, we’ve kept all the favorites and we’ve added some really great new items to the menu. We’ve also added a really special new cocktails and pub menu for the rooftop.”

JAM (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Bethany Blues takes over Nicola

If you walk into the now former home of Nicola Pizza and find yourself eating ribs, don’t be alarmed. The 1st Street space has been taken over by the group that owns Delaware barbecue mainstay Bethany Blues and nearby Dewey institution Starboard. 

Downtown Blues, the newest member of that family, will feature a menu similar to Bethany Blues, but with its own Rehoboth twist. Owner Jessica Nathan elaborates: 

“Being in the downtown area, we feel like we have an opportunity to highlight some fun, seasonal dishes that we can change up more frequently as we have a different flow of guests through the season. It will be a little bit smaller in terms of [Bethany Blues] everyday menu, but a little bit larger in terms of the seasonal menu.” 

In addition to a tweaked menu, Downtown Blues will feature a Bourbon bar, and more emphasis on delivery. While Nathan says that Downtown Blues is a restaurant with full service and a bar, it also provides an easier opportunity for delivery and carryout to the immediate Rehoboth community. 

Nicola finds new home

Nicola has been a mainstay of Rehoboth longer than this author has been alive. But, like the iconic Boardwalk Dolle’s sign before it, all great things must go, and it seems the Nicaboli is no exception. The Nicola sign now hangs in Lewes, in a giant newly constructed space. 

Nick Caggiano Jr., part of the Caggiano family that owns Nicola, emphasized the importance of accessibility as the reasoning for the move. When asked what the benefit was of moving into Lewes, Caggiano didn’t hesitate. 

“We have a big, free parking lot. As you know, in Rehoboth, two things happen. The nine months that there’s no meters, it’s still very hard to park in front of my restaurants, because the town has grown so much, which is great. The other two and a half months, you have to pay for parking, and a lot of the locals didn’t want to pay for parking. We also found that a lot of people would drive to dine with us and couldn’t find a parking spot, so they’d just leave. Here, we have 170 parking spots, it’s always free, and you can just park right in front of my restaurant and walk in.” 

Caggiano also spoke about the benefits of having a wider customer base in Lewes. “I consider where I’m at to be the suburbs of Lewes, Rehoboth, and Milton” Caggiano explained. 

With this more centralized location, it’s much easier for diners to make the trip to Nicola and feel confident that they can actually dine at Nicola. 

First State Corn comes to the boardwalk

The food truck that once parked in the Aldi’s parking lot has finally hit the big time. The newest addition to the first block of Rehoboth Avenue is First State Corn. Here, customers can enjoy specialties like elote in a cup, Cuban sandwiches, and fried plantains. 

The work of Chef James, who co-owns the truck, is seeped in the culture of his upbringing. Growing up in Miami, James wanted to cook the food that reflected Miami street food. He does cook it, and he cooks it extremely well. Nothing at First State Corn disappoints. 

The truck actually started in Florida, but James moved to Delaware to be closer to his wife’s family. What started as a tent and three tables evolved into a food truck, and now it’s evolved into a full restaurant. 

First State offers incredible food unique to the area, perfectly situated for the boardwalk location. Just run off the beach around noon and grab a cubano with a lemonade.

Libation Room brings the speakeasy to town

The speakeasy concept has been a growing trend in cities like D.C. and New York the past few years, and now the new owner of Summer House is bringing that exciting concept to Rehoboth. 

Basically, do you want to go to a bar but sit on a couch? And feel kinda cool when you “get in” to the back room? Then a speakeasy is for you.  

Behind the lively dining room and live music of Summer House, diners can now find the Libation Room. Here, you can find something more akin to a lounge setting.  

Speaking to Regan Dickerson, who purchased Summer House last year, you’ll know no expense has been spared on the Libation Room and the various, well, libations. The room has been soundproofed so live music can take place in both venues at once. Lounge seating is available for reservation or general entry, and the bar in the back has an entirely different set of craft cocktails for customers to try. 

This brings a late night option to the people in Rehoboth who don’t want to head all the way to Dewey for a lively night out. 

Also new are Crushers, a crab shack in the former home of Port 251, which also owns Cup’r Cone in the parking lot; and Tiki Jac’s, a new bar in the former Nicola Pizza space on Rehoboth Avenue.

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