A Taste of Summer
Summer in Rehoboth is an elbow to elbow, joyous madhouse. And whether we now call Rehoboth home, or still grab our “weeks,” the one thing many of us have in common is summer rituals. And many of those revolve around food. Something about the smell of the sea meeting the smell of the boardwalk destroys any sense of will power and suddenly we’re all happy-go-lucky carbaholics.
And because many of our restaurants were part of this “summer ritual,” this need to feed was mutual.
I remember arriving in Rehoboth and being introduced to the old Seafood Shack. It was on Baltimore Avenue, actual address was 42 and a half (!), and served po’ boys that left you longing for your next visit before you finished your last bite from your first visit. Back in the day, you’d find Peg in the kitchen, Georgie and Pat in the front, and enough chunks of shrimp piled on your po’ boy that the roll was rendered to condiment status.
For me, summer ended when they closed the shack, and began anew the day they reopened. And I know I wasn’t the only devotee. Although their shrimp owned my heart, others salivated for their soft-shell crab po’ boy. Which is how I learned you don’t get soft-shell crab until the crabs slough. Who knew? Ergo it was not uncommon to celebrate the return of summer twice in those days—once when the open sign went up, and again when the “crabs are in” sign was finally raised. It occurs to me, I owe those crabs a big thank you.
Did you know before the Seafood Shack became the Seafood Shack, it was a house? One that was rented out to summer people, like you or me. When the Seafood Shack moved in, those upstairs bedrooms remained.
Seafood Shack was first Dos Locos owned by Pat Whittier and Georgie Schaefer, who then opened another business, Plumb Loco on 1st Street. They closed Plumb and sold it as Dos Locos to Joe and Darryl Ciarlante-Zuber, who eventually moved it to Wilmington Avenue, then Rehoboth Avenue. Pat and Georgie rented the Old Dos Locos spot on Baltimore to Stephanie Dalee and Shelia Savaliski who created the name and business, Seafood Shack.
As for Joe and Darryl, they sold Dos Locos and they’re now back over on 1st Street, with Square One. Which to a beach newbie might suggest it’s like they’re back to Square One. People with longer-term memories might be furrowing their brows thinking, hey wasn’t there a place before called Square One? Hmmmmm….
Go ahead, unfurrow your brow, you are correct. Once there was Square One. Which became the sensational Yum Yum. Which had a partner named Alison Blyth, who now owns the always stellar Go Fish.
Fish. I remember the fish—in the floor of the Cultured Pearl, back when it was on Wilmington Avenue. Now on Rehoboth Avenue with their great food, their fish, and bonus, an aerie to dine on! However, a warning to those who might imbibe, the new fish is an uncovered pond—feet will get wet and dropped phones may drown.
Memories, many of them we’re so lucky to have. Chez la Mer, Nancy Wolfe? The Camel’s Hump—complete with Mediterranean costumes? Adriatico, Zebra, Terry Plowman’s perfectly named, The Front Page?
Memories, so many of them we still get to make. Blue Coast (Ginger Breneman at the bar!), Port 251 (Aperol Spritz!), The Pines (Blue Velvet Chairs and Mona Lotts!), Freddie’s Beach Bar (Barbie Dolls!), Goolees Grill (Drag Brunch!).
And of course, memories we can revisit, over and over, our summer stalwarts…chicken salad at Lori’s, a brunch at Back Porch, a salt-and-pepper shrimp at Confucius, the huge menu (and huge-er burger) at the Purple Parrot, a drink on the deck at Aqua, Café Azafrán, the hopping bar at Rigby’s. Old friends, still here. And most amazingly, still tasting like they should.
And then there was Cheryl…
If you came to eat, drink, and be very merry, there was one other summer ritual you could count on. Somewhere downtown, while you were eating, or drinking, or being very merry, you would be accosted by a big-smiling, small-in-stature woman on roller skates selling raffle tickets. If you didn’t personally know her, you soon would.
The late Cheryl Blackman raised money for different local causes by selling those tickets. A lot of money. And if it was the 4th of July weekend, she did it decked out in red, white, and blue. We miss her.
The Rehoboth Beach Museum has a tribute to Cheryl for the month of July. So I’m thinking you should find a minute to stop by, then find an hour or two to find a parking space, and then finally, head to dinner…whether that’s with an old friend, or a new one, I hope you find the memories you make are as warm and fuzzy and delectable as mine.
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery series Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventures, with On a LARP, Zero Sum Game, and Say Her Name.