|by Jennifer P. Rubenstein|
Having lived in Rehoboth Beach full-time for seven years now, I still consider myself a newbie, and I certainly do not run with downstate movers and shakers, the type who (I thought) ate at 1776 Steakhouse. Much to my surprise, though, when my honey, Sharon, and I ate there last Friday, we saw several people we knew and we made some new friends.
Bob Mitchell and Tom Holmes re-opened 1776 Steakhouse in December after the previous owner had caused some local controversy with an abrupt closing. Mitchell is a well known Sussex Countian having had several careers: state trooper, retired, furniture store, retired, restaurant, retired, Florida, un-retired, you get the picture. Holmes is fairly new to the area, with about four years here, having moved here from Medford, NJ, where he owned the Noelle restaurant. They met when Holmes was assistant general manager at Rehoboth Beach Country Club.
After the 1776 closed last year, Mitchell and Holmes started looking into whether it might be possible to resurrect the beloved restaurant. Holmes said that they both agreed they wouldn't force the plan. If there were too many difficulties, they would give up. But as they pursued the project, things "fell into place like it was meant to be." They secured the name, space, phone number and key staff people. After much renovation, training and modifying the menu, the landlord, vendors and the community were happy to see the restaurant reopen December 1.
Fast forward to February 1, when Sharon and I walked in the door on a rainy Friday evening. As soon and I walked into the foyer and started to hang my coat, I knew I would be in for a treat. The booming voices from inside were joyful and the coat rack was full. Sharon and I were seated at a cozy table near the fire where we warmed up and perused the menu. Since I had not eaten at 1776 when it was under the former ownership, I can not compare this experience to that, but I will tell you that we had an amazing meal and we plan to re-visit 1776 soon.
The menu is very enticing, and we spent a lot of time reading and re-reading it. There were so many delicious-looking options. The first thing Sharon said after we both had been reading the menu for a while was, "Wow. We should have brought more people with us so we could try more things."
The lobster-filled black ravioli and calamari special appetizers, as well as the crab and pumpkin bisque, all sounded delicious, but we decided to skip the starter course and ordered the mixed field greens salad. It was served with smoked bacon, huge dried cherries, and walnuts, all tossed in a maple vinaigrette, but the best part was that all that sweetness was well-balanced by the generous chunks of Gorgonzola cheese.
The salad was served with rolls hot out of the oven. One was covered in poppy and sesame seeds while the other was an aromatic rosemary roll. When I say hot out of the oven, I mean it. They were too hot to touch, but I juggled them anyway until they cooled enough that I could slather them in the tasty honey-herb butter. I enjoyed these rolls with my salad while honey butter literally dripped down my chin.
My regular readers will be surprised to hear that we both ordered red wine to accompany our meal. Neither of us are connoisseurs, but I especially loved the Mark West Pinot Noir that was dry and fruity. Sharon enjoyed the Steeple Jack Shiraz which had a woodier flavor.
We ordered the wine because we knew we would be ordering steak. We were at a steakhouse after all! We briefly considered trying a non-beef entre. For those of you out there who don't eat meat, please know that there are other options at 1776: seafood, chicken, pasta and a scrumptious-sounding eggplant parmesan. When one of the uber-attentive wait staff, Phil, brought over the tray of steaks and explained the different cuts, though, that sealed the deal. We both decided to order steak.
I tried the house signature cut, a Barrel steak. It is basically the center cut from the rib-eye. I am not usually a fan of the rib-eye, but this Barrel steak looked exactly like a filet mignon with just a little more marbling. Sharon ordered the filet with a crab cake on the side. I should mention that all the steaks are served with your choice of starch (baked potato, mashed potato or wild rice) and the vegetable of the day. Sharon especially loved the crab cake which was all lump crab with the thinnest layer of breading on the outside just to hold it together.
Boy, was I glad I tried that Barrel steak. Both steaks were flavorful with a nice rub of spices, and drum roll please... both steaks were perfectly cooked as we'd ordered. We ate in silence except for groans of pleasure as we swapped bits of the meal to share. Everything was good, but I can not overstate the deliciousness of those steaks. The menu attributes the extraordinary tenderness and flavor of the steaks to the fact that they are "dry aged." I don't know exactly what that means, and I'm not sure I want to know, but I do know the steaks at 1776 will be calling my name.
After our amazing meal, we chatted with other diners, owners Bob and Tom, and several of the friendly wait staff.
One of the highlights of our visit was meeting Chef Tammy Mozingo, formerly of the Royal Zephyr in Ocean View. She is super cute and lives in Ocean View with her partner and their two daughters.
The other highlight of our visit was the cheesecake. Pause. This is the kind of dessert that I'm afraid to describe because I know I can not do it justice. It is the fluffiest cheesecake I've ever had. It's sprinkled with sugar and then the sugar is caramelized with a blowtorch. Yum.
Whether you are a mover-shaker or just a newbie like me, shake your thing down to the 1776 Steakhouse soon.
1776 Restaurant, located in the Midway Shopping Center, is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner Monday through Saturday 5 to 10 p.m. with Sunday dinner being served 4 to 9 p.m. The full menu and other information can be viewed at www.1776steakhouse.net. For reservations, call 302-645-9355.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 01 February 08, 2008