Dining Out on the Boards
Okay, now that summer Letters issues are only once a month, we’ve got our great advertisers taking oodles of ads and leaving the editorial staff with lots of pages to fill! Happily, our editor has enlisted all hands on deck, and I am here to tell you I’m spectacularly flunking Retirement 101. But I’m also here to talk about our issue theme: beach food! Specifically, boardwalk food.
Back in the 1980s, when I first stepped foot on the Rehoboth Boardwalk, I was dazzled by the diversity of goodies waiting to be consumed along the stretch. But I learned some important rules over the years and I’m sharing these with you now to optimize your dining pleasure.
Rule One: Enjoy the treats but watch out for low-flying sea gulls. In a single season, if all the Thrasher’s fries brazenly stolen from tourists’ hands by hungry seagulls were laid end-to-end they would rival the number of cars traveling Route One in that same season. Those Thrasher’s fries are a delicious hot mess, while the traffic is merely…a hot mess. Salt and vinegar complete the Thrasher’s fries experience. Yum.
Rule Two: Wear light colored clothing for dining on funnel cake. If there’s a reader here who’s never had the distinctly gluttonous goody, I say you gotta try it at least once. But beware. The powdered sugar atop the yummy fried dough will cling to your clothes like, well…powdered sugar. Think donuts or beignets. Dammit, now I want either a beignet or some funnel cake and New Orleans is too far away, so I may head to the Funnel Cake Factory any minute for a Big Daddy. (Something you’ll never hear me ask for in any other circumstance.)
Rule Three: It’s hot out. Lick the ice cream cone from the top of the cone on up. It will be less messy. Maybe. Whether you like Kohr Bros., Archies, the Ice Cream Shop, or Starkeys, or other ice cream sites. Please, I beg you. Take your licks responsibly. And just a few steps up Wilmington from the boards is The Royal Treat. And it is. And has been for decades. All the concoctions are great but try an old-fashioned chocolate ice cream soda with your choice of ice cream flavors. It’s my once-a-year personal royal treat; had it on my birthday weekend, I’m done for the year, but take it from me, it’s devastatingly delicious. Extra: if you walk up a block from the boards to the corner of First and Baltimore, you can sample Double Dippers, President Biden’s favorite Rehoboth ice cream place.
Rule Four: Dolle’s is now located a few steps up Rehoboth Avenue – they just got a nice (smaller) new Dolle’s sign there. The family feud which led to the closing of the iconic Dolle’s on the boardwalk is sad. But you can still get the amazing Dolle’s caramel corn and saltwater taffy at…Dolle’s. Whew! There is nothing like getting a bucket of hot caramel corn late in the evening at Dolle’s (um, I mean Ibach’s) and heading to a white boardwalk bench to munch as you look at the moon over the ocean. Fisher’s popcorn gets raves too.
Rule Five: Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker. So said Ogden Nash. Rest assured that there are adult beverages available along the boardwalk. From Green Turtle to Whiskey Jacks, Obies to Victoria’s, they’ve got you covered. My fave is Obie’s, with a cold beer and fried food. What’s not to like?
Rule Six: But we were talking about candy, so it’s back to Ibach’s and Candy Kitchen. The dark chocolate nonpareils are amazing at either place, also at Kilwins, but knock the sand off your shoes and walk up to Sndyer’s on the avenue for the very best.
Rule Seven: Pizza, pizza, pizza. While Grotto rules the boardwalk real estate, and it was our “starter pizza” in the 1980s, once we found Louie’s on the ocean block we’d come home. It’s so great, as is their Italian Grinder (hoagie, sub, whatever your hometown dubs this deliciousness). We enjoy Nicola’s too for the ambiance and the Nic-o-Bolis, but we’ll be losing the Caggianos to Route One soon and I wish them well.
Rule Eight: Gus & Gus Place—over 60 years on the boardwalk, gets a rule all its own. Greatest fried chicken, cheesesteaks, and burgers on the boardwalk. Hot dogs too. The same family has owned and operated it since about the time I knew I was gay, and that’s going back some. We miss the original Gus. Founder Gus Svolis passed away in 2020 at 90, but this family keeps going strong.
a. If I left out anybody, especially friends of Letters, I’m sorry, but please understand that I’ve written this all from memory and I’m old.
b. I’ve written from memory because you do not want to see me loose on the boardwalk devouring all these goodies.
c. Funland deserves a whole article on its own. I will also play Whack-a-Mole there many times this summer, as I need that game to rid myself of my political rage.
Rule Ten: See Rule One. ▼
Fay Jacobs is the author of five published books and is touring with her one-woman sit-down comedy show, Aging Gracelessly.