Why didn’t you post my complaint about high prices?
Commentary on price isn’t relevant to the quality of the food or service in a restaurant. Price/affordability is more of a personal issue for each individual guest to decide.
In order to stay competitive, restaurants set their prices somewhere between covering their costs (including rent, labor, etc.) and still attracting customers. If those prices are too high and they price themselves out of the market, then the restaurant will go out of business. If they are too low, they will go out of business because they could not cover their costs.
With brand new restaurants, that remains to be seen after the crowds have settled down and reality sets in. Especially in the off-season.
How can you be objective in your reviews if restaurants advertise on your radio show?
Up to this point, I have been fortunate to not have to deal with that problem. The restaurants that have been kind enough to advertise on my radio show happen to be restaurants about which I wrote generally favorable reviews long before I had the show. These restaurants are run by professionals and are consistently good. Repeat visits bear this out.
The radio show grew out of the popularity of RehobothFoodie.com, so I would never compromise the objectivity of my articles. Visitor feedback suggests that this is the main reason so many people use the site regularly. Of course, I will never accept restaurant advertising on the website, since, unlike the radio show, all the reviews — positive and not-so-positive — are right there.
Where’s the Black Friday Gift Card List?
I’m sorry to say that the Black Friday gift card list, which I have published for the last 4 years, was and is an exercise in futility. Other than 6-7 specific restaurants, many of the places offering deals either publish them only on Facebook as a single post, or don’t publish them online at all; relying on signs and table tents in the restaurant to publicize the deals.
This is because many restaurants see this as a deal they want to extend to their regular customers and not to the general public. I get it, and that’s their prerogative, but it makes it almost impossible for me to chase down each and every deal. On top of that, the terms of some of these deals change with the wind. This year I posted the terms of several deals, and two days later the restaurants changed them without notice. Of course I got indignant emails. Enough already.
There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do the gift card list properly, and I’d rather not publish it at all than publish one that is incomplete or incorrect.
Check the websites, Facebook pages or onsite signs at your favorite restaurants. Or call. The phone numbers are on my Cheap Eats/Specials list. Enjoy!
How come I can’t print out your Cheap Eats/Specials list?
Because of the interactive nature of the Cheap Eats list, it is not designed to be printed. There are just too many moving parts. Keep in mind that the list changes daily as updates and new specials and hours come in. So a printed copy would quickly become obsolete anyway.
Note that you can also access the list on your smartphone by going to Cheap Eats on the site or you can access it from the Rehoboth In My Pocket smartphone app by tapping “What’s happening now?”
I asked for bread, and the waiter told me that they don’t serve bread any more. Why?
Interesting question, and I get it a lot.
The word I get from restaurateurs I have spoken to about this is that 50-70% of the bread they put on the table is not eaten. Quality restaurants know that that bread has to be thrown away (once something has been on a customer’s table, it cannot be reused — or at least it’s not supposed to be…).
They blame, (1) the plethora of fad diets that have made people fear carbohydrates, along with, (2) those who decide they are not going to eat gluten for no stated reason other than being seen as “healthy” (no truly scientific basis for any of that, except of course in the event of an actual diagnosed medical allergy or sensitivity due to celiacs disease).
Many restaurants (Matt Haley’s SoDelConcepts restaurants and Touch of Italy, for example) bake their own bread so they can control not only the cost (in-house bread doesn’t have to be delivered) and the amount they serve/make in the short run. Other restaurants charge a very small amount for their bread so only the people who want it will order it. An example of this is the cornbread at Po’Boys Creole & Fresh Catch in Milton.
Quality restaurants survive on making you happy, but many chefs and owners are frustrated with the hundreds of dollars they throw in the trash. Some will pass the savings onto the customer by controlling menu prices, others will simply enjoy the few hundredths of a percent increase in profit. Either way, it’s better than throwing untouched food in the trash.
I saw a Sysco truck in front of my favorite restaurant! Some people say that only mediocre restaurants buy from them. Am I wrong?
Beware of the faux “anti-Sysco” (or anti-U.S. Foodservice, or anti-whatever) attitude that is perpetrated by certain restaurants that try to capitalize on “buying locally,” “organic” and all that feel-good talk rather than just putting out consistently good food. I can tell you from 100% experience (I have owned or been part-owner of 5 eateries) that the local restaurants that demonize companies like Sysco will most certainly have a Sysco (or U.S. Foods or whatever) truck in front of their restaurants some time during the day, just like everyone else. It just makes sense when purchasing certain items in bulk.
What many people don’t know (or don’t bother to find out) is the the local Sysco warehouse that services southern Sussex County buys much of its in-season produce from local MD and DE farms. It just makes sense from a business point-of-view because the expense of trucking refrigerated items across the country (often the case with non-in-season items) is a huge part of the cost. And they bring the product to the restaurateur’s door.
Restaurants that crow about going to local farmers’ markets are generally ending up with the same produce, except that it’s cheaper for them to drive to a farmers’ market rather than pay Sysco (or, again, whomever) the additional costs associated with delivering it to them. And Sysco, like your local grocery store, offers a wide variety of the same “organic” items that local restaurants try to make you believe are something unusual or peculiar only to them.
Another fact that many people don’t know is that Sysco, again, like your local grocery store, sells many different levels of quality in order to service the widest possible range of restaurants. So a local restaurant that says that a product sold by Sysco is inferior is trying to fool you into thinking that their product (whatever it might be) is superior, when in fact they could have just as easily purchased the better product from Sysco (or, I repeat, ad nauseum, any food purveyor).
It’s important to remember that Sysco is primarily a warehousing and trucking operation. The great majority of their products are available (at all levels of quality) for purchase by its customers in the same way that a range of products are on the shelves at the grocery store available for you to buy. If you buy a cheap, inferior ham, for example, you don’t blame the grocery store — you should blame yourself for not buying the higher quality (and, by definition, more expensive) product. There are people who can only afford the cheaper product, and so it makes sense for the store to offer it to them.
People often overlook the fact that the amazing range of in- and off-season products available at restaurants is due directly to large companies like Sysco, US Foods and the like. The very fact that you can get guacamole at your favorite local Mexican joint in January is due, in part, to this. Am I trying to make you think Sysco or the other purveyors are better than buying from a produce stand or farmers’ market? Of course not. What I’m saying is that in many cases it’s pretty much the same thing, except that you are having it delivered to your door at a naturally higher cost.
So thanks to huge operations like Sysco and the like, local customers have a wider array of products from which to choose, which, if they actually know what they are doing in the kitchen, can translate into better dining for us all. The ones who don’t measure up would rather blame the trucking company that brought their food rather than their limited culinary talents. Too bad. And some people actually believe it.
Where are the Indian, Korean and Vietnamese places?
Resort dining is a strange thing. Restaurants depend on a regular flow of customers to survive, and unfortunately, that is only guaranteed during the 3 or so months of the summer season. Off-season dining has to appeal to as many people, and to as wide a cross-section of tastes as possible, or the restaurants will fail.
Unfortunately, as much as you and I pine away for Indian and/or Vietnamese food, there is simply not a large enough customer base in the off-season to support restaurants like that.
Lily Thai does a pretty good job and they are open all season. They survive on a very good lunch special. Confucius is another place that does a consistently good business with upscale Chinese food. They also offer a Sunday dim-sum brunch that is quite popular.
Saketumi and Cultured Pearl also survive year-round with good “locals’ specials” and a fairly diverse menu. I don’t see an influx of ethnic restaurants anytime soon. That’s one of the things I miss about the Washington, D.C. area, where the large population (customer base) includes enough people willing to frequent ethnic eateries.
Note that in the summer you can get pretty good Greek food at Corner Grill (First & Wilmington), and some tasty Middle-Eastern items at Semra’s Mediterranean Grill on Rehoboth Avenue. Corner Grill is closed in the off-season, but Semra’s stays open year-round.
The silver lining is that New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C. are not that far away, and all are meccas for good ethnic dining. I go to Philly and/or Newark, DE for my Vietnamese fixes.
What about healthy, gluten-free and fat-free foods?
Of course it’s better to limit your fat and carb intake. It’s a proven medical fact that these things promote health. But when it comes to gluten (other than for those with celiac disease — approx 1 in every three million people), you have fallen for a marketing trick. And people who actually pay attention are starting to wake up to this fact as scientists discover that it’s all just hype.
In spite of what you are being told by those who profit from it, gluten-free foods will not help you lose weight and are not any healthier than other foods — again, unless you happen to suffer from celiac disease. In that case you must avoid gluten at all costs. But there are also unfortunate souls out there who are allergic to mushrooms or celery, but that doesn’t make mushrooms or celery unhealthy — unless you happen to be an advertising agency trying to make your clients’ celery- or mushroom-free food appear to be better than somebody else’s. And therein lies the scam!
Another example: Some restaurants have jumped on this bandwagon by touting their french fries as “peanut oil-free.” That is certainly a good thing for people who have peanut allergies, but it’s not the peanut oil that’s the problem, it’s the allergy. Everybody knows that fries taste and look better when they’re cooked in peanut oil. People with peanut allergies should of course avoid the fries at these places, but peanut oil doesn’t make the fries any more unhealthy than if they were cooked in any other kind of oil. Other than minor differences in the amount of saturated lipids, oil that is liquid at room temperature is just oil. Don’t buy the hype.
There are even restaurants who tout their, say, pizza dough, as being “fat free,” and their tomato sauce as being “rich in lycopene.” Oooo, now doesn’t THAT sound scientific! But there’s the hype again: They’re simply trying to fool the misinformed into thinking that their, say, pizza, is healthier than the other guy’s. The truth is that ALL pizza dough is virtually fat-free. And ALL sauces that contain tomatoes are rich in lycopene. Not just theirs. It’s all just marketing hype targeting the gullible. Don’t buy it.
I had lunch the other day with a young woman who was complaining that her gluten-free cookies tasted like cardboard. I asked her if she suffered from celiac disease. She said, “no,” but that she wanted to be healthy. She had fallen for the hype, as her cookies crumbled into a pile of dust on the table. Some people will believe anything.
Many of the problems in this country today stem from people blindly accepting pretty much anything they are told. Don’t do that. If you are allergic to peanuts, you must certainly avoid peanuts. If you suffer from celiac disease, then yes, gluten is off-limits. But if you don’t, don’t be fooled into thinking that gluten- or peanut-free products, or pizza with “fat-free” dough or sauces filled with lycopene are unusual or automatically more healthy. They’re not.
In the immortal words of the late comedian and contemporary philosopher George Carlin, “It’s bull**it, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s bad for ya’.”
Recent studies (NOT conducted by companies that manufacture gluten-free products) have repeatedly shown that the original information about gluten was incorrect, and that the only people who should avoid it are those who suffer from celiacs.
In my humble opinion, we need to spend more time monitoring our fats, cholesterol, sugars and sodium (PROVEN dietary concerns) and less time creating fake “sensitivities” that draw attention away from (and diminish the credibility of) people who do, in fact, suffer from celiacs disease. Thank you. Now pass the bread, please.
You gave a 5-Star rating to a fast-food place AND a fine-dining place! Are you saying they’re the same? What’s wrong with you!?!
Read the Ratings and Standards section of this website.
ALL restaurants on RehobothFoodie.com are rated using the same 1-5 star scale. We rate everything from McDonald’s to Ruth’s Chris. So the ratings are not simply a comparison of one place to another. If a fast-food place does a good job with your crispy chicken sandwich, they might get 5 stars for doing what is expected of them. And the fine-dining place, if it earns it, will perhaps get the same rating for the same reason.
It doesn’t mean that the restaurants are the same. It simply means that each did what they set out to do and that each gave you your money’s worth.
So & So restaurant doesn’t take reservations! What’s up with that?
I’ll share a very recent experience with you. Yesterday I received an email from the owner of a fine-dining restaurant. The email read, “We have stopped taking reservations because of all the no-shows.” Those were his exact words. That explains it in a nutshell.
I love to watch out for my site visitors, most of whom are potential patrons of restaurants. However, having been a restaurant owner myself, I have to take the restaurants’ side on this. Especially those located in a resort town.
People get angry because they can’t get into a restaurant. I’ve had several emails where people have actually taken this personally and talk bad about the restaurant. These people need to get a life. The fact that there was a line is not about them. They chose to go to a popular restaurant, and there’s a line. Period. Order a martini at the bar and get over yourself.
I’ve gotten tons of emails about this. (In particular, take a look at the comment thread below the review of the popular Agave restaurant in Lewes.) Instead of grousing about not wanting to hang around waiting for a table at Agave for 2 hours, you either make a point of getting there early (duh!), or you go somewhere else. Agave isn’t the only restaurant in Lewes: Touch of Italy, or Half-Full, or Striper Bites, or Gilligan’s, or the Buttery, or JD’s Cafe, or Jerry’s Seafood, or Rose and Crown, or Kindle, or Villa Sorrento, or Irish Eyes, or Fish On!, or Green Turtle, or Mr. P’s, or …. you get the idea. If it’s Agave you want, then you need to adjust your thinking.
So back to the reservations thing: Unfortunately, many people, particularly those on vacation, engage in the rude practice of making reservations at several places on the same night. They know every place will be busy, so they tie up tables at a few places so they can conveniently decide where to go when they feel like it. Very few ever call to cancel. Though that may be convenient for them, the places they didn’t go to are left hanging, as patrons in line stare at the empty table and get angrier by the minute.
So what to do? Do they give your reservation away after, say, 10 — maybe 15 minutes, and risk your making a rude scene when you show up late, or do they make the customers (who actually made the effort to show up) stand in line and stare angrily at your empty table? Because so many people are inconsiderate about this, most places simply don’t take reservations any more. I suspect that this practice has gotten worse as cell phones, smart phones and reservation apps have made it easier to secure reservations on a whim.
Many finer restaurants in year-around vacation spots like Las Vegas, Honolulu and Key West have solved this problem by requiring a credit card number when you make a reservation. By doing so, you agree to pay a fee (in Vegas it’s usually $50!) if you don’t show up. It’s not really the $50 that’s the issue: They see it as an incentive to get you to at least call if you’re not coming. Call within a certain time frame, and you’re off the hook. No big deal: They’re going to have a line no matter what. Another way many restaurants are handling this is with Open Table.com, where you have to enter some personal information (like your phone number) to reserve a table. People tend to follow-through when they have to identify who they are. More and more Rehoboth and Lewes restaurants are accepting online reservations from OpenTable.com (access them all on the travel app Rehoboth In My Pocket).
I have a friend who stood-up a busy restaurant in Lewes a year or so ago. She left them hanging, and they promptly put her on a blacklist. The next time she called, they refused her reservation. She acted indignantly, as if they had somehow wronged her. I say good for them. They’d rather provide quality service to the customers who care enough to show up rather than attempting to accommodate an entitled somebody who may — or may not — show up. Business is a two-way street, and reservations are a promise and a verbal contract. So there.
You told me you loved my restaurant, then you gave me 4.5 stars for food! WTF? Where’s my “5”?
Please read the Ratings and Standards page.
These are not grades like you get in school. Here at RehobothFoodie.com, 4.5 Stars is an excellent rating — only a few places (out of more than 200 rated so far) have received 4.5 stars or better. When a restaurant is close to perfect, I have no choice but to be thorough and downright picky, sometimes even visiting 4-5 times before coming up with a rating.
Perfection demands perfection, and I owe it to my visitors t be precise. When it comes to the difference between 4.5 and 5 stars, everything may be spot on. But one dish might be overly spiced, or not spiced enough — that might be worth a half point. At this point, little things can mean a lot, and complaints can be quite subjective. But lots of people come here to get my reviews and opinions, so I feel the pressure to leave no stone unturned.
Truth be told, 5 Star ratings are rare and they can disappear in an instant. But, as the Ratings and Standards section clearly states, a 4.5 star rating beats about 85% of the other restaurants reviewed. And well it should.
What’s Up with Red Square?
I know: You never see anyone in there, and often they’re just plain closed. Do they cater to a late crowd? Wazzup?
Following is an article written by Bob Yesbek, a Cape Gazette food columnist. The article is reprinted here with permission and will answer your questions:
Small towns are notorious for gossip. People like to pretend they’re in the know even when they’re not (which is often the case). And Rehoboth Beach is the official poster child for rumors about local businesses, especially restaurants. I get so many emails about one particular place that I had to create a subdirectory just to store them all. I call it, What’s Up With Red Square?
The nasty innuendo thrives in spite of the fact that the owners are long-time residents with two sports-loving sons both of whom were, or are Rehoboth lifeguards excelling in area schools. Is Red Square an unusual restaurant? It sure is. The owners have a very specific model thats nothing like the crabcake/burger, pizza/shrimp’n’grits fare more typical of beach resorts. So enough already: What’s up with Red Square?
Tom Kopunek was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Pennsylvania. But he’s lived in this area since 1984. As a research chemist, he was sent to work in Russia where he met the strikingly attractive Victoria, a professor teaching Russian as a second language at Kharkov State University. In 1991, Tom returned to the United States with Victoria. They married shortly thereafter, giving rise to their two sons, Ruslan, 20, and Philip, 18 [at the time the article was published].
In 97, Tom and Victoria opened a PostNet franchise in Midway shopping center, providing business services to local residents. But Victoria had a dream. She missed the ritual of leisurely fine-dining so prevalent in her home country, where special occasions commanded the finest of everything served in opulent surroundings. And thus, in 2001, was born Red Square.
In the tradition of Manhattan’s Russian Tea Room and Washington D.C.’s Russia House, over 180 different vodkas are stocked behind the bar. Traditional Russian cuisine is accompanied by genuine imported black caviar. There are no TVs, no Buffalo wings, and no NFL specials. Russian music plays softly in the background. I ask Victoria why they made such an investment in a beach town known for chocolate fudge and fried seafood. ”We did it here because we love the beach. And those who like what we do, many of whom are from Washington, D.C., are faithful customers.”
In 2002, the Kopuneks opened Javabyte in Midway Center, combining live entertainment and high-speed Internet services. It was everything a café was supposed to be, but without the alcohol, Tom smiles. In 2007, they dissolved PostNet, folding the shipping/printing services into Javabyte. Victoria earned her real estate license in 07, selling properties up and down the Delaware coast for RE/MAX Realty Group.
Tom and Victoria are amused by most of the silly rumors that fly around town. People who have never ventured inside whisper excitedly that its a front for the Russian mob, and that who-knows-what is moving in and out of the back door. Victoria laughs, ”People say were in the mob. I tell them we are a very friendly mob. And we don’t even have a back door!” But she stops laughing when I mention that some of the local chatter suggests prostitution. “That offends me, and its not funny.” Tom shakes his head and I change the subject.
The smiling and quick-with-a-joke Tom (inexplicably dubbed that surly bartender by suspicious, uninformed onlookers) admits that, on sunlit days, the glass façade and the south-side Avenue location can make Red Square look a bit dark and mysterious. But as evening falls, Victorias hand-picked Swarovski crystal chandeliers cast a soft glow over the crimson booths and silver serving pieces. When I mention that the place never looks crowded, she responds rather animatedly: ”We have 36 seats. Our kitchen is tiny. I only have one oven. I don’t know what I’d do if all those seats were full!”
The Kopuneks sum it up: ”We do something a little different. You have to have choices. Were not competing with anybody. We dont need to turn tables, because our concept is to recreate traditional Russian fine-dining at a leisurely pace. We buy the best of everything, and it’s definitely expensive. Is it for everybody? Of course not. But enough people appreciate what we do to keep us open so we can enjoy it along with them.”
Bob Yesbek is a serial foodie and can be reached at email@example.com.
[By the way, since this article was published in Cape Gazette, the affable Tom Kopunek passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly in mid-2013. He and his family had many friends and Tom will be missed.]
You never posted a comment I sent. Why?
We are always on the lookout for fake “comments” or comments that are based on hearsay, rumor, or ridiculous agendas. If you want to read stuff like that, you can go to unmoderated free-for-alls like Help, UrbanSwoon or TwitAdvisor. We will not publish a comment that is just plain nasty or overly insulting. We have learned that many of these come from competitors, trouble-making customers who have been barred from certain restaurants/bars, or disgruntled / fired employees.
We will also not publish a comment that goes waaaayy overboard singing the praises of an obviously mediocre restaurant. We have learned that many of these come from restaurant owners, their families or friends.
We will not publish comments based on criteria that don’t make sense. Examples include (and I am not making these up!):
(1) “We don’t like so-and-so because the portions are too big.” Ridiculous. Stay home and eat a salad.
(2) “We hate that restaurant because we had to wait 45 minutes to get in.” Who are you, the Queen of England? There are lots of mediocre places where you can get a seat right away. Go there and leave room for the people who obviously know a good thing when they taste it.
(3) “I’m never going back there because they had the nerve to charge me for a side order of beans.” No, the world does not owe you a living. Food service is a business and must make a profit to survive. And in spite of what you might hear from Washington, D.C., you are NOT entitled to anything you aren’t willing to pay for.
(4) “Your reviews are too kind,” or, “You like everything.” When I respond to comments like this and ask for specifics, I never get an answer. It’s obvious that these people didn’t read the review(s) all the way through. Restaurants are fair game for chronic complainers and people whose only power in life is to victimize waitpersons, managers and others whose jobs involve serving people. I call ’em as I see ’em, and, in fact, most places in this seasonal resort are pretty much OK, or they wouldn’t survive. And it’s a rare review here that doesn’t contain at least one criticism. And there are several that are quite critical. If you don’t like a place, don’t go. And, in fact, if enough people agree with you, the place will disappear.
And of course, all of this is meant in the most loving way. Enjoy the site!
Your specials list said a place was open until 8 in the Winter. We went and they were closed! WTF?
So what part of “ALWAYS CALL FIRST” don’t you get? It’s printed in at the top and the bottom of the specials list, plus warnings are scattered throughout the listings and review articles.
This is the beach. And they don’t call it “slower lower Delaware” for nothing. If you live here or are a local, you understand what this means. If you are visiting or are new to the area, take the advice published (I’ll say it again…) at the top of the off-season specials list and in virtually every review: CALL FIRST. That’s why I provide the phone numbers in the list and in the reviews.
Don’t send me a nasty email because you trotted yourself all the way to Millsboro — without calling the restaurant — to find out that jalapeno poppers weren’t $2 anymore. I didn’t take you to raise.
Why are most of your ratings fairly high?
It’s a fact that only the strong survive in a seasonal resort town. As a result, most of the restaurants here at the beach are pretty much OK. If they weren’t, they would be out of business. There’s just too much competition for too few year-round customers. Of course some places are better than others, but most places still in business have at least some redeeming features.
Given the state of the economy, local patrons (at least those who care about what they eat) will pick and choose the best food for their dollar. These patrons are the holy grail for successful resort restaurants. However, there are those among us who shop ONLY price and will eat pretty much anything if it’s cheap. Those people are not our target audience. In fact, we don’t even publish review comments that harp only on price and ignore quality. Regular visitors to RehobothFoodie.com know that there are several local restaurants that survive only on very low prices; providing mediocre or worse food and bad service to people who will eat it if it’s cheap. But these people are still a viable market. The fact remains that you get what you pay for. I’d rather stay home.
In short, bad restaurants (other than those who charge so little for their bad food that they attract anyone who will eat anything that’s cheap), or restaurants without sufficient working capital will most often fail. Those that survive do so because they are providing a product that people will pay for. Any rating for “food” or “overall” better than 3.5 stars indicates a restaurant that is at least OK and has some redeeming features.
They can’t all be home runs, but even a couple of walks can win the game.
Do you get free food?
Absolutely not. When I am working a review, I pay like everybody else. How can I expect you to regularly visit this website if I play favorites based on free stuff?
Most of the papers and magazines here at the beach publish “fluff” reviews where very little is criticized and everything is “awesome.” This is because these restaurants are their advertising clients. Totally understandable. Additionally, and in spite of the many kind and generous requests from local eateries, RehobothFoodie.com does not accept advertising from restaurants.
Yes, after a review is written and published, a restaurateur might buy me a drink or send over an appetizer. But that’s after the fact, and I never expect it.
We are committed to objectivity. If not, why bother?