Click for how we figure the ratingsExperienced Rehoboth restaurateurs Chris Bisaha and Joe Baker have created Henlopen City Oyster House with a bright, friendly atmosphere. They say that 75% of their ingredients are procured from local farmers and purveyors. (I've been asked not to elaborate on their previous culinary escapades here in Rehoboth, but suffice it to say that you've probably been to at least one of their former eateries.)

UPDATE: The previous article in this space made note of how noisy the main room is at Henlopen Oyster House. The Foodie (an acoustics expert in his former life) even offered to help. Chris and Joe have since made some moves toward quieting things down with the use of acoustic panels. It's a good start, but if the comments below are to be believed, a little more acoustical work is in order. 

ANOTHER UPDATE: Went to HCOH for lunch the other day. Got the Lobster Roll and fries [pictured, below right]. I want to tell you that the fries were good -- dark and peanutty like Thrashers, but shoestrings. The Lobster Roll was quite good, loadedHCOH_Fried_Oysters_and_chix_salad HCOH_Clams_Casinowith lobster meat, on a nice buttered/grilled roll. More about it below in the update. I really tried to find something to complain about, but I couldn't.

We now return you to our regular programming:

On one of our recent visits we started with the Clams Casino [pictured, left]. Shallots, peppers, bacon and parmesan make the (rather small) clams quite delicious. But they are well worth the $8 price tag.

I also ordered the Oyster Stew. Though it was generously endowed with oysters, the broth was thin and very mild. I prefer oyster stew a bit more aggressively spiced, with a little more onion in a broth at least thick enough to keep all of the ingredients from immediately falling to the bottom of the bowl.

The fried Calamari had a surprising twist: diced pickles! Scary as that may sound, it really worked. The dish was crispy and..."pickley" (in a good way). I do have one gripe, however. The Calamari should have either been drained a bit longer after leaving the fryer, or served on something absorbent like a paper towel or a napkin. Why have an unattractive pool of grease underneath such a tasty dish?

HenCtyOne contender for "star of the show" is the Fried Oysters [pictured, above left]. We had them as an appetizer. They were accompanied by a totally unexpected (but traditional in the south) chicken salad. The wholeHCOH_lobster_roll combination worked nicely. Who wooda thought? The other contender is the fried shrimp. One of my trusted Foodettes (we'll call him "Jack") had the Shrimp Po'Boy sandwich with brightly spiced cabbage, pickled onions and tomatoes. "Fried" should not mean "greasy" (if it's done properly), and neither the shrimp nor the oysters were greasy in the least. The Po'Boy also comes in oyster, clam and scallop versions.

On a separate visit, one of our party ordered the Roasted Beet Salad with crunchy sunflower seeds and feta. The surprise inside was pickled radish! Very interesting. He pronounced it "really good" (he's not very creative under pressure). A recent addition to the menu (this should really be an "update," but there are already enough of those) is the lobster Reuben [pictured, below left]. Served panini (or at least grilled) style, the bread is buttery and crunchy. The lobster salad joins cole slaw and swiss [see closeup below right] and is accompanied by a nice little salad (optional) and some pickled onions. Nice touch. It is quite tasty and guaranteed to fill you up.

The Alaskan Silverbrite Salmon (delicately seared without drying it out, surrounded by crunchy bok choy andHCOH_Clam_Chowder sugarsnaps, coated in an ever-so-slightly-sweet soy ginger glaze) was missing from the most recent menu, but that might be a seasonal thing so I left the descriptions here just in case. The Soft Shell Crabs remain, however, and they were quite tasty with a roasted corn and pepper salad.

HCOH_Watermelon_saladAt this writing, the salmon has been replaced by  Fried Scallops. The bacon caramel sauce (!) makes for a perfect topping. It's late 2011, and watermelon is still in season. Go quickly and order the Watermelon & Arugula salad [pictured, left] with chunky pecans, feta, mint and a very interesting truffle honey vinaigrette. You will not be disappointed.

OK, I'm a sucker for a New England Lobster Roll. It's a common misconception here in Rehoboth Beach that lobster salad in a sub roll (and not the proper "New England" style buttered and grilled split-top roll) is, in fact, an official "New England Lobster Roll." In a previous incarnation of this article, I complained that Henlopen City Oyster House also used a sub roll. Well, see the "Update" below and the photo above. The lobster salad at Henlopen City Oyster House is loaded withHCOH_lobster_reuben_close lobster meat, has just enough "wetness" to hold it together, and is mildly spiced so the sweetness of the delectible arachnid can shine through.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I can't believe it. The guys have replaced the admittedly OK baguette that used to sandwich the lobster salad with an actual split-top roll [see above right for a recent photo]. It's toasted, just as they do in New England, and cradles the lobster perfectly. With less bread, you can HCOH_lobster_reubenreally enjoy the tasty lobster without having to tunnel through all that dough. The Foodie wonders if perhaps they read the previous commentary complaining about that roll...but it really doesn't matter. Henlopen City Oyster House is better for it. By the way, The Clam Chowder [pictured, above left] -- the kicker is the smoked bacon -- has lots of body and is packed with goodies, I'll get the Chowder any day.

Now back to the program already in progress:

The Blackened Rockfish has been recently replaced with the Blackened Grouper. It is equally tasty with a pleasing crunch on the outside.

The quintessential comfort food, of course, is Lobster Mac & Cheese. This dish may very well be the star of the show on the entree side of things. They use gouda, parmesan and a splash of cognac over shells (The Foodie thought he was the only one who did that). Scallions and buttery breadcrumbs crown this monument to creamy success. There is enough lobster in there to easily justify the $24 ticket.

The bathrooms got an extra .5 on the ratings because each is equipped with a Dyson Air Blade hand dryer. Far from being those annoying hot air things that take forever, this machine qualifies as a 5-Ticket Ride at Disney World. The Foodie's first encounter with these jet-engine hand dryers was in the lobby restrooms at the Sheraton Towers/Convention Center in midtown Manhattan. Now they're now popping up all over the place. Not impressed? Try it after a couple of martinis....

Henlopen City Oyster House is on Wilmington Ave. on the south side, just down from Second St. On the bar side, there's a little built-in raw bar featuring a long list of oysters from all over the place, including Hog Island, VA, Prince Edward Island in Canada, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts. This tiny area has become a hot ticket in Rehoboth Beach. If you want to see and be seen, get there early!

The "dining" side of the facility is rather stark with white walls, high ceilings and some interesting hanging artwork. The tables are close together, and it's a bit crowded, but it is a busy fish house, and it is the beach, so chill out, smile, and rub elbows with the tourons and such. You will find co-owner Chris Bisaha moving deftly between the tables making sure everyone's happy, and his partner Joe Baker oversees the kitchen along with executive chef Bill Clifton. Milford-born Clifton picked up most of his techniques in Chicago. 

The menu varies with the season, so some of the things I mention here might not be available. Be sure to call for their hours as the summer wanes (302) 260-9193. In the meantime, they are still open at 12 for lunch (off-season only!) and 5 for dinner 7 days as of this fall update. Click here for a look at their latest menu. (L., D., Bar). Price range: Moderate +..

 

 

 

 

 

Comments 

 
-1 # Craig Carmichael 2011-01-08 13:38
My wife and I were really looking forward to trying this restaurant after reading some very positive reviews online. Little did we know. The Oyster Chowder that arrived was inedible, salty beyond belief with a chemical after taste. The roasted oysters were small, dry and filled with large hunks of shell. My wife nearly broke her back molar after one very audible bite. The Oyster Po Boys arrived on a very short and very stale hoagy roll. The oysters once again were small and flavorless. They were covered in what appeared to be a jarred hotdog relish. The service was slow and innattentive. I had to get up and find the waitress to get a second beer. There was a half hour wait between all three courses with no apology. We will not return.
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+1 # Libby Stiff 2011-01-18 17:17
Fried Oysters and Chicken Salad must be a tribute to lower Delaware cooking. It is historical as is the name Henlopen City. When I was growing up Fried Oysters were always served with chicken Salad.
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+3 # tim and anna 2011-01-24 14:11
The Oyster House serves delicious food. We have both been going since they opened and have never been disappointed with the food or the service. Some highlights: fried oysters, bruschetta, calamari (yummy fried gherkins served with this tasty dish), lobster mac and cheese, the burgers. Amy is a gem behind the bar and Joe, the co-owner, is terrific. Don't forget to order one of their terrific cocktails -- the Devil's Juice is killer. We haven't found the noise to be a problem at all.
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0 # Bill McManus 2011-04-28 08:29
This place just can't seem to do anything wrong. The Foodie's suggestions (acoustic tiles and split top rolls for the Lobster Roll) were spot on. Being from New England, I miss the wonderful food offered there. When I came accross the New England Lobster Roll at HCOH, I was thrilled. Not only is it the best roll outside of New England, but the fries were amazing. I ate every one. My favorite bar in town to eat and have a nice glass (or three) of wine. BRAVO!
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+1 # Brend 2011-05-04 14:37
I went there and I had the Fried Oysters, they were to DIE for, i eat fried oysters 1 time a week, these were the best fried oyster i have ever tasted in my life.
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+1 # Mary Hopple 2011-06-12 09:03
Just a correction, as I was a biology teacher, a lobster is a crustacean from the phylum arthropoda, from which arachnids are also a class. Arachnids are spiders and ticks to name a few, not too appealing for most people as a food source, at least in USA.
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+1 # The Rehoboth Foodie 2011-06-13 09:35
I stand corrected. If I wrote "Marine Arachnid," I meant "Marine Arthropod," making reference to the phylum Arthropoda (which includes both crustaceans and arachnids under separate classifications ).
My undergraduate degree is in Zoology--I should have double-checked that one.
TKS, Mary, for the slap on the claw.
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0 # Chris 2011-06-14 18:57
Came early & ordered two very simple dishes- one soft crab and one crab cake sandwich. Sound easy? The wait from order to serve was 35 long, noisy minutes; a complaint got an apology, but there was only one wine glass ordered and even the apology didn't offer the drink to compensate. On the contrary, we were overcharged for it. Sad...we had hopes for the guys but will neither return nor recommend HCOH to our friends (we are locals).
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+1 # Bill at the Beach 2011-06-17 08:27
You might have just caught them on an "off" day. I am a local too and I have been there a dozen times and never had a bad meal. They fixed the noise problem and the service and food quality have been wonderful every time I have been. You might want to give them another chance. I'm just sayin!
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+1 # Robin 2011-06-22 07:50
Please note that items on the menu are not replaced by something else as mentioned by the Foodie, but rather the menu changes every day based on the fresh fish, meats and seasonal vegetables available. That's the intention of Bill the chef. There are some standards on the menu like crab cakes in season and the calamari, but most of the dishes offered change as well as the preparation. A great restaurant and vibe whether sitting in the bar area or at a table.
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+1 # Fat Rick 2011-07-11 17:21
My wife and I visited the HC Oyster House last week for their Happy Hour, and we had a ball. I'm almost embarrassed to say we ate 5, that's right, 5 DOZEN OYSTERS! They were fresh, plump, ice cold, fresh, sweet, perfectly salty, fresh, and cheap (relatively speaking). And oh, did I mention they were fresh? This is the kind of place we've been looking for for years in Delaware. When we first entered, we were invited to "belly up" to the bar, and that's EXACTLY what we did. When we were done at the bar, I finished myself off with a fried oyster sandwich. It would have been great had it been made with Wonder bread, but the fresh baked sliced sourdough bread was just fine. When we go back, maybe we'll look at the rest of the menu.
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-2 # Beth Gazley 2011-07-19 15:37
We were terribly disappointed to find a restaurant with such terrific food (and a great beer and wine list) ruined by terrible noise and poor service. Our server looked stoned and we had to ask him for everything. With prices like that, we expect the courtesy of some elbow room and professionalism . Sorry, won't be back.
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0 # Chris R 2012-03-31 12:50
Went there between Christmas and the New Year and was a bit disappointed. The Lobster Mac and Cheese was lukewarm, even cold in spots. And my friends thought the Bouillabaisse was good, not spectacular.

Their oysters were good as well as the cocktails.
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0 # Tawny 2012-06-11 12:46
WE had a great experience here in early May. The oyster appetizer/sampler was very fresh. I also fell in love with the fried scallop dish. The bourbon sweet potato mash with spicy Brussel Sprouts were to die for!
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+1 # KikiNigel 2012-08-01 10:57
Hi Rehoboth Foodie! You very kindly advised me last summer on where to go for my 40th b-day dinner in Rehoboth. We made our res. at the Back Porch Cafe, and then the hurricane "hit" and we were evacuated:( We did end up eating a great meal, but it was in rural MD, so I won't post here, but here's my take on the HCOH. My husband, 4 year old daughter and I happened upon the Happy Hour here (and no, my daughter did not partake in the happy hour specials, EXCEPT the sliders which she loved) which is on the earlier end from 3-5 p.m. There was a small group congregating waiting for the doors to open :) Everything was exceptional - I had the Oyster House Punch, there was a Dogfish Head on tap during HH, and we were able to fill our hunkering for raw seafood. There were oysters and clams on the half-shell, additionally we had the steamed clams, and steamed shrimp both of which were excellent. Service was friendly. Summer in a (oyster/clam) shell!
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+2 # Koplaski 2012-08-12 17:37
After 23 years, this was our best food experience in RB. Went to Fins the night before and it does not compare. Especially the crabcakes -- all crab at HCOH and much more filler at Fins (as backed up by my 14 year old daughter). My wife loved the wreckfish (thank you for the reco from our wonderful waitress -- you know, the one who ran a marathon in Big Sur). The rockfish at Fins, she did not like. On the other hand, my 10 year old son did not take to the shrimp and corn chowder. It did not taste like what we are used to -- I think its because the corn is very very sweet, as evidenced by the creamed corn which he also ordered. I enjoyed the selection of HCOH oysters, but the steamer combination at Fins was good also. My wife, not an oyster eater, says HCOHl be a regular visit at RB.
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+1 # Jim 2013-11-15 14:47
As a very regular patron of this restaurant, I just want to report that these are among the best, freshest, most delightful oysters we have had anywhere in the world! We particularly like the bar, and if we can manage to get to the happy hour, the draft beer and food specials are wonderful. The bar tenders are also friendly and expert advisers.

We have not been in the main dining room for some time. It is not the same experience for some reason. By the way, I have found that the much-praised lobster role is as advertised, set off best with the baked beans, which are very good! And don't forget the seafood chowder.
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0 # Ron 2013-12-19 16:43
A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested The Henlopen Oyster House for his annual birthday treat for me. I told him "But I don't eat seafood." He said "Get a hamburger!" I did and it was perhaps the best hamburger I have ever eaten since I moved to Sussex County in November of 2006. What a pleasant surprise. The fries were good too. So for those of you who are non-seafood eater, The Henlopen Oyster House has great burgers!
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+1 # Mike M. 2014-01-23 11:14
This is one of my favorite places at the beach, but beware in the summer it's very crowded and they do NOT take reservations. Although they do have a text notification system.
While all the seafood is spot on and you won't find better, don't dismiss the meat entrees that rotate on the menu. The Coffee rubbed duck breast done a perfect medium rare is nothing less than wonderful. Just last night I had the rack of elk and it was the most tender piece of red meat I have ever had in my life. I ended up nawing on the bones!!!
The boar shank when it's on the menu is a show stopper!!
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