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Bethany Blues (Lewes)

/ Updated on December 18, 2016

Bethany Blues first location in Bethany Beach was a smart move. The bar quickly became a “Cheers”-like watering hole for visitors and locals alike. The food was consistent, though there were some hits and misses. As a Pitmaster and former BBQ restaurant owner myself, I can’t help but set the bar pretty high. The Lewes location has quickly become a mainstay for quality, family friendly dining on Coastal Highway.

Do note that, like many of the local eateries in the very seasonal Sussex, menu items appear and disappear on a regular basis. So if something you see here isn’t there, chances are it will be the next time you go. That being said, we often start with the Hot Lump Crab Dip (cheesy, with big pieces of crabmeat, artichokes and spinach, and lots of bread slices to preserve the all-important dip-to-dipper ratio). Try the Chipotle Calamari. It’s darkly crispy and nicely spiced with a rich, vinegary dipping sauce. Previous visits also involved “Fiery Pigs on the Wing”– actually pork riblets prepared Buffalo style. Also, don’t miss the terminally sticky Jack Daniel’s wings. You’ll need to be hosed down afterwards, but it’s worth it.

Pulled/chopped meats and ribs define just how “authentic” a BBQ restaurant actually is. I ordered the BBQ pork two ways: the “pulled” version, and their “Carolina” version.

[We pause for a quick tutorial. If you have BBQ sauce stains on your shirt that won’t come out, you can skip this. You already know it. For the rest of you: Pulled pork is pulled off the bone in chunks by hand (usually from a smoked pork shoulder/Boston Butt). You apply your own toppings, including slaw and, if it’s Memphis Style, a tomato-based BBQ sauce. Carolina style is most often chopped, not pulled, and served with a simple vinegar and pepper sauce. Western Carolina style often sports the same sauce, but add mustard. With so many regional styles, these are only guidelines, of course. Now dig in.]

Their pulled pork was good, with no fat or gristle (Read: expertly pulled). Next time I’m going to ask for more “burnt ends” (the outside of the shoulder that is charred and very flavorful). The hickory smoke taste tends to be strongest toward the outside of the shoulder. I piled on the cole slaw and went at it. The Carolina style is already sauced, and the all-important vinegar is combined with what appears to be a light tomato base. Though not quite the traditional Carolina style, it was still tasty and properly acidic. Add the Bethany Blues Spicy Sauce to your pork sandwich. It has a kick, but also a lot of taste. More about that later.

When ribs are removed from the smoker, they are not dark and crusty like you’re probably used to seeing them. That look is achieved by a quick sear over a flaming grill to develop a dark, crispy crust. In past versions of this review, I noted that I’d like to see more of this crispy crust at Bethany Blues. When they first opened, the ribs, though cooked, were gray and slippery. But then the clouds parted, and Eureka! On all of our visits over the past few years, the ribs have been properly seared and close to perfect: Well-smoked, tender and flavorful with that little delicate crust across the top. Keep it up, Kevin!

They offer two cuts of ribs: The St. Louis cut and the smaller Baby Back ribs (no, not from baby pigs; just a standard rack that has been cut to remove the curved end of the bones). Though St. Louis cuts tend to be fattier (more juicy and flavorful), Bethany Blues’ version had a lot of meat and actually not as much fat as I expected. The Baby Backs are smaller, of course, and in fact had even more of that flavorful seared “crust” that I referred to above. Both are good. I alternate, though I am slowing coming over to the St. Louis camp, thank you. And I do it for you.

It took a while, but last year Bethany Blues removed the two worst items from their “sides” menu. I’d like to think it was because I made such a big deal about them, but it really doesn’t matter: The cement-like cheese grits and that terrible sesame-ginger slaw are gone. They have been replaced by a cheezy creamed corn and a jalapeno slaw. I’ve had both; the corn is quite good and the jalapeno slaw is delicious, though not nearly as hot as they say it is. The sides arrive in generous portions, easily shareworthy. The mac & cheese is still creamy and thoroughly cheesy. I also complained in the past (as did many who posted comments) that the sides often arrive at the table lukewarm. That has not been the case for a very long time. Apparently somebody’s paying attention back there.

By the way, under the sage direction of Sydney Arzt (restaurateur, Rehoboth live-entertainment pioneer and music expert in her own right), Bethany Blues features high-profile local and some name acts in the bar. It’s fun, festive, and you have a chance to sample about 3,476 different bourbons. Life is good.

One of our dining companions (who also happened to be the “birthday girl”), had the Blues Bacon Cheddar Burger. It was nicely grilled with the melted cheese holding firmly onto the apple wood bacon. My other dining companion had the pulled chicken. It was well prepared (more shredded than pulled, but that’s the way it is with chicken) and pleasantly smokey. The Big Test was passed: no bones, gristle or fat chunks. Hopefully that’s the way it will be all the time. On the advice of my favorite psychotherapist, I ordered the Slider Sampler as a main course. His suggestion turned out to be delightfully therapeutic:  Three little sandwiches on fresh, soft rolls, piled high with your choice of brisket, sausage, pulled pork–Memphis or Carolina style–and pulled chicken–and a side of slaw. So how does that make you feel?

I’ve watched the Lewes Bethany Blues mature over the last few years. The kitchen and service were haphazard early on, but the place has certainly hit its stride. I admire their willingness to adjust the menu and kitchen procedures when they needs adjusting. I don’t usually write about service unless it’s bad, but I must say that one of our recent servers (I’m not sure if he’s there any more) was a young Vietnamese waiter, Chinh. He was a stand-up act in his own right, and everything the Foodie threw at him (metaphorically, of course) he threw right back. He was a delight, as are most of the servers there. GM and co-owner Kevin Roberts runs a tight ship. Bethany Blues wisely uses the “runner” system, so food arrives at the table quickly and piping hot. Little things like that really count.

UPDATE! One of the hidden gems here at the beach is the lavish and amazingly priced Sunday buffet at Bethany Blues in Lewes. Everything from an omelet station to a brisket/ham station to a waffle station to a kiddies’ buffet (at kiddie height, for goodness’ sakes!), BBQ ribs, lime wings, eggs, sausage, several types of biscuits, sausage gravy… the list goes on and on. This is a must-check-out. I suggest you stop eating around Thursday. It’s that big. Take a look at some of the photos in the gallery.

Bethany Blues is on the east side of Ocean Highway (18385 Coastal Highway), past the Midway Outlets and just before the Kings Highway turn-off to the Cape May/Lewes Ferry. It’s huge, with all sorts of nook and cranny dining rooms and a spacious bar with the live entertainment I mentioned before.

Though Bethany Blues seems to be open all the time, give ’em a call just to make sure (302) 644-2500. Click here to view the dinner menu. (L, D, Bar) Price range: Moderate.

Join Bethany Blues on Facebook.

Off-season Specials & Hours

Specials & Moods change quickly. Always call a restaurant first.

pp = per person.
BOGO = buy one, get one.
Bloody = bloody mary.
domestics = American-made beers (e.g., Bud).
imports = foreign beers (e.g., Heineken).
Rails = non call-brand alcohol.
Prix Fixe = one set price.
Mains = entrees.
Margs = margaritas.
Chix = chicken.
AYCE = all you can eat.
Lite = Miller Lite
drafts = draught beer.
Early Birds = arrive before a certain time.
Apps = Appetizers.
bottles = beer in a bottle.
à la carte = order off the menu (no prix fixe).
crafts = micro/artisanal brews (e.g., Old Leghumper Lager)

Bethany Beach
6 N. Pennsylvania Ave.
(302) 537-1500

Sunday Brunch 10-2
Lunch 2-4
Dinner at 4
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 2 pm - 4 pm, Dinner 4-9
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 2 pm - 4 pm, Dinner 4-9
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 2 pm - 4 pm, Dinner 4-9
Wing night! 4-close
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 2 pm - 4 pm, Dinner 4-9
Burger night 4-close
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 2 pm - 4 pm, Dinner 4-10
Happy Hour 4-7
Lunch 11-4, Dinner 4-10
Happy Hour 4-7
The Rehoboth Foodie

About the Author

"My goal is to promote Rehoboth Beach dining while remaining honest and impartial. I don’t gush unless a place deserves it, and I don’t pull punches, either. With so many good places to eat around here, it just doesn’t make sense to waste the calories — or the money — on anything less." View all articles written by The Rehoboth Foodie

Add Your Comment
  1. DEMATTMAN says:

    Consistantly excellent service from Jess and Matt in thebar area. We enjoy happy hour and are always trying something new. Pigs on a Wing and a salad are my go to items but recently the pulled meat cobb salad as a daily special was over the top!

  2. KevinFidgeon says:

    Had dinner on 2/3, my wife and I both ordered ribs, found them to be dry and tasteless, service, cornbread and sides were excellent.. We will look somewhere else for ribs in the future .

  3. DMac says:

    The wings… Oh my goodness… the wings. The best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some very, very good wings. Whoever prepared the wings that I had there is a genius. They were perfect and I hope that they never, ever change them.

  4. Always Hungry says:

    Went back to Bethany Blues this evening and tried out the Delmarva chicken. It was excellent, one of the best dishes I’ve had there. Moist, delicious and better than the pulled chicken sandwich which can be a little dry. The food is better all the time, and the cheesy creamed corn is a unique side item not to miss. As an appetizer “pigs on the wing”, a nice spicy treat of little “riblets.”

  5. Katie says:

    Had a pleasant surprise when dining at BB the other night. I went with friends who were in the mood for BBQ, etc, but I really wasn’t, so I took a chance and ordered the crab cakes, thinking who would order seafood at a ribs joint, but they were excellent! Lots of back fin, no filler, just right, they let the crab speak for itself. They actually were the best crab cakes I’ve had in a while.

  6. Frank says:

    Had dinner at the Lewes location tonight and it was good. We had to wait for our meals but it was a Saturday night in July. The food was tasty and hot. Will return again!

  7. demattman says:

    The service was the main reason that brought us down when we had HH and dinner on 3/27.
    A kitchen staff placed the wrong salad in front of one of our guests and had to bring it back to the kitchen to do who knows what with. Another server spilled a few drops of a drink on a friend’s lap, and there was a long wait to get our meals; longer than what it should have taken considering it was a Tues evening. We all noticed from our table that there were two separate long periods when we couldn’t spot any of the wait staff anywhere on the floor in the bar area or at the tables against the back wall.

    It wasn’t until we were almost finished with our dinner did we notice that we didn’t get the usual basket of cornbread. After asking our server, who will remain nameless, she said that they did a study and learned that they could save 50K a year if they didn’t put the baskets of cornbread on the table, but would be glad to bring the table a basket of bread if requested!

  8. Vetgirl1 says:

    Cornbread…delicious. Moist, sweet, always hot and fresh. The brisket…moist, tender, SO SO good. I am not a huge meat fan but I LOVE BB’s! I’ve never had room for sides after the cornbread and brisket arrive at the table, so I’m of no help there. We usually sit at the bar and the servers and bartenders are always helpful and gracious. I recommend highly to everyone I can and go back frequently!

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