Abbott’s Grill (and the new Abbott’s on Broad Creek in Laurel, DE) are Kevin Reading’s most recent restaurant ventures, having created and then moved on from Espuma and Nage in Rehoboth. Chef Reading enjoys creating a concept and bringing it into reality. The Milford Abbott’s replaces the old Smith & Company steakhouse in a shopping center on Front Street offering a couple of storefront eateries, various state/county services — and a great internationally flavored grocery store, Gigante. After visiting Abbott’s Grill several times, I have to admit that I was pleased with the consistent quality of the food and the service. In fact, during our second visit, Kevin himself was bussing tables, seating customers and running food, apparently filling in for a missing hostess. Welcome to the world of the restaurant owner! We were impressed.
That being said, we’ve become regulars at Abbott’s, and it’s still all about the food, especially after driving 15-20 minutes north to Milford. Do note that menus around here change on a dime, so some of the following items might or might not be available. But the old standbys usually end up back on the menu.
One of the stars of the appetizer show is the Apple-Scrapple Flatbread. (FYI, “flatbread” is fru-fru code for “teeny little thin-crust pizza.”) If you’re a fan of scrapple, then this is the dish for you. Bite-size chunks are cooked very well done (a must with scrapple) and share the top of the rectangular crust with cubes of sweet apple, squash and caramelized onion. A creamy cheddar blankets it all. It’s cut into four little slices, so you have four opportunities to say, “Stay away from this or I’ll stab you with my fork.”
Abbott’s Grill1/10 Abbott’s Grill2/10 The lunchtime brisket and cheese sandwich3/10 lobster pot pie4/10 Cheesy shrimp & grits5/10 salmon cake slider with miso soup. A tasty and light lunch.6/10 Apple Scrapple flatbread!7/10 Abbott’s Grill8/10 Abbott’s Grill9/10 Abbott’s Grill10/10
We also ordered the Pear & Arugula Salad with walnuts, plump, dark currants and chewy brie croutons. A sherry vinaigrette tops it off, and is mild enough to allow the taste of the ingredients to shine through. One of my newest Foodettes ordered the Onion/Fennel Soup, and I quote: “Everything is amazingly balanced. No one taste hammers away at you.” Top it off with a plump pillow of creamy white cheddar.
On our last visit, I had the Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp with Grits and Chipotle Butter. At the risk of stirring up the Chronic Complainers (you know who you are), it was delicious. So often shrimp can get overcooked and rubbery when you’re trying to crisp-up the bacon, but this was not the case here. A salty bite of bacon encloses three nice-sized shrimp, and the whole thing is nestled on a bed of smooth, not-too-buttery grits with a warm, chipotle edge. There’s only one place in Rehoboth that might have better Shrimp & Grits, but it could very well be a tie. I’ll get back to you on that.
Other sides and appetizers included the Warm Vegetable Salad sprinkled with goat cheese (it even had a cute little corn cob in there) and the Oyster Caesar Salad. I judge a place by how crispy and light their fried oysters are (frying fresh oysters is an art), and these were good, though the crust might have suffered a bit from sitting in the dressing (Kev … maybe put the oysters on top, where they can’t absorb the liquid?). The Caesar dressing politely refrained from masking the taste of the Tasso, chunks of avocado, fried capers and crispy croutons redolent of Tabasco. Last but not least, we had the Baked Potato Soup. I always associate this sort of dish with drywall paste, but Abbott’s is properly light (had to be the sour cream), with the potato flavor kicked up by crispy bits of bacon.
It’s hard to believe that after all these appetizers one still has room for dinner. But that’s what being a Foodie is all about (it’s a major part of the State Licensing Exam). I had the Lobster Pot Pie. The puff-pastry crust was perfectly crispy and golden brown, however I would have liked to have seen more lobster. For the $22 tariff there should have been more than the 3 or so pieces in there. I would also have liked it if they backed off just a bit on the tarragon. Though overly pungent with the spice, the creamy filling had a great, non-grainy texture and was filled with cubes of root veggies and peas. One of the stars of the entree show is certainly the Lobster Mac & Cheese. Interestingly, they were not at all stingy with the lobster in this dish! Delightfully al dente orecchiette pasta gently cups one of the creamiest, non-floury cheese sauces I have ever had. Peas and mushrooms add color and freshness. In the words of my new Foodie friend, the flavors were perfectly balanced, with no single taste standing out.
I will repeat that the menu at Abbott’s changes regularly. So don’t form your opinions only from this article. It’s unfair to the restaurant and to you. Check it out for yourself.
On a more recent visit, I had the Bronco Steak Sandwich slathered with Goat Cheese Boursin, mushrooms, garlic mayo and crunchy onions (I suspect the onions might be the ones from the can, but they are classic and I like them, so never mind). It’s all piled on a ciabatta roll that has been pressed (or grilled) panini style. The combination of tastes was good, and the beef tenderloin was lean and cooked perfectly medium. The fries were tasty, if not a bit flaccid, even for steak fries.
The chicken and dumplings bear some mention. The menu warns that these are “Not yo’ mamma’s” (or something like that) and they are right. A golden brown chicken quarter perches atop a bed of cherry tomatoes, peas, small, stemmed whole carrots (a cultivar variant of the regular carrot) and pearl onions. The dumplings are actually herbed gnocchi. The whole thing is slightly submerged in a dark and savory sauce, actually more of a gravy. It was quite delicious and disappeared from the plate in record time.
On our last visit one of our party had the Blueberry Lemonade, a mixture of blueberry vodka and house-made lemonade. Little berries float about and she loved it. I can never get past the 60-Minute IPA on tap.
My first official lunch at Abbott’s included their BBQ Beef Brisket sandwich with a side salad. Melted cheese and a dark, savory sauce worked perfectly with a fresh soft roll. One of the things I especially like about Abbott’s Grill is that the entire menu is available at the bar.
In the past year I have attended (and judged) a Dogfish Head chefs’ throwdown, a Thanksgiving buffet, several afternoon lunches, a cooking class by opening chef Ryan Cunningham (now kitchen boss at Abbott’s on Broad Creek in Laurel) and a number of dinners at Abbott’s Grill. Every experience has been consistent, and virtually everything has been quite good. Most recent chef Paul Gallo has moved on to take over the head chef position at Nage, left vacant by Ted Deptula’s early 2014 move to Lewes Yacht Club. But Kevin’s increased involvement in the kitchen ensures that Abbott’s is still worth the 20 minute ride to Milford.
On our last visit, we plopped ourselves in the bar and had the pleasure of being served by Nancy Saxon. In addition to her great demeanor and wicked sense of humor she also holds the distinction of being the aunt of the uber-creative Hari Cameron, chef/owner of the wildly popular a(MUSE.) restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.
Abbott’s Grill features a Sunday brunch, a special pub menu, various events and entertainment, a fun-looking outside deck with a huge fireplace, and lunch from 11:30 to 2:30 every day but Sunday. Life is all about change, so be sure to call 302-491-6736 to find out what’s going on.
If you are cruising the southern hinterlands, check out the new (as of winter 2013) Laurel, DE incarnation of Abbott’s Grill. It’s at 300 Delaware Ave. where Georgia House used to be, overlooking Broad Creek.
Driving north, I suggest passing the first Milford exit and turning left onto De Rt. 14 just before the big Grotto Pizza. After you cross the light, look for the shopping center on your right. Abbott’s is toward the right in the corner. Call for hours, specials or whatever, call (302) 491-6736. Click here to see their dinner menu. (L., D., Bar) Price range: Moderate.