Partners Derek Fink and Zach Diogo of Blackwall at the Beach (aka, Blackwall Hitch) are justifiably proud of their gleaming white operation on the highway next to Chick-fil-A. They undertook a HUGE remodeling job – both inside and out – to erase that Ruby Tuesday mess and usher-in the new Atlantic Social restaurant! The bright, airy yet informal spot offers an approachable price point for both lunch and dinner, and will soon feature live acoustic music for Saturday and Sunday brunches. Much of the menu centers around seafood, though there are some carnivorous highlights. Read on.
The bar is certainly the focal point of the restaurant, though at the time of this writing, the prolonged and arbitrary measures from upstate include a mandate of no bar seating. Kudos to Derek and Zach for opening during these difficult times, but their efforts have paid off. They place is quite busy, even without the bar seating, and even taking into account the table spacing. There is a delightful covered porch that opens to the outside, and it's almost like dining in garden. Grass-like carpet and a real grass wall enhance the outdoorsy feel. Last night's guests were having a wonderful time lounging on the couches and cushy chairs.
The cocktail menu makes for great reading – and sipping. Our favorites on our first visit were The Salted Melon (cantaloupe, fresh watermelon, sea salt and fresh lime spiked with Ketel Citron). Not too sweet, yet quite fruity and satisfying. Another star of the potables page is the Cape Mule. This one comes in the obligatory copper cup and contains hot honey, ginger beer, aloe liqueur and is also garnished with a generous slice of fresh watermelon. Our dining companion and restaurant supplier Jeff Warner stayed traditional with the Classic Manhattan. His choice of bourbon (they also offer rye) was enhanced by a straight-ahead prep with bitters and a touch of vermouth. One of the absolute stars of the alcohol show is the impossibly delicious Watermelon Frozé. And at $10 it's a bargain filled with Tito's, watermelon puree, aloe water and a shot of rosé wine. This one's not to be missed. I suggest trying it for dessert too. It's the ultimate adult Slurpee if there ever was one.
It took me a couple of days to get into Atlantic Social (there's only one of me and many many restaurants), and during that time I received a surprising number of emails praising one particular menu item: The apricot-glazed pork chop nesting on a bed of garlic mashers. Anyone who's seen my shadow knows I've eaten a lot of pork chops … and I'm here to tell you this is one of the best I have ever had. It is full of flavor, perfectly seared on the outside, yet tender enough to cut with a fork. The glaze is quite mild and does not overwhelm the delicate taste of the pork. If you are a carnivore, order this one. You can thank me later.
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But wait! There's more! The “Sociables” section of the menu lists eight shareable dishes, including a crisp and well-seasoned calamari. Cornmeal and a lemon gremolata do the heavy lifting here. So pleased they didn't douse the otherwise crispy little morsels of cephalopod in some sort of sauce, aioli or whatever. Why do places work so hard to fry or sauté something to a crispy finish only to sog it up with some sticky sauce!? They should serve accompanying sauces (or whatever) on the side. Thank you Atlantic Social for keeping things crispy. In short, don't miss that calamari.
Partner and consummate host Zach Diogo insisted we try the Crab Deviled Eggs and the Jalapeno Peach Wings (see the photo gallery). The deviled eggs were properly chilled with a pop of Old Bay and smoked paprika. A squeeze of lemon kept things freshly acidic and, as a result, quite refreshing. The wings fall into the category of wings that are glazed, but still manage to stay crispy. Truth be told, they were the first to go when we were served. The tiniest hint of jalapeno kept them interesting without becoming a potential turnoff for the frightened spice wimps. Next time I'm getting an order for myself. There. I said it.
Goodwin Recruiting's Tiffany Patterson ordered the Flat Iron Steak Frites. The meat was perfectly done and kicked up with a savory drizzle of au poivre sauce. Jeff topped things off with the “Sociables” version (a smaller portion than the entree offering) of the Steamed Mussels. They provide a slightly salty citrus hit (thanks to DFH Sea Quench Ale) and nestle comfortably with shallots, Heirloom tomatoes and squares of focaccia for sopping. The “Handhelds” section of the menu lists eight choices, including two kinds of tacos (rockfish or chicken) and two selections of lobster rolls (warm and buttery or the lobster salad version).
I chose the Panko Fried Chicken Sandwich crowned with dill pickles and white cheddar. I rarely find that a restaurant menu item described as “hot & spicy” that is actually hot enough for me. In fact, I have a holster specifically designed for concealed carry of hot sauce (I'm not making that up – it used to be sold by the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, the makers of Tabasco). I'm warning you: the ghost pepper marmalade that accompanies the chicken is hot! Even if you like hots, GET IT ON THE SIDE! It is indeed tasty, but a little dab ‘l' do ya'.
They're open 7 days for lunch & dinner with happy hour specials every day. They also have private dining rooms for meetings and events. Check out the new menu HERE.
They are located at 19340 Lighthouse Plaza Blvd, Rehoboth Beach, on the highway next to Chick-fil-A. Atlantic Social will soon feature brunch with live music on Saturdays and Sundays. CALL 302-212-5319 for more info or reservations.