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Back Porch Cafe

/ Updated on January 30, 2018

Forty-two years in 2016 … and counting! The Back Porch Cafe is the oldest fine-dining establishment in Rehoboth Beach. Thirty-five years ago, the late award-winning chef and co-owner Leo Medisch attended culinary school in New York City. While there, he lived with none other than Joyce Felton, who was putting together plans to open the Blue Moon with Victor Pisapia (one of the original owners of the Back Porch). You sort of need a program to keep track of it all. The classical French flair in the kitchen is hard to miss (Leo honed his skills in several high-end French joints in New York City). Grand sauces, root vegetables and delicate pastries abound, and Executive Chef Tim McNitt is not shy about putting a little seasonal twist on traditional menu items.

Restaurants like the Back Porch Cafe can make life difficult for a restaurant reviewer. No matter how many times I visit, it's just about impossible to find anything substantial to kvetch about. How can I maintain any credibility if I can't whine about something!?! Thanks, Leo, Keith and Marilyn. (I want to again note the sad passing of Chef/Co-Owner Leo Medisch on August 22, 2013. We miss him.)

Over the last few months, it hasn't gone unnoticed that I awarded 5 stars to Back Porch Cafe. I don't take that lightly, and I'm always on the lookout to make sure things stay the way they were. I return regularly (see the suffering I endure for you, dear Reader?), and each meal has been wonderful. On our most recent visit, I started with the Grilled Shrimp Sausage with Parsnip Marmalade and a Chick Pea Fritter. The sausage was brightly spiced, but not so much that you couldn't taste the shrimp. The little silver-dollar sized bean cake was caramelized on the outside and moist on the inside. The marmalade was the perfect foil for the maritime edge of the shrimp.

Other starters included the Brown Sugar/Tea Smoked Duck Breast over Sesame Noodles. A polite drizzle of Sriracha added a spicy exclamation mark. It was an amazing portion for $14 and could have served as a light entree. The skin was tight and crispy, with the tannic bite of the tea playing well with the naturally fatty and moist duck.

Mains included the Seared Rabbit Loin with Roasted Red Pepper Paprikash (a Hungarian stew based on a roux of paprika). The portion looked like a chicken quarter and was perfectly done. I had the Chili Cocoa Rubbed Pork Filet. The tenderloin section was seared on the outside, delightfully medium on the inside, sliced and nested atop a buttery mound of Sweet Potato Puree accompanied by Black Bean Adobo. I can't believe I'm saying this: It was perfect.

The Oven Roasted Guinea Hen rested ever so happily on a bed of Pancetta and Butternut Pudding. It was nicely sized and amazingly meaty. The Grilled King Salmon was flanked by Green Lentils and drizzled with a fig vinegar (!) and Mint Pesto. Note that Back Porch cooks with the freshest seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes like the wind. Use these descriptions as guidelines, 'cause you never know what these people are going to come up with next.

The place was packed, and our service was polite, friendly and seamless. One or two other high-ticket places around here should take notice!

Our party of 4 started with the Crab Ravioli. The huge (at least 3″ square) pillows of pasta are filled with crabmeat with Sea Beans (naturally salty, succulent little plants that grow in the ocean). All of this floats in a Lemon Vin Blanc (a creamy white wine sauce containing what tasted like fish or crab veloute). The Bocconcini appetizer consisted of cool white mozzarella balls (a combination of cow and water buffalo milk) on a bed of artichoke and arugula with a mild pistachio vinaigrette. The parade of appetizers continued with the Calamari Manicotti. Get ready for this: The “shell” was actually the body of the little squid (minus the scary tentacles), stuffed to a generous plumpness with a mix of guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon made from pork cheeks), pine nuts and fresh peas. The happy cephalopods were enrobed in a not-at-all imposing basil marinara.

In an interesting twist on the old-fashioned cucumber and onions, crispy Bob Russell (another foodie and gentleman farmer we lost in 2012) cucumbers (Bob's wife Barbara Russell supplies high-quality veggies & herbs to the Back Porch) were sliced into half-moons, sprinkled with fresh mint and drizzled with a nutty tahini vinaigrette. Last and certainly not least, the Grilled Porcini Mushroom was accompanied by chevre-infused gnocchi with sage in a creamy blueberry brown-butter. Every appetizer we've had so far at the Back Porch has been, in a word, delicious.

A recent main course was the Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin. The gently salty Italian ham is wrapped around slightly pink in-the-center pork. I was able to cut it with the side of a fork, and the prosciutto remained intact so every bite included a taste of both meats. A disc of Polenta, infused with Fontina (a sharp Italian hard cheese), along with a colorful mix of morels, still-crispy leeks and bright cubes of carrot topped it off. On another visit I had the Domestic Lamb. The roughly Frenched chops were surrounded by an aromatic ragout of shank meat and vegetables. One of the kickers of that dish was a sea of deep-red linguini made with beet root and poppy seed. The Fresh Ricotta, Eggplant and Chanterelle Mushroom Lasagne entree was finished with that light basil Marinara that I suspect also graced the calamari. The crusty, fresh bread at the table (very much like a brick-oven French-style Pain au Levan) was the perfect tool for sopping up any remaining traces of that Marinara. Waste not, want not, I always say….

A Magret Duck Breast (“magret” meaning a lean portion of duck) was grilled with red coconut and curry. Two surprises on this plate: #1, the deliciously crispy and acidic Bok Choy. #2, a baseball-sized portion of (wait for it…) Green Tea Tapioca. How does Chef Tim come up with this stuff? The cool tannic bent of the tea played very nicely with the starchy softness of the tapioca pearls. All this was surrounded by a little lake of Pear Miso Broth. This was a party in your mouth if there ever was one.

UPDATE: Attended a birthday dinner at Back Porch in mid-summer 2014. I had the Ginger Duck Breast with Bok Choy, Carrot, Jasmine Rice and Thai Green Curry. At the risk of stirring up the Chronic Complainers (I actually love them), it was sublime. Another diner had the Rack of Domestic Lamb, an amazing Pea Polenta and delightful Cippolinis scattered about. It melted in one's mouth. I also included a shot of the birthday Creme Brulee every so slightly redolent of coconut. You never quite know what to expect at Back Porch Cafe, and Chef Tim McNitt never ceases to surprise and amaze.

I generally comment on service only if it is substandard. But I have to mention the team of servers who waited on us on a few of our visits. Plates quietly disappear when they were empty, clean silverware mysteriously appears when needed, and last night our primary server even made a point of not intruding during what she (correctly) assumed was a somewhat intense conversation. There are still some establishments around here that offer this level of care, but they are few and far between. It's so refreshing, and something I was beginning to believe did not exist outside of Manhattan or the 5-star celebrity chef eateries of Las Vegas.

If the weather is not too hot, I suggest you sit in the (actual) back porch area…maybe even on the elevated “loft” if you're lucky enough to get a table there. The view of the neighboring roofs (and even a church steeple) is engaging and decidedly Parisian. One of my favorite Foodies, former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl, wrote, “When restaurants hold up their end of the bargain, they give us the illusion of being surrounded by servants intent on ensuring our happiness, and offering extraordinary food.” Treat yourself to Sunday Brunch at Back Porch Cafe, replete with their ridiculously good blueberry scones and eggs Benedict. You will understand what Ruth was writing about.

My experience so far suggests that the late Chef Medisch, his business partners Keith Fitzgerald, Marylyn Spitz, head Chef Tim McNitt and veteran bartender Bee Neild and the rest of the staff at Back Porch Cafe work hard to “hold up their end of the bargain.”

Back Porch Cafe is at 59 Rehoboth Avenue, on the north side, in the middle of the ocean block. Reservations are a must (302) 227-3674. They are also one of the few fine-dining joints to be open for lunch. They are closed off-season. Click here to see a sample menu. (L., D., Bar) Price Range: Expensive+, and worth every penny.

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)

59 Rehoboth Ave.
(302) 227-3674

Open in-season only.

Reservations strongly suggested.

Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
Closed until 2020
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. Avatar barbara dorsey says:

    They are open but the web site (Foodie) says closed

    • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

      I am SO sorry! That has been corrected! It’s like a horse race every spring and fall keeping up with 250+ restaurants’ changing hours.

  2. Avatar fightingbluehen says:

    Great restaurant. Upscale with an extensive wine selection The wait staff is always helpful in pairing a good wine with the food. Love the option of al fresco dining. This place is top notch.

  3. Avatar Klaus says:

    We had the luck to spend an awesome, delicious evening at the Back Porch cafe some months ago — what a true pleasure the food, service and company was! For me the best place for fine dining in Rehoboth Beach!

  4. Avatar Paul says:

    AWESOME! That’s all I got to say about this. Only faults: is their short season; and the small table (had to have our bottle of wine sitting on another table)!
    But the food – awesome! Plus I don’t believe our waiter thought we were as “sophisticated in our palette” as we really are. He soon discovered that and we left a 50% tip to show our appreciation. Awesome!

  5. Avatar Jim says:

    Wonderful restaurant, year after year after year. Great wine, creative cuisine and convivial atmosphere are consistently executed. It is our favorite restaurant anywhere.

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