Bethany Blues first location in Bethany Beach 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. Both locations have now become mainstays for quality, family-friendly dining on Coastal Highway.
Do note that, like many of the local eateries in the very seasonal Sussex, menu items (especially sides) 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. 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.
If they are on the menu, don't miss the 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.
Baby Backs1/17 The brisket sandwich at lunch2/17 Delmarva Duo3/17 Pulled Pork Memphis style4/17 Fried pickles5/17 Pulled Pork Sandwich6/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)7/17 Pigs on the Wing8/17 Sunday Night Mac ‘n' Cheese Sampler. Gadzooks!9/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)10/17 A breakfast plate gathered from the Sunday buffet11/17 Carbo-loading at the Sunday buffet. Delicious.12/17 St. Louis Ribs13/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)14/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)15/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)16/17 Bethany Blues (Lewes)17/17
By the way, with some help from 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. Sydney has moved on, but Bethany Blues in Lewes is fun, festive, and you have a chance to sample about 3,476 different bourbons. Give or take. Life is good.
One of the popular features on burger night is 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 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. If you are lucky enough to get a seat at the bar, say hi to Camillo (aka Tommy Bunns) and Sean Reick. Both are great barkeeps and will take care of you!
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.