Big Fish Grill is a good example of a big, well-run Rehoboth Beach dining establishment. This is not to disparage other great local spots, but the number of people they move through there on a busy summer evening, and the consistently positive reports from customers all suggest that the Sugrue brothers must be doing something right. Do note that most any attempt to dine at Big Fish Grill between about 5:30 and 8:30 in the high season will result in a wait. Especially on weekends. That comes with the territory at big Fish Grill.
There have been a few changes at Big Fish Grill – many good, a few not-so-good – so I figured I'd bring my original 2009 review into the realm of early fall 2016. By the way, if you ever get a chance to take Norman Sugrue's cooking classes (click here for info), it's worth it just to see the sprawling army base of a kitchen. It is simply amazing and is laid out to run smoothly with even the biggest crowds.
Like their downtown Rehoboth Beach sister restaurants, Summer House and Salt Air, plus the new for 2014 Crab House out on Coastal Highway across from Tanger Seaside, it's hard to get past the appetizers and the sandwiches. My regular Big Fish dining group (we love the huge, wooden fish house-style booths) goes for the grilled Charcoal Shrimp and the Caesar Salad (pretty straight-ahead, actually, but always with cool, crisp lettuce). The “Wedge,” with bacon, tomato and cheese has a bit of a kick. (A dash of cayenne in the blue cheese dressing gives it a personality!) The seasonal soups are simply delicious. Do not miss the Lobster Jalapeno Bisque. It's seasonal, mostly in the fall, and it's worth going just for that.
UPDATE! Foodie-in-Waiting Kas talked me into the house salad a while ago. The walnut dressing was amazing. I could order it in a wine glass if they'd let me. It now lives happily in The Foodie's Pick Hits section of this website.
I sometimes run out of adjectives to replace words like “really good.” Well, the sandwiches are, in fact, really good, though there is a bit of a negative aspect since the group started doing their own baking. (I'll get to that momentarily.) The Big Chicken is outfitted just like a hamburger, but with a char-grilled chicken breast. Replace the chicken with an Angus beef patty (again, char-grilled), and you have the Old Fashioned Chop House Burger. The third major sandwich is the Crispy Fried Grouper sandwich. These are the same fried “fingers” that are on the appetizer menu, and they live up to their name. The little fillets are crunchy with a great breading and beg to be crowned with crispy cole slaw and a dollop of Big Fish Hot Sauce (there's a bottle in my refrigerator right now). Depending on the season and availability, the grouper might be replaced by some other equally white and flaky fish. Do note my caveat below regarding the new rolls:
The sandwiches used to be served on a plump challah-style egg-bread roll that was so good that I used to drive to the Big Fish Market and buy them separately for my BBQ/burger cookouts – shiny golden brown on the top, and slightly eggy and yeasty on the inside. Sadly, they have begun baking their own bread, and as of this writing, the burger/sandwich rolls do not measure up to the original ones. That shouldn't stop you from getting the burger, fish sandwich or a lunchtime sandwich, but sometimes new isn't always better. I am still in mourning for that original roll.
Big Fish Grill1/9 The simple but fresh and delicious caesar2/9 Chophouse Burger. One of the best burgers in town!3/9 The house salad with that walnut vinaigrette4/9 Lobster Mac ‘n' Cheese entree5/9 Stuffed lobster tail6/9 Salmon with rice and brussels sprouts7/9 Turkey & bacon club for lunch!8/9 N.C.Shredded pork sliders happy hour special9/9
The specials menu takes up a whole page, and does change from time to time. The Caramelized Salmon is a favorite; coated with a slightly sweet, yet transparent sauce (I suspect a bit of maple syrup). It works perfectly with the firm fish, and is accompanied by shaved Parmesan and your choice of sides. My dining companion-of-choice orders it all the time. Check out the Big Fish Board next to the kitchen doors. There are always special goodies lurking there. Before I send you on your way, I've got to mention a few particularly delectable items: (1) Mom's Meatloaf, plopped on a bed of mashed potatoes and slathered with a savory “demi-glaze” sauce (we have chosen to find the misspelling charming), (2) the Big Shrimp platter with char-grilled shrimp on saffron rice and a veggy, and (3) the crab cakes. Last, and definitely not least is the Neva's Potatoes. Named for the Sugrue family matriarch, I've described them in (painful) detail in my review of Summer House. Just order them. You won't be sorry.
If you're looking for a quiet, intimate little bistro with candle-lit shadows dancing across the walls, then put off Big Fish for another day. It's big, noisy with an army of youthful, friendly and efficient waitrons scurrying about and doing what they do well.. Each and every one of them has passed a rigorous test to ensure they can write their names upside down on the paper tablecloths. And, yes, there are crayons on the table. But isn't that what goin' to the beach is all about? Sometimes you just have to get right in the middle of it all. At Big Fish Grill you can do that and get consistent food and service at the same time.
Note that Big Fish Grill is also open for lunch, a wonderful value-added for those of us who live across Coastal Highway that, in the summer, doubles as a parking lot. Foodie pick hits: The shrimp salad, the chicken salad, and ANYTHING with that walnut dressing. Again, get the sandwiches on the croissant, as they have still made no significant strides in bringing their new rolls up to the taste and texture of the old ones.
By the way, Big Fish Grill also sells a nice hardback recipe book that I have used for parties, etc. If you like their food, you will enjoy the cookbook. And the Neva's recipe is in there.
Big Fish Grill is on the west side of Highway 1, on the left just as you cross over the canal going north. If you're driving south, pass the Rt. 1-A Rehoboth Avenue cutoff and Big Fish Grill will be just ahead on the right. It pretty much takes up the whole block, so you can't miss it. Get ready to wait in the summertime! But on a warm evening with a salty breeze, you shouldn't be in a hurry anyway. You're not inside the beltway. Relax and take a deep breath.
Call to check hours in the off-season at (302) 227-FISH (3474). Click here for the dinner menu at Big Fish Grill. (L., D., Bar) Price Range: Moderate +.