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Cafe Azafran

/ Updated on May 28, 2020

Chef and part-owner Richard Steele used to handle the cooking duties at the Lamp Post Inn, his family's Coastal Highway restaurant (now long-gone and reborn under new ownership as Crabby Dick's Seafood). In fact, Richard's grandmother was the proprietor of Fenwick's iconic breakfast spot, Libby's, and also the Rehoboth incarnation of Libby's that occupied that building before they opened the Lamp Post.

Cafe Azafran's downtown Rehoboth Beach spot is the second location for Richard and his brother Mark, but is now their only location with the closing of their first installation in Lewes on Mar. 9th, 2014.

Talent in the kitchen seems to run in the family, because the feedback about the Rehoboth location has been consistently positive. Azafran is Spanish for “safflower,” the driedpetals of which are used as a flavorless but color-enhancing substitute for saffron. Carole Leonardis, a faithful RF site visitor, insists that the name Azafran is more appropriate to the pungent spice saffron (derived from the crocus plant). The difference notwithstanding, any similarity between the tasteless plant (obviously not the only translation) and its restaurant namesake ends there.

UPDATE: I've just returned from the Monday Tapas Tasting night at Cafe Azafran. Though the regular menu is still available, the Tapas Tasting Menu offers a great balance of various and sundry goodies for a very reasonable price of $16 (as of this writing) for 5 choices. We were lucky to find the ubiquitous and always cute Holly Lane behind the bar. All of us ordered various combinations of the Tapas Tasting, and, as you can tell from the photos, the Short Rib Slider is one of the stars of the show. A generous chunk of beef short rib is cradled in a fresh soft roll (the always-tasty Martin's “dinner roll,” perhaps?). A bit of sauteed onion tops it off for 3-4 perfect bites. Another must-get in the tapas dept. is Azafran's veal sausage. It is simply delicious, and is served in a little lake of what appears to be cannellini beans served baked beans-style. They are quite good and I get the sausage every time. Try the tapas on Mondays! You won't be disappointed. By the way, the restaurant won the cheesecake division in the 2013 Chocolate Festival for their Nutella Cheesecake.

My most recent dinner experience started off with the Grilled Veal Sausage tapas with White (cannellini) Beans. Far from being the typical microscopic “tapas” we've been trained to expect elsewhere, this was full appetizer-size and was delicious. The sausage was spicy and firm, but the star of the show was the sauce in which the white beans lounged comfortably. We had a similar reaction to the Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi (lubricated with sage butter and topped with pecorino cheese). I have to mention the La Mancha plate, replete with a sandy brown Manchego, spicy chorizo, jamon Serrano (Spanish ham) and Romesco salsa (a Catalonian preparation with tomatoes, peppers, toasted almonds and hazelnuts). The Tapas menu is extensive and pretty much everything is good.

UPDATE: Our first Paella Night of the 2016 season is an amazing success. It's reservation only, and lucky ticketholders gather around Richard's 48″ paella pan to watch him make his feast from scratch. From the shimmering oil to the final addition of the scallops & shrimp, the evening is fun from beginning to end. Do not miss this Rehoboth Beach tradition. Richard Steele's paella is second to none. The number for reservations is below.

UPDATE: Well, it's summer 2015 and it seems that Cafe Azafran just keeps getting better and better. I just posted some new photos of the shrimp and polenta, those amazing lamb meatballs and the equally tasty beet salad. Again, menus change like the tides here at the beach, but you can't go wrong at Cafe Azafran. Rich and the gang have made it a winner. Also take a look at chef/owner Rich adding $50/half-ounce saffron to the beginnings of his legendary Wednesday and Sunday night paella. Reservations only.

In the summer there's a popular prix-fixe ($23 as of this writing) on Tuesdays. “Popular,” because every table was filled, and, lacking reservations (who wooda thought on a Tuesday?!), we were relegated to the bar. No problem. I like keeping track of what's going on, and the bar's the place to do that. I began the festivities with the Seafood Bruschetta appetizer. The seafood stacked onto the warm crostini (teetering atop a bed of brightly dressed mixed greens) was delightfully unmanageable and generous at just $9. My favorite Foodette had the Spanish Dip Trio (pita-like flatbread triangles surround a marinated olive tapenade, a garlicky hummus and that deep red and nutty Romesco salsa. Another Foodie-in-Waiting enjoyed the sweet ‘n' sticky Spanish BBQ Ribs (3 meaty bones) slathered with a vaguely Oriental multi-flavored glaze.

Cafe Azafran's interpretation of Salade Niçoise is a main course all by itself, with haricots verts (green beans), sliced egg, roasted peppers, sliced new potatoes drizzled with olive oil, tangy greens and small green and dark spanish olives (I wish they had been pitted…have some sympathy for our bridgework, guys!). Rather than the traditional tuna/anchovy finish, the salade can be topped with just about any seafood. I ordered shrimp and got 4 huge ones, easily 12/16 in size. The (prix fixe) Fish of the Day was Grouper and was perfectly cooked; firm, flakey and not mushy or fishy tasting. It was accompanied by unusual little zucchini cakes (ya gotta try 'em) and new potatoes sprinkled with a red pepper basil coulis. Favorite Foodie had the Orecchiette Pasta dish, generously speckled with roasted veggies, crispy pancetta and a salty pecorino romano (a hard Sardinian cheese made from ewe's milk. Pecora = “sheep.” Tell 'em you heard it here first, kids!).

At breakfast (Friday thru Monday in season from 8 'til noon), the Warm Baked Oatmeal is the star of the show, crowned with milk or snow-white Greek yogurt. The Frittatas sport a host of filling choices, including that Serrano and various cheeses. Their homemade granola is crunchy, and delicious topped with milk or yogurt.

The lunch menu is almost as extensive as the dinner menu, with soups, salads, sandwiches, espresso variations, smoothies, teas…it goes on and on. The Mediterranean Platter is reminiscent of the Salade Niçoise I described above and includes a crispy baguette. Another standout is Marco's Chef Salad (crispy greens, egg, peppers, tomatoes and olives topped with poached chicken, ham and pecorino).

Paninis and wraps populate the long list of sandwiches filled with Mediterranean ingredients (most of which appear in the various and sundry salads). My favorite Foodette tells me that they're introducing an off-season Panera Bread-style “You Pick Two”–choice of soup and a “mini-wich.” Check out the off-season specials for more info.

Cafe Azafran is at 18 Baltimore Ave. (ocean block, south side). It's a pretty small place and it can get pretty noisy in there when busy. In 2013 they opened a large back dining area that is enclosed in canvas and surrounded by gardens. When it gets chilly at night, they turn on heaters. So order another drink and join the fun. They close briefly in the late afternoon (always a little annoying), so give them a call before you trek down there for a late lunch (302-227-8100). I suggest reservations. Click here to see the dinner menu. (B. (Fri. thru Mon.), L., D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.

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)

18 Baltimore Ave.
(302) 227-8100

Open 3 - 8:30
Shrimp Nite! Specials on shrimp entrees.
Open 3 - 8:30
Tapas $8
Open 3 - 8:30
Pasta Four Ways! The whole thing only $22.
Open 3 - 9
Steak nite! and specials on wine
Live entertainment
Open 3 - 9
Seafood night prix fixe $28.
Open 3 - 9
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 says:

    Had the Taco Tuesday special of 3 of your choice of 4 offerings $16. Exceptional. The salmon tasted like a completely different dish than the shrimp ans they should, down to the chopped herbs and other seasonings. The beans and rice are not the runny predictable sort found at nearly every Mexican restaurant. Someone knows what they’re doing!

    The dining room comfortable and beautiful as always. I dined alone, no biggie. COVID protocols taken seriously.

  2. Avatar Web Hosting says:

    Took my mom and aunt to their first tapas experience at Cafe Azafran and it was quite wonderful and a culinary experience for all.

  3. Avatar Hosting says:

    Azafran provides made-to-order breakfast sandwiches using sustainable eggs and bacon that are hormone and antibiotic-free. We also offer sweet treats such as house-made muffins, scones and breads to get your day started on the right foot. We partner with Patisserie Poupon to provide light, flaky croissants

  4. Avatar Bryan Hecksher says:

    Café Azafran is a great place with an array of different flavors! My favorite is Thursday night with John Flynn and Holly Lane entertaining us while we eat. The Nutella cheese cake is FAT MAN’S HEAVEN!

  5. Avatar Bob says:

    We tried Cafe Azafran today for lunch and they created a custom tapas experience just for us. Veal sausage, lamb meatballs, garlic shrimp, and string beans with hazelnuts. We ordered based on your review and it was a dining experience I won’t soon forget. This is now one of our RB favs!!! Jessica our waitress didn’t have the word no in her vocabulary.

  6. Avatar Jim says:

    My wife and i went to Azafran last night for their $20 shrimp night. We have a condo down in Lewes and used to go to Azafran in Lewes. Since they closed that location we have not been to this one in Rehobeth. We had the pesto shrimp with penne pasta, and the grilled ginger and lime shrimp. One word describes the meal “delicious.” Our server Lauren was very pleasant and attentive. A definite return. It makes us miss Azafran in Lewes even more.

  7. Avatar Jamie says:

    This place is definitely deserving of five stars. Impeccable food and service.

  8. Avatar Bob says:

    This was the first visit for the four of us. Everything we had was fabulous. The service was outstanding. We will definetely return next season even if we have to park eight blocks away.

  9. Avatar Ron says:

    My vegetarian friend visiting from Toronto ate at the Rehoboth Cafe Azafran the past Monday and Tuesday night because the one in Lewe was closed on those nights. We love the vegetarian platter that both Cafe Azafrans offer. The ambance at both locations were pefect for our tete a tete. Only one slight problem Tuesday night at the Rehoboth Cafe Azafran was the couple with the young child who was constantly yelling demanding attention while his mothe breast fed her baby. Yes, you read that right, breast fed her baby in a public restuarant. Oh sure, she was holding a towel to shield the the actual breast feeding but this isn’t what I expect when I dine at a restarant but hey, maybe it’s just me. I also got their Key Lime Pie martini. Excellent! There were other children in the restaurnt (to be expected I guess in the summertime) but they were all well behaved. However, this was the first time I dined when a woman was breast feeding her baby at the next table. Weird.

  10. Avatar edie says:

    I love their food. It is interesting, fresh, and not redundant. The atmosphere is comfortable, colorful, in a restive way and you can actually hear your tables conversation!! Their service people are knowledgable of their food and wine. It is attentive service without being overbearing. I enjoy them year-round, as they cook within the constraints of market availability, so there is always a twist. I have never been disappointed.

  11. Avatar BobB says:

    My wife and went to the Rehoboth Cafe Azafran on Thursday for ‘Steak Night’. It is a great deal: $25 for a 6-oz. filet migon, salad, potato, veggie, bread, olives and a glass of wine. The meal was fantastic! We will be back again.

  12. Avatar Jack Mundy says:

    My wife and I ate there last Tuesday (May 22). We ordered 5 tapas and could only eat 4 of them. So we brought the ratatouille home and ate it the next night.

    The $7.00 night is a real bargain. But we can’t wait to go back for paella on a Wednesday. They cook it out on the patio over a grill, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Reserve your paella ahead of time – it is very much worth it.

  13. Avatar Jen says:

    Ate at Cafe Azafran this past weekend, and had an EXCELLENT meal. Started off with a shrimp tapas with feta, kalamata olives and tomatoes that I am still thinking about. I’ve already recommended this restaurant to several friends and look forward to going back!

  14. Avatar John says:

    We had a very good meal- varied menu- scallops and seafood were excellent- varied choices and very warm service- only suggestion – do something about the lighting in the courtyard- more subdued ligting in the eating area would make a hughe difference to the feel of the courtyard and also highlight the pretty garden around it . The ligthing reminded me of what it would be like sitting at a table at Home Depot.

  15. Avatar Mary says:

    The food is awesome and the service is spectacular. The scallop tapa is the very best I have ever had. Will go there again and again. Top of the line restaurant in Rehoboth!!

  16. Avatar Howard Cyr says:

    I really wanted to like this place and the food cooperated. Our dinners were very good to excellent. We recommend the food. On the other hand, the service was incredibly slow. From the time we ordered until we got our dinners was a bit over an hour. OK – it was very crowded, but still that was a long wait.

  17. Avatar Don says:

    Such a great place! While the service can be a bit slow, it’s worth the wait. The. Best. Crabcakes. In. Town! Delicious. We’ve had the tapas and meals there several times. We’ve never been disappointed — unless you like the intrusion of live music with your meal (I don’t), ask to sit in the back. Great steak. Such a welcome addition to Baltimore Avenue.

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