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Catch 54

/ Updated on December 6, 2016

Regular Foodie Followers know that reviews of non-Rehoboth Beach restaurants tend to be fewer and farther-between in the summer months. It's all we can do to keep up with all the openings, closings, etc. right here in Rehoboth. So, try as I might, I could never make it down to Fenwick and Catch 54. Then, a few days before Labor Day 2011, the place burned down! Nobody was hurt, and the new Catch 54 is so much better. The massive two-story eatery has an elevator, multiple decks and docks where one can sit, sip, sup, or rent a boat. There are all sorts of interesting features, none the least of which multiple bars (illuminated by what could be the most interesting lightbulbs I've ever seen), wooden peaked ceilings and beams, a huge spiral staircase, a hidden little bar with a cozy fireplace, and windows, windows and more windows. The place could easily qualify as a 5-ticket ride at Disney World.

The late über-restaurateur Matt Haley had certainly outdone himself this time. To add to the fun, his Papa Grande's Coastal Taqueria is located just across the parking lot (in May 2014 he duplicated that popular concept in downtown Rehoboth Beach).

It's hard to eat at one of Matt's SoDelConcepts installations and not compare the food to his other places. A craving for the impossibly light, crunchy and salty preparation at Blue Coast (SoDelConcepts' flagship) generated an order for two dishes of the Buttermilk Fried Calamari. Sadly, it didn't live up to our expectations. Yes, it was tasty, and certainly comparable to any other restaurant in the area, but they were heavier, the pieces were larger, and they lacked the fragile crisp we had so craved. We ate them all, but Haley himself set that bar, and Catch 54's calamari didn't quite clear the top.

The Blue Crab Cocktail Claws (a mainstay at Matt's Fish Camp and at Bluecoast) were perfect. The meat was icy cold, and the claw makes the perfect little handle for this Old Bay-dusted crustacean lollipop. It's served simply with cocktail sauce and lemon. I love Catch 54's appetizer menu. It's the perfect bar-food nosh, and two or three plates make for a perfect meal. For example, the Lobster Sliders are served on the same Parker House Rolls that appear on the appetizer menu at Matt's Fish Camp. The salad is crunchy with veggies, and quite substantial with lobster. The Local Clam and Crab Casino was also delightful, with crispy bacon exclamation points throughout. Lemon butter gilds the lily here.

Ever since Matt and Jonathan Spivak put Deviled Eggs on the menu at the original Salt Air, they (the eggs, not Matt and Jon) have appeared on just about every menu up and down the coast. So, again, Haley had nobody to beat but himself, and the Deviled Egg appetizer at Catch 54 blows them all out of the water. The egg mixture is dotted with apple slivers, and brightly dosed with mustard cream. But that's not the best part: See those crunchy wafer-like decorations on each egg? It's scrapple! Thin-as-air slices are quickly fried to a dark, crispy crackle and then mounted, like sails, atop each egg. These are a must-get.

The Caesar salad, though not prepared at the table (those days are sadly gone — thank you, meddling Food Police!) had more softly salty anchovy taste than any I've had anywhere locally. Buttery, yet still crisp croutons topped it off. If you like Caesar, this one will make you happy.

The Buttermilk Fried Chicken is a direct lift from the menu at Matt's Fish Camp and Northeast Seafood Kitchen, and we're all better for it. A butterflied breast is topped with a spicy crab-corn gravy and rests happily in a nest of butter cream mashed potatoes. If it's comfort food you're looking for, this should top your list. But that's not all. Another nod to the comfort-inclined comes in the form of a Bacon Cheeseburger. White cheddar plays the cheese role, and you dip the salt fries into the basil mayo. There's not a lot of basil taste in the mayo, but it's still OK. Speaking of Salt Fries, treat yourself to the Salt and Vinegar Fries side. I really like the fact that they don't dose the potatoes with vinegar back in the kitchen: By the time they make it to the table, they'd be soggy and cold. Yuk! Instead, the spud sticks march themselves out to the table, hot and salty, accompanied by a bottle of Heinz malt vinegar (think Thrasher's).

Want to stay a little lighter, but still get in on the seafood thing? Order the Oysters and Chicken Salad. The pairing of fried oysters and chicken salad purportedly has its roots in the 18th century taverns of Philadelphia. Another popular Rehoboth eatery serves a similar version, and they say it's a southern tradition. Maybe they mean south Philly. Either way, the cool, not-too-mayoey chicken salad is dotted with sliced almonds and tart green apple as little fried oysters cuddle around the central mound like puppies and their mom.

I like to mix things up as much as I can in these articles, and this time I'm saving the best for last. Conscript a designated driver and motor southward to Catch 54 to order the Seafood Gumbo. It's the star of the show. No, it's not the stew-like crock of darkly spiced roux studded with chunks of goodies that you might expect. This deconstructed version surrenders center stage to the shrimp, scallop, fried oyster and sausage. The roux takes the form of a filé-infused gravy that spikes the perfectly cheesy grits below. It's hard to make grits so they don't turn to cement halfway through the meal (or melt into a way-too-buttery pool), but Catch 54 has this down to a science. The grits remained creamy until the very last bite. We almost ordered another one for dessert.

The Buttermilk Fried Shrimp are also quite good, distinguished by an actual buttermilk crust. The salt fries accompany, of course (they don't take the Thrasher's thing to extremes — you do receive ketchup). As we have come to expect from SoDelConcepts, the shrimp were expertly fried, not greasy in the least, and stayed crunchy 'til the inevitable denouement.

I'm not that much of a dessert lover, but I do like to shout out to places that bother to make it in-house, and occasionally there is a shining star. Both of these apply to the S'mores Chocolate Ice Cream Pie, topped with toasted mini-marshmallows and encased in a delightfully toothsome graham cracker crust. Obviously I take pictures on a review visit, but by the time I got my camera aimed and focused, the jackals — or, more accurately, my dining companions — had attacked. I did not want to run a photo of that poor, ravaged pie, lopsided after the feeding frenzy, the memory of which quickly became the stuff of legend. You will have to rely on your imagination for this one.

Catch 54 is open for lunch 7 days in-season (call in the off-season 302-436-8600) and has a daily happy hour from noon to 6. Driving south, turn right onto Rt. 54 (the Mason-Dixon line). After you cross the low bridge over the bay, take your next right. The next two rights will take you into various parking lots. If it's busy, don't even bother driving all the way back to the restaurant. The walk will do you good. Take a look at the dinner menu here. (L., D., Bar). Price range: Moderate +.

RehobothFoodie.com notes the sad passing of chef, award-winning restaurateur and SoDelConcepts founder Matt Haley, who passed away on August 19th, 2014 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash while on a humanitarian trip in the mountains of India. Matt will be sorely missed by many, many people.

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)

Rt. 54 just west of
Coastal Hwy. on Fenwick Island


Open 12 - 9

Open 4:30 - 9
Open 4:30 - 9
Open 4:30 - 9
Open 4:30 - 9
Open 4:30 - 10
Open 12-10

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 eliza says:

    Catch 54 was our very!! favorite restaurant for a long time– great views, great bar and great food! But the new restaurant is way too corporate, misses the opportunity for the expansive views with the way too small windows ,and the great big interior bar is gone. Food is still good, but alot of places at the beach have good pricey food in a corporate “seen it before” setting. Too bad management went (in my opinion!) the wrong direction. What’s with the long horns at a beach restaurant?

  2. Avatar Barb says:

    Went to Catch 54 yesterday and ordered the fish stew, which was a bowl of fish, a few shrimp,mussels claims and a scallop in a red broth. and my husb had the crabcakes (2 crabcakes w/a corn and blackeye succotash, both were tasty, but I thought for the price, I would had at least got a salad with my meal.. service was ok, the wattress did not ask if we needed refill on our tea or soda and the bead that was brought to the table before the meal was just ok. would have probably been better if i would have been warm.

  3. Avatar Always Hungry says:

    This restaurant has maybe the best water view of any in the coastal DE area, with the quality of food to match. It’s an energetic and fun place, one of Matt Haley’s best. From the bread, to the gumbo, and all the seafod — first rate. I will definitely be going back. Well worth the drive from Rehoboth/Lewes.

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