Well, I originally reported that this was going to happen back in April 2016 (YES, 2016!), and lo and behold, Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen is up and running in the old Hooter’s spot on the second level of First Street Station at First and The Avenue. They promise “Southern Cookin’ with a Twist,” and initial feedback is that the outside is very inviting. This installation is part of the Crabby Dick’s group, and includes 2 Crabbys (the other one is in Delaware City) and Lewinsky’s on Clinton in Delaware City.
Legend (and Wikipedia) suggest that Cooter Brown is a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness, mostly in the Southern United States. Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line which divided the North and South during the American Civil War, making him eligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides of the line, so he did not want to fight in the war. He decided to get drunk and stay drunk for the duration of the war so that he would be seen as useless for military purposes and would not be drafted. Ever since, colloquial and proverbial ratings of drunkenness have been benchmarked against the legendary drinker: “as drunk as Cooter Brown” or “drunker than Cooter Brown”
Partners Dale Slotter and John Buchheit adapted the legend into a menu that not only pay homage to Southern bites but also a bit of Asian and Eastern European. The results of all this are manifested in crab cakes and a catfish po’boy, a chili crunch burger (it’s all about the Fritos -see it in the gallery), a french dip, aka Whisky Dip, constructed with a whisky jus and a pulled pig Cuban sandwich. This IS Delaware, after all, so there is the obligatory scrapple burger. Cooter Brown’s has jumped on the bourbon bandwagon with over twenty kinds of bourbon – to start. They have a long way to go to catch up with Bethany Blues, but it sounds like they’re trying.
The menu is playfully divided into 7 sections. Pickins’ is all about appetizers. Leave your diet at home – these are meant to be flavorful and satisfying, and include a Pretzel and Pimiento plate, their signature Fried Green Tomatoes, Corn Fritters and … wait for it … Frito Pie! And the FP is delivered in the obligatory Frito bag. Though basically chili and toppings over Fritos, it’s quite good and downright fun to eat. When nobody was looking we checked out the chicken waffle snacks – the combination of their particularly good fried chicken with a slightly sagey waffle and a maple/Sriracha drizzle was unique and also quite good. We will order it again.
Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chix1/8 Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen: Sneak Peek2/8 Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen: Sneak Peek3/8 Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen: Sneak Peek4/8 That Frito Pie5/8 Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen: Sneak Peek6/8 Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen: Sneak Peek7/8 Gouda grits & shrimp8/8
The Grilled Oysters section offers platters of 6 happy bivalves prepared in ways you will not see around town: with Sriracha lime butter, or BBQ bourbon chipotle, or buffalo sauce and blue cheese … you get the idea. The burgers are equally adventurous, with goodies like the Scrappy Burger (guess that that is — we watched these flyin’ out of the kitchen, so we are guessing they are tasty, especially with a smoked gouda topping. Borrowing on another burger joint slightly north of the beach, they offer the Not Just for Breakfast Burger with eggs, bacon and all the breakfast fixins. There is a selection of three salads in the Salads section (I have gotten emails about the Pecan & Pickled Peaches Salad – people love it. We will try it next time).
On our first visit, bartender Cruise Ramos (my buddy formerly from Touch of Italy) suggested the Brown Butter Shrimp with Gouda Grits. “You can really taste the gouda cheese, he insisted.” He was right. A very generous portion of shrimp rested atop particularly flavorful grits kicked up with grilled tasso ham. It all added up to a very tasty dish. Cruise’s other suggestion was the Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken. Now I am a fried chicken maniac (I even raffle it off for charity around here), so I considered it a virtual throwing down of the gauntlet. I will save you a lot of reading and just say that I am making some adjustments to my brine. It might involve sweet tea. The outside is crunchy with a nice combination of spices. An adjoining table had availed themselves to the BBQ ribs – we wanted to snatch one (or two) but decided to curb our enthusiasm. But their plates were empty after the attack subsided, and these are also on our return list.
I like the Sandwiches section, as it includes several items I grew up with. Fried Bologna, for example (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it). This is served in club-sandwich format with a long list of tastees like onion straws (these flew out of the kitchen of my former BBQ restaurant), cheese, and, of course, bacon. Remember – I told you to leave your diet at home.
There are nine sandwich selections, and I will try them all and get photos for you too. High on my list is that Whiskey Dip and the Chicken Pickleback (the chicken is brined in pickle juice!).
Don’t miss the “toppings” section. It reads like a dinner menu itself, with items like scrapple, pork belly, Fritos, chili … there are 24 selections! So the statistical combinations of sandwich/burger toppings are virtually infinite.
Dale Slotter and partner John Buchheit also own Crabby Dick’s at Rt. 24 and Coastal Highway and Lewinsky’s on Clinton in Delaware City. One of the big draws at this second-floor eatery will be their 50-seat outdoor patio.
Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen is located on the upper level of First Street Station at 70 Rehoboth Ave. They are open M – F at 4 and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 567-2132, go to cooterbrownstwisted.com or on Facebook at cooterbrownstwisted.
That location is challenging, but when we visited on a Thursday night they were completely filled and on what appeared to be about a 15-20 minute wait. I suspect that this emporium of playful, informal comfort food will sirvive through the off-season with a hot Frito Pie will be the perfect foil to a cold winter evening.