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Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats

/ Updated on January 31, 2017

It’s a brewery. No, it’s a restaurant. No, it’s a liquor store. No, it’s a distillery. No, it’s a pub…. Well, if it’s Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth, it’s all of those things including, back in 1995, the world’s smallest commercial brewery. Over twenty years later they now distribute over 20 styles of beer to well over 25 states. Pretty impressive for a little cottage-lookin’ building on Rehoboth Avenue. Of course wait ’til you see the beautiful brewery in Milton (read about it — and the food there — by clicking here). Not to mention the extensive remodel that will bring an entertainment venue, a brand new dining room and kitchen for DFH Brewings and Eats, and even easier access to Chesapeake & Maine restaurant right next door.

I love the Shelter Pale Ale. Recommended by a server as “light, but not too light,” this golden brew is full of malty flavor. (I also learned that you NEVER say the word “Lite” inside Dogfish Head.) Of course, as a Brew Pub and a self-proclaimed purveyor of comfort food, that also extends to the cuisine.

Since I first wrote this review in 2009 (updated three times since then), things have certainly improved at Dogfish Head in the food department. I have been waayyy overdue for a visit, and the last five have resulted in very tasty meals. Of course it’s still bar food – but new items now have a tasty twist and a surprising kick. And there are many more items on the menu that you can get and be sure they will be consistently good. That was not the case when they first opened, but that was then and now is now. And all it took was a little bit of Disney to make it happen.

When it comes to organization, management and training for food service, few big companies can equal the systems and procedures in place at the various Disney facilities throughout the world. So you can imagine my surprise when the new GM of Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth casually mentioned to me that his pre-beach occupation for six years was area manager of food & beverage at Disney’s Vero Beach resort. Ryan Schwamberger was responsible for maintaining the quality of a number of pool bars, banquet facilities and restaurants, and his skills have certainly raised the bar at Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Avenue restaurant/brewery. The Disney influence extends to the kitchen with the addition of Ryan’s friend and new Dogfish Head Chef, Kevin Downing. Kevin counts among his experiences the Flying Fish Café and Jiko at Walt Disney World, and the chef position at the California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort Hotel at the Magic Kingdom. (The monorail runs smack through the middle of the building. Fun!)

It’s no secret that Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats is all about the beer. And they’re the first to admit it. But in a high-profile resort town known for award-winning chefs and culinary successes, Dogfish Head had no intention of being left behind in the food department – in spite of the long lines pretty much every night. “Kevin has brought with him a new level of consistency,” says Ryan. “He monitors every dish that leaves the kitchen, and has added chef/sous chef-controlled expediting to our system.” So why is this a big deal? On a busy in-season day, the 175-seat DFH Brewings & Eats will put out 2000 (yes, that’s two thousand) plates in one day. They go through 600 pounds of potatoes per day and even employ a full-time potato cutter to turn those potatoes into Dogfish Head’s popular fries. They buy, cook and serve 35,000 fresh – not frozen – burgers per year. It might not be Disney numbers, but that’s a pretty big deal in the 4th block of Rehoboth Avenue! And that doesn’t include what promises to be the equally popular Chesapeake & Maine next door. Before we go any further, I want to remind you that Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, like most every restaurant in Rehoboth, changes its menu with the seasons. So note that some of the items described here might not be on the menu when you go there. But there’s always something good to replace them.

Listen to Sam Calagione’s first appearance on Sip & Bite with the Rehoboth Foodie.

Listen to Ryan and the distillery boys about a year later.

Listen to The Rehoboth Foodie LIVE at Chesapeake & Maine restaurant!

Hour #1

Hour #2

Kevin, Ryan and the crew have given the menu new life with Kevin’s favorite Southern-style entrees, but they have wisely kept items like the popular crab & corn chowder (with bacon, yet!), the salmon sandwich (with blue cheese and garlic aioli) and the Dogpile (think nachos, but with artichoke dip and pita – a hot and tasty mess).

The unequivocal star of the show at Dogfish Head is the Crab and Corn Chowder (happily still on the menu as of late winter 2017). Unassumingly tucked into the corner of the menu, you could miss it entirely. There are a lot of good soups in Rehoboth Beach, and this magical elixir (eloquent, huh?) is close to the top of the list. The base is rich and flavorful (a bit of sherry, perhaps?) and not floury or thick. It’s loaded with veggies and lots of crabmeat. Always a stickler for accuracy, your Foodie actually went back the very next night to make sure that this chock-full-of-goodies bowl had not been the exception rather than the rule (ladled from the bottom of the pot or something like that). Well, it was just the same as the night before, and everyone in our party ordered it. Each bowl or cup was equally full of veggies, corn and crabmeat. See the sacrifices I endure for you, dear Reader?

Hungry? Try the “Dogpile.” Think nachos, but with artichoke-spinach dip and (…wait for it…) pita bread wedges! Do not order this for yourself unless you don’t plan to eat anything else that day, or maybe for the rest of the week. It’s rich, cheesy and very filling. The toasted pita, crowned with the dip, mozzarella, tomatoes and onions makes for a true comfort-food mouth feel. It even looks cool. Another “must get” is Dogfish Head’s spicy spin on Calamari. Yes, it’s salty and crispy just like it’s supposed to be, but mixed in with the little crunchy squid morsels are banana peppers and cajun spices. Two sauces accompany.

I ordered the “Indulgence Burger.” It was tasty, if not a bit well done for my taste (I ordered it medium). On that note, I have to digress for a moment: We all make mistakes. The problem is that we don’t always own-up to them. On our most recent visit, one of our party ordered his burger medium rare. It came out thoroughly well-done. He was unhappy (but not rude, or I wouldn’t have been at the same table with him). The server was apologetic, falling all over herself to replace it or get him something else. The point is this: About 5 minutes later, she returned to the table and told us that this had been her mistake, not the kitchen’s. She said that she didn’t want us to blame the kitchen for her oversight. As a former restaurateur myself, I will tell you that this is a rarity. The owners of this place are lucky to have her.

I’d heard about their pizzas (“woodgrilled” and all that) and felt it was my Foodie duty to order one. Well, it was a crispy surprise and I loved it. I say over and over that there are many varieties of “pizza,” and each one stands on its own. The original woodgrilled pizzas were amazingly thin, and covered with just the right amount of everything (I got the mozzarella, pepperoni and parmesan). Each slice had a “crunch” to it, and I would get it again any time. As of the fall/winter menu 2017, the pizzas are now round, and a tiny but thicker. But there are more toppings and cheese, and the crust has a very nice “pull”to it. See the photo in the gallery. So don’t shy away from the pizza at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats. On two other occasions, noshing companions ordered the beer-battered Fish & Chips. The batter was crispy, with a rich, beer taste. I found the fish itself to be more dense and less flaky than what I’m used to (sometimes that happens when fish is not completely thawed when it is put down into the fryer), but overall it was good. By the way, order the fries “well-done.” Take my word for it.

Our server suggested we try the Brown Honey Rum, which I suspect they still make there in Rehoboth Beach, though the Milton Brewery is now also a large distillery making DFH’s new vodka and gins. The rum is sweetly woody and aromatic. Without further ado, we ended up taking two bottles home. After extensive research, I have determined that this beverage is particularly pleasing sipped in front of the TV in a slightly warmed brandy snifter, preferably while watching Mad Men reruns (I left that in for you TV history buffs!). But if you want to order spirits, try DFH’s brand new Analog Vodka and their two new gins. Some of the in-house cocktails are quite good.

The place has a friendly vibe. The manager strolled from table to table making sure everybody was happy. I think that’s nice, especially for a place that’s been around for so long. Talk about a small town: In the last couple of months I visited DFH twice – and both times I ran into Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione. We do not stand on ceremony here at the beach.

Dogfish Head is at 320 Rehoboth Ave., on the south side just east of the circle. Right next door to Chesapeake & Maine. They have specials (check my list here on the site), so give ’em a call at (302) 226-BREW to find out what’s happening. (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)

320 Rehoboth Ave.
(302) 226-2739

Open 12 - 11
Unique dishes and specials every week.
Open 12 - 11
Unique dishes and specials every week.
Open 12 - 11
burger night from 5-10pm featuring $5 plain burgers and $8 specialty burgers
Open 12 - 11
Unique dishes and specials every week.
Open 12 - 11
pizza nights from 5-11pm featuring $5 plain pizzas and $8 specialty pizzas
Open 12 -1 am
Live music year 'round starting around 10p
Unique dishes and specials every week.
Open 12 - 1 am
Live music year 'round starting around 10p
Unique dishes and specials every week.
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. Hosting says:

    Whether it s the boat cleat door knobs, the sea characters painted on the walls or the large raw bar you encounter as soon as you walk inside, the theme of Rehoboth Beach s newest eatery is obvious seafood, and lots of it.

  2. Crum says:

    Burger night does not start until 5:00pm. It is not available all day as stated.

  3. Libby Stiff says:

    We think their wood grilled salmon is excellent. Salads are ho hum but the Wedge with the salmon does nicely. And they’ve been having Chicory Stout.

  4. barbara says:

    I go here fairly often, but mostly in the off season. This is a good place to go if you have kids because if they are noisy nobody will care. For adults, sit at the bar for the best service. The review is spot on about the soup and the dogpile. Off season they have pizza specials and burger specials. Pizza is good—but do yourself a favor and try something different. Personally I would like to see the burgers off the menu. They take a long time to cook, and arent special enough to serve with that wonderful beer. The salmon is always delicious here. One last thing—nothing is overpriced!

  5. S. Woody says:

    Another sampling from the ’13 Rehoboth Restaurant Week, but with a completely opposite effect from our experience at Stingray. Of the dishes sampled, only my partner’s Crab and Corn Chowder met approval. The pork confit sandwich tasted burnt. The lemon roasted chicken was just fair. The big disaster was the honey-mustard chicken wings appetizer, which were served cold… but that wasn’t entirely the kitchen’s fault. Our server brought the chowder almost immediately, but the wings didn’t arrive until 12 minutes later, by which time my partner had finished his bowl. Our server was too busy rolling silverware in napkins to realize that my appetizer was ready – I could literally watch her from where I was seated. She then tried to blame the kitchen for the wings arriving so late! There are plenty of other places in town to find good craft beer and good food these days; Sam’s joint is not the only game in town any more. I’m giving Dogfish a pass from now on.

  6. Tommy says:

    We used to love going to DFH Brewpub, but the food has gotten progressively worse over the last 5 years. The beer is fantastic, but the food is the pits. Had the non conformist pizza the other night and I can easily say it was the worst pizza I had ever had. I used to love. What has happened? I can buy DFH beer other places, but will take a pass on the food.

  7. A.C. says:

    My family and I have visited Dogfish Head several times…typically with great food and service. However, we had a rough experience during our last visit. Our young child injured himself on the table and when I attempted to take him to the restroom to clean/care for his injured, bleeding eye, I was curtly informed by a waitstaff that we were unable to use the restroom due to a wedding reception in the room that housed the restroom. When I told her and showed her my son’s bloody eye, she simply stated “You can’t go in, they are cutting the cake.” Of course, I then found a manager who apologized for the incident and told us of another restroom we could use. By this time it was too late and my son and I were out the door. Unfortunately due to the incredibly poor customer serivce of this particular waitstaff who refused to allow us to use a restroom in an emergency, and did not offer us an alternative, we will never return.

  8. Helen says:

    Chris…You just said what everybody’s thinking. The place isn’t nearly what it used to be, and my last lunch experience in there was a rude and tasteless disaster.
    Yes, the beer is great, but I can get Sam’s beer at other restaurants that serve better food and know how to wait on customers.

  9. Chris says:

    Used to love going there, but there menu and service is not what is used to be. Service tends to be slow and the food not so good. Recently, they changed the fish and chips recipe and not for the better. The waitress said that there had been many complaints about it and she took it off of our tab.

    I would go back mainly for their beer, which is still quite good.

  10. Gabe says:

    I’ve been going to this place for years and the food over the past 2 or 3 has been very good. I’d say it’s American pub/bistro food at a fair price done well. Was there last nite after reading about the chowder, which I don’t recall ever trying. I ordered a bowl but sadly did not have your experience, mine was best described as a good but overly thick potato-corn chowder flavored with crab, which was notable by it’s scarcity. I’ll try a cup next time and see.

  11. betty ewing says:

    just read about the onion throwing-believable in this age of grace and courtesy…only been there several times but everything was fine. there was friendly service and constant manager presence. out of interest what happened to this onion throwing waiter? the dogfish beers are excellent and the hoodies made out of super soft, comfortable cotton. a good laid back place to go for a dinner at a fair price.

  12. gracefisher says:

    I was part of the above party. One of us ordered a burger without onions. When the server brought it, it had onions on top. The person said, I did not want onions.
    The server then reached down with his hand and took the onions and threw them on the floow and said – there no onions.

  13. Mary Knopp says:

    I have a seasonal home in RB and have eaten at Dog Fish many times. It has always been pretty good so I recommended it to friends of mine who were there on vacation. They had a terrible experience that made me feel really bad. They even waited for an hour and 1/2 wait which was only supposed to be 45 minutes to get a table. Their service was bad and very slow and one person did not get what they ordered. They did bring it to the attention of the manager and (the way I got it) did not do anything much to rectify the situation. This was very disappointing to me because Sam C. the owner seem to be a very customer oriented person (from what I saw on his TV show). This is the last time I recommend a restaurant in RB and believe me I have tried most all of them.

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