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Grove Market (Bishopville, Md.)

/ Updated on February 17, 2022

One of the hundreds of online accolades about Grove Market restaurant includes the description, “diamond in the rough.” Even a diamond in the rough is still a diamond, and this one doesn't need a bit of polishing. It's just fine the way it is. Even after a change of ownership in early spring 2021, the Grove Market continues to fill up every night with patrons who appreciate the quirkiness of what is basically a smokehouse. Not one table or chair matches another, and things are tight in there as you squirm through other diners to get to your table. And everyone seems to LOVE it. Including us.


This is obviously an update (the original review was posted in November 2011 and updated many times since then). But this one's a big deal, because after many, many years, owner Leslie Lunga has sold the place. But not to fear! It is in the capable hands of Brett Fetterolf and his dad Bill (former boss at Talbot Street Cafe in Ocean City). Brett is also the owner and creator of Elvis' Beach Bar in Sandy Ground, Road Bay in Anguilla – a tiny, eel-shaped island in the Caribbean (Anguilla means “eel”). Elvis' Beach Bar is a big deal, and Brett is a very interesting guy. Take a look at a film by The Travel Channel that describes this surfside bar … quite literally made out of a boat. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

The Grove Market was converted from a bait shack into a restaurant in 1987, and head chef John McDonald joined the crew in '93. He is also the knowledgeable wine critic for the Cape Gazette, and was the proprietor of the long-gone Garden Gourmet restaurants in Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach. John left the Grove Market last year, but if our recent experiences are any indication, the current kitchen crew is batting a thousand.

The menu is so seasonal that there isn't one. It's all done live and in person. Last week we were lucky to have Patrick as our server. I felt like I was watching the “City Square Soliloquy” from The Music Man (“Mothers of River City! Heed this warning before it's too late!”). Patrick was in rare form, and clearly channeling his best Robert Preston as he brought the entire room to attention with his animated description of the appetizer and dinner selections. Waving his arms and gesturing with exclamatory vigor, he acted out, in detail, the ingredients and preparation of each item — all the while making sure everybody was paying attention. Keep yapping and you'll miss it. There are no do-overs. Leave your real or imagined ADHD at home. And be sure to join the wave of applause that often follows his impromptu performance.

I have left some of the old photos up in the gallery because you never know what will be on the menu. One of the few constants is their famous duck. The skin is as tight as parchment as it protects the incredibly moist meat inside. If they have the Crab Remick appetizer on the menu, get it! Ridiculously fresh Smith Island crabmeat is served in a good-sized ramekin and baked with a peppery mayo mix into which pieces of dark, thick-cut bacon are pressed. It was simply wonderful. Another don't-miss appetizer is the whole duck livers wrapped in bacon and accompanied by a creamy tart/sweet apple slaw. The interplay between the crispy/savory umami of the bacon and the…well, livery…taste of the liver made this upscale take on rumaki a total success. It's was almost big enough to serve as a meal.

Last week we had an incredibly generous portion of rack of lamb (three – count 'em, 3!) 3-bone portions seared to a delicious crisp on the outside and politely pink inside. The lamb is accompanied by plump Bing cherries and a delicious mashed potato preparation. In typical Grove Market fashion, it was nestled up to cool cucumber chunks marinated with white onions. Then there was their special – a perfectly spiced crabmeat and shrimp casserole. All are pictured in the gallery. One of the dishes Patrick described that I want to get next time is the smoked & grilled swordfish steak. I sounds so good. If you get it, let me know what you think!

During an earlier visit, a dish of steamed clams was crowned with crispy and buttery crostini and almost pimiento-soft slices of red pepper. It all swam in a shallow lake of a darkly savory sauce. Crispy and creamy apple slaw, along with a firm, cold lemon wedge played very capable supporting roles.

Back to the duck: The tight, darkly sweet skin crackles with flavor. This was quite simply one of the most delicious duck dishes I can remember eating. The bottom of the plate shone with a flavorful, yet almost transparent jus. Grove Market's famous made-in-house breadstick accompanied the dish as usual – aromatically fresh and yeasty, studded with kosher salt and a variety of spices. I am sorry to tell you that my treasure trove of superlatives contains no words to properly describe this just-about-perfect plate.

On my most recent visit, I started with a deliciously chunky garden salad topped with gorgonzola. I love the lemon-based dressing. On an earlier visit, I had the Smith Island Crab enchilada. More like a burrito than an enchilada, it must have contained a pound of sweet Maryland crabmeat, and was topped with a cheese that tasted like milky queso fresco, though it had more of a cheddarlike hue. Maybe a mix of cheeses? It was accompanied by a side dish of moist herbed rice (satisfyingly al dente) and a still-crunchy medley of yellow squash, zucchini and strips of red pepper. HOPE that this will make another appearance on the non-menu!

That wonderful crabmeat was used to stuff a large flounder filet coated in a rich, almost hollandaisy imperial sauce seared to a golden patina. Imagine crab imperial happily nestled in amongst the folds of a perfectly cooked flounder. That crispy fresh vegetable medley camped alongside. Another of those breadsticks made a welcome cameo.

When we were there last week, the featured appetizer was a smoked tuna pate. Remember – they have a smokehouse on site and specialize in smoking fish. The ubiquitous breadstick du jour provided the perfect dénouement for this platter that looked as good as it tasted.

The Grove Market is tiny. About 8-9 tables. Maybe 10. Leslie's reservation system was simple: First call, first serve. It's still an adventure with Brett and Bill Fetterolf. You call their machine and tell them when you are available. I suggest offering them a couple of dates. They will call you back when they feel like it. Reservations run about 2 weeks out. Call (410) 352-5055 to start the process. Yes, they make you work for it, but it's worth the effort.

Would you be kind enough to indulge me for a moment? DO NOT BELIEVE the nonsense online and otherwise that the Grove Market is pretentious or rude. On my very first few visits, Leslie had no idea who I was or that I was there to critique the place. She was also unaware that on our first visits that we were accompanied by two professional chefs. Admittedly, she might not have cared either way, but that notwithstanding, she could not have been nicer or more gracious. Patrick the server was also responsive, worked hard, and had an instant comeback for every one of my off-kilter snarks.

My experience writing about food in general has taught me that there are people out there who resent expensive restaurants and/or restaurants where it's difficult to get a reservation. For whatever reason, these people often don't have (or don't want to part with) the resources to engage in this sort of dining, and they think the world owes them a living because of it. So they self-righteously fault the restaurant. I see it all the time. Mental health professionals call it “projection.” Interestingly, those who noisily project almost always melt into sputtering and nonspecific ums and uhs when they are asked to explain WHY they don't like a place. It works every time. Thank you for slogging through that with me. I feel better now.

Grove Market is at 12402 St. Martin's Neck Road in Bishopville. Cross the Rt. 90 bridge at 62nd St. in Ocean City, MD and turn right at St. Martin's Neck Road. A minute or so after you pass the Lighthouse Restaurant (don't bother with that place), Grove Market comes up quickly on your left. There is no online presence except for one of those generic FB pages. Price range: Expensive.

See them on FB by CLICKING HERE.

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 Kim Poole says:

    The food here is absolutely amazing!! The service is phenomenal!! If you love good food, you won’t be disappointed. Calling and leaving a message for a reservation, has never been a problem, as I let them tell me what time works best for them. I’d arrive at midnight if that’s what I had to do!!

  2. Avatar Bonnie Bradley says:

    We had dinner at the Grove Market 2 weeks ago with another couple. Been there before with great experiences. This one, for me, not so much. The other 3 in our party were very happy with their meals. I ordered the baked oysters and had there not been a sliver of bacon on the shell I would have thought the shell was empty, oysters were minute. My entree were the lamb chops with blueberry sauce. The chops were served in a way that they were very difficult to carve. So, I’m holding them by the bone and getting blueberry sauce all over my hands. Sticky situation. Ate one piece of one chop and brought the rest home. They were good the next day without the sauce. The coconut cake was very good.

    Also, it didn’t help that we were seated in the back room with a table of 9. You can imagine the noisy conversations, Couldn’t be helped, I’ve been that table, Patrick was helpless to quiet them down. Not sure if I will go back. Thank you.

  3. Avatar Joyce Palmer says:

    Food was delicious but you call for a reservation, talk to an answering machine, and they don’t always get back to you, even if it is weeks in advance. Unacceptable. Should you make reservations elsewhere then cancel them if your call is returned? This place is referred to as the Soup Nazi Restaurant. Hope new owners will rectify this.

    • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

      Apparently it’s part of their charm … place is packed every night. New owners are indeed considering other options, however.

  4. Avatar Mary Harahan says:

    Simply the best meal I have eaten on the Delmarva in my 11 years of living here. Competitive with the best restaurants in DC at half the price. People who have problems with this restaurant need to admit to themselves they just are not into excellent food.

  5. Avatar 78Lion says:

    First, than you for taking the time to do this and put fair reviews up for all to see. It must be a labor of love.

    I kept hearing about Grove Market as a must always when I was away from OC. Finally, thanks to your site, I remembered early enough to make the calls necessary to get a reservation.

    What a treat. Simply, the food was exceptional and the staff were enjoying themselves while taking care of our every need.

    There is a part of me that wants to keep this a secret. Unfortunately, for him, I’ve told everyone I know about Grove Market. Hope I’m lucky enough to get a seat next time.

  6. Avatar Jessica says:

    I love the Grove Market! Everything I’ve ever gotten there has been fantastic! The only thing I would ever want to improve is the last 4 times I’ve been there when you ask for coffee with dessert they only give you a half cup which I have found strange but by that point usually we’re all in such a food coma it’s not a big deal

  7. Avatar Beach Eater says:

    So true about “projection.” I’m tired of people who complain but have no basis for their complaint. If they’re not willing to think out their reasons and evidence for their opinions, then why bother having them…and imposing them on the rest of us? I suppose that’s what you mean by the “Chronic Complainers,” correct?!

  8. Avatar Always Hungry says:

    I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten in a place where the lack of pretense was so matched by excellence in the food. I also had the duck and — being a lover of duck — would say it’s hands down the best I have ever had, not just in or around Rehoboth/eastern shore, but anywhere else. Especially if you indulge in the great wine selection as my table did, it does cost a pretty penny to dine here, but believe me when I say it’s worth every bit. This is not dining out, but a genuine dining experience. (One comment–dress in layers if it’s off season and cold because you might be a little chilly in this old, but very clean and charming structure.)

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