When you think of the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, you can't help but think of Gus & Gus' Place. It's as much a part of life around here as salt water taffy, the bandstand, parking tickets and summer evening happy hour on Baltimore Ave. Located at the foot of Wilmington Avenue, Gus & Gus' has survived hurricanes, nor'easters and (so far) even the meddling “food police.” And they continue to serve up their iconic burgers, cheesesteaks, dogs, chicken, breakfasts and fries, much of which gets consumed while strolling along the sand or on a blanket under an umbrella on a sunny day.
One of our EatingRehoboth walking restaurant tour itineraries takes us around that corner as we exit Wilmington Avenue to trek north on the Rehoboth Boardwalk. As I am leading my 17 +/- guests around the turn, I love to announce (as officially as I can) that the word “Rehoboth” loosely translates into “Gus & Gus' Lunch.” It always makes me smile when most – if not all – of my tourons smile knowingly and shake their heads in affirmation. Let's face it: this iconic Rehoboth family must be doing something right!
Gus and Gus' Place does not stand on ceremony. With the Atlantic Ocean at your back, you belly-up to the window (after standing in line for a while in the summer), and clearly state your culinary requirements. There's also a counter, a few booths and a little dining room inside if you want to sit down. You might sprout a pimple or two after being in there for a while (the fryers and the grills are galloping along at full speed), but it's all part of the experience. And the waitresses are simply delightful. Y'know, you can whomp up all the $22 “gourmet burgers” you want, but Gus and Gus' is still the best for a couple of bucks. The salty ocean breeze, the aroma of the constantly full grill, memories of vacations past and the parade of humanity in all its diverse glory is a value-added that helps make the food an experience.
The cheesesteaks are the sleeper here. I get mine with lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, extra pickles and hot peppers. Don't wear your favorite shirt! It's messy and you will need to be hosed down. The flat, frozen burger patty (it clangs deliciously when it hits the grill) and the fresh, flat and not-too-heavy roll (with some mustard, relish and fried onions) just screams “boardwalk.” The hot dogs are also grilled–order well-done for a crispy “snap” (you might or might not get it that way, but this ain't the Waldorf Astoria here — y'pays ya' dues ‘n' ya' takes ya' chances). Unless you carry it out, the fried chicken is probably best ordered inside. It has a nicely spiced and crispy coating and I suggest you order it well done, as the well-meaning and friendly staff sometimes tries to get it to you a little quicker than they should. Tell them to take their time with it. The result will be well worth it — and not unlike the old, long-gone Dayton's on the Ocean City Boardwalk, known as fried chicken central for many, many years.
I'm a sucker for a corn dog (get it? Sorry). Theirs are the frozen variety, and are cooked to order. So don't get it if you're on your way to a board meeting or have a plane to catch. But if you're at the beach to chill out, relax and enjoy yourself, it's worth the wait. I like mine slathered with mustard. I have to admit that one of my favorite May birthday evening traditions (even before I moved here) was to get a burger and a corn dog at Gus & Gus' Place, then bravely wrangle both (on their respective paper plates) onto the beach, mindful of the wind and thieving seagulls, and then happily shove the entire thing into my face, in the dark, as the water swirled around my feet. After the gastronomic bacchanal was complete, I turn around and admire the neon panorama that is the Boardwalk: the huge orange Dolle's sign, the colors and sounds of Funland, and the sparkling, bracelet-like string of lights stretching north and south. That's pretty much all I need to reinforce my reasons for moving to Rehoboth Beach. The crowning touch on my birthday festivities would, of course, be a fizzy, celebratory Alka-Seltzer.
Young Gus keeps the grill running like a well-oiled machine. Quite literally.1/8 Gus Svolis and his grandson donate the old sign to the RB Museum!2/8 Is this your happy place? Tell the truth, now…3/8 That iconic corner.4/8 Gus & Gus' Place5/8 Gus & Gus' Place6/8 Gus & Gus' Place7/8 It's a spooky tradition8/8
There will be those who will turn up their noses at places like Gus & Gus' Place. I have friends who are constantly at war with food and reinforce that by listening to themselves sanctimoniously disparage lunches and dinners on the Boardwalk. Well, everything in moderation (including moderation!). I still walk on my treadmill and eat apples for lunch, but I didn't move here to eat lettuce and turn up my nose at what makes a beach resort a beach resort. Thank you. I needed to share. Pass the ketchup.
Gus & Gus' is at 15 S. Boardwalk. Just go east on Wilmington Ave. If you hear a big splash, you've gone too far. They are closed in the off season, but sometimes will surprise you and open on a temperate weekend. If you've never been there, you owe it to yourself to give 'em a call in the off-season (302) 227-3329 to make sure.
Gus and Gus' Place does not have an online menu available, but you can follow them on Facebook. And somehow that's comforting. (B., L., D., late night) Price range: Inexpensive -.