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Henlopen City Oyster House

/ Updated on June 8, 2016

Experienced Rehoboth restaurateurs Chris Bisaha and Joe Baker have created Henlopen City Oyster House with a bright, friendly atmosphere. They say that 75% of their ingredients are procured from local farmers and purveyors. (I've been asked not to elaborate on their previous culinary escapades here in Rehoboth, but suffice it to say that you've probably been to at least one of their former eateries.) I also want to add that the rumor that Chef Bill Clifton vacated the premises is entirely false. People will repeat just about everything they hear without any concern that it might or might not be true. Welcome to Rehoboth Beach.

UPDATE: Went to HCOH for lunch the other day. Got the Lobster Roll and fries. The fries were good — dark and peanutty like Thrashers, but fishhouse-friendly shoestrings. The Lobster Roll was quite good, loaded with lobster meat, on a nice buttered/grilled roll. More about it below in the update. I really tried to find something to complain about, but I couldn't.

UPDATE: Yup, another lunch visit: Do not miss that Lobster Reuben. OR the Chicago Dog! Both border on perfection. See the gallery for pics.

On one of our recent visits we started with the Clams Casino. Shallots, peppers, bacon and parmesan make the (rather small) clams quite delicious. They are well worth the $8 price tag.

I also ordered the Oyster Stew. Though it was generously endowed with oysters, the broth was thin and very mild. I prefer oyster stew a bit more aggressively spiced, with a little more onion in a broth at least substantial enough to keep all of the ingredients from immediately falling to the bottom of the bowl. Oyster stew purists have scolded me (and continue to do so!) for saying that, but I'm digging in my heels on this one.

One contender for star of the show is the Fried Oysters. We had them as an appetizer. They were accompanied by a totally unexpected (but traditional in the south) chicken salad. The whole combination worked nicely. Who wooda thought? The other contender is the fried shrimp. One of my trusted Foodettes (we'll call him “Jack”) had the Shrimp Po'Boy sandwich with brightly spiced cabbage, pickled onions and tomatoes. Fried should not mean greasy (if it's done properly), and neither the shrimp nor the oysters were greasy in the least. The Po'Boy also comes in oyster, clam and scallop versions.

On a separate visit, one of our party ordered the Roasted Beet Salad with crunchy sunflower seeds and feta. The surprise inside was pickled radish! Very interesting. He pronounced it … “really good” (he's not very creative under pressure). A recent addition to the menu (this should really be an “update,” but there are already enough of those) is the lobster Reuben. Served panini (or at least grilled) style, the bread is buttery and crunchy. The lobster salad joins cole slaw and swiss and is accompanied by a nice little salad (optional) and some pickled onions. Nice touch. It is quite tasty and guaranteed to fill you up.

The Alaskan Silverbrite Salmon (delicately seared without drying it out, surrounded by crunchy bok choy and sugarsnaps, coated in an ever-so-slightly-sweet soy ginger glaze) was missing from the most recent menu, but that might be a seasonal thing so I left the descriptions here just in case. The Soft Shell Crabs remain, however, and they were perfect with a roasted corn and pepper salad.

At this writing, the salmon has been replaced by Fried Scallops. The bacon caramel sauce (!) makes for a perfect topping. If watermelon is in season, go and order the Watermelon & Arugula salad with chunky pecans, feta, mint and a very interesting truffle honey vinaigrette. You will not be disappointed.

OK, I'm a sucker for a New England Lobster Roll. It's a common misconception here in Rehoboth Beach that lobster salad in a sub roll (and not the proper New England style buttered and grilled split-top roll) is, in fact, an official New England Lobster Roll. And yes, in a previous incarnation of this article, I complained that Henlopen City Oyster House also used a sub roll. Well, see the Update below. The lobster salad at Henlopen City Oyster House is loaded with lobster meat, has just enough “wetness” to hold it together, and is mildly spiced so the sweetness of the delectable marine arachnid can shine through.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I can't believe it. The guys have replaced the admittedly OK baguette that used to sandwich the lobster salad with an actual split-top roll. It's toasted, just as they do in New England, and cradles the lobster perfectly. With less bread, you can really enjoy the tasty lobster without having to tunnel through all that dough. The Foodie wonders if perhaps they read the previous commentary complaining about that roll…but it really doesn't matter. Henlopen City Oyster House is better for it. By the way, The Clam Chowder — the kicker is the smoked bacon — has lots of body and is packed with goodies, I'll get the Chowder any day. Now back to the program already in progress:

The Blackened Rockfish has been recently replaced with the Blackened Grouper. It is equally tasty with a pleasing crunch on the outside.

The quintessential comfort food, of course, is Lobster Mac & Cheese. This dish may very well be the star of the show on the entree side of things. They use gouda, parmesan and a splash of cognac over shells (The Foodie thought he was the only one who did that). Scallions and buttery breadcrumbs crown this monument to creamy success. There is enough lobster in there to easily justify the $24 ticket.

The bathrooms got an extra .5 on the ratings because each is equipped with a Dyson Air Blade hand dryer. Far from being those annoying hot air things that take forever, this machine qualifies as a 5-Ticket Ride at Disney World. The Foodie's first encounter with these jet-engine hand dryers was in the lobby restrooms at the Sheraton Towers/Convention Center in midtown Manhattan. Now they're now popping up all over the place. Not impressed? Try it after a couple of martinis….

Henlopen City Oyster House is on Wilmington Ave. on the south side, just down from Second St. On the bar side, there's a built-in raw bar featuring a long list of oysters from all over the place, including Hog Island, VA, Prince Edward Island in Canada, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts. This tiny area has become a hot ticket in Rehoboth Beach. If you want to see and be seen, get there early!

The dining side of the facility is rather stark with white walls, high ceilings and some interesting hanging artwork. The tables are close together, and it's a bit crowded, but it is a busy fish house, and it is the beach, so chill out, smile, order another drink and rub elbows with the tourons and such. You will find co-owner Chris Bisaha moving deftly between the tables making sure everyone's happy, with his partner Joe Baker overseeing the kitchen along with Executive Chef Bill Clifton. Milford-born Clifton picked up most of his techniques in Chicago, and is nothing if not creative. Some of his specials are amazing.

The menu varies with the season, so some of the things I mention here might not be available. Be sure to call for their hours (302) 260-9193. Their in-season hours are Happy Hour 3-5 and dinner from 5. They are open for lunch only in the off-season. See the Cheap Eats/Specials list for dates.  Click here for a look at their latest menu. (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)

50 Wilmington Ave.
(302) 260-9193

Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9
Lunch served only in the off-season
Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9
Lunch served only in the off-season
Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9
Lunch served only in the off-season
Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9
Lunch served only in the off-season
Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9:30
Lunch served only in the off-season
Open for lunch and dinner 12 - 9:30
Lunch served only in the off-season
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 Leslie says:

    Foodie, I have to disagree with you regarding oyster stew. I grew up in Baltimore, and had many a bowl. To really taste and enjoy the oysters you only need 4 ingredients: oysters, oyster liquor, butter, and half and half. Nuff said! 🙂

    • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

      I agree. I do like the slightly thicker version, but the basic 4-ingredient variety is very popular, though it just seems rather unwieldy to eat, being so thin in consistency. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste great….

      • Avatar Leslie says:

        I left out one very important ingredient – oysterettes crackers. If you mess with oyster stew, then call it something else. Months with R’s are sacred for us oyster lovers

  2. Avatar Maureen MCDONNELL says:

    Two of us went to Henlopen City Oyster House this week. The service was great. The drinks were wonderful-try the cider martini. It went downhill from there. The clam chowder was bland and watery. It was filled with clams though. The fried oysters were inedible. I love fried oysters. These were bad. The fries were burnt.
    The vegetable was good. It needed to be seasoned. I am a recent local and this was on my places to try. Big Fish was better. I will not be back.

  3. Avatar Mike M. says:

    This is one of my favorite places at the beach, but beware in the summer it’s very crowded and they do NOT take reservations. Although they do have a text notification system.
    While all the seafood is spot on and you won’t find better, don’t dismiss the meat entrees that rotate on the menu. The Coffee rubbed duck breast done a perfect medium rare is nothing less than wonderful. Just last night I had the rack of elk and it was the most tender piece of red meat I have ever had in my life. I ended up nawing on the bones!!!
    The boar shank when it’s on the menu is a show stopper!!

  4. Avatar Ron says:

    A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested The Henlopen Oyster House for his annual birthday treat for me. I told him “But I don’t eat seafood.” He said “Get a hamburger!” I did and it was perhaps the best hamburger I have ever eaten since I moved to Sussex County in November of 2006. What a pleasant surprise. The fries were good too. So for those of you who are non-seafood eater, The Henlopen Oyster House has great burgers!

  5. Avatar Jim says:

    As a very regular patron of this restaurant, I just want to report that these are among the best, freshest, most delightful oysters we have had anywhere in the world! We particularly like the bar, and if we can manage to get to the happy hour, the draft beer and food specials are wonderful. The bar tenders are also friendly and expert advisers.

    We have not been in the main dining room for some time. It is not the same experience for some reason. By the way, I have found that the much-praised lobster role is as advertised, set off best with the baked beans, which are very good! And don’t forget the seafood chowder.

  6. Avatar Koplaski says:

    After 23 years, this was our best food experience in RB. Went to Fins the night before and it does not compare. Especially the crabcakes — all crab at HCOH and much more filler at Fins (as backed up by my 14 year old daughter). My wife loved the wreckfish (thank you for the reco from our wonderful waitress — you know, the one who ran a marathon in Big Sur). The rockfish at Fins, she did not like. On the other hand, my 10 year old son did not take to the shrimp and corn chowder. It did not taste like what we are used to — I think its because the corn is very very sweet, as evidenced by the creamed corn which he also ordered. I enjoyed the selection of HCOH oysters, but the steamer combination at Fins was good also. My wife, not an oyster eater, says HCOHl be a regular visit at RB.

  7. Avatar KikiNigel says:

    Hi Rehoboth Foodie! You very kindly advised me last summer on where to go for my 40th b-day dinner in Rehoboth. We made our res. at the Back Porch Cafe, and then the hurricane “hit” and we were evacuated:( We did end up eating a great meal, but it was in rural MD, so I won’t post here, but here’s my take on the HCOH. My husband, 4 year old daughter and I happened upon the Happy Hour here (and no, my daughter did not partake in the happy hour specials, EXCEPT the sliders which she loved) which is on the earlier end from 3-5 p.m. There was a small group congregating waiting for the doors to open 🙂 Everything was exceptional – I had the Oyster House Punch, there was a Dogfish Head on tap during HH, and we were able to fill our hunkering for raw seafood. There were oysters and clams on the half-shell, additionally we had the steamed clams, and steamed shrimp both of which were excellent. Service was friendly. Summer in a (oyster/clam) shell!

  8. Avatar Tawny says:

    WE had a great experience here in early May. The oyster appetizer/sampler was very fresh. I also fell in love with the fried scallop dish. The bourbon sweet potato mash with spicy Brussel Sprouts were to die for!

  9. Avatar Chris R says:

    Went there between Christmas and the New Year and was a bit disappointed. The Lobster Mac and Cheese was lukewarm, even cold in spots. And my friends thought the Bouillabaisse was good, not spectacular.

    Their oysters were good as well as the cocktails.

  10. Avatar Beth Gazley says:

    We were terribly disappointed to find a restaurant with such terrific food (and a great beer and wine list) ruined by terrible noise and poor service. Our server looked stoned and we had to ask him for everything. With prices like that, we expect the courtesy of some elbow room and professionalism. Sorry, won’t be back.

  11. Avatar Fat Rick says:

    My wife and I visited the HC Oyster House last week for their Happy Hour, and we had a ball. I’m almost embarrassed to say we ate 5, that’s right, 5 DOZEN OYSTERS! They were fresh, plump, ice cold, fresh, sweet, perfectly salty, fresh, and cheap (relatively speaking). And oh, did I mention they were fresh? This is the kind of place we’ve been looking for for years in Delaware. When we first entered, we were invited to “belly up” to the bar, and that’s EXACTLY what we did. When we were done at the bar, I finished myself off with a fried oyster sandwich. It would have been great had it been made with Wonder bread, but the fresh baked sliced sourdough bread was just fine. When we go back, maybe we’ll look at the rest of the menu.

  12. Avatar Robin says:

    Please note that items on the menu are not replaced by something else as mentioned by the Foodie, but rather the menu changes every day based on the fresh fish, meats and seasonal vegetables available. That’s the intention of Bill the chef. There are some standards on the menu like crab cakes in season and the calamari, but most of the dishes offered change as well as the preparation. A great restaurant and vibe whether sitting in the bar area or at a table.

  13. Avatar Bill at the Beach says:

    You might have just caught them on an “off” day. I am a local too and I have been there a dozen times and never had a bad meal. They fixed the noise problem and the service and food quality have been wonderful every time I have been. You might want to give them another chance. I’m just sayin!

  14. Avatar Chris says:

    Came early & ordered two very simple dishes- one soft crab and one crab cake sandwich. Sound easy? The wait from order to serve was 35 long, noisy minutes; a complaint got an apology, but there was only one wine glass ordered and even the apology didn’t offer the drink to compensate. On the contrary, we were overcharged for it. Sad…we had hopes for the guys but will neither return nor recommend HCOH to our friends (we are locals).

  15. Avatar The Rehoboth Foodie says:

    I stand corrected. If I wrote “Marine Arachnid,” I meant “Marine Arthropod,” making reference to the phylum Arthropoda (which includes both crustaceans and arachnids under separate classifications).
    My undergraduate degree is in Zoology–I should have double-checked that one.
    TKS, Mary, for the slap on the claw.

  16. Avatar Mary Hopple says:

    Just a correction, as I was a biology teacher, a lobster is a crustacean from the phylum arthropoda, from which arachnids are also a class. Arachnids are spiders and ticks to name a few, not too appealing for most people as a food source, at least in USA.

  17. Avatar Brend says:

    I went there and I had the Fried Oysters, they were to DIE for, i eat fried oysters 1 time a week, these were the best fried oyster i have ever tasted in my life.

  18. Avatar Bill McManus says:

    This place just can’t seem to do anything wrong. The Foodie’s suggestions (acoustic tiles and split top rolls for the Lobster Roll) were spot on. Being from New England, I miss the wonderful food offered there. When I came accross the New England Lobster Roll at HCOH, I was thrilled. Not only is it the best roll outside of New England, but the fries were amazing. I ate every one. My favorite bar in town to eat and have a nice glass (or three) of wine. BRAVO!

  19. Avatar tim and anna says:

    The Oyster House serves delicious food. We have both been going since they opened and have never been disappointed with the food or the service. Some highlights: fried oysters, bruschetta, calamari (yummy fried gherkins served with this tasty dish), lobster mac and cheese, the burgers. Amy is a gem behind the bar and Joe, the co-owner, is terrific. Don’t forget to order one of their terrific cocktails — the Devil’s Juice is killer. We haven’t found the noise to be a problem at all.

  20. Avatar Libby Stiff says:

    Fried Oysters and Chicken Salad must be a tribute to lower Delaware cooking. It is historical as is the name Henlopen City. When I was growing up Fried Oysters were always served with chicken Salad.

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