Port 251

/ Updated on October 9, 2020

For a short time, the ill-fated and legally entangled Beachside Grill at 251 Rehoboth Avenue (next door to Catcher's and Hotel Rehoboth) was taken over by Fins Hospitality Group's El Jefe Gordo, a casual Mexican concept. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. In early 2020, the operation was purchased by Realtor and former Aqua Grill owner Joe Maggio and Realtor Tony Sacco. Maggio's former partner Bill Shields sold Aqua Grill on Baltimore Avenue to the owners of The Pines restaurant.

Maggio and Sacco transformed the casual and outdoor-oriented spot (at the corner of Lake and Rehoboth avenues) into an Italian aperitivo bar. Though the full meaning of this Italian dining tradition suggests cocktails in the early evening accompanied by small plates, as the concept gained popularity it has come to mean a selection of small plates that may or may not be enjoyed with a cocktail. If the concept were Mexican we might call it tapas.

The cocktail selection is nothing if not clever (see the cocktail menu in the gallery). They have a nice selection of seasonal crushes, and some excitingly obscure offerings such as their house special, the Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian bitters that is combined with prosecco and a “spritz” of soda water. It is wonderfully refreshing and is a staple for Port 251's already famous Sunday Drag Brunch (see the menu in the gallery). Other Italian favorites include the obligatory Negroni and a delicious combination of Limoncello, gin and ginger. A selection of wines and some great-sounding concoctions include a bellini and a Kir Royale. If you like unusual cocktails, this place is for you. (The creative drink selection reminds me of the ill-fated and long-gone Atlantic Jazz Yard that was open for about 45 minutes over on Wilmington Avenue next to the also-long-gone Planet X. Their concept was excellent, but the execution was dismal. Restauranting is not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart.)

The food menu is user-friendly and offers enough choices that anyone can mix & match to his or her taste. Four ala carte entrees include the French Quarter – a duck leg quarter that when served didn't exactly match the menu description in terms of presentation, but it was delicious nonetheless. In these times we need to be a bit flexible, as the prolonged and arbitrary abuse of restaurants and small businesses has played havoc with the food supply chain. Smaller plates include a very attractive duck confit and lobster sliders. We get the sliders and they were quite good. See the photos in the gallery.

The Aperitivo Menu (they need to have somebody spellcheck their menu…) offers a choice of one larger plate and two smaller plates. We had fun with this one – and ended up taking stuff home. The short rib over gnocchi is quite good. The gnocchi were a bit gluey, but the deeply savory taste and texture of the short rib lardons made up for it. The Polpette Al Sugo (meatballs with sauce) are also nicely presented, tender and well-spiced. We had the pleasure of dining with local restaurant maven Tiffany Patterson, and she automatically ordered the Pissaladiere, a foccaccia/flatbread/pizza/call it what you will topped with delightfully briny olives, caramelized onions and lots of herbs. We LOVED the variety of olives. Our upbeat server would not leave the table until we ordered the Ravioli Capresi – and he was not wrong. Though the correct description would have been “Raviolo” (a single, large raviolo – “ravioli” is plural), the tiny grammatical misstep did not affect the taste of this clever creation. The caprese part (tomatoes/basil) complimented the little pillow of pasta filled with tender spinach and cheese. I'd order it again in a second.

One of the stars of the show is the Beet & Melon Tartare. This little dish brings it all: bright colors and fresh tastes of cubed melon, mint, cucumber and a perfectly spiced beet puree. Take a look at this one in the gallery.

The inviting outdoor-friendly look of the place is a wonderful addition to the third block of The Avenue that sports a number of busy eateries including Lupo Italian Kitchen (next door inside Hotel Rehoboth), Catchers (an unassuming little restaurant with very good seafood and an owner who is fun to talk to), Fins Fish House (been there forever with a wildly popular happy hour) and of course Rehoboth's longtime icon, Cultured Pearl.

Call (302) 278-7069 for current hours. I'll post more pics and a star rating after I visit a couple more times. I also posted the food menu and the brunch menu in the photo gallery – the restaurant has no web presence as of yet.

Keep an eye on Port 251 on Facebook!

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

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