Patsy's in Bethany Beach is one of the very first reviews I wrote for RehobothFoodie.com – even before I started providing photos of the food. Though I added updates along the way, after a few mid-summer 2014 visits to Patsy's I learned two things: (1) the article needed a major overhaul and some photos, and (2) this process would not be difficult, as Patsy's remains as good as it ever was. So here goes.
In 2000, former kite mogul and Executive Chef Patsy Dill Rankin and her daughter, Chef Robin Rankin (both graduates of L'Academie de Cuisine), created Patsy's “Key West and Southern Inspired Cuisine” together in a little beach house just off the ocean in downtown Bethany Beach. Of course, life goes on and things change. Robin now handles the major cheffing duties while grandma Patsy plays executive chef emeritus while keeping an eye on Robin's young child. This seems to be as good a partnership is they had in the kitchen.
Seating on the big front porch goes quickly in season, but indoor (and air conditioned) seating is fun too, with colorful objets d'art (that's French for “tchotchkes”) all over the place. I have to say the place is a bit more austere since we were last there, but still bright and colorful. I do miss Patsy's famous PEZ dispenser collection.
Everything – stocks, dressings, pickles, desserts, smoked/prepared meats, whatever–is made in-house. One of my go-to events was Patsy's Sunday Brunch, spotlighting their delicious homemade sausage and their voted Best of Delaware Fried Chicken. But sadly, the Sunday Brunch is no more. The good news is that you can still get the chicken on Sunday nights! Good Fried Chicken is a major production (The Foodie knows). Fresh out of the fryer, Patsy's (not unlike the Foodie's!) is crispy and firm, without even the slightest hint of grease (an art form that has everything to do with oil temperature). Though a couple of my trusted Foodettes have felt that it was a tad salty (they still gobbled it up), it is consistently some of the best fried chicken I have had in this state. Go on a Sunday night and tell me what you think.
Evening dining is dominated by the specials. Keep in mind that Patsy and Robin are as creative as ever and specials can pop in and pop out as the season progresses. One of the most delicious treatments of a peach I have tasted is the Grilled Bennett Orchards peaches special sprinkled with herbed goat cheese, layered with prosciutto and then drizzled with a bracing balsamic reduction. The balsamic also graces a small green salad included on the plate. The combination of tastes is memorable, and we all know it's hard to beat the Bennett peaches, though they are a bit fewer and far between in this 2014 season because of cold damage in early spring.
Of course you can rely on the Crab Cakes at Patsy's. Lightly spiced (you can taste the big chunks of crab), the whole thing is set off by an ever-so-slightly-sweet celery root/granny smith remoulade that perfectly complements the darkly sauteed cakes. Roasted asparagus tops it off and the pair of crabby orbs are well worth the $31 tariff (you can get a single one for $21). It seems that you can't throw a rock anywhere on the Delaware coast without hitting a Shrimp & Grits entree. Some are better than others, and Patsy's is very good. White cheddar cheese grits are decorated with red, green and yellow peppers, red onions and andouille sausage. Sauteed shrimp are the stars of the plate. The dish is presented interestingly, with the grits surrounded by a dark jus. This not only helps flavor them, but it also keeps them from turning to cement as grits will often do when you least want them to. The almost stew-like consistency makes for a delicious meal.
That soft shell!1/18 Patsy's2/18 Blueberry Cobbler with a crispy topping.3/18 Chocolate. Cake. Need I say more?4/18 Patsy's5/18 Fried green Tomatoes. Some of the best I've had.6/18 I had to show you the moist inside of the Conch Fritter.7/18 The amazing Mahi treatment8/18 Patsy's Key West Salad. Look at all that tropical stuff!9/18 The lobster BLT showing that delicious onion roll.10/18 The lobster BLT, open.11/18 Another Mahi dish on a quinoa tabbouli. From Patsy's website.12/18 Patsy's13/18 Pacu Fish Ribs, from Patsy's website14/18 That Bennett Peach appetizer with prosciutto.15/18 Young Dominic's tasty pizza.16/18 Patsy's tasty take on Shrimp & Grits17/18 That soft shell!18/18
Another staple at Patsy's that I was happy to see on the menu is the Cuban Pork. The brightly seasoned pork is a cross between shredded and pulled with a whisper of jerk. Black beans, yellow rice, red onions (pickled, yet!) and sweet plantains round out this dish. Another must-get. Grilled Pizzas have made their mark on the menu, and though we did not order one, a young Foodie-in-Waiting, Dominic, was gracious enough to allow me to photograph his pizza. Like my friend Maple in the Salt Air review, this guy turns his nose up on “kiddie” menus, preferring sushi, sashimi and flatbread pizzas to chicken tenders and spaghetti. I better watch out for this guy — he might take this site over one day. There are three pizzas on the menu at this time, a pie du jour, the Classic Margherita (basil/parm) and a White Pizza topped with garlic, shallots, shiitakes and spinach. Obviously a purist, 11-year-old Dominic got the Margherita.
On our most recent visit we had the Soft Shell Crabs. The happy crustacean was perfectly fried, with a thin but tasty coating (nowadays restaurants love to use the word “flash fried” like somehow if they say “flash” that it's not really fried. Fried is fried, people. Enjoy it. You're at the beach). The very large crab was flanked by a black/bean corn salad and a bracing red cabbage slaw. It's one of the most attractive presentations of a softshell (especially one that big) that I've seen in a long time.
Last night I had the Lobster BLT, and the hige chunks of lobster did not disappoint. They call the roll focaccia, but it was more of an onion roll — either way it was fresh and delicious, cradling a huge portion of avocado, smoked bacon and a deliciously ripe tomato. A light lemon aioli topped it off. It was accompanied by fries that were tasty, but a bit limp for my taste. Another dish that was as nice to look at as it was to eat is the Pan-seared Mahi Mahi. The expertly cooked fish was perched on a bed of corn/zucchini succotash surrounded by a cherry tomato salad. The colors were amazing! Take a look at the dish in the photo gallery. It's a feast for the eyes.
No trip to Patsy's is complete without the Conch Fritters. Darkly crunchy on the outside, they are almost impossibly moist on the inside with chunks of conch throughout. Chipotle pepper aioli accompanied and worked perfectly. There aren't a lot of places locally that serve conch fritters this good, and they are well worth the drive over the Indian River Bridge. Also on the OMG These Were Good list is the Fried Green Tomatoes. A tomato is a tomato, and if it's green and firm, it works. But with this dish it's all about the coating and the skill in frying it 'til it's crunchy but without even a hint of grease. This goal was achieved at Patsy's. I hope they are like that every time. A schmear of cheddar/red pepper spread on the top (along with a polite sprinkle of reduced balsamic) did not reduce the mouth-feel of savory crunchiness.
That soft shell!1/20 Pink Grapefruit Martini! Image courtesy Adroit Ideals2/20 You will love Patsy's cocktails.3/20 The Fried Banana dessert being attacked by Lisa's hungry, yet cute paw.4/20 Patsy's5/20 Blueberry Cobbler with a crispy topping.6/20 Chocolate. Cake. Need I say more?7/20 Patsy's8/20 Fried green Tomatoes. Some of the best I've had.9/20 I had to show you the moist inside of the Conch Fritter.10/20 The amazing Mahi treatment11/20 Patsy's Key West Salad. Look at all that tropical stuff!12/20 The lobster BLT showing that delicious onion roll.13/20 The lobster BLT, open.14/20 Another Mahi dish on a quinoa tabbouli. From Patsy's website.15/20 Patsy's16/20 Pacu Fish Ribs, from Patsy's website17/20 That Bennett Peach appetizer with prosciutto.18/20 Young Dominic's tasty pizza.19/20 Patsy's tasty take on Shrimp & Grits20/20
We have had the Roasted Corn & Sweet Crab Chowder twice in the last month or so, and every time is was filled with crabmeat and punctuated with firm, roasted kernels of corn. The soup is redolent of garlic, and is the perfect consistency without any hint of thickener. I'd drink this one out of a wine glass with a squiggly straw if they'd let me. Maybe not — it would probably end up on Facebook; I can embarrass myself perfectly well without anybody's help, thank you.
Another splash of color was afforded by the Key West Salad, studded with hearts of palm, scallions, chunky queso fresco and mango. It's a tropical island on a dish! A honey/whole grain mustard dressing adds a strong exclamation point that is a perfect foil for the sweet mango. Speaking of color, DO MIT MISS the cocktails. Over the last visits we have had the Robin's Famous Cosmo (with fresh lemon zest), the Jalapeno Margarita (moderately spicy with a drunken jalapeno slice floating about — check out the blue salt in the photo!) and the Mile Marker Zero with Mt. Gay and coconut water. All of these come with my highest recommendations.
Patsy's is at 121 Campbell Place, just off Pennsylvania Ave. one block north of Garfield Parkway and behind 14 Global restaurant. They do not take reservations, but there is both indoor and porch seating and things tend to move efficiently there. On all of our most recent visits, the service was close to perfect. 302-537-2433. Click here for Patsy's dinner menu. (D., Bar).
Price range for regular dinner: Expensive -.