Dewey Beach Club is back! Local bartender Jeff Treacy and his dad Tom have endowed their brand new eatery with the venerable name: Dewey Beach Club. Jeff and his family have lots of restaurant experience and the cozy spot pays homage to its namesake while putting out a fresh and modern menu. It’s a rare fan of the proverbial Dewey Beach Way of Life who doesn’t remember Bill and Theresa Sponaugle’s Dewey Beach Club – the southernmost watering hole in Dewey. The late Marvin Guberman and his wife Suzi were originally set to open the restaurant in 1989, but when Marvin was injured in a car accident, the Sponaugles stepped in and made Dewey Beach Club a go-to hangout for 20 years. Marvin passed away in August of last year.
Bill and Theresa sold the business to Mitch King, who finally settled on the name Port Dewey; paying homage to The Starboard, the building owner’s landmark restaurant on the opposite side of Dewey Beach. You boaters out there will get it (assume you are looking at Dewey from the Atlantic side). Last year, Starboard partner and Dewey Beach native Steve “Monty” Montgomery sold the Port Dewey building to Harrisburg, Pa. natives Tom and Jeff Treacy. This time it was Jeff’s dream that was to be realized, and it has come true in the form of a respectful nod to the original occupant, Dewey Beach Club. The father and son team has brought the venerable restaurant into the present with a striking hardwood floor, light woods and paint colors, and wall decorations that make the best of the huge picture windows that face the east. The gigantic aquarium is gone, as is the knee wall that ran the length of the restaurant. On my first visit I was sure they had enlarged the building.
“Nowadays people like to share and taste different things,” Jeff tells me. To that end the centerpiece of his menu is a selection of 16 “small plates.” I put quotes around the words because they are very generous small plates. He can call them tapas if he wants, but they are more like deliciously abbreviated entrees. Childhood memories came flooding back when I saw the ham croquettes on the menu. That tribute to mom’s well-worn Joy of Cooking is available as both a small plate and as an entrée. At the moment they are regulation size (round) and quite tasty. Careful! The bechamel is hot when they come out of the kitchen! The crust is properly firm and you can easily taste the Serrano ham. Another surprise is Jeff’s modern take on the traditional neon diner staple, cucumber salad. This one’s got apples, basil and sliced almonds in a light rice wine vinaigrette. Cool and fresh with an acidic bite.
ham croquettes1/15 Dewey Beach Club2/15 Dewey Beach Club3/15 Dewey Beach Club4/15 Dewey Beach Club5/15 The dog.6/15 Drummettes7/15 The burger: Up Close & Personal8/15 The cucumber salad9/15 Little Lamb Lollipops10/15 Galician Octopus11/15 Polenta side12/15 The Burger13/15 NY Breakfast Sandwich14/15 A carnivore’s $90 dream. Pass the A-1, please…15/15
Several surprises jump out of the menu, including a New York breakfast sandwich. Who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner! Take a look at it in the gallery: A perfectly over egg, with crispy bacon, creamy cheese on a warm and soft poppy seed kaiser. And the kaiser gets pretty much the same treatment as the burger roll. Our Canadian neighbors are represented with Jeff and Tom’s version of poutine – kicked up to Dewey standards with pork belly, parmesan cheese fries, and … wait for it … an up egg!
The hamburger at Dewey Beach Club is exceptional. Jeff’s dad grinds dry-aged beef, packs it as loosely as possible, grills it, then tops it with bacon and blue cheese. On my first visit, Jeff surprised me by remembering the (gentle) scolding I gave a local chef several years ago because his hamburger roll was not the best it could be (he and I are now fast friends). When the burger arrived at my bar seat, the roll was lightly buttered and grilled to a delicate crisp on both sides with a golden, eggy top. The warm roll cradles its treasure in exactly the right way, keeping all the toppings and slatherings in their assigned positions. This will be the hamburger roll to which other hamburger rolls go to learn to be hamburger rolls. Do not change this roll, Jeff!
On our most recent visit we also enjoyed the polenta cake side. Admittedly, this dish is still a work in progress, but I suspect that subsequent presentations will be more crispy on the outside and served at a higher temperature. The sauteed spinach with garlic side is quite good, came out nice and hot with a generous amount of garlic (not a bad thing).
Highlights of the menu include 16 semi-small-plates (very generous) with surprises that include an amazing presentation of octopus in Spain’s Galician style and tasty lamb lollipops that are perfectly cooked. Six sandwiches (including a coconut shrimp taco plate) are on the menu, as well as several full dinner platters (including a 32 oz. (yes, that’s 2 pounds!) Tomahawk Steak. It’s $90 and since they opened a couple of weeks ago, they have sold several! It’s a carnivore’s happy place (interested? Order it in advance – it takes a while to cook). FYI, the Tomahawk Steak is an on-the bone rib steak, cut from the fore-rib with the entire rib bone left. The long bone is french-trimmed, making for an amazing presentation, and dinner table discussion point for which Jeff and Tom had to purchase special plates. As it is bone-in steak, it has quite a bit of intermuscular fat, which gives it a load of flavor when cooked, since the flavors are released from both the bone and the intermuscular fat during roasting. It will easily feed two people, but Jeff tells me that he has already had a few customers eat the entire thing – along with the two included sides. See? You never know what you’ll learn at RehobothFoodie.com.
In keeping with Jeff’s local bartending history (Baywood Greens, Bramble & Brine, Gate House of Lewes, just to name a few), the bar menu is quite extravagant. I have already christened my corner seat with a Mispillion Reach Around (in the can, yet – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it). In-season hours are Mon.-Thurs. open at 4, Fri.-Sat. open at 11, and Sunday brunch at 10. Trust – but verify – at 302-260-9017.