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208 Social

/ Updated on May 31, 2018

In early 2016, Michelin-starred chef Nate Leonard and his wife opened 208 Social where the old Stoney Lonen used to be. My first review was in May, 2016, so it is certainly time for an update and refresher!

That Second and Wilmington corner has an interesting past. On May 24th, 2000, John Rishko and Nelia Dolen replaced Steve Taylor’s Ann Marie’s restaurant (which moved to Coastal Highway and eventually morphed into Saketumi) with an Irish eatery named after Dolan’s family farm in Ireland. In fact, Nelia waited tables at Ann Marie’s long before she helped create Stoney Lonen. She is now the marketing director for SoDel Concepts restaurant group and John is a successful local Realtor (and former owner of Blue Water Grill in Millsboro).

As is typical for restaurants at the beach, fellow restaurateurs circled the wagons to help John and Nelia get started. Their wine list was assembled by oenophile Tommy Wayson (former bartender at Chez la Mer, now at Back Porch Café). Norman Sugrue at Big Fish Grill donated items from chef and current Cape Gazette wine columnist John McDonald’s Garden Gourmet (where the Schell Bros. offices are now). Some cooking equipment came from Third Edition (where Stingray is now) and Stoney Lonen’s barstools were provided by Arena’s. That sort of camaraderie was not unusual here in Rehoboth Beach, and some restaurants keep that tradition alive today.

In 2007, Bryan and Rita Lookup took over the facility, keeping the Irish theme and the bright yellow and green exterior that became a beacon to beachgoers who love a cozy bar and Irish fare. Fast-forward to 2016 when Nate and Lisa Leonard applied a fresh coat of paint inside – and out – to make it their own.

Leonard brings an impressive resume to Rehoboth Beach. He worked as sous chef at Philadelphia’s Striped Bass; with Christopher Lee at Gilt in NYC, and at Petite Passion in Philadelphia under Chef Guillermo Pernot (author of the book ¡Ceviche!). Nate attributes his restauranting skills to his friend and mentor, Chef Lee Chizmar, James Beard semifinalist and co-owner of the celebrated Bolete restaurant in Salisbury Township, Pa. Nate celebrates his military background (Army Airborne, Ft. Bragg) by offering a discount to any customer presenting a military ID showing current military service.

Before we get started, I will remind you that Nate, like many of the local upscale eateries, varies his menu (1) with the season, and/or (2) based on availability of local produce and proteins, and/or (3) whenever he feels like it. So some of these dishes described or shown might be on the menu when you go, and some might not. But it has been my experience so far that you will NOT be disappointed. Nate’s creativity shines through the menu, with tavern fare like the ridiculously good Sticky Ribs (I am the good-will ambassador for this dish!), the maybe-on-the-menu Oyster Fry Bread (get it without the truffle oil…) and fried Eastern Shore Dogs dressed up more or less like the iconic Chicago version. The entrée menu remains fairly short and very easy to manage. When Nate first opened, he led off with the Poor Man’s Wellington (delightfully moist monkfish enrobed in crispy puff pastry with a red wine butter sauce that I would like to take home in a Thermos). Again, if the stars are aligned properly, you might encounter that once again on the menu.

Another don’t-miss at 208 Social is the tender, cut-it-with-a-fork Roasted Virginia Chicken Breast, prepared in a special way to retain every last bit of its essence. Olive oil crushed fingerlings, glazed carrots, asparagus (with grill marks, yet!) and a savory jus top it off. Of course I could not resist the 208 Double Patty: A towering burger with two short rib & chuck patties crowned with smoked bacon, arugula, pickled shallots, your choice of three cheeses and Leonard’s secret sauce. Don’t hesitate to add the fried sunny-side-up egg – in for a dime, in for a dollar, I say. And don’t expect to eat again for a couple of days.

Nate and Lisa have kept the basic look of the interior, with refinished floors and brighter dining rooms. The bar is relatively unchanged (why mess with success?) with centrally located tap handles, a long list of brews and specialty cocktails. One of my favorite things is the little personal photos (many in B&W! Love it.) that adorn the walls. One of the values-added is the delightful bar culture that Sierra West and Andy Fabriziani have created. Stony Lonen was always known for its bar, and the tradition continues with 208 Social – but with less Guinness and more creativity in the cocktail department. We kicked off the night with the Sloe’r Lower (a Sierra original with Plymouth Sloe Gin (get it?), Campari, Pimms Cup #1 and Peychauds bitters!). These two love to smoke cocktails and use unusual liquors to set them apart from everybody else. Don’t miss the Goose & the Stag, the Last Stop and of course the fabled 2nd & Wilmington. Drop by 208 Social and see what these are made of. I’ll give you a hint on the last one: Bulleit!

I suspect the same thing applies to the drink menu that applies to the cuisine: It can change at a moment’s notice!

On our most recent visit with a table of 8, we loved the combination of small bites, upscale sandwiches and cleverly constructed entrees. Some of our favorites (many of them are pictured in the gallery) included the Kimchee Fried Rice with fried chicken, bacon and maple hot sauce (!) topped with a jaunty fried egg. HOPE that this is on the menu when you go. It’s a don’t miss! The Grilled Chicken Thighs (sporting a Korean accent with peanuts, pickled carrots and steamed rice) was equally amazing, with a brightly acidic top note.

It’s hard to find a restaurant around here that doesn’t have Steak Frites in one form or another, and Nate’s offering is right up there with the best. The 2 tenderloin tails (we took some of it home for a steak sandwich the next day) were expertly set off with a savory green peppercorn cream sauce. It all played well together with the crispy fries! The Quail & Dumplings plate was one of the stars of the show with goat cheese gnocchi, roasted carrots, onions peas and delicate little mini-chicken pieces.

Nate treated us to his absolutely amazing Shakshouka. I am used to seeing a variation of this in Middle-Eastern restaurants, but Nate described it as more of a north African/Moroccan dish. Doesn’t matter: It was simply sublime with San Marzanos, jalapenos, a couple of baked eggs (!), a blend of Moroccan spices and cilantro. Crunchy fried chickpeas arrived alongside a plate of warm pita covered in za’atar spices. At the risk of repeating the hyperbole for which I am (apparently) so well known, it was one of the most delicious things I have tasted locally in a long time. There. I said it.

The Short Rib cheesesteak and the short rib poutine are also stick-to-your-ribs must-gets. Of course, some of these meaty delights might not be on a summer menu, but we know Nate has them in his arsenal when the winter winds come a’blowin’.

I don’t want to divulge all the secrets lurking inside 208 Social, but I will say one thing (well, OK, two): Crispy Cheesecake Spring Rolls and Apple Pie for Two with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Govern yourself accordingly. Reservations may be made at 302-227-6700.

If you’re lucky, be sure to look for menu items like Eastern Shore dogs with avocado mousse, shortrib burgers and mushroom frybread. Take a look at the currently posted menu here.

Scroll through the photos in the gallery. I will remind you once again that Nate changes his menu almost as often as the tides change. That is not unusual for many of the restaurants here in Rehoboth. So some of the items in the gallery may or may not be available. But I can tell you that you will find something to like there. Visit their webpage.

Follow Nate and the crew on Facebook.

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)

208 Second St., Rehoboth


OPEN TABLE logo copycrenh for specials
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
Open 5 'til ?
Happy Hour 5-7 at the bar! $1 off drafts w/daily wine/cocktail specials. Special discounted apps!
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. Robert Houck says:

    My spouse and I dined at 208 Social for the first time on Friday night before going to see “Meet Me in St. Louis” at Rehoboth’s Clear Space Theatre. We have lived in Lewes for about a year and have been trying the many great (and not so great) restaurants in the area. How happy we are to have found 208, thanks to friends’ recommendation and the restaurant’s participation in the Cape Gazette’s Dining Card! We took advantage of the 3-course dinner special. It began with simple salads, topped with a wonderful homemade dressing. The 2 perfectly sized broiled crab cakes were perhaps the best I have ever eaten and my spouse’s steak was a tender piece of meat cooked perfectly to his request. 208’s version of an “Ice Cream Sandwich” was just enough of a sweet to top off a wonderful meal. Our server, Sean, was absolutely flawless in his attention to our needs and his friendly, smiling attitude. In fact, all of the staff members were so welcoming and helpful. This will definitely be one of our regular places to dine. The excellent show at Clear Space topped off a superb evening out in the festive holiday season. Bob Houck

  2. Teresa says:

    208 Social is my new favorite in Rehoboth. I’ve stopped in several times and end up eating at the bar because it’s so cozy there, and they have such a friendly staff you feel like a regular after just one visit. Cocktails are the best on the eastern shore right now — inventive and old school at the same time, and it keeps changing, in a good way. Nate, the chef, was trying out a new drink last time we visited, which involved shaving piñon wood, lighting it on fire, then upending a glass over the small bonfire to create a unique smokey yet subtle taste… I won’t divulge the rest of it, that drink was to die for. Menu is small, which I prefer, and at this point I think I’ve had every dish on the menu. It’s fabulous. The Lobster Wellington is amazing, even better than it sounds. Do order the short rib burger too, you’ll be craving it over and over again. Nate also had a duck dish on the winter menu that I still think about. I hope he puts it back! I’ve been coming to eat in Rehoboth for more years than I care to share, and 208 is really something special.

  3. Bob says:

    We tried 208 over the weekend and loved it. Swordfish was outstanding. Pear gimlet was made to specification and was great as well. My partner had the Fried Chicken catfish which had all the spice he was looking for and the piece of bread on the bottom which sparked an entire conversation around how mom use to make it in the hood. Very enjoyable time. Great stretch of town for restaurants!! Looking forward to the spring reopening on this one.

  4. Leo says:

    Happened to stop and speak with Nat, the new owner. Seems like a nice guy with good experience in the restaurant business and willing to satisfy the dining customer. I am looking forward to a new experience and hope to be there for the opening.

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