Recent culinary headlines in Delaware have titillated coastal diners’ taste buds.
The team behind Bethany Blues plans to put a barbecue joint in the heart of Rehoboth Beach.
Downtown Blues — a departure from the name of the Lewes and Bethany Beach locations — will move into the original Nicola Pizza site on North First Street. (Nicola is moving to Lewes after the summer season.)
Bethany Blues has been on a roll. The recently renovated restaurant in Lewes now has a dedicated takeout and grab-and-go area, Bethany Express.
These establishments demonstrate that barbecue is having its day in Delaware. And it’s about time. For generations, the tangy, tasty cuisine has been a Southern staple. It’s only natural that it would creep over the Mason-Dixon line that forms Delaware’s southern border.
Style & substance
Barbecue comes from the West Indian term “barbacoa,” a cooking method that involves roasting meat for hours over hot coals.
As with pizza, there are different styles of barbecue. Indeed, before opening the first Bethany Blues, the partners made pilgrimages to well-known barbecue towns, including Memphis, Kansas City and Mesquite, Texas.
Interestingly, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester, New York, was a favorite.
In the coastal South, pork is the preferred meat, possibly because pigs were plentiful and easy to maintain.
In Texas, beef was — and is — the barbecued protein of choice. The addition of sausages might come from the large German population that settled in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Regional differences extend to the sauces, which can be thin and vinegary, mustard-based, zesty, or sweet and tomatoey with a kiss of molasses.
In Delaware, you might find all the above in any given establishment, while others lean toward certain styles. While some slather on the sauce, others let you choose your preferred condiment.
Here are a few spots to try.
In New Castle County
Uncle John’s BBQ Stand has been promising to open a bricks-and-mortar location for the past year. Meanwhile, Uncle John’s food trucks have been busy.
When the vehicles are not on the road, they’re parked at the retro-looking structure on Philadelphia Pike in Claymont.
Friday is ribs and seafood night, and often there’s live music. Pull up a chair, order a sandwich and settle in. Everyday specialties include smoked brisket and pulled pork or chicken.
In Wilmington, Locale BBQ Post generated a buzz after opening in Little Italy. After a move to Trolley Square, the restaurant is building out a new kitchen for a full-service operation and working on getting a liquor license.
Big D’s BBQ and Deli at “The Well” in Hockessin is a sleeper — if you know, you know. Fans come for brisket, pulled chicken, smoked Texas “hot links” and St. Louis-style ribs, which come from the belly, not the back. They’re meatier and flatter.
Equally on the QT is Russell’s Food Services on Centreville Road, where the food cooks on a smoker made from a 300-gallon drum. With food this good, Russell does not need to advertise.
Limestone BBQ & Bourbon cooks smoked turkey breast, brisket, sausage, pulled pork, and St. Louis pork ribs. The establishment is also known for live music and bourbon — lots of it.
Dela-brity chef Robbie Jester opened Great Big Jerk in Landenberg to serve Caribbean-style chicken. But he soon added wood-grilled barbecue items, including beef brisket, to meet the demand.
Below the Canal
On the way to the beach, pull into the old Dawn’s Country Market lot at Cave Neck Road and Route 1 for pulled pork, ribs and homemade coleslaw. by Katherine and Damian Birl, whose three children have helped out.
Slo & Lo BBQ is another small operation that flies under the radar. It’s ideally located on the way to the Cape May-Lewis Ferry and Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes. (Follow the smoke.)
Take a detour inland to try Fat Daddy’s BBQ in Georgetown, which offers the expected (brisket, pit beef and ribs) and the unexpected (pulled pork nachos and pulled pork egg roll).
Of course, Bethany Blues is among the best-known barbecue spots in the state, and its brand recognition is only growing as it expands.
Bethany Blues’ flagship location is steps from the beach in downtown Bethany. The Lewes restaurant, however, has a large stage for live music, several bars and two Southern Pride smokers that each hold 1,400 pounds of product and have a gas-assist mechanism to start them. They both run every day, all day.
The Rehoboth Site will focus on carryout but will also have a small dining room and bar.
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