SoDel Concepts President and CEO Scott Kammerer smiles, “I sorta designed it myself. I really hope it works.”
Oh, it works, Scott! Last week I got a sneak peek at the soon-to-open Bluecoast Rehoboth in Gateway center - the 10th of SoDel Concepts’ owned and operated restaurants in Coastal Delaware. If you view it from the highway, it looks deceptively small. In fact, I’ve received a number of emails asking how they could possibly seat 250 people. The question answers itself as you drive into the parking lot and look at the building from the back. Yes, 250 easy: about 190 inside, and about 60 or so outside.
The simplicity of the all-white structure follows you through the double doors and into the 4,500-square-foot restaurant. Sparkling white kitchen tile is reinforced by whitewashed woods and white window frames that reach up to the soaring, open-plan ceiling. Booths and chairs echo the “Bluecoast blue” of the exterior signs, and most of the color is provided by light wood floors, polished wooden bar tops, a few strategically positioned pieces of artwork - and, of course, the food itself.
If you’ve ever dined at the original Bluecoast in Bethany Beach, the rationale behind the palette becomes clear.
SoDel Concepts vice president and Bluecoast Rehoboth Executive Chef Doug Ruley laid out the huge kitchen along with his lead culinary team of Jason Dietterick and Scott Viselli. Sous chefs Ryan Blakeman and Mike Deller will work beside them on the line, while Jasmine Rubio brings her garde manger experience from Bluecoast Bethany.
The kitchen is a chef’s dream, with roomy prep stations, sparkling new equipment and a walk-in refrigerator that’s bigger than many Manhattan apartments. Regular visitors to this page know that the three most important things at a restaurant are (in this order), management, management and management. With 10 popular installations operating year-round, that is not lost on these experts. General management will be shared by Mark Harrison (who honed his skills at Nage) and Wes Books (who trained under longtime Delaware chef/owner Kevin Reading). They will be ably assisted by former Lupo Italian Kitchen Assistant Manager Chad McMaster, and the former manager of Matt’s Fish Camp, Danae Evans. No newbies here. Bluecoast Rehoboth will hit the ground running.
Across from the massive window that frames the open kitchen is a raw bar. (If anyone needs me after Bluecoast Rehoboth opens, you can find me there.) Of course there will be local oysters, clams, peel ‘n’ eats and all the raw bar favorites - including some maritime surprises that Ruley refused to divulge.
Outside diners surround a welcoming firepit and will enjoy occasional live entertainment on the covered dining deck. Adjacent to that huge deck is yet another covered bar that divides the dining area from what corporate sommelier Mike Zygmonski calls the “fun” patio, with all sorts of games and activities to keep the kids (and parents) busy. Outside dining and partying is on the south side of the building, so there are no nearby residential areas that could be affected by the family-friendly revelry.
After much wheedling and cajoling, I was able to pry some of the menu items out of Chef Doug. As you might expect, the menu is reminiscent of the restaurant’s Bethany namesake. The fried lobster tails are there, along with those steamed shrimp dumplings, seafood stew and SoDel Concepts’ signature Anson Mills shrimp & grits with chorizo butter. Polite nods to their sister eateries include the crunchy scrapple-topped deviled eggs with mustard seed and green apple (hello, Catch 54!) and clams over spaghetti (a wink to Lupo Italian Kitchen). SoDel Concepts’ grilled cheese month lives on in the form of a lobster grilled cheese. I’ll be needing one of those, thank you.
Landlubbers will not feel left out. There’s a grilled rib eye steak topped with a sunny egg. A double-stack burger comes with a nod to Fish On in Lewes. As a former BBQ restaurant owner myself, Doug knew he had me with the slow-cooked pork ribs - but they’ve got that Ruley touch: Old Bay BBQ sauce. And yes, there will be beach fries.
In the spirit of my Cape Gazette rant ... uhhh, I mean ... column ... a couple of weeks ago, Kammerer and his crew were cutting no corners just to beat Memorial Day. “We’re not going to open until we’re ready,” Scott told me. “It’s got to be right starting with the very first guest.” I’ll speculate two weeks, but Scott knows best, and he ain’t tellin.’