The 10th restaurant to open in the empire that has become SoDel Concepts looks and feels like a celebration.
So, fittingly enough, No. 10 is a bigger — much bigger — version of No. 1.
SoDel Concepts opened the doors Thursday night to the brand-new Bluecoast Seafood and Raw Bar Thursday night in Rehoboth, 12 miles north on Coastal Highway from the original Bluecoast restaurant in Bethany Beach.
“My hopes for this restaurant is that it will be the quintessential Delaware beach restaurant that will serve generations of families beautiful seafood for years to come,” SoDel president Scott Kammerer said. “And I tried to make it a timeless classic.”
By that, he means there’s nothing fad-like or trendy about the design. The interior has an industrial, beachy feel, with high ceilings and plenty of space.
And it’s obvious SoDel is going all-in on becoming that “quintessential Delaware beach restaurant” by looking at the resources Kammerer and the company are throwing at their new, 250-seat baby.
A who’s who of the company will be running the kitchen. Company Vice President and Director of Culinary Operations Doug Riley, who has cooked at the prestigious James Beard house in New York, will oversee the kitchen operation. He’ll work alongside Jason Dietterick, who led the kitchen at the Bethany Bluecoast and was named a rising star chef by Delaware Today in 2015. Another award winner, Scott Viselli, Coastal Style’s Sussex County Chef of the Year, will help open the new Bluecoast.
Also coming over from Bethany is garde manger Jasmine Rubio.
“The most beautiful thing about what they’re doing is that none of them have egos, and they’re all helping each other to try to elevate the food here to another level,” Kammerer said. “That’s the thing I think I’m most proud about the kitchen is that they’re working as a cohesive unit.”
Cohesively, they’ll serve classic Bluecoast food while also turning out some new dishes that have Kammerer excited.
New items include a seafood waffle fry concoction, tuna poke, lobster fried rice, rib eye with a sunny egg, slow braised ribs over fries with pickles and more.
A six-seat raw bar that Kammerer calls an “Eastern Shore sushi bar” is separate from the dining area. There, guests will be treated to things like scallop sashimi, crab claws and poke — a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as an entree.
“It’s almost like another creative outlet for the chefs to use some of our great, local seafood,” Kammerer said.
Company sommelier Mike Zygmonski hand-picked wines from other SoDel restaurants and chose some new ones to help curate what he considers a perfect list to start, with the help of the kitchen staff for food pairings.
“I try to make it something that I would love and I figure everyone else will, too,” Zygmonski said. “I have a pretty good palette.”
Zygmonski and general manager Wes Brooks teamed up and created a cocktail list featuring classic cocktails and new, fresh takes on others.
The Black Walnut Manhattan is made with Basil Hayden’s bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, black walnut bitters and a brandy-soaked cherry. The well-liked Papa Grande’s margarita will be available and so, too, will a frosé, a frozen rosé drink.
The latter two are well-suited for the outdoor patio that houses an acoustic stage, shuffleboard, cornhole, a fire pit and an outdoor bar. You’ll hardly realize, sitting on boardwalk-style bench booths, that you’re in a parking lot on Coastal Highway.
“I wanted to create an upscale environment for outdoors,” Kammerer said. “People want to be outside.”
It’s one of the many features Kammerer chose — the whole thing is pretty much the 43-year-old’s design. Even the choice of the single-serving Swedish fish in bowls near the entrance, a nod to the former RedFin, the late Matt Haley restaurant that later became Bluecoast Bethany.
Kammerer said the four-month construction project came in under-budget and finished ahead of schedule, a fact he was made to repeat twice when a reporter didn’t believe him.
Perhaps the most interesting construction feature is in the right corner of the restaurant. There’s a “library” dining room. A community table that seats up to 10 people — and will be used for larger parties — centers the room, which has a fireplace and 3,000 cookbooks — a collection from some of the SoDel chefs.
“I’m big on nostalgia,” Kammerer said.
Which helps explain the 10 employees working there that Kammerer said he watched grow up, including his two sons, Holden, 18 and Griffin, 21. Holden will have duties in the kitchen this summer and Griffin will serve, something he did last year at SoDel’s Lupo in downtown Rehoboth.
Kammerer gave the commencement speech at Holden’s graduation from Cape Henlopen High School on Tuesday.
A good start to a week of celebration.