Stuffed penguins line up like liveried waitstaff in the front window of the Penguin Diner. But formality ends there in this throwback to ’50s dining— from its vinyl-covered stools and black-and-white tiled floor to its three-scoop milkshakes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, diners can choose from eight kinds of pan-, er, “penguin cakes” (including banana or chocolate chip), wraps, burgers, and “pengwiches” served with “penguin chips” (no, we don’t want to know) and, of course, lots of penguin merchandise for sale. 105 Garfield Parkway, 302-541-8017, http://www.penguindiner.com. —M.Z.
>Gaga for Gifts
Thanks to Cattails, beach-going gals are never far from their favorite lotions and potions, including Bliss Spa products, from cellulite scrub to the all-important spray tan. Need a great hostess gift? Try faux-croc picture frames, hand towels embroidered with shells or silver seahorse salt and pepper shakers. The blue coral prints in mirror frames add a pleasant punch of seashore style to any room. 33550 Market Place, Unit 2, 302-537-1142. http://www.cattailsltd.com. —K.B.
See beach-theme works by local artists Laura Hickman and Aubre Duncan at The Gallery on Central Avenue. The space, formerly an antique shop, displays Hickman’s earth tone pastels and acrylic landscapes of Bethany and Italy, while Duncan’s sunny watercolors depict beach scenes from Rehoboth to Cape May. “In our gallery, you get whimsy with Aubre’s work and more of a documentary of places I’ve been and experienced with mine,” says Hickman.
10 Central Ave., Ocean View. 302-539-5730, http://www.laurahickmanfinearts.com or http://www.aubre.com. —K.B.
>Rooms with a View
You won’t be able to miss Rehoboth Beach’s newest roost, Hotel Rehoboth. The four-story building’s bright yellow facade and upscale lobby-level shops look like something out of ritzy Naples, Fla., rather than a laid-back Delaware beach town. he boutique hotel boasts 52 rather corporate but comfortable rooms, with flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and free wi-fi. Eleven rooms feature walled-off balconies with padded furniture, making for surprisingly private escapes— and the ones along Rehoboth Avenue should be great for people-watching. There’s also a small private pool and deck, complimentary continental breakfast— and, best of all, free parking. Rates range from $269 to $399 per night during high season. 247 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-4300, http://www.hotelrehoboth.com. —J.S.
Talk about cool. The interior design items at Mod Cottage, part of the new Hotel Rehoboth, almost make the ocean an afterthought. Check out elegant yet playful outdoor accessories including woven plastic floor mats in fun colors and patterns and inventive chalkboard placemats that’ll keep even the most fidgety guest busy— at least through the soup course. More polished finds range from pottery platters and vases in seashore tones (aqua, shell white) to cowhide ottomans to contemporary, oversized clocks that take the place of wall art. Need an unusual pick-me-up? Try the selection of Vosge chocolate, specifically Mo’s Bacon Bar spiked with bits of smoked Applewood bacon. 247-A Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-7277, http://www.modcottage.net. —K.B.
Set in a New England-style white clapboard cottage, Jeff West Home is silly with classic home accessories. Browse through Snapdragon needlepoint pillows, striped Dash & Albert rugs and gingham-and-floral Charlotte Moss bedding. Wrap little ones in clothing by Bella Bliss and gracious gifts with super-fancy toile wrapping paper and ribbon by Caspari. “The store reflects a palette and aesthetic of soft, sophisticated tones of blues, greens and pinks set against creamy whites and soft yellows,” says owner Jeff West. “Mine is a classic fresh look that never goes out of style.” 413 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3635, http://www.jeffwesthome.com. —K.B.
Located off the lobby in Hotel Rehoboth, Cleo’s Boutique has everything fashion-minded women crave, from linen walking shorts to beach-worthy tunics by names like Elie Tahari and Lafayette 148. What’s an outfit without the perfect shoes and bag? See patent leather sandals by Stuart Weitzman and leather turquoise clutches by CC Skye. What does owner Donna Brockstedt forecast will be hot this summer? “Long, floral dresses are always popular.” 247-B
Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-6840. —K.B.
>House of ’shrooms
If the lovely views from the second-story Treetop Lounge don’t lure you to The Porcini House, the adventuresome wine list and homey fare will. The former Chez la Mer reopened in April 2008 under the ownership of Jay Caputo, who calls his new venture a “different kind of creative outlet from the more precise, high end” food at his other restaurant, Espuma. “This is much more casual; the food is a little more rustic.” The menu features Italian favorites such as panini sandwiches and six risotto dishes, including one with crab and rock shrimp, but still leaves room for chicken potpie with black truffles and a Kobe beef hot dog. Nineteen wines are available by the glass and none of the 58 bottles (many of them organic or biodynamic) are marked up more than $20, a considerable bargain on some of the more expensive bottles. If you prefer to eat indoors, check out the “wall of wine” made from wooden wine boxes, in the restaurant’s tin-ceilinged bar. 210 2nd St., 302-227-6494, http://www.theporcinihouse.com. —M.Z.
>Fruit of the Vine
“This is a wine bar,” says Vine owner Spencer Derrickson. “It’s meant for adventure.” This means you’ll find offbeat varietals like Gruner Veltliner and Pinotage on the bar’s 20-or-so bottle wine list instead of mass-produced brands like Kendall Jackson. But if you discover a favorite wine, make sure to savor it, as Derrickson isn’t big on repeating wines previously offered. In May, Vine’s warm red-and-gold walls extended into the dining room next door, with more tables and additions to its small-plate-centered menu, featuring cheese platters, salads and gourmet pizzas, topped with exotic ingredients such as Kobe beef and apple with brie. In early July, Derrickson’s brother, Regan, plans to open Del Finis, a Tuscan-themed restaurant, next door. 211 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-VINE, http://www.226vine.com. —M.Z.
>Shops at the Pearl
When it opened late last summer, The Cultured Pearl Restaurant & Sushi Bar’s new location atop a mini-mall was an immediate hit. And why not? The Japanese-themed restaurant, adorned with pots of live bamboo and cascading waterfalls, features an outdoor deck with gazebos and walkways suspended above 15,000 gallons of water stocked with live koi. (Yes, the floor has been reinforced to hold the weight, according to owner Rob Wood.) Now the rest of the woody mini-mall has opened and boasts a half-dozen other shops, including Bin 66 wine sellers, Bootleggers Western apparel, Pineapple Princess Swimwear and Rehoboth’s first Starbucks. Be sure to say hello to the Pearl’s two parakeets, Chop and Stick, and show up at the restaurant for the daily 5 p.m. koi feedings. 301 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-8493, http://www.culturedpearl.us. —J.S.
>Days of Yore
Those old-fashioned wool bathing suits from the Victorian age weren’t just ugly, they were downright dangerous. A woman sporting the latest beach fashion from 1900 meant she was hauling around an extra 30 pounds when wet. To help prevent drownings, lifeguards would tether a floating metal ball 100 yards into the ocean, and bathers could hold onto the towrope to keep from going under. Many more historical nuggets can be found at the Rehoboth Beach Museum’s inaugural exhibit, “Bathing Beauties: The Evolution of Swimwear from 1900 to 1960.” Also check out the pair of cork-lined bathing shoes, used for extra buoyancy, and funky unisex bathing suits for both men and women. Another exhibit features artifacts from the early days of Rehoboth, including old maps and hymn books from the town’s camp meeting days. Admission: adults, $5; seniors and students, $3. 511 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-7310. —J.S.
Adding to Lewes’ plush accommodations, The Savannah Inn is a 1914 Victorian residence retrofitted into a cozy B&B. Five airy rooms outfitted in contemporary Pottery Barn-esque furnishings, plus flat-screen TVs, DVD players and wi-fi. An in-house massage room ensures that guests need not go too far for pampering. Breakfast cooked up by owner Gina Kaye is enjoyed on the wrap-around porch— or, better yet, in bed. Rooms in season range from $350 to $600 for two nights. 330 Savannah Road, 302-645-0330, http://www.savannahinnlewes.com. —K.B.
Twenty-two years of pizza-making experience go into Michael Gallucio’s eponymous restaurant in Lewes’ Five Points community. Sure, you can order a traditional pomodoro with fresh garlic, Roma tomatoes and basil, but why not sample an Irish pizza with sour cream, potatoes, bacon and cheddar or any number of pasta choices? Settle into the upscale pizzeria’s butter-colored dining room and enjoy a glass of wine as Dean Martin croons “Volare.” 33323 E. Chesapeake St., Village at Five Points, 302-644-9004, http://www.mgallucios.com —M.Z.
>South of the Border
If the restaurant’s name wasn’t proof enough, a quick glance at Agave’s bar confirms owner Chris McKeown’s passion for tequila: 80 tequilas, all 100-percent agave, all hand-selected by the owner. McKeown’s aim for Lewes’ newest Mexican restaurant is authenticity. He studied regional cuisine in Guadalajara and his menu features regional specialties, such as grilled corn slathered in spicy mayo and cheese or jalapenos stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. Photographs of the region grace the walls and the handsome menus covered in rustic fabric with pressed tin inserts are a result of his travels in Mexico. Finding a corner booth and diving into a house-made margarita served in a colorful painted glass is highly recommended. 137 2nd St., 302-645-1232. —M.Z.
Black mission fig. Oatmeal molasses tipsy cake. Perhaps nowhere else at the beach will you find pints of ice cream in such funky flavors. What’s more, all are made from goats’ milk. It’s these kinds of culinary finds that make Fisher Bay Gourmet Foods unique. You can also score P.B. Loco gourmet peanut butters (try the European Café Mocha), dozens of grilling sauces, exotic spices and Tofurky bacon right next to the real stuff from Nueske’s. But Fisher Bay, the brainchild of former restaurateurs, also boasts a well-stocked deli with 40-some cheeses and Boar’s Head meats. “Our motto is creative foods for creative people,” says co-owner Rich Nofi, who is clearly having too much fun behind the deli counter. Have him whip up a “Cappy Jack Sparrow,” made with cappacola ham, fresh mozzarella, roasted red and sweet pepper and garlic pesto, and finish it off with a cup of jalapeño-lime gelato made up the road in Newark, Del. It’s like walking into an air-conditioned room on a hot day. Village of Five Points, 302-644-4747, http://www.fisherbaygourmet.com. —J.S.
“The idea of the restaurants is that they should take you somewhere else [while you’re] still in Dewey,” says restaurateur Regan Derrickson. And Derrikson’s Nalu Surf Bar and Ponos restaurants take diners to the casual and upscale side of Hawaiian dining. The former offers a range of creative tacos (including Kalua pork and tempura shrimp) as well as hearty entrees and sandwiches (we were intrigued by the SPAM BLT) in a setting complete with tiki torches. Stepping into Ponos is another experience entirely. Dusky purple walls, a twinkling sky composed of 1,600 fiber optic strands installed by Derrickson and his father, and a 10-by-32-foot mural featuring a volcano rising out of the ocean create an ambience that is part romantic fantasy, part Epcot Center. Island bouillabaisse in vanilla lobster broth and Kona coffee- braised grilled beef short ribs suggest that Hawaii may be closer than you think. Nalu Surf Bar, 1306 Coastal Highway, 302-227-1449, nalusurfbar.com. Ponos Hawaiian Fine Dining, 1306 Coastal Highway, 302-227-3119, http://www.ponosfinedining.com. —M.Z.
I can just imagine sitting in that bar with a glass of wine and listening to Dean Martin