The new Lewes restaurant mixes contemporary and traditional dishes

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Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the Media, Friends and Family Party at the brand new Lewes Oyster House. This real-time overhaul of their systems went well and the restaurant is now open for reservations only from Wednesday to Saturday this week. God knows we’ve waited long enough! It took a lot of work to convert the iconic Walsh Building (home to the former Rose & Crown and Jerry’s Seafood) into the upscale, laid-back Lewes Oyster House. The theme pays homage to the famous oyster houses of the Middle Atlantic of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Delaware Today, Best of Delaware award-winning chef Sean Corea brings his Espuma/Nage/Fork & Flask/Nalu background to his partnership with Tom Little (affectionately known as theSwiss army knife of hospitality”) and seasoned restaurant operations guru Tim Bartley. Restoration is no mystery to Tim. He grew up in Dover, starting his career in the washing-up room of the old Avenue restaurant in Rehoboth. A graduate of Salesianum School, Villanova and Fordham School of Law, he was instrumental in founding Eatwell Enterprises, which gave birth to the Charlie Palmer Collective. Tim’s 22-year tenure included senior operations management and general counsel for the massive company.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Chef Sean Corea since he hosted our Eating Rehoboth restaurant tours over 10 years ago at the long gone Espuma. His progression from line cook to sous chef to executive chef to restaurant owner has been remarkable. (Translation: This guy knows his stuff.) His experience as an All-State wrestler at Caesar Rodney High School is, as far as I’m concerned, a side move in this relentless eating business. After attending the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, Sean distinguished himself alongside world-renowned chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Sean’s enthusiasm is infectious and is reflected in the attitude of his team at Lewes Oyster House.

When the restaurant sets out to create a merchandise section, one of the star elements should be Tom Little’s infectious smile. This welcoming and upbeat guy is a perfect property match for Tim and Sean. And to top it off, he’s a true Lewes native! Tom played football at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., graduating with a major in sociology and communication. After honing his restaurant skills, he eventually took on the role of marketing and beer brand development director for local restaurant group La Vida Hospitality.

I’ve described Lewes Oyster House as “casual upscale.” And the menu speaks directly to that. One of the simplest and most delicious little bites is LOH Tide Oysters. (LOH…get it?) Warm herbed butter coats a tender bivalve topped with a three-cheese blend. Are you feeling frisky? Chef Sean’s pride and joy is his roast chicken. Some of you may remember when I, along with Sean and several other real chefs, went spatula to spatula into the ultimate chicken fry at Fork & Flask. I won’t tell you who won two years in a row, but I’ll give you a hint: he writes a restaurant column for the Cape Gazette. ‘Nuff said.

You might think a burger is the opposite of premium. Lewes Oyster House’s Damn Good Burger ticks all the boxes for high-end: Wagyu beef, Benton hickory-smoked country bacon and sharp cheese. On a roll of onions. They served a slider version at the media party, and the only reason I didn’t ask for another one was for fear of looking indecent. (Funny, it never bothered me before….)

I would like to tell you about some of the desserts that pastry chef Nicole Viscount has in store for her guests. But she, along with Sous Chef Dillon Walker and longtime beach bartender Sean Norris, asked me not to spoil the surprise. It’s three to one, so I’m going to curb my enthusiasm and let you find out what these people have in store for you at 108 Second. St., opposite Touch of Italy in downtown Lewes. A booking link can be obtained by emailing [email protected] Enjoy.

Bob Yesbek writes and talks about beach food nonstop. He can be reached at [email protected]
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