‘We have a very thoughtful and unique vision for The Pines’ said Dane Wilfong, its executive chef. (Photo courtesy The Pines)
For many years I have spent the week between Christmas and New Year in Rehoboth Beach. There have been years when it has snowed and years when you could walk the boardwalk in shorts and T-shirt. There is always a crowd and fun to be had. This year was no different. In D.C. I start my day with coffee at Java House on ‘Q’ Street while at the beach I begin my day at 7:30 a.m. at the gay-owned (Bob and Mel) Coffee Mill in the mews between Rehoboth and Baltimore avenues.
This year, the talk of the town was the much-anticipated new place to hang out with friends, have a drink and enjoy a great meal, The Pines on Baltimore Avenue. It is a welcome addition to the block joining the grande dame of Rehoboth restaurants, the Blue Moon. I spent nearly every evening there with friends and everyone felt it was worth the long wait for the opening. It features the talented Dane Wilfong as executive chef; great bartenders among them Sutton, Chase and Anthony serving reasonably priced drinks with a wonderful selection of wines both in the restaurant and upstairs at the Top of The Pines lounge. It’s clear this is a place people will be coming back to again and again.
We had dinner reservations on Thursday and the place was packed. I recommend reservations at all times. We had drinks at the bar then were seated for what turned out to be one of the best meals I have had in Rehoboth in a long time. The place has the feel of a tavern, informal and relaxed, no uniforms for bartenders or waiters. Our waitress took our orders for more drinks, explained the menu and brought a couple of baskets of fresh warm bread with creamery butter.
The menu is interesting and diverse with plenty to choose from. There is a wide selection of appetizers, including such dishes as Citrus Cooked Tuna on salt block with asparagus slaw; Cornmeal Fried Calamari; and Hummus Three Way, (Red Wine Fig, Sweet Potato, Chickpea). The selection of salads includes a wonderful roasted beet and gorgonzola, pickled stem, beet green, honeycrisp apple, candied bourbon walnuts and warm gorgonzola dressing; or a great beach caesar, grilled red oak romaine, hop Caesar, parm, pine oil, and flaked sea salt. Entrees including ginseng and honey brined/grilled pork chop with crab apple and juniper spelt pilaf, kimchi carrots and huckleberry gastrique (I had that and recommend it). Other choices include a grilled abalone mushroom vegetarian sub; a seafood pot pie I heard people rave about; black and white linguini with clams; and a selection of shared entrees for two or four.
Top of the Pines is a large room with its own bar and small tables surrounded by plush upholstered chairs. You can get a drink at the bar but there is also table service. Along with drinks you can order small plates, including such items as a cheese and charcuterie board or a lobster and truffle spaetzle mac. Desserts include a rich white chocolate and pomegranate Éclair.
Saturday night after a day of rain we went to hear John Flynn perform on the grand piano at the Top of the Pines, where we were joined by many old and new friends. There was a wonderful feeling of camaraderie. The owners of The Pines — David Gonce, Bob Suppies and Tyler Townsend — have a real success on their hands. From Bob and David greeting people at the door to Tyler who helped deliver meals to the table they displayed great attention to every detail and made everyone feel welcome.
Rehoboth Beach continues to be a great place for the LGBTQ+ community to live and vacation. The Pines, which is gay owned, along with many other places like Aqua Grille directly across the street and the Purple Parrot on Rehoboth Avenue, have a large LGBTQ+ clientele joined by the large and welcoming straight community in Rehoboth who clearly feel totally comfortable and at ease in all these places. It is what makes Rehoboth Beach such a welcoming place to be. I can just imagine Top of the Pines with its wide balcony overlooking the Aqua deck will be a hopping place during the summer season with people going back and forth.
Each year there are more and more restaurants and shops staying open during what is considered the off-season in Rehoboth. So a trip to the beach with its mile-long boardwalk for strolling, its good shopping and fine dining make for a great mini vacation any time of year.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.