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New Delaware restaurants include Mission BBQ, birria, Insomnia Cookies

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Restaurant operators will add 525,000 jobs for the summer season, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast. This is the first time on record that demand has reached this level two summers in a row.  

And that means there are plenty of new places for employment opportunities.

Here are some restaurants and shops in Delaware that have opened recently:

3421 Kirkwood Highway, Unit A-D, near Prices Corner; theopulent.us

The luxury-themed restaurant and lounge recently opened near Prices Corner. Many may remember it as the site of back-in-the-day restaurant Caffe Belissimo and later the Palace of Asia.

The Opulent offers fusion dishes inspired by American, Mediterranean and Asian flavors. There’s fine dining in the dining main and hors d’oeuvres, crafted drinks and music in the lounge. A “retreat’ section of the restaurant has a rainforest theme and a private room, known as “the Crown,” can be reserved for parties and events.

The menu includes chicken Reshmi Kebabs from Mughal cuisine cooked in a clay oven, $18; a $15 Mediterranean platter with hummus, olives, cherry tomatoes, pita, feta cheese and cucumbers; lamb chops, $32; Shanghai fried rice, $24; burgers, $21; and butter chicken, $30.

The restaurant is hosting a “Bollywood” night with food, drinks and DJ Jeet at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 22.

The Opulent is open daily from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

70 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach; 302socialrehoboth.com

A prime spot of Rehoboth Beach real estate once home to Hooters and Cooter Brown’s is now housing the new restaurant 302 Social.

“We want a great vibe, good atmosphere, a welcoming staff,” co-owner Marcos Lopez said.

The second-floor spot in First Street Station is at the corner of First Street and Rehoboth Avenue.

Co-owners and operators Lopez and Brandon Tolan met working together at Fager’s Island in Ocean City, Maryland, where both grew to love the hospitality industry. Two years ago, they opened 410 Social in Berlin, Maryland. With partner Albert Gjoni, the three formed MBA Hospitality Group.

302 Social’s menu is mainly burgers, sandwiches and tacos, but Lopez said they’ll bring more entrees into the mix as they get established. Right now, entrees include fish, crabcakes, steaks and shrimp. Also available are salads and a seafood-heavy appetizer list. See the menu at 302socialrehoboth.com.

714 Greenbank Road, Prices Corner, 302-482-3103, facebook.com/Elpatronmexicanyfood.

As of Saturday, June 1, the storied former home of the “Big Pit” location of Charcoal Pit, and Alyson’s Restaurant before that, is now a sprawling 5,000-square-foot restaurant and cantina at home to tacos, huaraches, enchiladas and long-braised birria or barbacoa. El Patron Mexican Restaurant and Bar, also a popular food truck on Pulaski Highway in Bear, offers specialties from Mexico City to the southwestern state of Guanajuato.

Closer look at El Patron: In the former Charcoal Pit, an ambitious Mexican restaurant with tacos and barbacoa

At El Patron, owners Maria and Hugo Ramirez offer an ambitious array of tacos, burritos, huaraches and weekend specials that include slow-braised lamb barbacoa or pancita carnitas with rich consomé for sipping, birria enchiladas and tender carnitas.

New at the restaurant are platters that range from enchiladas to multiple takes on chilaquiles, as well as whole-fried fish, shrimp in garlic or diablo sauce, shrimp cocktails and stone bowls heavy-laden with seemingly every version of grilled meat.

7288 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin; 302-239-3999; bladekebabsteak.com/

First, it was Pat’s Pizza and later, and briefly, Sunny’s Pizza and then Sunny’s Mediterranean Grill. Now the restaurant in the Hockessin shopping center with Doc’s Meat Market and Mexican Table, is home to Blade Kebab and Steakhouse.

Chef/owner Kadir Kadyrov features Brazilian and Turkish steakhouse cuisine. The casual, family-friendly BYOB restaurant (a rarity in Delaware) has starters like a mezze platter of dips with pita bread, $8.25, and lahmacun, $9.75, a flatbread with seasoned ground beef. There are doner kebabs and lamb kebabs; lamb, chicken and salmon skewers, Mediterranean salad, baklava, and Turkish coffee.

Here’s Blade’s menu. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

1241 N. Dupont Highway, Dover; insomniacookies.com

Specializing in satisfying customers’ late-night cravings, Insomnia Cookies held its grand opening Saturday, June 8, in the Dover Commons next to Dover Mall.

The company’s signature service is delivery to your door until midnight or later, with some locations open as late as 3 a.m. Cookies also can be shipped throughout the continental U.S.

A college student started the business in 2003 at his University of Pennsylvania dorm room, baking and delivering warm cookies around campus. Today, the company has more than 180 stores in 39 states and Washington, D.C.

This is the second Delaware location for the chain, with the first at 70 E. Main St., Newark.

The menu features a variety of cookies from the basic sugar cookie and chocolate chunk to more unusual flavors like caramel apple pie and blueberry pancake, with vegan and gluten-free options. Cookie cakes are available.

Ice cream is also on the menu, including the “monster’wich” ice cream cookie sandwich.

The store even sells frozen dough so you can make your own cookies at home.

Pastries, Deli and More

147 S. Governors Ave., Dover; 302-465-8838

Three friends opened Pastries, Deli and More bakery and takeout restaurant May 6 in downtown Dover on Governors Avenue just north of Loockerman Street.

Andrea Jones, Michael Payne and Gloria Brown create custom cakes, pies, pastries and cupcakes along with sandwiches, salads, chicken wings and probably their customers’ favorite — chicken and waffles.

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Jones had been making cakes and pastries at home for years, but when the store on Governors Avenue became available, she talked with Payne and Brown about the possibility of opening a bakery and restaurant.

“This place has a long history as a bakery,” Jones said, referring to the most recent tenant, Sweets & Treats, and to Fleischer’s Bakery which was in business more than 50 years.

“We wanted to continue that tradition, but also bring some different ideas and different flavors to Dover,” she said. “We want to take it and make it our own.”

Payne owned two different restaurants in New York, one specializing in wings. He moved to Delaware and now works with people with disabilities. While he loves that job, when Jones told him about the idea for a bakery and restaurant, he jumped at the chance. He focuses on the deli and chicken wings at the restaurant.

The third group member brings years of restaurant experience to the business. Known as “Mama G,” Gloria Brown recently sold the restaurant named Mama G’s in Cheswold, and she also owns Tropical Delight Café on Bay Road near Dover Air Force Base.

Hours are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with later hours planned this summer until 7 p.m.

103 N. DuPont Blvd., Smyrna; 302-592-1786, instagram.com/elserranitotacosandbar.

Often taco-starved Kent County gets a new entrant with El Serranito, which opened in April in Smyrna. The restaurant takes an all-things-to-all-people approach, ranging from traditional Mexican dishes rarely found north of the border to American-inflected Tex-Mex fare.

Street tacos abound, of course, with a wide array of meats on fresh corn tortillas. The ever-popular quesabirria is of course also in attendance. Sutffed torta sandwiches and burritos likewise abound.

But the restaurant ranges happily north of the border with wings, burrito bowls, chimichangas and fajitas. Traditionalists can pick up a rarely-seen-in-Delaware pipian platters with chicken or pork smothered in pumpkin-seed mole. Other more traditional plates include posole, menudo, whole-fried fish, shrimp cocteles and a braised hidago (liver) platter.

370 Walmart Drive, Suite 3, Camden, and 1225 N. Dupont Highway, Building 3, Dover; tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

Tropical Smoothie Café is expanding in Kent County with two locations. The first opened in Camden in February in the Camden Town Center on Route 13 south near Walmart and Bob Evans. Another started serving customers in early June in Dover on Route 13 north near Panda Express and Wing Stop, across from Delaware State University.

They are among seven in Delaware, including two in Newark at 3252 Fashion Center Boulevard and 230 E. Main St., two in Wilmington at 4742 Limestone Road and 3216 Kirkwood Highway, with a third planned in the city at 824 N. Market St.

Starting with a smoothie café in Florida in 1993, the company opened its first franchised shop in 1998 and now has more than 1,100 restaurants in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

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The café specializes in healthy smoothies like “mango magic” with mango, pineapple and nonfat yogurt, the “avocolada” with avocado, pineapple, spinach, kale, coconut and lime and the “acai berry boost” with acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries and strawberries.

But the menu also includes wraps, flatbread sandwiches, salads and bowls like the “tropic bowl” with acai, chia oatmeal pudding, green dream yogurt and mixed berry Greek yogurt.

36740 Seaside Outlet Drive, Rehoboth Beach, 302-257-5292, mission-bbq.com.

Wildly popular barbecue chain Mission BBQ is opened its first Sussex County location in April, the third location in Delaware for the Maryland-based barbecue chain, founded in 2011 by former executives from Under Armour and Outback Steakhouse. Mission is well-known for its patriotic branding, charitable donations and pan-regional approach to barbecue.

Expect the usual array of brisket, pulled pork, jalapeno-cheese sausage, baby backs, turkey and pulled chicken — with sauces running the map from Memphis Belle to Tupelo Honey, KC Classic, Texas Twang, Alabama White, Carolina Vinegar and Georgia Mustard. The closest the Maryland-founded chain gets to a mid-Atlantic or Chesapeakean sauce is “Bay-B-Que.”

70 Rehoboth Ave., Unit 2, Rehoboth Beach; lemacaron-us.com/locations/rehoboth-beach/

A franchise of Le Macaron French Pastries has opened in Rehoboth Beach. The business was founded by Rosalie Guillem and her daughter, Audrey Guillem-Saba, who loved delectable French pastries. Upon moving to the United States from France, the family was surprised to find that the American take on the “macaron” often was simply sugar spun into a cookie shape or confused with the familiar coconut cookie “macaroon.”

The confections are around 80 calories each and are made with no gluten-containing ingredients. Flavors range from Belgian chocolate to bubble gum. The shop is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. A grand opening is set for June 25.

907 N. Dupont Blvd., Unit #105, Milford; 302-305-2109; thetwistindian.com

Maulin Patel and his wife Pratiksha Patel opened their first Indian fast-food restaurant called “The Twist Indian Grill” in Dayton, Ohio. The pair blended Indian street food in a fast-food format and were joined by partners Priyanka and Priyank Patel.

Now, they’ve brought the concept to Milford. The menu at The Twist Indian Grill includes Indian burritos filled with curries, bowls with rice and meats, quesadillas, naan tacos and Indo-Chinese dishes such as hakka noodles. Drinks include masala tea, lassi and milkshakes.

Abbott’s Grill opened a second restaurant this month in the former space of Sydney’s, at Paynter’s Mill in Milton.

Abbott’s has been operating in Laurel since 2014 and had a location in Milford, now closed, for about a decade.

The Milton restaurant is “a collaboration of co-owner and executive chef Kevin Reading and business partner Ryan Maloney, co-owner of Brick Works and Belly Up (food truck),” the website says. Reading also served as chef at past Rehoboth Beach culinary destinations such as Espuma and Nage.

The menu at Paynter’s Mill is the same as in Laurel, featuring modern mid-Atlantic cuisine. Entrees include pan-seared scallops, citrus-roasted salmon, crabcakes, and New York strip.

“We look forward to creating memorable dining experiences and continuing to push the boundaries in the kitchen,” Reading said.

Midway Cafe

8585 Coastal Highway #14, Rehoboth Beach; facebook.com/profile.php?id=61558887535751

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Midway Cafe is open in Midway Center, off Route 1 in Rehoboth Beach.

Midway Cafe has a huge menu, from breakfast to subs to pasta, as well as certain Mediterranean foods. Most items are under $20.

Owner AJ Demir immigrated the U.S. from Turkey in 1999, he said when reached by phone. He owned, operated and sold three restaurants prior to opening Midway Cafe.

Midway Cafe opens at 7 a.m. seven days a week and closes at 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at 3 p.m.