Thursday, December 10, 2009

Delaware Shore Report: Fins Fish House & Raw Bar

Today's post takes us all the way back to mid-October when my wife and I made our third annual autumn pilgrimage to the Delaware shore. This year's trip falling hot on the heels of our adventures in NorCal, we cut things back from a full week to a long weekend. And this year, for the first time, the weather gods did not smile upon us. In three days, the torrential rain let up only once for all of about ninety minutes, just long enough to get the boys out for a quick jaunt on what was left of the storm-battered beach.

Now that we've had our first snow here in the Mid-Atlantic – just enough to coat the landscape with a thin layer of crunchy white icing – it's about time I get to today's topic before it gets any further out of season. Then again, now that we've entered the heart of oyster season, perhaps this is actually prime time to be trotting out a quick write-up of Fins Fish House & Raw Bar.

We had little in the way of expectations walking into Fins. The name hinted at potential cheesiness. But Fins had been recommended by friends and we were both in the mood for a change from our usual Dogfish Head fallback, so we decided to give it a whirl. Happily, our lunch at Fins was not only surprisingly good but turned out to be the gustatory highlight of our rain-soaked trip.

The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of locals slurping down pints and bivalves at the nautically themed ground floor bar was certainly a good sign, even if it did take a few minutes for a staff member to direct us to the more spacious upper floor bar and dining room.

Upstairs, the decor shifts from the nautical blue of the ground floor bar and dining rooms to an amalgam of British pub and American tschotschke.

Coniston Bluebird Bitter: one of my favorite session beers and one of the best values on Fins' impressive beer list.

A quick scan of Fins' wine list continued to build upon our feeling that we'd come to the right place. Though populated mostly by the typical beach town commercial offerings, it's one of the few lists I've yet to come across at the DE shore that actually included a couple of wines I'd like to drink — Albert Mann Pinot Blanc and Vouvray from Domaine des Aubuisières — as opposed to bottles I could only settle on and suffer through. The real decider, though, was the beer list. Sure, there's the ubiquitous Coors Light and Yuengling happy hour special and the de rigueur offerings of Corona and Amstel Light but, beyond that, someone at Fins clearly knows and loves their brews. Their constantly rotating draft selection is anchored by a well chosen if slightly hop-skewed bottle list, which eschews the local powerhouse (Dogfish Head is practically right across the street, after all) in favor of bottlings from some of America's top craft brewers, all backed up by a pretty solid selection of British and Belgian imports.

What about the food, you ask? As with the beer program, I was pleased to find that it far outperformed my usual expectations of shore town pub grub. My wife's seafood chowder starter was supremely satisfying, just the thing to melt away the rainy day chill in the bones and a dish I'd love to try to replicate by the cauldron-full at home. Opting for oysters, I was initially put off by the minimum order of three of any one type, as a single serving of each of the six varieties on the day's board would have been just right. The two types that I settled on, though, were in prime shape, well shucked and went down easy with a pint of Rogue's Dead Guy Ale.

I continued the oyster theme, selecting a po'boy as my main course. With the oysters fried to a crispy, crunchy exterior yet still perfectly tender and juicy inside, the sandwich paled to its New Orleans cousin only via a near second place in the condiment department. The wife scored again, with a perfectly cooked and seasoned Mahi Mahi fish sandwich. Now, when that fish sandwich hankering calls, I need only drive the two hours south to Rehoboth rather than make the trip all the way to The Fish House in Key Largo.

Rain or shine, between Fins and Dogfish Head, I've definitely found my favorite block of Rehoboth Beach.

FINS Fish House & Raw Bar
243 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
(302) 226-3467
Fins Fish House on Urbanspoon

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