We have been travelling the DelMarVa peninsular enroute to our annual vacation in Sanderling, North Carolina since 1985. Over the years we have found our own diners, drive-ins and dives as well as a few “upscale” places along the way. These are not fine dining establishments although the food is good, sometimes great. They are offered as an alternative to the fast food places. Most all are local eateries that will satisfy your hunger with good food at a very reasonable price while at the same time give you a little favor for the area. You will spend a little more time in these places than in a fast food place but I believe you will be much more satisfied with the experience. So if you can spare maybe an hour stop rather than ten minutes, check them out.
The recommendations run north to south from Smyrna, Delaware to Dover, Delaware along Route 13 and then on Route 113 from Dover to Pocomoke City, Maryland and then back on Rt. 13 from Pocomoke City to Cape Charles, Virginia. I may add a few more between Virginia Beach and the Wright Brothers Bridge at a later date.
I have attempted to keep the hours of operation and other particulars current, however if you discover something not right let me know.
OK, let’s get driving down the DelMarVa:
Helen’s Sausage House
Smyrna, Delaware, Rt. 13 southbound
Hours: M-F 4am to 2pm; Sat 4am to noon; Sun-closed
As with many of the places on this list the place isn’t much to look at, basically it’s a shack. The main attraction is breakfast as Helen’s opens at 4:00am and closes right after lunch. The dining area (the décor is Elvis memorabilia) is ultra-tiny so most of the business is take out for dining behind the wheel. The customer base appears to be mainly locals. Note: if you are expecting an Italian sausage on a crusty Italian roll you won’t get it here…..how about a brat……nope. Helen serves her one kind of deep fried sausage and that is about it as far as sausages go. The “go to” entrée is the sausage sandwich with egg and cheese or with peppers and onions. There are many other items on the menu, burgers, sandwiches, subs and the “famous” pork chop sandwich.
Bishopville, Maryland , corner Rt. 113 (southbound) and Rt. 610 just south of Selbyville
Hours: M-W 9am to 7pm; Th-Sat 9am to 8pm; Sun 9am to 6pm
Roadside BBQ joint which seems to cater mostly to the locals. Mainly a take out place but they have numerous picnic tables outside if the weather is good. Good size portions. They have Eastern North Carolina BBQ which is pretty good. The selection of sides is excellent including slaw, beans, mac and cheese and a very tasty corn bread.
Berlin, Maryland 12 Broad Street, Downtown; follow signs on Rt. 113 to Berlin
Hours: T-Th 11am to 10pm; F-Sat 11am to midnight; Sun 10am to 3pm; M-call
One of the few places not right on the highway…..follow the signs on Rt. 113 to downtown Berlin. The Globe is not more than 2-3 minutes off Rt. 113. Berlin is a beautiful little town and The Globe is right in the center, surrounded by great shops, art galleries and antique shops. You can stroll the downtown in 10 minutes. The restaurant was the former Old Globe Theatre and is quirky cool. All kinds of bar food as well as gourmet meals if you desire. Excellent draft beer selection. The cream of crab soup is their signature dish. Full bar. The Globe is one of the two “upscale” places on my list. Trivia: scenes from the Runaway Bride were filmed at the Globe as well as in Berlin.
Mappsville, Virginia Rt. 13 northbound
Hours: Not sure so call ahead; closed in winter
Another ramshackle shack of a place right on 13. It is both a local seafood market as well as a take-out joint. I say take out because a sign says they prohibit eating inside but you can snag a picnic table outside. Prices are cheap. This is definitely a very local place. Some reviews indicate some locals may not appreciate the tourist presence. Fried is the name of the game. The fish (whatever is in season) sandwich is da bomb here.
Can’t miss this place with the huge signage. I love their burgers, especially the “Tommy”, but this is the place for fried chicken. At times the order lines go out the door with most folks ordering the chicken. This is traditional fried chicken, nothing fancy. You order at the counter and wait for your number to be called. The folks behind the counter have never seemed to be very friendly, maybe because I’m a Yankee or not a local. Prices are good. If not dining behind the wheel and if the weather is nice I would opt to eat outside. Please note: the restrooms are located outside and not very nice…..I would recommend a pass.
Another establishment that from the outside might make you pass by…..don’t. Local legend family owns and operates the place serving fresh and local seafood. As with most places on these list everything is fried. Swelling toads (similar to blowfish) are the thing here. They do offer a NC pulled pork sandwich. Lunch prices are very reasonable with generous portions. It’s a small place with maybe 12 tables.
Painter, Virginia, Rt. 13 southbound
CLOSED Hopefully some day the place will reopen with the same quality food. The pulled pork sandwich here was the best I had ever had.
Exmore, Virginia, Rt. 13 southbound
Another don’t be put off by the exterior condition of the place. Always see a lot of Hispanics here so to me that is a good sign. I would say it’s more Tex-Mex than authentic Mexican. Huge menu with all the basic fare served in generous portions. The dining room is small and non-descript. El Maguey gets crowded on weekends, especially towards dinner time. Full bar.
Exmore, Virginia, Rt. 13 Business
Hours: M-Sat 6am to 8pm; Sun 6am to 12pm
Remember the Exmore Diner is on Rt.13 Business. This diner is way local and a good place to overhear the local gossip. Large portions and friendly people. There are about 10 seats at the counter and about 6 booths that seat 4 each. Menu is your basic diner food. The structure was originally a railcar brought to Exmore from New Jersey in 1954 and appears that the place hasn’t been updated since then.
The Machipongo Clam Shack
Nassawadox, Virginia, Rt. 13 southbound
Hours: Summer, Sun-Sun 9am to 9pm; Winter to 8pm
A seafood dive in a converted McDonald’s. You can dine in or at tables outside. Definitely a local vibe going on. Local wines and beers. “Free Tibet” stickers on the exterior wall. Tacky bumper stickers for sale in gift area. Crab cakes are the thing here. Seafood store to take home. Full bar.
Eastville, Virginia, Rt. 13 Business
CLOSED Currently looking for new owners. A great place to step back in time.
Cape Center (Sting Rays)
Cape Charles, Virginia, Rt. 13 northbound
Hours: M-Sat 6am to 9pm; Sun-closed
The Cape Center (Stingrays) is combination gas station/rest stop/truck stop/gift shop place. Locally known as the Chez Exxon. You order at a window, then find a seat and wait for your order to arrive. Extensive menu choices….BBQ, seafood, sandwiches, burgers. I think the prices are higher than most other places because it’s more touristy. Beer and wine available. The choice here….anything with sweet potatoes in it.
Cape Charles, Virginia, 133 Mason Avenue (downtown Cape Charles)
Hours: M-Thu 10:30am to 11pm; F-Sat 10:30am to 2am; Sun 10:30am 11pm
Another place where you have to get off Rt.13 onto Rt.184 and drive about 7 minutes to downtown Cape Charles. Downtown used to be very depressed but now in a mini-renaissance. I love the potential for this town. The place is in a former bank, built in 1907, has character and a nice vibe……you can eat in the vault if you desire. Good bar grub at lunch. A great selection of brews on tap. Kelly’s is one of the two “upscale” places on my list.