REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE
Picture it. Lewes, Delaware. Last Tuesday evening.
Our caravan of vehicles is attempting to make its way north on Rt. 1 for dinner at go brit! We should have known better when we reached the first traffic light. It was out the intersection was blocked by volunteer firefighters.
We should have known that the complete loss of power in Lewes would be an omen. I should have. I expect more from myself.
The power outage extended to everything in the town, but the McDonald’s (generator, I assume). It also posed a problem: we had 13 people needing dinner and very little time to come up with a solution.
At one of the intervals of stalled traffic, I reopened my search on Yelp for family-friendly restaurants in Rehoboth Beach. Dogfish Head, its next door neighbor, was a 90- to 100-minute wait. The next on the list was Finbar’s Bar & Grill, which was coincidentally located next door. I called ahead and found that they could accommodate us.
Again, I should have known better. Even at 5:30 p.m., any restaurant that can accommodate you and 12 of your closest friends immediately should have been a huge red flag. What was the problem?
Finbar’s bills itself as an authentic pub experience. The decor is chopped into a number of smallish rooms throughout the building, with all roads leading to a large bar up front, featuring 28 draught beers and more than 100 bottled varieties. The bar itself is an antique, salvaged and estimated at more than 100 years old.
The menu features a lengthy list of appetizers, a dozen sandwiches and burgers, and traditional pub entrees, including fish and chips, steaks and a Guinness beef stew. The menu notes items that are gluten-free or vegetarian.
The Wife and I opted for an order of prawns to kick off the meal. Prawns might be overselling the plate of 10 unpeeled steamed shrimp. Heavily dusted in Old Navy, they were served with the obligatory lemon wedge and cocktail sauce. The shrimp were fine, cooked just right, and the cocktail sauce had a bite to it. But the kitchen, clearly overwhelmed by a restaurant of 20 customers took more than a half-hour to produce these.
Now, after waiting for so long to get the shrimp, one might assume that the entrees would come out on the backs of the apps. One might be wrong. It took more than 30 minutes from the time the shrimp appeared to the arrival of the entrees.
I should have known better than to order the Guinness stew. I should have ordered a burger. But, I didn’t. My bowl of beef stew had more of a consistency and flavor of a beef vegetable soup. Seven or eight large chunks of beef joined hearty chunks of potatoes and carrots in a flavorless beef base. I was not expecting to walk away from the table with a buzz, however there was no hint of the distinct flavor that accompanies a stout beer. Not that one could get enough of anything in the tiny spoon served with the stew.
By the end, I found myself picking around the molten hot broth to fish out the meat and potato chunks, and dunking the small loaf of very dry brown bread in the broth to fill my stomach.
The Wife reported that her crabcake sandwich, the Yeoman, was good. The patty was packed with lump crabmeat and not a lot of bulky filler. Everyone else approved of their burgers and chicken sandwiches, but had a similar issue with the wait as I did. A simple sandwich should not take 30+ minutes to produce. And neither should a stew/soup that was probably sitting in a hot hold for the better part of the day.
So, let’s get back to my question: what was the problem? Our server was fine and I don’t fault him for the waits. The kitchen is clearly a mess and incapable of processing orders in an expedient manner. The menu itself is probably too complicated for a storefront that needs a killer beer selection to stand up against its next door neighbor (the Dogfish Head brewpub).
Finbar’s worked in a pinch, but restless children awaiting chicken fingers and their even more restless parents overmatched an alleged professional kitchen. And that’s not a good thing.
Finbar’s Pub & Grill is located at 316 Rehoboth Ave. in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It does accept reservations for large groups.