Last fall I used this platform to whine about the absence of decent coffee at the Delaware beaches, a minirant which ended ” One of these days I’m going to find the holy grail, a decent espresso at the Delaware beaches, and then I’m never going to leave.”
Well, it looks like I may need to call a real estate agent.
Some days you say, “screw it, I’m going to the beach.” Last Thursday was one of those days for me, as my wife and kids were away, I had nothing in particular I needed to do, it was sunny and hot, and since it wasn’t the weekend the trip would be under 3 hours. I also had an ulterior motive, and I’d heard there was a cafe out there serving Counter Culture coffee. So off I went.
First stop: Lewes, Delaware, to sniff out the Counter Culture purveyor.
The Station on Kings
I’ve been going to the beach in Delaware and Maryland for over 20 years and have been through pretty much every town except for some reason I’ve never set foot in Lewes. Located where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic, my understanding had been it was a small town with a vibrant art scene and not much else, and since the beach was on the bay instead of the ocean our attention had always been to Rehoboth, Bethany and the other oceanfront towns.
This time around I was drawn to Lewes to visit The Station on Kings. My phone’s GPS dutifully got me to what was supposed to be the place, but I blew past it because there were no signs, only what looked like a big barn with a garden center. I circled back and that barn was indeed the right place.
There’s a lot going on here, and all done with great taste. Coffee and food; bakery; gourmet market; high-end goods for the home; and a garden center. Opened in early 2018, the owners are going for a vibe combining laid-back California influences with big-city sophistication from Philadelphia,* but for me I felt like I was in the Hamptons, without as much snobbery.
* note to DelmarvaNow: Counter Culture is from Durham, NC, not Philadelphia
The physical space is gorgeous. What looks from the outside to be a two-story building is all one big open space, bright and airy, white walls and ceilings, wooden beams, polished cement floor. Lots of light wood with marble. Paper lanterns for the lights hung from the ceiling, an array of decorative mirrors on one wall, and lots of interesting items that you would never really ‘need’ but will be tempted to pick up because it’s all so nice.
Before I got to the coffee I ordered lunch. Interesting menu, I went with avocado and crab toast. Served on homemade rye bread (the bakery section looked spectacular), covered with fresh white corn and sunflower seeds, it was delicious and screamed all things summer. The seating is in the greenhouse area, which was sunny and warm, the framing casting a web of shadows across the tables, but managed not to be too hot.
Properly fed, I finished with a cappuccino. Made on a La Marzocco Linea with Counter Culture beans, it was very, very good and certainly leagues beyond anything I’d previously come across at the beach. Served with a small biscotti, always a nice touch.
On the way out I couldn’t resist the bin of local white sweet corn outside the garden center and grabbed a few ears to take home. Had them tonight, and my word, every memory of sweet white corn from New Jersey or Delaware rewarded. I don’t know if this is just a mid-Atlantic thing but that white corn is in some ways the best part of summer in this part of the world.
It’s obvious already but I really loved this place. I’m hoping the combination of products under one roof will ensure the Station is around for a long time. I took a quick drive through Lewes and it was beautiful, and old part of town with graceful homes and an interesting retail street, separated by a canal from a section of beach houses and a big sandy public beach. Will definitely have to come back.
The Station on Kings
720 Kings Hwy, Lewes, DE
Rise Up Coffee Roasters
After my lunch and coffee I jousted with the heavy traffic on Rt 1 down to Rehoboth Beach. I was lucky enough to get a parking spot on the main drag a block away from the sand, and spent the afternoon reading a book on the beach.
On the way out of town a big new place caught my eye. A blah, tired commercial building (see Google street view for what used to be here) on the lighthouse traffic circle at the entrance to town has been transformed to a bold space that looks like a modern conversion of an old auto repair shop. Could it be, two places to get good coffee in one day?
This is the ninth outlet on the Delmarva peninsula of Rise Up Coffee Roasters. The bold black and white aesthetic of the exterior continues inside, with a riot of graphics on the walls, the color scheme carried through bagged coffee beans, tshirts, mugs, even branded skateboard decks.
One quibble on the swag: many specialty coffee shops have interesting store-branded stickers by the register, and the cover of my laptop is covered with a small collection. I went to grab one of the stickers I saw here, until I saw the sign indicating they cost 50 cents each. Not to be a miser, but really? Isn’t that a giveaway item?
Very cool, if a bit overwhelming at first. All one big space, polished cement floor, lots of seating (beautiful wooden tables), a separate coffee counter and a (cocktail) bar area. There’s a big patio outside under a sailcloth.
I decided I’d try the coffee and have dinner before hitting the road.
My cappuccino was made with Rise Up’s own beans on a gorgeous red and silver La Marzocco KB 90. First impressions were not promising, as it was a huge serving in a really big mug and had a lot of dense, meringue-like foam on top.
It started out tasting okay, if a bit weak. Given the size of the portion, I wonder if the coffee to water ratio in making the espresso was too low. Eventually a nice flavor to the coffee came through. So room for improvement, but certainly something to work with.
The menu had all kinds of very interesting breakfast options, but the dinner menu was surprisingly limited. I went with ramen with tofu, which was delicious in every respect – brightly flavored, fresh and slightly sweet broth in particular – except the noodles were overcooked and gummy.
The cafe has been open only two months, so I’m willing to focus on the positives here – including an incredibly warm and friendly staff – and chalk up the shortfalls I experienced to growing pains. Here’s hoping the shop finds its stride, because the beach needs more than one place to get a good coffee.
Rise Up Coffee Roasters
502 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, DE