August 01, 2010

Cafe on 26 - Vacation Eats at Bethany Beach

We spent a week at the beach last week in Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, Delaware.  These are typical beach towns with tons of family eateries, most specializing in food designed for the masses.  Food is plentiful but if you are gluten-free or even worse, primal/paleo, then the pickings are slim and eating out can become a bit tortuous.  Most restaurants fix foods that appeal to the Standard American Diet  - foods coated in breading, fried in omega-6-laden vegetable oils, "fresh" from the freezer.  The waitstaff are usually young kids, working for the summer in a beach town, or imports from eastern Europe who may or may not have a good grasp of English.  Even if they do, it is a good bet that they have never heard of gluten or have any clue which ingredients contain it.

Even if I can't eat paleo, I ALWAYS eat gluten-free.  I can usually ferret out a good meal selection by a few careful questions, but this week on one occasion, we were told by a waitress who said she checked in the kitchen, that an item was GF.  Turned out it was not (as confirmed by a waiter at the same restaurant later in the week) and by the inflamed arthritis-like pains in my shoulder joints for two days after.  I will work with any restaurant to stay GF.  I don't expect them to make me special food, but I do expect them to be honest about the ingredients in the food I do order.

All of this is to preface the GF restaurant find of my life!  Cafe on 26 opened up this year in May.  They are located on Route 26 just a few miles outside Bethany.  My daughter and I stopped there one afternoon on our way to some local shopping because their sign advertised a coffee bistro and we can usually depend on coffee as being gluten-free.  Much to our amazement, when we got the menu, we found out the place offered gluten-free items on the menu.  And not just gluten-free, but homemade gluten-free!  And not just homemade, but delicious gluten-free bread, bakery items, sauces, and complete MEALS without the worry of gluten contamination!  It turns out one of the owners has celiac disease and wanted to have a restaurant where those of us who are GF can eat in total trust that we will not be contaminated.  I threw paleo out the window that day (and on subsequent visits) since my chances to eat excellent GF food in a restaurant are limited at best.  However, I could have easily eaten a paleo meal there as well.
For my lunch that day, I had a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on GF bread.  Real moist delicious bread, not the frozen store variety.  It came with chips and a pickle and I got a nice cafe latte to go with it.  My daughter had a turkey sandwich on GF bread with the same sides.  The waiter assured us that almost all of the bakery items were GF (and clearly knew which few were not) so we shared a piece of cheesecake.  Heaven!

We went back for dinner the next night.  Oh bliss!  My husband had cool peach soup, duck with cherry reduction, a quinoa tabouli, and red potato salad.  My daughter had the same soup, salmon crusted with potato, and mashed yukon gold potatoes.  I had beef bourguignon, mashed yukons, and green beans and carrots.  We each had drinks (wine, mojito, vodka) and finished up with delicious coffees and desserts (Grand Marnier chocolate mousse, expresso chocolate mousse, and key lime pie).  Our entire meal was gluten-free and delicious.  If I had chosen different sides and foregone the dessert, I could have easily eaten primal as well.  But I don't often get to eat gloriously GF anywhere except home, so this was one meal to splurge.

On our final day at the beach, we stopped for a light breakfast on the way home.  The restaurant chefs make GF baked goods that are outstanding.  I had bacon (see, somewhat primal) and a cinnamon danish roll.  Oh my!  My daughter had french GF toast with bacon.  We had coffees all around.  There are omelets and other dishes to choose from, but it was a rare treat to get a real cinnamon roll.  Oh, and did I mention they make GF scrapple?  If you are from Maryland or PA, you love scrapple. It comes with the territory and since going GF, I have had to give it up since it is all made with flour.  These folks make their own gluten-free.  I missed it this visit but wait until next year!

The prices are extremely reasonable and the waitstaff is friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient.  They smile! The setting is gorgeous - a renovated older home with comfortable seating areas free of greasy placemats and screaming children (a rarity in this resort town).  I can say nothing bad about this restaurant, except for one thing:  It is 3 hours from my house.  Here's their website: and their facebook page:

I hope they are open in winter because we plan to make a winter trip this year.  The website doesn't do them justice.  This place is good, GF or not, and I encourage everyone who gets in the area to stop by and give them a try.  Of course, I would like to maintain that fine line between too popular that you have to wait 45 minutes to get in and not popular enough to stay in business until I can get down there again!


  1. Hello,

    Glad to see you found somewhere good to eat - it can be hard can't it. I just wanted to say thanks for your great site and the recipes. I am easing back into primal eating and have been looking for recipes I can make ahead for the week. I'm going to try the baked eggs florentine, hot day salmon hash and sweet potato hash today! Thanks.

  2. Thanks! Hope you enjoy the recipes!

  3. Loved reading this post. Heading to Fenwick Island on saturday for a week!!

    Thanks for resteraunt suggestion! Sounds wonderful!


  4. Hope you enjoy Cafe on 26 as much as we did. Have a fun week!