Growing up in Mexico, Herminio Ruiz and Manuel Monge were very close, but when Manuel moved to the United States, the two lost touch. Herminio knew that Manuel had entered the military but was not sure where his cousin was living in this country. After Herminio moved to America, settling in Delaware, he began working in restaurants in the area.
“About four years ago, out of the blue, my cousin, Manuel, called me to let me know he would be in Annapolis for training,” Herminio said. “We had not seen each other in almost 20 years. It was around the holidays and he asked if he could come visit since his family was in San Diego. We picked up our relationship as if we had never been apart. When he asked what I had been doing, I told him that I had been working in restaurants and he asked why I didn’t own my own business. I told him being a chef was much different than being an owner.” Herminio said that he and Manuel talked often and every time they did, the subject of Herminio owning his own restaurant came up.
Herminio said that he knew it would cost a lot of money to start a restaurant, but Manuel urged him to consider it. The cousins began researching what it would take to open a restaurant with Herminio finding an available location on Rehoboth Boulevard. They spoke to the owner of the building and the dream of a new restaurant began to take shape.
“We wanted to come up with a name that would not only represent Milford, but connect to the history of the town as well,” Mariela Sanchez, Manuel’s fiancé, said. “We found out about the shipbuilding history of Milford and, with Manuel being in the Navy, it seemed like the best way to go. We read about a nuclear submarine that was going to be named the USS Delaware in honor of Vice-President Joe Biden and we knew that is what the name of the restaurant should be.”
Manuel said that once they decided the name, everything moved quickly. He said that the cousins never planned on becoming restaurant owners but once the dream took hold, everything just seemed to fall into place. Herminio, his wife and Mariela handle the day-to-day operations as Manuel is active duty in the U.S. Navy, serving as a Flight Nurse and Oncology Clinical Nurse. He is a Lieutenant and is also responsible for medical personnel recruitment. He said that partnering with his cousin was an easy decision as Herminio is an expert at what he does.
Herminio began his career in food service working for Jim Tennefoss at Jimmy’s Grill in Bridgeville, DE. When the Salisbury location opened, he was promoted to head of the kitchen. He also assisted with the opening of the Georgetown location near the airport. He left the organization taking a position at Smith’s and worked for them for about 12 years in Georgetown and Greenwood before moving to Coral Reef Café in Georgetown.
“I loved working at Coral Reef Café, but they decided to sell the business so I knew I had to move on,” Herminio said. “I went to work for Richard Steele, owner of Café Assafran in Lewes and Rehoboth. It was there that I learned about cooking with fresh local ingredients. I still miss working there. Richard was more than a boss, he was more like my brother.”
USS Delaware focuses on American, homestyle food served in a more upscale dining setting. Herminio chooses fresh, local ingredients and says the recipes used are ones he has adapted over the year using his own palate as a guide. He said that all food cooked in the restaurant is cooked to order, which means it may take a little longer but the customers have told him it is worth waiting a few extra minutes for food cooked specifically for them.
USS Delaware is located at 319 South Rehoboth Boulevard with dining available in the restaurant or take out is available. Reservations are available by calling 302-491-4892.