Abbott’s Grill is Now Open in Milton

Pam GeorgeFood, Headlines

Kevin Reading’s latest gives locals more tasty options.

Kevin Reading’s latest gives locals more tasty options

It was a Sunday in summer, and diners cooled their heels at the bar for up to 30 minutes, waiting for a table.

The standby status wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Rehoboth or even Lewes. But the new Abbott’s Grill is on the outskirts of Milton, north of Lewes. Regardless, reservations were needed.

The packed restaurant was a good sign, considering the space in the Paynter’s Mill community has had a troubled past.

Kindle opened in the two-story space in 2007 at 16388 Samuel Paynter Boulevard but moved to much smaller digs in downtown Lewes.

Pilot Town Fish Co. opened in 2016 and closed in 2017. Sydney’s Restaurant & Lounge—no relation to old Sydney’s Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach—debuted in time for the pandemic and closed on Jan. 1, 2024.

But after two recent visits, it’s easy to see that Abbott’s has much going for it.

Experience counts

Abbott’s is a collaboration between Kevin Reading and Ryan Maloney, who also partnered to produce Brick Works Brewing and Eats in Smyrna and Long Neck.

If Reading’s name sounds familiar, it’s because the chef has been in Delaware for some time, first upstate at the Fox Point Grill, which opened in Wilmington in 1995. He is also the culinary creative behind Espuma, which broke new ground in Rehoboth in 1999, and Nage, which dared to open on Route 1 in 2004. (All three have since closed.)

The original Abbott’s Grill served the Milford area from 2009 to 2019, and a second location opened in Laurel in 2013.

Moreover, Abbott’s was a frequent vendor at the Milton Farmers Market. Consequently, many area residents know the brand and the chef behind it.

Reading hired Paul Gallo, who worked at the Milford Abbott’s along with Brick Works and Nage, to get the Milton Abbott’s up and running.

The two chefs are familiar with each other’s style and strengths, which makes for a seemingly smooth start. During our two visits, the servers were polished, friendly, and professional.

The elephant in the room

The dining room, however, has been a challenge for more than one restaurateur.

Kindle’s lounge was tucked under a balcony dining room overlooking the main seating area and a vaulted ceiling. In 2007, News Journal writer Eric Ruth noted the “high decibel din.” There was also a freestanding fireplace, which garnered the lion’s share of the attention. (The Lewes Kindle does not have a firepit.)

While the décor changed with subsequent owners, the din remained, and it was particularly noticeable when bands played at Sydney’s.

Admittedly, that restaurant had other issues, including an hour-long wait for a burger on a busy night.

Abbott’s dampened the sound by applying rustic pieces of beachy wood on the two- story wall. Since the space now has nautical touches, the guests know they’re near the coast—not in a ski chalet.

The voices can still soar throughout the restaurant, but it is better than before. Because live music is not an offering, you don’t need to shout over the bass player.

From starters to sandwiches to entrees

The menu has classics, including French onion soup ($8), a Caesar salad ($11), a New York strip ($36) and short rib roast ($26). However, some get a twist. For instance, the Caesar has fried capers, tomatoes and red onions.

Reading and Gallo smartly realize the advantage of playing to the locals, a strategy that worked in Milford and Laurel.

Soups and starters include Chesapeake crab ($9), crab- and-artichoke dip ($15) and fried green tomatoes ($12).
The Big Sussex sandwich ($16) is a southern Delaware tradition: fried oysters and chicken salad. (The meat is diced into admirable and uniform cubes.) There is a crab cake sandwich ($18) and an entrée version with succotash.

Reading grew up in Florida, but dishes like the tender grilled bone-in pork chop, brined in sweet tea, are equally appealing in southern Delaware. The same could be said for the shrimp-and-grits with andouille ($24) and crispy catfish with braised greens and grits ($21).

The menu strays into the casual sector with burgers ($15) and pulled pork ($13). Yet you can detect Reading’s fine-dining background in the details. Consider the kiss of spiced brown butter on fried calamari with edamame ($17) and burrata cheese with grilled asparagus and prosciutto ($16). Black garlic perfumes pan- seared scallops perched on a bed of sweet corn puree ($17).

Considering the restaurant’s proximity to the resort towns, the prices are affordable. Indeed, they’re lower than many northern Delaware establishments.

It’s the type of restaurant that neighbors can visit two or three times a month without getting bored—or heading south to brave bumper-to-bumper traffic.

At the beach, parking, variety and consistency are a recipe for a restaurant’s success. Abbott’s boasts all three.

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