The new restaurant in Sea Gull Square offers "kabob" style Chinese food as well as spicier options. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Hundreds of seafood lovers flocked to the 45th Annual Oyster Festivel on Chincoteague, Virginia on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. Carol Vaughn video
DelawareOnline's Ryan Cormier hosts a Facebook Live chat with Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione at his bar and restaurant in Rehoboth Beach on Oct. 3, 2017.
Hundreds of classic cars and trucks descended on Ocean City on the weekend of Oct. 6, 2017. Todd Dudek video
100 varieties of jerky available, including exotic meats such as kangaroo and elk in addition to gourmet snacks, popcorn, nuts, spices, sauces and rubs available.
Delmarva Eastern Surfing Association held the Maryland State Surfing Championships on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 on the beach at 36th street in Ocean City, Md. Produced by Megan Raymond
A new sight will be welcoming visitors to Ocean City after they cross the Route 90 bridge into town — a Denny's restaurant. Wochit
Dollar stores are popping up on street corners across Delmarva, swimming against the retail sector's falling tide. Video by Jeremy Cox
The 2017 Golden Retriever Club of America National Specialty will be hosted by Wicomico Youth and Civic Center and nearby venues in both Maryland and Delaware on Sept. 22-30. Wochit
As Wicomico County prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary, The Daily Times and DelmarvaNow.com will offer nine days of coverage, much of it recalling where we were 150 years ago and recounting the journey through time that brought us to where we are today. Wochit
An inside look at this year's event. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Larry Parsons grew up in the restaurant business and eventually decided to his own. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Big Oyster Brewery's expansion in Lewes will increase production by 2,500 barrels Produced by Megan Raymond
Pico Taqueria offers freshly made tortillas, with a variety of different toppings and is open during Chincoteague's summer season. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Joe KroArt, Ocean Gallery, was honored by Maryland's Comptroller Peter Franchot Produced by Megan Raymond
The William E. Morgan Conservation Center will offer reptiles, amphibians and conservation programs. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
OC Painting Experience brought to you by T.C. Studios is a place for locals and visitors to learn about painting. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
In Ocean City, Italian bistro Ripieno's specializes in big portions, including its 28-inch large pizza. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding held its semi-finals on Friday, August 11, 2017 at Dewey Beach, Del. Produced by Megan Raymond
Hamboards allow riders to surf while on land. Here's what Don Sandusky, owner and general manager of the co., had to say about the newest model. Produced by Gray Hughes
Chef Cameron arguably Delaware's best chef, is quite literally a walking cookbook. His body and his brain are filled with the thousands of books he's read and the hundreds of places he's traveled to learn global cuisine. Produced by Megan Raymond
OC BBQ, which replaced OC Steamers, opened in May and provided a southern barbecue restaurant at the changing 45th Street Village. Wochit
An inside look at this year's event. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Vineyard Wine Bar and Bistro is providing an upscale food and wine experience at the beach. Wochit
The new space will include an expanded dining area, fire pits, cornhole and a viewing area where customers can observe the brewing process. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Pony Penning begins with southern and northern roundups on Assateague, the swim to Chincoteague on July 26 followed by the auction on July 27 and capped with the swim back. Wochit/Produced by Kamlesh Desai
Known for their crab cakes, Drum Point Market has gained attention from travelers from all over the country. Produced by Ralph Musthaler and Ben Penserga
A band of wild ponies gallops on Assateague Island. Video courtesy of DSC photography. Darcy Cole, DSC photography
Barn 34 in Ocean City puts the family in family restaurants. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Highlights from the 2017 Berlin Bathtub Races. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
What's percolating in the world of coffee and coffee shops? Pemberton Coffeehouse is set to open in Salisbury — again. Deborah Gates
Chef Chris Parks has elevated the cuisine at Lupo in Rehoboth over the last few years. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
The 10th Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest at Fish Tales in Ocean City ended with a new winner being crowned!
Delmarvanow.com asks beach visitors about their favorite activities on the Fourth of July. Produced by Megan Raymond
The restaurant offers seafood, speciality pizzas and more to customers. Produced by Meg Ryan
Chris Clare went from a small town ballplayer to a minor-league All-Star. Wochit
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has been touring breweries in Maryland to learn about their economic impact on their respective communities. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Alan Goldsborough of Crisfield and daughter, Heather, have opened Shipwrecked Seafood at Route 50 and Main Street in Berlin. Live, steamed and softshells to go! Deborah Gates
Ropewalk Chincoteague offers waterfront dining, a tiki bar and more. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Near perfect weather made for an exciting air show. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
Gilligan's, on the canal waterfront in Lewes, reopened after an off-season remodel. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Indigo in Rehoboth, a new restaurant, is one of the Delaware beach area's only Indian restaurants. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Roadie Joe's owner talks about how his business has grown along with Salisbury. Produced by Ralph Musthaler
High Stakes Bar & Grill in Fenwick Island recently renovated. Produced by Jeff Neiburg
Rare & Rye Owner Sal Fasano describes the newest hotel restaurant in OC Produced by Megan Raymond
SoDel's Scott Kammerer at the newest Bluecoast Seafood Grill and Raw Bar Produced by Megan Raymond
Salisbury will play host to a major festival and tourism draw next year that is expected to bring in tens of millions of dollars to the city. Video by Keith Demko
Peter and Linda Roskovich's family beach home will be featured on HGTV's "Beachfront Bargin Hunt: Renovation" Produced by Megan Raymond
Take a virtual walk along the Ocean City Boardwalk while checking out some of the sounds and sights. Produced by Gray Hughes
Burley Oak Brewing Company is aiming for a July opening for a new, coffee-inspired cafe in downtown Berlin. Wochit
Local fans of HGTV’s television show, “House Hunters,” will soon see their hometown in an upcoming episode. Wochit
Downtown Salisbury Festival returns June 2-4 with with carnival rides, food vendors, craft beer, a full entertainment lineup and local vendors. Wochit
- WATCH: Chuar brings authentic Chinese food to Salisbury
- WATCH: 45th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival
- Thirst State Craft Crawl - Dogfish Head
- WATCH: OC Endless Summer Cruisin' 2017
- WATCH: Beef jerky Outlet store opening in Rehoboth
- Delmarva Eastern Surf Association Maryland State Championships
- WATCH: New Denny's coming to former home of JR's Ribs in Ocean City.
- WATCH: Why dollar stores are sweeping across Delmarva
- WATCH: National golden retriever show coming to Delmarva
- WATCH: Recalling Wicomico County's 150th Anniversary
- WATCH: Scenes from 58th Annual Skipjack Race
- WATCH: Woody's Beach BBQ owner keeps it simple
- WATCH: Big Oyster Brewery to open in Lewes
- WATCH: Pico Taqueria brings Mexican American fare to Chincoteague
- WATCH: Ocean Gallery honored by Maryland Comptroller
- WATCH: Salisbury Zoo cuts ribbon for new conservation center
- WATCH: Local art studio offers visitors a chance to relax and paint
- WATCH: Ripieno's in Ocean City does big portions
- WATCH: Zap Pro/Am World Championships of Skimboarding semi-finals
- WATCH: Surf on land with Hamboards
- WATCH: Chef's Corner- Chef Hari Cameron a(muse.)
- WATCH: OC BBQ offers Southern eats in a former seafood restaurant
- WATCH: Scenes from the 41st annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake
- WATCH: A new wine experience in Rehoboth
- WATCH: Evolution plans outdoor expansion with green space
- Pony Penning 2017: What to expect
- WATCH: Smith Island store draws people from afar
- Chincoteague ponies kick up their heels
- WATCH: Barn 34 in Ocean City a family affair
- WATCH: Scenes from the 28th Bathub Races
- WATCH: Pemberton Coffeehouse set to reopen
- WATCH: Chef Chris Parks shining at Lupo in Rehoboth
- WATCH: 10th Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest at Fish Tales in Ocean City
- WATCH: What is your favorite thing to do on the Fourth?
- WATCH: Buxy's owner expands business footprint with newly opened Dry Dock 28
- WATCH: Shorebirds All-Star sets the bar high
- WATCH: Comptroller Franchot rallying craft beer industry
- WATCH: Shipwrecked in Berlin
- WATCH: Ropewalk Chincoteague brings waterfront dining to both locals and visitors
- WATCH: Air Show draws a big crowd to Ocean City
- WATCH: Gilligan's in Lewes opens after remodel
- WATCH: Indigo in Rehoboth serves rare Indian cuisine
- WATCH: Roadie Joe's serves up sophisticated pub fare
- WATCH: High Stakes renovates in Fenwick
- WATCH: Rare & Rye isn't the average hotel restaurant
- WATCH: SoDel's Bluecoast Seafood Grill open in Rehoboth
- WATCH: Salisbury lands National Folk Festival starting in 2018
- WATCH: HGTV Beachfront Bargin Hunt comes to Ocean City
- WATCH: Sights and sounds of the Ocean City Boardwawlk
- WATCH: Burley Oak to open cafe in Berlin
- WATCH: Couple brings 'House Hunters' to Salisbury
- Downtown Salisbury Festival
A small group of bartenders and servers were waiting around the bar at Big Fish in Rehoboth Beach.
They were not really hanging out, more like checking in with Michele Smith, who had the evening off but still carries the kind of quiet authority that comes with 17 years behind the bar.
Colleagues peppered her with “hellos” and “what are you doing heres,” but mostly they wanted to know whether she thought a popular customer, Gary, was bringing macadamia nut cookies. Some regulars bring her the occasional gift, but on Thursdays, Gary could be counted upon to bring cookies.
The staff at a restaurant like Big Fish doesn’t lack for much in the good food department, but gifts from customers taste a little sweeter.
For Smith, it is a reminder why she has stayed so long on the job, and how she built it into a natural extension of her life.
Smith grew up in Lincoln, Delaware, and has worked at the beach for the last 23 summers. She tried her hand at several jobs, but once she was old enough to bartend, she found her calling — even though, she said, she didn’t know it at the time.
“I can’t say if you asked me 20 years ago if this is what I would be doing, I would have said' yes,' ” she said. “But it’s like anything else, whether you’re making Manhattans or doing fundraisers for school, there’s a pride in it.”
In between working at the beach, Smith took her English degree at James Madison University with the intention of teaching, but there wasn’t much of a rush. She was young and part of the beach server scene, which is a club all to itself.
Bartenders from different restaurants tend to run in packs, especially when it is summertime. Smith said her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Larry, jokingly worried that if he didn’t treat her well, he wouldn’t be able to get served at any bar in the region.
She spent her first few years as a bartender popping beer caps and whizzing frozen drinks at beach bars on the strip.
One night, Eric Segrue, who with his brother Norman owns Big Fish, invited her to come work behind the new tiki bar.
Smith could handle crowds, but also was personable and engaging — she still is.
“I never could wait tables,” she said. “I like to talk too much.”
Standing behind the bar, Smith is able to keep the conversations going while she does her job — but that’s just the first part of being good bartender. At a place like Big Fish, making good drinks is paramount.
The clientele order proper cocktails and have expectations about them. Learning to be good at that took a little longer. Most of what Smith knows about being a great bartender, she said she learned from the woman who trained her at Big Fish, Denise Cain.
“I remember watching Denise and thinking, ‘I will never be able to open a bottle of wine as fast as she does, I will never be able to make five martinis at a time,’ ” she said. “It’s not opening a bazillion bottles. It’s not pouring shots. You’ll have someone come in and say, ‘Can I have a stinger?’ ‘Make me a Rob Roy.’
"I’m a perfectionist, I have to be good.”
Smith’s greatest advantage is her ability to establish relationships almost immediately. She makes connections with people and they get the impression right off the bat that she is sincere — because she is.
Making a good drink takes both execution and ambiance. The confidence with which she serves her guests lets them know she is committed.
Although she has worked at Big Fish varying nights and times during the last 17 years, Monday night always has been locals night. It’s like a small club, she said, that counts on being able to see one another.
“They’ve watched me get married, they’ve watched me have all four of my kids,” she said. “There was a period when I was kind of done, but I kept the two nights per week so I could see them.”
When it’s busy, Smith jokes that her favorite drink to make is a Miller Lite draft. And while her specialty is a Manhattan, her favorite is the martini and all its variations.
Further back than she can remember, she initiated the martini of the week. Sometimes it is something of her own creation, sometimes it is a little more classic, but it always is up on the board by the time the doors open and all of the bartenders know how to make it.
For Smith, this is the next level of being good at what she does: coming up with drink menus and instructions that keep things fresh, even for people who have been sitting in the same seats for more than a decade.
“After I had my daughter (she has three boys and a girl, in that order), people were amazed that I came back within four weeks,” she said. “I told them, ‘I have four kids, this is the easiest thing I do all week.’ ”
Gary did come in that evening, receiving hellos as he slid up to the bar. He pulled a plastic shopping bag out of his lap and laid it on the bar. Today, it was rocky road cookies from Harrington, Delaware, instead of macadamia nut. But there would always be next week and the week after that. The cookie was secondary to the attitude with which it was presented.