They say that summer’s a soothing time to be in Wilmington. The days are a little slower and sleepier, and some of the city’s buzz seems to fly south with the seagulls, toward the state’s sparkling ocean and bays. In a flurry of packing, carloads of soon-to-be-sunburned families are fleeing as we speak to the sandy shores of Rehoboth/Dewey/Bethany Beach, seeking fresh breezes, whispering waves and (inevitably) buckets of vinegar-drenched fries. 

To be honest, the great seasonal southern migration does make me a bit envious, marooned as I am in a completely wave-deprived part of the state. So each summer I try to remind myself: These precious weeks of late-in-the-day sunsets are a great opportunity to explore new dinner treats, grab elusive reservations, and take a closer look at the delights that 2024 has so far delivered to Greater Wilmington & the Brandywine Valley. Chicken Lollipop - Stock

Summer’s barely here, and I’m already dreaming about certain new dishes: I notice that a cozy looking restaurant called The Opulent has opened along Kirkwood Highway (Del. 2) south of the city, and its globetrotting menu exudes an air of South Asian pageantry. The “Kebabs of the Mughals” seem like something out of a gauzy fairy tale, though we are just as happy to learn it is chicken cubes drenched in creamy cheese and cooked in a fiery clay oven. If you’ve never had a “chicken lollipop,” let the “Kaichi Drums of Heaven” be your first, if for no other reason than they come tossed in a bracing chili sauce. (3421 Kirkwood Highway, Unit A-D, Wilmington. 302-384-7344.

Nearby, more fusion-focused urges are emerging: A soon-to-open outpost of the national Yummy Bowl chain promises “the ultimate Asian fusion experience,” powered in this case by Mongolian stir frys, real-deal ramen, and (be still, my heart) spiced-up Korean fried chicken. (3226 Kirkwood Highway, Prices Corner Shopping Center, Wilmington.

While you’re in the neighborhood, it’s probably wise to check out the new El Patron, not because it’s tough finding good Mexican food in Greater Wilmington, but because this Mexican food takes so many pleasantly refreshing turns. Quesadilla Stock ImageYes, there are tacos, chimichangas, etc., but also barbacoa (slow-cooked beef/lamb), GINORMOUS tortas and burritos, and such intriguingly named dishes as Huarache Chilango, which might alternatively be described as a deliciously decadent Mexican flatbread pizza. (714 Greenbank Road, at Kirkwood Highway.

Speaking of Mexican food (as I do too frequently), there’s also a fairly new one in nearby Stanton called El Rodeo Loco. Want waffles for breakfast? El Rodeo Loco’s got ‘em, along with eggy mexi-breakfasts. Instead, I’ll wait until dinner or lunch, when I can not only get good-ol’ U.S. of A. die-hards (ribs, T-bones, crab cakes), but also birria ramen, cactus quesadillas, and even Mexican-accented pastas (penne with creamy chipotle sauce, anyone?). (2136 W. Newport Pike, Stanton. 302-543-8847.

Now that the county’s glaring deficit of Mexican pasta dishes has been resolved, we can move on hopefully to the category of Turkish/Middle Eastern food, which has made momentary appearances in the area, but is eventually snatched away. Maybe Blade Kebab & Steakhouse will show everyone what we’re missing: Chef Kadir, who is reportedly “renowned for his mastery of Brazilian and Turkish steakhouse cuisine,” is kind enough to give us a drool-worthy menu of grilled meats, doner and iskender kebabs, kofte, and skewers of lamb, chicken or salmon. (7288 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin. 302-239-3999. bladekebabsteak.comFusco's Italian Ice

Summer in Delaware of course would not be complete without a cooling cup of Italian water ice, and one of the area’s most delicious versions of these slushy beauties is now available at more spots across the county. Originally located in a tiny hut in Wilmington’s Little Italy at 610 N. Union St. (which remains open), Fusco’s Authentic Water Ice & Ice Cream now has a brick-and-mortar location at 3926 Kirkwood Highway. While you’re there, you can grab another Delaware favorite: Fusco’s recently announced it will be also serving luscious tomato pies from another local favorite, Nick’s Pizza 302. (3926 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington.

Finally, for those of us who simply cannot imagine a better summer treat than Delaware’s most beloved delicacy, I bring good tidings: The NorthEast Crab Co. is a new purveyor of these delicious crustaceans, and they’ve conveniently set up shop at one of Hockessin’s most reliable sandwich shops, The Well. Give them a call, then get crackin’. (6949 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin. Text 302-766-2808 to place order.