Half off at Chelsea Tavern, Wilmington
Today's Open Table Spotlight has a coupon for $25 off $50. Since we actually had plans to go there tonight, I jumped on it. I've only eaten there once so far and I was not blown away, but I'll give it another chance, on the recommendation of a few friends. We do like the beer list. My one lunch there was a big salad that was OK in terms of contents, but the dressing was pretty taste-free. I did have an interesting dessert, though--a "beer shake", a.k.a. a fruity beer with vanilla ice cream in it. This was weird but oddly good.
Just read in the Second Helpings blog that the Chelsea Tavern chef/co-owner has left (he will now be in Brandywine Hundred running Ulysses Gastropub--owned by the Six Paupers people).
Maybe now Chelsea will get a chef that can teach the line cooks how to execute on the menu, or if they can't, then write a menu that they can execute properly.
I continue to really like the beers at this place, so I hope they can do better on the food. I got sucked into going there again last month and for the Nth time, had a great beer and a not-great plate of food (this time, a seared tuna sandwich...not awful, but not worth the price either, and poorly presented).
Having had my third meal now at Chelsea Tavern, I have to report that it is just aggravating. The menu LOOKS good, but the execution is way below the imagination of whoever's writing the descriptions. I had lunch there today and ordered the crispy duck confit salad. This was a big pile of spinach and arugula leaves (no complaints from me there), with some odd cooked grape tomatoes around the edge, what seemed to be wine-sauteed mushrooms, and a deep-fried duck leg on top. The duck leg may have been confit to start with, but by the time it hit the salad it was fried to a fare-thee-well, with the skin so crisped up that I could barely cut it. I would have still been OK with the whole thing had the salad greens not been doused with a dressing so unbearably salty that it was completely inedible. It tasted like straight soy sauce. It was so bad that I interrupted my business lunch to send it back and ask for a new salad with no dressing.
Upon hearing my tale of woe, Mr. travelmad478's advice was to lower my expectations to Logan House level, after which I would not be disappointed. Unfortunately, Chelsea Tavern definitely has aspirations well above Logan House territory. Their beer list is still good, but unless they get a chef that can actually pull off the menu, I will not be ordering anything more ambitious than a bowl of chili.
I wish I had read your post earlier regarding the coupon. We had dinner at Oriella's on St. Patrick's Day and the waiter recommended Chelsea Tavern (I had asked him about good burger restaurants).
The restaurant is located in the old space formerly occupied by 821 Market Bistro. There is an open bar as you walk in off of Market Street. It probably seats about 15 people comfortably. Opposite the bar are three round high tables for parties of two/three. On the walls hung two large flat screen televisions showing the NCAA Tourney. Right off the bat, I got a big city vibe about the restaurant.
The dining area seats between 80 to 100 people more or less; booths line the perimeter with individual tables for two or four located on the inside. At the back of the restaurant is the open kitchen where they prepare their wood oven pizzas and other items.
We made a 6:00 pm reservation for saturday night as we wanted to avoid the weekend crush. We were seated at a cozy booth with nice white linens. Graphic prints/pictures lined the wall. Instead of ordering individual cocktails, we decided to try the beer flight that was being offered. It was a selection of five Belgian beers served in 6 oz. glasses. The lineup consisted of Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Palm, Saison DuPont and Delirium Tremens ($15). We asked the waitress to bring these with the dinner.
My girlfriend ordered the Grilled Tuna Steak with Pappardelle Pasta, Crispy Capers, Grilled Fennel, and Lemon Crèam Sauce ($19). I had the Grass-Fed Beef Burger with Grilled Onion, Cheddar Cheese and Bacon ($9.50) along with a Ceasar salad ($5).
The fish was done to perfection; nice and moist. The pasta was cooked just right and the accompanying lemon cream sauce was delicious yet not thick and overpowering. My burger was excellent. I asked for a hot pink center and that is exactly what I received. It was served on a baked brioche bun and was juicy enough to be delicious, but not too wet to completely drown the bun My only complaint was that my ceasar salad was under dressed (better to be under dressed than too much dressing). No problem as the waitress kindly brought me a small helping of the dressing.
The beer was the perfect accompaniment for my burger, but then again when doesn't beer go well with a burger? Surprisingly my girlfriend enjoyed all of the beers even though she isn't a beer drinker. We both preferred the Delirium Tremens slightly more than the others. We equally liked the Stella Artois and Saison. Where we differed was between the Hoegaarden and Palm; she preferred the former while I choose the later.
No desserts or coffee were ordered as we had goodies at home.
The total price for the meal was $48.50.
Chelsea Tavern has been open a little over a year. If you are looking for a smart, casual restaurant with good food, add this restaurant to your list. We parked on Market Street, but they will take $3 off of your tab if you park at the Doubletree Hotel lot (700 N. King Street). I am not sure if they do this with any other parking structures.
Chelsea will definitely go into our rotation of restaurants not only for their good food, but also for their hours. Monday thru Thursday they are open until 10:30 pm or so, while on Friday and Saturday they close at 2:00 am. They also offer Sunday Brunch from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
Chelsea Tavern is the type of restaurant that downtown Wilmington needs... and we need more of them! Give them a try either after work or on a lazy weekend.
821 North Market Street
Wilmington, De 19801