Rehoboth Beach has no shortage of quickie food options. Though one can only choke down so many buckets of Thrasher’s fries, Kohn Bros frozen custard or Grotto’s Pizza before craving something that doesn’t induce intestinal acrobatics and an Olympic sprint to the nearest bathroom after consumption.
Enter Hari Cameron, Chef/Owner of a(MUSE.), who has brought a new fast casual dining option to Baltimore Avenue called grandpa(MAC.). The James Beard Mid-Atlantic Best Chef semi-finalist admits that a(MUSE.) only reaches a small demographic and wanted to create a concept that would have a broader appeal.
“My brother, Orion, told me about a mac and cheese place he found while living in Oakland, California,” Cameron said pointing to a guy sporting a full head of dreadlocks. “I didn’t want to just do variations of mac and cheese. So we expanded the idea to all types of pasta to be more accessible and appeal to the masses.”
Christened on July 4th, the concept is simple and centers on wholesomeness with ingredients sourced locally whenever possible. Pasta is prepared fresh daily in the front window on a machine that can produce 30 pounds of pasta an hour, Cameron explains. He eventually wants to sell sauces and pasta online.
The menu is comprised of thirteen different “Signature Chef Selections” including a Vegan Mac & Un-cheese. Adventurous types seeking even more variety can create their own flavor combinations by picking a pasta shape, sauce, protein and toppings. Prices range $6 – $18 with three bowl sizes available. Soup and customizable salads are also offered.
“We can pretty much make anything you want. We’ve got it all,” Cameron said when I walked in.
Cameron’s approachability and upbeat attitude is evident in the recipes he creates. I anticipated The Big Ragout to be a gut buster and wavered before placing my order. The rigatoni was large and meaty. Halved cherry tomatoes folded throughout brightened the dish. Since the pasta bowls are essentially mixed together the moment an order is placed, don’t expect the usual “baked in” flavor. The sauce’s constancy leans more toward condiment than binding agent. Toasted baguette crumbs on top added much needed texture and a quick torch under a broiler would have further elevated the meal.
I snagged a few bites of the Vegan “Mac & Un-Cheese” my fellow taster, Jason, ordered. I had lost count after seven when Cameron listed the ingredients in the vegan “cheese” sauce. The end result was a creamy base that finished with a citrus undertone. Tapioca based shredded cheese and chopped almonds coated the elbow macaroni evenly and added a nutty crunch. Instead of a poorly executed facsimile of the real thing, this dish stood on its own.
Both of our meals were washed down with lemonade made by steeping the zest and pulp in hot water before staining and chilling. The restaurant will also serve house-made soda as soon as the equipment arrives.
“The parts will be here any day now. We should have soda ready a few days after that,” Cameron said.