Executive Chef Pete McMahon has got to be one of the busiest players in Dewey Beach. As the go-to person for all things dining and catering to the Alex Pires group of restaurants, McMahon ensures that the seasonal influx of comfort foodies continues to enjoy Rusty Rudder, Northbeach, Ivy Event space, Jimmy’s Grille and Jimmy’s Catering.
The Highway One LP property extends beyond food with Dewey Rock ‘n’ Roll venue, Bottle & Cork, along with Dewey Beach Liquors, Outlet Liquors in Rehoboth, and newest music venue, Hudson Fields just north of Lewes, where you’ll enjoy Upcoming concerts Up to 6000 fans per event. This outdoor venue brings a talented name to our neighborhood, and Pete, supported by a crew of about 20, feeds the crowds not only with obligatory burgers and dogs, but also with roast pork, chicken cordon bleu bites, and focaccia bread topped with ham, cheese, turkey and cheese. On pretzel rolls, pasta salad, shrimp salad…and it’s all in the fresh air. Of course, all kinds of drinks are available to wash down the goodies.
This isn’t Pete’s first rodeo. About 37 years ago, he came to Rehoboth with his college mate, as he put it, “surfing and meeting girls,” and had his first kitchen party in Blue Moon, when Victor Bisapia and Joyce Felton were busy putting Blue Moon on the culinary map. Pete moved west for a while but returned to the beach where he opened in 2005 by JD Shuckers with longtime restaurateur Jamie Davis. In 2009, the opening of Jimmy’s Grille in Dewey Beach led south to work with the Highway One organization.
Fast forward to now, and Pete is making big changes at Dewey. Perhaps most noticeable is Rusty Rudder’s upgraded roster. With a nod to the adjacent Hyatt Place, the old mob scene buffet gave way to menu items with high-quality ingredients and preparation. They even offer to order online. New goodies include Blackened Grouper Tacos topped with Asian slaw and Sriracha cream, IPA-infused fish chips, and the iconic Rudder Lumpcake. With Jimmy O’Conor’s Woody’s East Coast Bar & Grill and Starboard Complex just a few steps away, Dewey Beach is ground zero for the crabcake wars, and Pete’s is among the best.
But all in one working day for Pete McMahon, whose grandfather worked in the Russian Tea Room in New York for more than 25 years. Pete earned his culinary degree from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and has thrived in food service ever since.
When Dewey’s Venus on the Half Shell turned into Ivy, Pete, along with co-owner John Snow, took advantage of Bay View by revamping the menu and physical layout. McMahon’s famous concept, “make it classy, but not over the top”, worked well there, but the design, stunning decor, and scenic view turned out to be more suited to special occasions. It was paid off. This season alone, more than 100 weddings have been booked in Ivy. The Northbeach next door also has a major facelift not only in the front of the house, but also in the kitchen in the form of a high-tech double deck pizza oven making late-night pizzas and toasting some of their menu sandwiches. Pancakes have proven so popular that Northbeach has replaced their long happy Friday Friday Taco Toss with Pizza Toss.
Around 2006, Highway One purchased Jimmy’s Grille, now old in Bridgeville, to take advantage of Jimmy’s well-established restaurant business. They sell the property, but under the able leadership of Ron Colfer, Jimmy’s Catering lives in the massive kitchens of Rusty Rudder. One of the amazing elements of the project is the reasonable prices. Many years ago (many!), I was a partner in a luxury catering operation in Washington, DC, and our prices back then were higher than those at Jimmy’s now.
On any summer day, a house can be found hovering above Rudder’s kitchen, supervising (in Pires’s words) “happy beach food” a few hundred yards away in Northbeach, and keeping in touch with other restaurants. With many different price points and levels of culinary execution, paired with daily live entertainment throughout, Chef McMahon has his business. And so the “eating business” goes here on the beach.
Bob Isbeck writes and talks eat beach nonstop. He can be contacted via e-mail: [email protected]