On the Culture Front: Happily Unhip in Bethany Beach

Before I profiled Sam Calagione last summer, I decided to take a few days with my girlfriend in Bethany Beach, a quiet coastal community in Delaware that feels a bit like where people from Grovers Corners go to catch some sun. Dogfish Head was one of the first breweries that got me excited about craft beer, so I was trying to get away from thinking about Sam in mythic proportions. This proved to be the perfect place. The "downtown" is decidedly unhip with the biggest food trends being funnel cakes and ice cream. An arcade provides nightly amusement, and I was surprised how worked up we got about winning tickets playing skeeball and challenging each other to air hockey matches or car races.

No one cares what you're wearing here, and reservations are hardly ever needed. The one exception to this ease of living was the massive line to get into Matt's Fish Camp. Quite a good meal, but I'm not convinced it was worth the wait. If we wanted to test whether we'd pass out before our names were called, we could just stay in the city. Growing up in Manhattan, I feel I'm never quite on vacation until I can stop wondering if there will be a line somewhere.

We stayed at Bethany Beach Ocean Suites and hardly ever used the car during our three-night stay. One notable exception was a short drive to pick up a six-pack of 60-Minute IPA. Each night, I sat on our balcony before dinner and watched the sunset with a cold one in hand. On a lazy day, we left the balcony door open and listened to waves crash from underneath the plush covers of the bed. There's an effortless luxury that flows through the place and kept my anxiety and excitement of my interview at bay until the morning we left.

I have a tendency to over plan (not just when we travel), which can frustrate my girlfriend whose idea of a good day is lying on the beach with a book until it's too dark to read. I'm beginning to discover the charms of this more minimalistic approach to travel, something I was thinking about as we were getting a massage. The spa is as comfortably unassuming as the rest of the place, and as I stuck my head into the little doughnut-shaped pillow, I tried not to think of anything as I listened to the new age soundscape. Then I heard something familiar. At first, it sounded like an echo from my childhood, but I couldn't place it. Then the chorus hit complete with wind flute, and I realized it was an instrumental rendition of Toto's "Africa."

A smile came over my face that lasted until dinner, which we took on the back porch of the hotel in the aptly named 99 Sea Level. The fading melodic notes coursed through my head as I gazed out onto the endless expanse of ocean. A seafood tower with Blue Point-Chincoteague oysters and Broadwater clams were impossibly fresh and sourced from nearby Virginia but even the steamed Alaskan crab and shrimp from unspecified locals tasted like they just pulled out of the water. Paired with a gin martini sweetened up with honey and lemon, I had no other desire than to be right there.

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