Ever see those restaurants that are seemingly never open, but they never seem to close? We have. Year after year down at Rehoboth Beach there is a small restaurant that we’ve passed hundreds of times glancing in at the empty tables with their ornate, cloth napkins fanned and standing at attention in an unassuming water glass waiting to be taken by a server and placed in your lap as you begin your Russian dining experience. I am talking about Red Square Restaurant and Caviar Bar. Yes, you’ve seen it. This is partly food review, but moreover it is a lesson about knowing your customer.
It was a steamy evening in Rehoboth Beach on the hottest day of the summer and my partner and I were, once again, passing this fine dining establishment that is sneakishly, but obviously, placed on the main strip of Rehoboth Avenue. After having talked about this restaurant with some folks earlier in the week and having taken notice that we actually were passing it (yet, again) we made the decision to dive into my first, truly authenticate Russian dining experience. It seemed like it was meant to be. Though, my partner was reluctunant because he knew on the other side of the door was caviar which I would “strongly encourage” him to try even though it makes him wiggle in his seat just thinking about it.
We sat at the bar and chatted with the owner. A nice man in his mid-to-late 40’s that seemed friendly enough to sit down and drink plenty of vodka with throughout the night over sausage and sauerkraut, but this is where the lesson about knowing your customer began. After scouring the menu and looking at the caviar selection, we settled on one of the least expensive options which was the American Sturgeon Caviar priced at $65 and the Russian Vodka flight at $30 consisting of three healthy pours of vodka. It was obvious that this place was not targetting the masses when it came to the menu. One caviar selection was around $400. This is definitely not a place for the kids.
The caviar came out and was presented in a beautifully ornate glass goblet filled with ice to keep the caviar at the perfect serving temparture with crème fraiche and thinnly sliced and quarted pieces of toast to act as the perfect mode of transportation for the caviar from the glass goblet of salty goodness to my mouth. The crème held the caviar very nicely and was rich to only be cut by the saltiness of the caviar. Wash it down with Russian Standard vodka and things are going really, really well. This is where the lesson continues.
The owner and I started chatting about the perfect location, the high volume of traffic in the summer and the seemingly low amount of clientele in the restaurant. Ironically enough, there were people leaving as we walked in who were also bar patrons. That may have been the second time I’ve seen anyone in the restaurant; us being the third. The owner seemed perfectly content with having a little to non-existent marketing budget and having the occasional customer, but he brings a good point into focus for us as we continue to nom on our fish eggs and vodka: I know my customer and they come back again and again; you’ll be back. He’s right, we will. Really, where else can you go and get killer caviar served with the full service (double napkins, etc) down at the beach? Want some fine dining between after sitting on the beach all day? Good luck, there are about two places in a 20 mile radius.
We continued to learn more about his simple and beach-state-of-mind approach to running a restaurant as we finished through our quick bite. We made parellels to a retail shop that sells sweaters for $600 up the street and how they have similiar customers. Besides the premium caviar and vodka, Red Square does offer many traditional Russian dishes that are resonably priced around $20 per entree. At the end of the day, the service was good and the food was excellent. Throw in the hospitality management class and it was worth it. It was a unique experience that is singular in a land of sand, flip-flops and tans. Don’t let the empty tables intimidate you, think of it as a private dining event. And if you’ve never tried caviar on it’s own, this is the place to do it. Oh, and my partner, he lost his caviar virginity and loved it.
Red Square Restaurant and Caviar Bar
162 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware 19971