It’s a greeting as simple as it is signature.
On every warm summer night since 1993, Marian Parrott has welcomed every one of her guests in the same warm way: “Good evening, and welcome to Sedona.”
With the award-winning Bethany Beach restaurant currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, Parrott will lend the familiarity of the phrase to the title of her upcoming opus, “25 Years of Good Food & Good Evenings.”
But while the book will be a celebration of the restaurant’s past — even getting into the location’s World War II days as the Collins Tea Room — in honor of their 25th year, the team at Sedona is equally celebrating their future with summer specials, the formation of the “Sedona Social Club” (coming this fall), a revamped menu and a completely renovated restaurant aesthetic.
“We wanted to bring it more in tune with the 21st century and the idea that it is a beach place,” said Parrott — the restaurant’s last remaining original staff member, after starting off as a server in 1993 and eventually taking over ownership in 2008.
Not only is Sedona sporting a new color scheme both inside, throughout the restaurant, and along the building’s exterior, but there’s brand new high-top seating, a new “bump-out” bar and all-new decor to set the mood throughout.
Much of the handiwork was done by Parrott and her daughter, Caitlyn Parrott, who drew much of their inspiration from their long history of worldly travels, most recently including Croatia, Italy and Slovenia over the winter.
The handmade steel-drum fish were picked up from the locals during a trip to South Africa. The cork wall was inspired by a restaurant in Italy and made entirely from Sedona wine corks collected through the years (mostly from the ’90s, because “those are probably the coolest”). There’s plenty of local artwork adorning the walls, and plenty of menu items have been a little bit derived from a little bit of everywhere along the way.
“Every year, I take a trip with my daughters, and we do bring a lot of ideas back from our travels” said Parrott, noting Sedona’s new Mediterranean-inspired octopus dish this summer. “You can’t travel without getting inspiration for something, and I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be able to travel an awful lot.”
While her passport stamps also include China, Nepal and Quebec City (just to name a few), it was during a trip to the West Coast that Parrott had initially come up with the idea for “Tapas Tuesdays” that would eventually lead to Sedona’s signature “small-plate” menu offerings.
From Tapas Tuesdays to menu mainstays
The year was 2010. The market crash of 2008 had finally caught up with Bethany Beach when Marian Parrott had joined some friends from Sussex Shores on an off-season visit to San Francisco, eventually returning home to Sussex County to share her experience with her staff.
“When we got back, the guys thought I was insane,” Parrott recalled the idea with a laugh. “We had gone to a tapas restaurant in Union Square, and that’s where I kind of realized that smaller plates and more variety was the wave of the future.”
Despite the initial hesitation from the team, the “small plates” would go on to become a big hit, and Tapas Tuesday the most popular night of the week, outside of Saturday.
While the menu still offers plenty of the signature entrée options, as it has since the shift to “creative American cuisine” in 2008 — ranging from the pan-seared lump crabcakes to the pan-seared duck breast with broccolini and blueberry reduction and more — just like traveling somewhere new, the shift to small plates has allowed Sedona customers to share the experience of trying something for the first time.
Whether it’s the house-hit Sedona shrimp and grits, veal-stuffed tortellini with blue cheese demi, pan-seared scallops, seared rare tuna with Asian slaw and seaweed salad, the latest featured fresh catch or various charcuterie and cheese plates — it’s often that guests leave with a new appreciation for something they didn’t even know they liked.
“We encourage people to get six or seven for the table and try something new,” Parrott explained. “We are constantly evolving. We change something on our menus once a week, practically, so there’s always something new to try.”
In the way of libations, there’s plenty to try as well
To honor their 25th anniversary, Sedona will offer two select house wine options available nightly for just $25 per bottle throughout the summer, with the list rotating to include some not-so-usual suspects.
“This way we can introduce some of our own favorite wines and give people an opportunity to try something that they may not be super familiar with,” explained Caitlyn Parrott, who manages the bar and also owns the “coastal general store” SALT Provisions on Garfield Parkway.
The anniversary special is in addition to Sedona’s already full bar menu and drink list, further including an extensive wine menu, local craft beers and a specialty drink list headlined by the “Sunshine Susan” martini.
But while there’s plenty to try across the menu that may be unfamiliar, familiarity has always been the focus when it comes to using fresh ingredients from local sources.
“The whole idea is that the best food in the world, no matter where you go, is just what’s local and what’s fresh and how they’ve figured out how to cook it,” Parrott explained.
“We’ve always been about farm-to-table. Even at the very beginning, we bought our herbs from Bob Russell in Milton, I just picked up a bunch of stuff from East View Farms today — you buy peaches from Bennett’s, you buy strawberries from Magee’s and try as much as you can to support local.”
The Sedona Social Club
Just as they aim to support local business, Sedona’s charitable efforts have always aimed to support those in need, both locally and beyond, which Parrott will take one step further with the formation of the Sedona Social Club this fall.
Modeled after similar clubs in New York and Chicago, SSC will host a monthly off-site event for members to not only enjoy an evening of plenty of food and friends, but to raise money for charities in the process.
“It’ll be a tribute to why we love food and why we live here,” Parrott explained. “It’s social, but you’re helping a cause at the same time. I think it will be really fun for people to try something totally different like that.”
The lineup so far includes an outdoor event at James Farm in September, “Octoberfest” with local breweries, and some church and skate action at Epworth Skatepark in Rehoboth, to help feed families for Thanksgiving.
“All of our guys skateboard, so they’re going to literally skate the food in,” said Parrott of her skateboarding chef crew. Other venues could include a night of “love and magic” at the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The club will be free to join.
Always evolving, still the same
From its beginnings as Collins Tea Room, located right on what was then Route 1, to the Southwest cuisine originally inspired by the city that lends the restaurant its name, to its new menu focus and 25th anniversary remodel — Parrott said that even after a quarter-century of honoring the past and bracing for the future, the focus for her and her family at Sedona has always remained about welcoming their guests with good food and good evenings.
“I consider everybody I work with family, and I try to treat them that way. We work together as a team as much as possible,” she explained.
“We try to be a little trendy, but we don’t go overboard. Trends are trends. They come and go. What we have always believed in is the core values of good food, pleasant service, pleasant atmosphere — we just want to provide our guests a nice place to go dine, just like we always have.”
Sedona is located at 26 N. Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach and is open seven days a week at 5:30 p.m. For reservations or event hosting, call the restaurant at (302) 539-1200, or keep up on the latest from Sedona on Facebook and Instagram (@sedonabethany). For a full menu or to find out more about the Sedona Social Club, visit www.sedona-bethany.com.