Great food, drinks and atmosphere are three elements many restaurateurs strive for, though they can be tricky to achieve. But for husband and wife duo Jim and Lynn Rickards, this isn’t their first rodeo.
Before the Penguin Diner was on Garfield Parkway, the Rickardses opened the Bethany Beach Diner in that same spot, specializing in a variety of hot dogs. And after establishing Perucci’s — a cozy Italian restaurant in Millville, four years old and going strong — they have decided to also bring some flavors from south of the border to Bethany Beach, introducing Sabor on Route 26.
The Mexican-themed restaurant, which opened this past July, takes patrons into another region, as warm lanterns produce an inviting ambiance and the turquoise walls — so common with Southwestern heritage — line the interior. While the kitchen and bar bring unique flavors to patrons, with a blend of Mexican, Spanish and Central American flair, it’s the authenticity, Lynn Rickards noted, that sets Sabor apart from other dining experiences.
“Whenever we open a new restaurant,” she said, “We try to be authentic. With Perucci’s, we wanted the entire classic Italian style to be a part of it. Here, with Sabor, we’re not just bringing something new. We’re bringing meals and cocktails straight from Mexico, Central and South America, and even Spain.”
Just how authentic is the cuisine?
“We did a lot of research before we opened this restaurant,” Rickards explained. “We really studied the cultures — not just around here, but in the cities. We talked to restaurateurs and chefs who are running Hispanic and Latino [establishments]. The recipes are very true to where they are from.”
From spinach and mushroom enchiladas and carne asada tacos to fresh fajitas with tender, marinated meats and fresh grilled vegetables, the menu is tried and true to its roots, and the research has paid off.
“Most meals in Mexico are served on white-corn tortillas,” said Rickards, “not the flour tortillas we’re used to. We still offer those if our customers want, and they’re used in the fajitas and fundidos, but we like to keep things as traditional to their origin as we can.”
Even the Chihuahua cheese used in many of the appetizer dishes resembles true Mexican and Central American cuisine, which has been Americanized through the years the farther north it goes, with more common blends, such as mild cheddar.
“Our goal is not just to make sure customers enjoy their experience,” she said, “but we want to educate them, as well. We take pride in what we offer.”
A wide variety of vegetarian options are available, and, Rickards noted, most of the meals are gluten-free.
“Everything is made here, from scratch,” she assured. “We crush seeds for our spice blends. At first, people would ask us for a bottle of hot sauce for their meals, and we decided that we could make our own habanero salsa, instead. People love it, and we’re looking into bottling it, soon.”
The drinks, as well, are reminiscent of the regions from which they hail. Tequilas such as Kah, Herradura, Casa Noble, Patron, Milagro and Hornitos line the shelf, and taps pour out cold pints of Dos Equis, Modelo Secial and Degra Modelo, while bottles of Tecate, Corona and Sol are also readily available.
“We’re bringing the entire experience here,” Rickards said. “Our margaritas are all made with fresh lime juice and agave nectar, found in Mexico. Our Tamarind Margarita is our signature. It comes from a seed with a rich pulp, found in Central America and the Caribbean regions.
“We even use imported chili lime powder from Mexico for our drinks. All of our cocktails are made with top-shelf spirits. We don’t have rail alcohol here. You’re always going to get an amazing drink.”
The wines and sangria available pay homage to Spain and South American regions, including Chile and Argentina.
The reward, she said, comes when customers compare what they get at Sabor with the real thing.
“When people keep coming back because they say it reminds them of what they had when they used to live in Mexico, or what they ate when they visited Central America, that feels good,” she said. “We’re still learning new things, too. The menu started off small, but we’re adding more, constantly. It continues to evolve.”
For more about Sabor, check out their website at www.sabormexicana.com, or call them at (302) 616-1957. Sabor is located at 776 Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach, on Route 26, beside Wawa.