Jerry Richard, famous for his Bethany-area Big Easy restaurant (and, more recently, Outrigger’s Seafood Grille, near Fenwick) is at it again. He’s joined forces with Dagsboro resident Mike Oxbrough, and together they’re transforming the former Crabby Bill’s establishment, at 698 Main St., in downtown Dagsboro.
Richard (pronounced rih-SHARD), with a French Creole background, leaned toward Cajun specialties at his original venture, and he’ll be going for a southern flair once again at the “Whistle Stop” — just a more classical southern cuisine.
The Whistle Stop will feature traditional home-cooking, with entrees like chicken (or beef) and dumplings, roast pork, ham and cabbage and fried chicken, and Richard planned to keep prices pegged at $12.95.
“It should be well worth the drive, from Ocean View or Millville,” he pointed out. “No beach prices, no beach tax.”
“It really is different out here,” he said, between bites of egg and toast. “It’s almost like going back in time.”
They’re already open, for breakfast and lunch, anyway (dining room toward the rear still needs some extra attention) — at 5:30 a.m.
There’s a self-service coffee bar, and breakfasts from under $3 (the Whistle Stop Special, two eggs, home fries, choice of bacon, sausage, ham or scrapple, toast).
Breakfast sandwiches also come in under $3, and the Whistle Stop offers omelets for roughly $4 to $6.
After 10:30 a.m., they transition into lunch, and Richard noted the selection of deli meats on display in cases to either side of the service counter. Small subs and cheesesteaks (6-inch) cost around $5, more or less, with larges (12-inch) another $2.
They’ll have salads and homemade soups, too — even on the deli side, Richard and Oxbrough have created a very pleasant restaurant atmosphere. They’ve repainted, removed all the shelves and coolers (except for one upright, glass-front, for cold sodas) moved some booths over from what will become the main dining area and added a few tables for a total of 35 seats.
Richard said they planned to repaint the long, industrial-looking, off-white exterior wall as well. “This used to be a grocery store, you know,” Richard pointed out. “The building’s more than 50 years old.”
He advised passersby to “look for a big train coming down the side of the building, soon,” — hence, the name. Richard said they’d commissioned local muralist Andrew Derra for the work (he’s done exterior paintings at Fat Tuna in Millville, and the Bottle & Cork in Dewey).
And they’ve recruited some local talent to keep things running smoothly at the Whistle Stop. Oxbrough’s mother, Marge, works there, for starters, plus long-time resident Martha “Mom-Mom” Clogg.
Clogg has worked in the building for the past 11 years, and before that, at any number of local dining establishments. (She gave a little S&J Restaurant history, and recalled the days when customers used to queue up in the parking lot to get into the Joy Freeze.)
And Richard said dinner chef Bessie Whitney (born and raised in Ocean View) had blown him away, when she came in with a complete menu and basically told him, “Here you go — this is what I can cook.”
Whitney, an Indian River High School graduate (class of 1971), characterized herself as a little bit of everything, from baker to saucier. “Basically, it’s all home-cooking, southern cuisine,” she noted. “We’ll make all the breads here — my sweet potato rolls, homemade yeast breads and cornbread. Most of the desserts will be made here, too.”
While the deli’s all set up, there’s lots left to do before the Whistle Stop is ready for dinner service — but Whitney said she was excited to step into a kitchen, basically at square one.
Richard said they were working toward an Oct. 10 opening for that side of the business. Until then, the Whistle Stop Deli and Café is open for business, take-out and local delivery. For more information, call 732-9161.