It all started in Dewey Beach, 15 years ago — and then Paul Noone brought Gary’s Bethany Beach Grill (BBG) to the Bethany area.
Named for his lifelong friend, Gary Cannon, Noone opened the Gary’s in the Marketplace at Sea Colony seven years ago.
They may have been a little ahead of their time, but Noone said the menu was just becoming more and more popular.
“People like to eat right, now,” He pointed out. “Even the kids, you see them trying to eat healthy a little more than they used to.”
Noone catches flak on occasion, because he doesn’t sell hamburgers or French fries — or anything deep-fried, for that matter — but he sticks to his guns. “This place is all about the healthy cuisine,” he said. “I mean, it’s not health food, exactly — we don’t sell bean curd or anything — but we do try to keep red meat off the menu.”
He admitted they’d caved in to bacon at breakfast, but they also offer low-fat ham, low-fat cheeses for their cracked-to-order omelets, turkey sausage, veggie sausage and an assortment of sautéed fresh vegetables.
They serve egg white options to further cut the fat, and for patrons who aren’t scared of a few carbs, Gary’s has fresh bagels, French toast or three varieties of pancakes (including cinnamon sweet potato).
At lunchtime, Noone said the absence of traditional cheesesteaks wasn’t hurting them too badly — they sold a million or so turkey cheesesteaks instead, is all.
And they offered sautéed veggies there, too, served up in a sub roll — just like a cheesesteak, except broccoli, peppers, zucchini and squash (and low-fat cheese).
There are veggie or soy burgers and crabcake, salmon or tuna choices, plus fresh-roasted turkey and a wide variety of salads.
Those options roll over into the dinner hour as well, with the addition of a few pasta entrées (mostly vegetarian) and a few Cajun dishes.
As business partner/co-chef Mike Weyermann pointed out, they had an extensive children’s menu, too.
“It’s hard to find a place with many choices for the kids, and most parents don’t want to spend $20,” Weyermann noted. “We’re kid-friendly, though.”
However, even if the tykes won’t go for “rasta pasta” or “chickenosaurus bites,” Gary’s prices are very adult-friendly anyway. Seafood specials might crack the upper teens, but that’s about it.
Noone and original founder Cannon grew up next door to one another, in New Jersey. Noone worked all manner of restaurant jobs growing up, before going to work in television (advertising, then film editing, then distribution abroad for ABC).
He wasn’t happy in that line of work, though. “I’d watched Gary’s place grow over the years,” he recalled. “One day I talked to him about it, and then I made a sharp right turn into the restaurant business — we opened this one together, and this will be our eighth season.”
Weyermann was born in Switzerland, but came to the U.S. as an infant. He graduated high school in Baltimore and pursued his hotel/restaurant management degree at the University of Delaware.
He played for Blue Hens hockey, so he didn’t have much experience with seasonal work (they had to get back for practice by August). However, Weyermann said he had a pretty good idea the hospitality industry was going to be the gig for him, and he joined Gary’s after college.
That was six years ago, and he became a partner three years back.
Weyermann said the Marketplace was kind of quiet in the wintertime, and he sometimes got a little stir crazy (he said he tried to fit in a vacation in the Swiss Alps while things were really slow).
However, as Noone pointed out, it was no holds barred starting mid-June. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner — we work some tough hours,” he said. “But the way I look at it — it’s very hard for about 80 days, and you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines.”
Noone said he’d watched the shoulder season get a little stronger over the years, but expected it would take big business to make Sussex County truly pop year round.
“It is stretching a little bit, though — September is really the best month to be here out of the whole year, in my opinion,” he added.
In the meantime, he said Sea Colony kept them going, plus some business coming in from the highway, and the locals who preferred to avoid Route 1 during the summer, but were willing to drop by in the off-season.
Gary’s isn’t a large restaurant, but they do have a full bar with about 10 seats, a row of booths and some outdoor seating in the summertime. In the summer, Noone said they had plenty of customers passing by on foot, getting some carry-out on the way to the beach, too.
The staff will be doing a little carry-out of their own on June 5, as they set up for the Taste of Coastal Delaware, right in their own front yard.
Gary’s plans to feature cornbread, crab dip and Buffalo breast (think wings, only bigger, skinless and grilled instead of deep-fried). There may be a veggie entrée on hand as well — to be determined — and that event runs 1 to 4 p.m.
Otherwise, Noone said they’d be opening seven days a week, pretty much from Memorial Day forward, with breakfast at 9 a.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. weekends, lunch at 11 a.m., then dinner at 5 p.m., into the night.
For more information, call Gary’s BBG at 539-2131.