For Dana Banks, owner of The Parkway Restaurant in Bethany Beach, the most exciting thing about taking over the Royal Zephyr restaurant in Ocean View is the fact that she’ll be able to cook like she cooks at home.
Banks aims to re-open the train-themed restaurant as an “all-American diner” with menu items ranging from peanut butter and jelly, and macaroni and cheese, to meatloaf and roasted chicken, to lamb loin chops and crab cakes.
“It’s exciting,” said Banks. “It’s a new venture. Besides being able to cook foods like I cook at home and being able to appeal to more people, there’s 75 of our own parking spots!” she added, referring to the rarity of an open parking spot in downtown Bethany Beach.
According to Banks, Gulfstream Development, the previous owners of the location and neighboring hammock store, approached her and asked if she would be interested in taking over, and they mutually agreed she would do so.
“They didn’t advertise, and I wasn’t looking,” noted Banks with a laugh. “It just sort of happened.”
Each dish will come with a choice of two sides. Prices will range from $3.98 to $11.98 for sandwiches, and meals with full entrees will range from about $13 to $18. They will also serve spaghetti and will offer half-portions of pasta for kids.
Contrasting the previous operation of Royal Zephyr, each of the cars will have the same menu all of the time. In addition, each of the cars can hold about 60 people and will be available for special catered luncheons.
“There will be a whole new menu and philosophy,” explained Banks.
Banks will split her time between the Royal Zephyr and The Parkway, her 10-year-old year-round, fine-dining establishment on Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach, until things settle into a routine.
Gary Wilson, who has been at the Parkway six years, will be spearheading the salads and desserts and a past Parkway chef will be returning to work at the Royal Zephyr. Kimberly Weigel, the pastry chef at The Parkway, will be making all of the desserts, including banana and coconut crème pies.
“The staff at the Parkway is contributing where they can,” said Banks.
She added that the restaurants are always accepting applications for experienced servers — people just need to apply in person. She also said that they will be honoring all outstanding Royal Zephryr gift certificates.
Plans for the future of the restaurant include using the whole complex, including the space formerly used by the hammock store, and possibly a name change. For now, the hammock store will be closed, but next year Banks has plans for a lunch- and bistro-type deli. She said she would like to eventually get seating added outside, once everything gets approved.
Banks said she was aiming to open for business on May 15, albeit perhaps with no liquor license. She is in the process of getting the liquor license and, once she does, the restaurant will have a full-service bar available.
“We’re just trying to get through summer. And to re-establish it. We want to cater to year-round clientele and just be an all-American diner,” she emphasized.
The Royal Zephyr will open Thursday, May 15, at 4:30 p.m. for dinner and will be open Thursdays through Sundays for the next few weeks. Starting Memorial Day weekend, they will be open Thursdays though Mondays. Seven-nights-a-week service will start June 11. They aim to be serving Sunday brunch by July 1.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Banks. “It’s a whole new ballgame.”
For more information on the Royal Zephyr, call (302) 541-9555.