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Pike Creek finally gets fresh shellfish done right

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For Delaware’s seafood lovers, the struggle is real. For so long, we’ve suffered through a succession of restaurants that are either too high-priced to suit our cash flow, or too mired in that drowsy, pre-millennial mindset, clinging stubbornly to their stuffed flounder entrees and complimentary Captain’s Crackers.

Platter of oysters on the half shell

What we always needed here was a fairly priced, modern-minded place that doesn’t fret too much about high-overhead embellishments or frilly cuisine. What we craved is a place that understands the unfussy Delaware ideals of simple seafood, cooked fresh and presented with minimal drama, preferably in generous helpings.

That certainly seems to be the aim of the new Bogle Cove Oyster House, an earnest little independent that has supplanted the short-lived Piree’s Piri Piri Chicken and joined the ongoing effort to bring more business lunch options to Greater Pike Creek/Hockessin. Admittedly, status-minded Power Lunchers probably won’t be overly impressed with this strip-center location, or Bogle’s under-executed (but cheery) decor. With clients in tow, they’ll probably wish the seats were cushier, the ambience cozier, and the menu a tad more ambitious (and maybe a little less deep-fried).

But if they’ve come just to feel that plain-and-simple seafood mojo, how could they not be overjoyed with this: classic apps like Oysters Rockefeller and clams casino nestle comfortably on the menu with more modern options like fried calamari and sauteed Prince Edward Island mussels. A cheese board that features offbeat artisanal varieties elevates culinary bonafides, even as simple delights like steamed clams and shrimp keep things humble.

And of course, there are practically obligatory piles of fresh oysters, delivered icy-fresh on this day from the Chesapeake Bay (Nandua, Sewansecott), and even from Rehoboth Bay, where the Delaware Oyster Co. is working to resuscitate this once-flourishing local industry. Their just-shucked beauty was emphasized by the arrival of a local oysterman halfway through lunch, giving our table a happy pause as we explored our appetizers: A nicely broiled and sensuously sweet “Lynnhaven Inn” clams casino ($10), a deeply flavored oyster stew drizzled with infused oils ($6), and a platter of fried “crab bites” so plump that they could easily have served as a meal ($12).

Infused oyster stew

Speaking of bargains, don’t miss Bogle Cove’s seafood tacos, generously packed with either shrimp ($13) or batter-fried cod ($12), and served with shredded cheese and chipotle mayo. Or, consider that hulking fried oyster sandwich ($12), an unmitigated lunchtime belly buster, and probably a better bargain than the too-small-for-the-bun Black Angus cheeseburger ($10). Some of the menu’s more-ambitious seafood entrees also seem a bit shy on value ““ for $28, most would expect this butter-drenched grilled sea bass to be accompanied by more genteel surroundings.

Of course, you could go to Bogle Cove and avoid seafood selection dilemmas entirely, thanks to a menu that’s speckled with salads, cheesesteaks, a veggie pasta and even a couple of pricey steak entrees. But I wouldn’t even bother with all that stuff. After all, when was the last time things got shucking this far out in the suburbs?

“¢ Food and service: Plain-and-simple seafood is a perfect new option for long-deprived Pike Creek diners who have grown weary of the same old stuff. Service seems a bit frazzled, but friendly to a fault.

“¢ Ambiance/elegance factor: This strip-center location won’t wow anyone with its decor or atmosphere, but it’s certainly cheery enough and sleek enough to suit most business functions. Try to grab one of those cushy curved banquettes. (Lunch entrees $10-$28)

“¢ Catering: No.

“¢ Takeout/Delivery: Takeout available; no deliveries yet.

“¢ Private tables: No.

“¢ Meeting-ready? No.

“¢ Tech-readiness: Free Wi-Fi available.

“¢ Allergy-friendly? Probably not, if shellfish and/or seafood is your kryptonite.

“¢ The Buzz: Bogle Cove’s new Saturday and Sunday brunch menu sounds like a must-try, along with their nightly “buck-a-shuck” (and $5 app) happy hours.

By Eric Ruth

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