Top-Rated: 821 Market Street
I adore a booth or banquette at a restaurant; they're comfier and a tad more private. Luckily, 821 has plenty of both. This stylish eatery feels posh and luxurious. Crisp white linens, fresh-cut flowers, shimmering dark wood, and golden-hued walls offset what is otherwise a slightly dark space. The lunch menu on the day I was there brimmed with diverse choices, from Hawaiian prawns to prime rib carpaccio. Absolutely go for the gnocchi salad--it is the best salad I've ever tasted, hands down. Dense, soft gnocchi are pan-fried like little pot stickers. Salty shiitake mushrooms complement a tangy bed of baby spinach. I followed my salad with a braised short rib, which was nicely de-boned and came served atop a sweet potato puree. The dish was neither fatty nor greasy--just brimming with rich flavor. Only downside to 821: When I visited, the staff was slow and brusque. 821 North Market Street; (302) 652-8821. Lunch entrées: $12-$14.
A grand oyster menu and impressive presentation make ordering bivalves here a real treat. The most succulent, plump oysters accompanied by slivers of fresh lemon--all on a bed of crushed ice--can become a real addiction. I found eight different varieties on the raw bar. Moist, crab-packed crab cakes atop creamy, lobster-infused potatoes made for seafood heaven. The gorgeous presentation of this dish was almost edible art. Lastly, don't skip the house-made ice cream. Flavors change daily. My favorite was cinnamon--its fiery flavor leapt from a super-creamy base that tasted as if it had been churned on someone's back porch. 111 West 11th Street; (302) 777-2040. Dinner entrées: $19-$26.
Harry's Seafood Grill
This visually stunning restaurant is relatively new to the riverfront area. A granite-covered raw bar greets visitors, and a huge starfish hangs over the main dining room. Oysters are shucked and immediately brought to the table, and while the sauces and presentation don't hold a fork to Deep Blue, the selection proved much broader. I was wowed by Harry's tuna sashimi: a gorgeous mini-steak of incredibly fresh bigeye tuna. One entrée really captured the restaurant's creative edge: fire-roasted tripletail. The light, flaky fish got a kick in the fins from a hot black bean chutney and a sweet pineapple finish. The menu changes often, so don't be afraid to try something different. 101 South Market Street; (302) 777-1500. Dinner entrées: $22.95-$28.95.
Local Favorite: Sweet Somethings
You can't get a whole meal here, but you can certainly order my favorite part--dessert. This traditional bakery whips up an unbelievable assortment of last courses for some of the best restaurants in the area. Do what other chefs do: Come here to get your cakes, pies, and pastries. A chocolate silk torte was as smooth as a Beltway politico. The mini cheesecake felt as if it weighed 30 pounds. Tartes and tortes will keep you dreaming of sugar for weeks to come. 1006 North Union Street; (302) 655-7211. Most whole pies and cakes: $26-$29.