This is not owner Tia Sexton's first rodeo. This Del-Tech graduate and Bethany Beach-raised restaurateur has had a lot of practice coping with the ins and outs of restauranting, including working at Magnolia's in Ocean View for over 12 years. Most recently she made a name for herself in Lewes as bartender and GM at the insanely busy Agave Tequila Bar. When Chef Bruce Kingston decided to call it quits at his iconic Kingston Grill at 14 N. Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany, Tia stepped in to make it her own. (Bruce opened Kingston Gourmet market & prepared foods in Rehoboth Beach in the old McQuay's/Hamels building, but closed it shortly thereafter.)
The redesigned 14 Global looks nothing like its former occupant. It's light and bright, with interesting wood and stone work on the walls (courtesy of GM John Speziale. More about him later). Internationally flavored music floats in the background as the illuminated-from-below onyx-topped bar casts a soft glow on bar patrons who actually might be glowing on their own after a few of 14 Global's creative and potent cocktails.
The menu is divided into several distinct sections. Soups, Salads, a la Carte, Dips & Spreads, and Small Plates. Don't be fooled by the term "small plates." Though with your typical "tapas" joint it's usually the other way around, 14 Global's small plates are very generous, at least half an entree or more. Where you might order 3-4 "tapas" somewhere else, at 14 Global, 2 is usually a good way to start.
In the latest menu incarnation (it tends to vary), four interesting soups include a Chilled Avocado & Cucumber Soup w/Watermelon Crème Fraiche. It is refreshingly light and simply delicious. And for 3 more bucks you can top it with crab. I'm reminded of a similar recipe from Rob Stitt at Rehoboth's Shorebreak Lodge when they first opened, though Rob pureed-in a little hot pepper and included the crab. It was also quite good, and it's nice to see it in that form on a menu again, albeit 12 or so miles south. The other soup that people can't stop talking about is the Island Style Conch Stew. Carrots, sugar snaps, shallots, lemon grass and pea shoots bathe contentedly in a coconut lime broth with chunks of conch. Treat yourself to the Global Soup Trio with tastes of your choice of three. Trust me on this.
The reigning stars in the Salad section include Duck Confit and Shaved Asparagus Salad and the Strawberry/Mint Salad. Though the Char-Grilled Hearts of Romaine is also quite good, it has become fairly ubiquitous up and down the coast, so it makes sense to try something you can't get anywhere else. Top any of the salads with chicken, steak or the piscine catch du jour for a few dollars more.
The a la Carte menu starts off with Roasted Cauliflower, caramelized with garlic and herbs [pictured, left]. You have to taste this one to believe it. The combination of tastes makes the otherwise boring vegetable sing with bright personality. (This, from a cauliflower hater!) It's not a huge portion, and makes for the perfectly crunchy nosh. Another deceptively filling, yet moderately sized dish is the Seafood Mac & Cheese [pictured, right]. Orecchiette pasta gently cradles chunks of lobster, crab and peas. As you savor the three-cheese sauce, you happen on crispy little cubes of bacon. I'm tellin' ya, this one's a textural party in your mouth. On our most recent visit we started with the Fried Goat Cheese Balls [pictured, left]. Dusted with toasted pistachios and resting in an ever-so-slightly sweet ginger-pepper syrup, the bracingly rich taste is unlike any of the individual ingredients.
I love Middle-Eastern food, and when I saw Baba Ghanouj on the menu, my little Mediterranean heart leapt. The traditional sandy-hued puree of fire-roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon, olive oil and parsley garnished with smoked paprika is one of my go-to dishes. The baba ghanouj that arrived at the table [pictured, right] looked nothing like what I was used to. I immediately copped an attitude, but went ahead and tried it because I owe that to you. 14 Global's version, with cucumber, no tahini, Greek yogurt and darkly roasted spices (hence the dark brown color) was strikingly delicious. Don't expect anything close to the traditional dip, but do order this for its deeply toasted flavor. By the way, what is it with restaurants calling pita bread naan? The menu promises naan, but it's nice, fresh pita.
Interestingly, the other restaurant that does that is Pickled Pig Pub in Rehoboth Beach, where Tia's talented chef, Shane Kellagher, used to work. Hey, guys, I've been chewing on pita, lavasch, za'atar bread and naan since I was knee-high to an 8-stemmed hookah filled with you-know-what. I know the difference. That being said, keep making it the way you make it, Shane. Whatever you call it, it's delicious.
The Blue Cheese & Beer dip [pictured, left] was another surprise. The toasty hint of bitter cocoa in Flying Dog Brewery's porter played politely with blue cheese, cream cheese, peppers, shallots, garlic and spices. Another example of the total being greater than the sum of its parts: You couldn't taste any one ingredient individually, but you knew in your little clogged heart that it wouldn't be the same without all that stuff. A clever and effective combination from an obviously creative kitchen.
Our vegetarian dining companion (and beloved leaf-chewing columnist here at RehobothFoodie.com) couldn't resist the Wild Mushroom/Spinach/ Chive Spread [pictured, right]. Shiitake, oyster and crimini 'shrooms are married with spinach, cream cheese and garlic to create a slightly crunchy and earthy blend. Toast points serve as the vehicle for getting this concoction into your mouth. They served the purpose well.
They might call them "tapas" or "small plates," but 14 Global does not want you to leave hungry, so beware! The portions are less than a full entree, but generous nonetheless. A prime example is the Slow Braised Buffalo Stuffed Jalapenos, wrapped in Bacon and served with a Sriracha-spiked yogurt [pictured, left]. Just look at them! Of course, most of my inner organs are lined with Spandex, so I handled all these things just fine. But pace yourself. The bacon was crispy and properly done (no annoying curly earlobes here), and the peppers were stuffed full of ground buffalo. I try so hard to find fault, I really do. But I enjoyed all three of these good-sized peppers to the very end.
Prosciutto-wrapped melon [pictured, right] perched itself cooly atop a nest of roasted asparagus surrounded by a vinaigrette of truffled lentils. I was so pleased to see the very restrained use of the truffle component. It can so easily overwhelm. At 14 Global it did not overwhelm.
The gentle hand that put this stuff together is none other than Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts graduate Shane Kellagher. The 17-year veteran toque comes to Bethany Beach from 32 Palms Restaurant in the Ocean City, Md.'s Hilton Hotel and the Marlin Moon Grille in West O.C. As I mentioned above, he also cooked for Chef Mike Stiglitz at Pickled Pig Pub. (in fact, he reminds me of Chef Stigz. Could be the cap.) His range as head chef is immediately obvious in this global (in the truest sense of the word) menu.
One of the shining stars on the Small Plates list is the Crispy Pork Belly [pictured, left]. Kellagher is no wimp when it comes to coaxing this wonderfully moist and fatty cut of meat to a crispy crunch. It's everything you always wanted bacon to be, but it never quite was. The darkly seared pork is drizzled with a wild berry gastrique and accompanied by a brussel sprout, sweet potato and bacon (!) hash. I'm used to trimming excess fat out of the typical pork belly when nobody's looking, but there was none. We returned the plate shiny and clean.
Another crunchy delight was the house-made Crab Rangoon [pictured, right]. Perky little pyramids of what appeared to be Chinese egg roll wrapper enfold a mixture of spiced cream cheese and crab, which are then fried to a dark golden crunch. Sriracha (love the stuff) kicked up regular old soy sauce to heights previously unbeknownst. Yup, unbeknownst.
My favorite bigger-than-life used-car maven, all-around nice guy and Foodie Photo table-lighting manager-at-arms (neither of us have any shame) ordered the Deconstructed Cheese Steak [pictured, left]. It's all there, but in a slightly different form. Spice-rubbed skirt steak is arranged in sub-like fashion with caramelized onions, wild mushrooms, provolone cheese sauce, smoked tomato sauce and toasted bread crumbs. Very, very good. On another carnivorous note, three little sliders are stuffed with Buffalo and accompanied by a couple of home-battered fried pickles [pictured, right]. They were very good, with soft, fresh rolls. The pickles were nicely breaded to a crackly crisp.
All these superlatives are starting to get on my nerves. But these people are doing a fine job down there in The Quiet Resorts. Will it last? I certainly hope so. I don't hand out 9.5s for food very often, but they simply left me no choice. By grading them so high, I have committed myself to returning on a regular basis to see if they can maintain that number. Wow, how sad for me. The things I do for you people!
By the way (I waited until the end to tell you), they readjust the menu seasonally, so everything I've written about might not be available when you go. Use my humble ramblings, therefore, as a guideline, and know with a fair amount of certainty that they will do justice to pretty much any dish. Sous chef John Speziale is also the GM (it's not a very big place, mind you) and boyfriend-of-owner. That notwithstanding, he brings a lot to the table as a local who distinguished himself in the boy's bodyboarding competition in 1995. Bethany Beach regulars might also recognize grown-up John as chief pizza tosser at Surf's Up there on Garfield Parkway. He, Tia and Kellagher make a good team.
14 Global is at 14 N. Pennsylvania Ave., right next to the Post Office. (Be sure to bring your waders or a kayak after a heavy rain. Bethany Beach is Bethany Beach, after all, and there's nothing like a hearty meal after a brisk swim.)
Unfortunately, they have no web presence other than a Facebook page that doesn't tell you much of anything. But BethanyRestaurants.com does have their menu online, though I'm not sure if it's the current one. But all is well: You have a telephone! Call them at 302-616-1035. They are open 12-12 in-season, but I suspect they are already not open for lunch. Do call. This is the beach and y'never know.