Del Mar

Image: Paella de Pescado y Mariscos.

Last Updated: October 2021

Current Status: The dining room is fully open with no social distancing. They continue to do take-out.

Overview: Del Mar is a seafood delight.  It is one of the original anchor restaurants in The Wharf complex.  A large, two-story gleaming corner spot with a sharp but whimsical decor.  Unlike the other restaurants from the then husband and wife team of Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, it’s focus was Spanish instead of Italian, reflecting Maria’s birthplace.  The menu format has remained intact since the opening with food grouped into various categories to build a dinner from: raw bar, cured meats and cheese, tapas (further subdivided by fish, vegetable, and meat), paellas, and grilled items.  A word of warning, that your server may also tip you off to, the tapas are not that substantial (though the patatas bravas are and are very good).  For example, the escalivada, traditionally a plate of roasted vegetable slices, is a carefully-constructed, thin block of eggplant, onions, and peppers with a few dollops of pureed smoked eggplant. So, to construct a filling meal will require dipping into the paella or mains sections.  After years of learning how to order in the “the food is served small-plates style, and chef recommends two to three per person” world, Del Mar rewards you for going big.  Portion size aside (as well as cost), the food is excellent.  The main dining room looks into the humming and well-staffed kitchen that has maintained a consistent level of quality for years.   The floor staff also hums with activity.  Maria, still a co-owner even as her focus shifted elsewhere, is a master at the front of the house operations, and her imprint remains strong.

The wine list is substantial.  Many special bottles can be found and a few sub $100 bottles are sprinkled among them.  The circular bar area sits firmly in the middle of the floor, and beverage service is equally well-regarded with Gin playing a strong role given the Spanish theme.  There are also good zero-proof options.

To manage the disaster that is parking at The Wharf, the restaurant provides detailed instructions, including a valet option.

Other Information: The setting is nice, but not overly stuffy. Jeans are not out of place.  GF and Vegetarians can do okay, but pescatarians do really well.  The restaurant faces the water side of The Wharf at street level, no steps required.  Del Mar was the focus of one of the most notable staff revolts of the last couple years.

Gift Cards – For all Trabocchi spots in US.


Cuisine: Spanish
Neighborhood:  SW/Waterfront
Address: 791 Wharf Street SW
Reservations: Tock

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post:  Tom was an early fan and consistently rates it at 3.0.

Washingtonian: #30 in 2020;  #14 in 2019; #3 in 2018.

Been There Eaten That – Positive write up from 2017.

Michelin – no rating.