Pierre McManus couldn’t wait to try a meal at Tasties 302, the new soul food restaurant in Wilmington on its official opening day.
After waiting for more than an hour with dozens of others in a line that stretched down Market Street on Tuesday, May 27, he finally gave up and returned at 10:30 the next morning. This time he made sure he was the first in line.
“I tried to get something yesterday. But I’m here, the first in line today. Everything I hear about their food is astounding – very good. Everything from the top to the bottom of their menu,” he said.
Popular Philly outpost generates big interest in Wilmington
This kind of buzz can spread when word comes that an extremely popular restaurant in Philadelphia is opening a new location in the heart of Wilmington.
Every day since Tasties 302 opened at 825 N. Market Street the lines have wound down the block, with hungry customers standing for up to an hour to place their order for comfort classics like fried chicken and shrimp, down-home wings, macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
“It’s the greatest food in the world,” said one who diner who had enjoyed his first meal at Tasties 302 at its grand opening. “There’s nothing like it down here at all, nothing even close. There are other places with soul food, but they’re not even on the same level.”
Owner and chef Barbara Devan first introduced her soul food cuisine to Philadelphians eight years ago “by hustling,” — first selling dinners out of her house and soon after leasing a kitchen at Jollies West in the city.
“You know my grandma and my mom always liked cooking, and I just learned a lot from helping them out so much. I always wanted my own business, and I just was like let me do soul foods,” said Devan, who has no formal training. “I call it flavor for your soul.”
Son begged her to open a restaurant in Delaware
Her homestyle brand of cooking was so popular that Devan was able to save enough to open her first Tasties, a casual eatery on 52nd Street in 2016. She later opened two more outposts in the city, including an upscale Tasties Restaurant next door to her original spot, which one review called, “arguably he fanciest restaurant in West Philadelphia.”
Devan, who has lived in Delaware for the last 13 years, says her son kept begging her to open a restaurant here. Her first idea was to locate in Newark. But when she didn’t find any suitable space there, her realtor suggested Market Street.
“Then the first day we went out in Wilmington, and there was so much walking traffic on the 800 block of Market Street, I was like, Oh my god, I want this spot,” said Devan. She took possession of the space in January.
People in the area found her fast. Because the line outside never has less than 20 to 30 people, Tasties simply can’t take phone orders. “I could not take any phone orders yet, because the line would be out the door. I had to unplug the phone, you can’t take phone orders until it kind of dies down. It’s been really ridiculous.”
Devan thinks she has served 1,000 meals in four days.
The narrow space has a black and white motif and her signature orange color – with metal bistro chairs at small tables that eventually will seat up to four people. The entire space has seating for about 20 diners. News articles about prior openings in Philadelphia adorn the walls.
Devan says she doesn’t stray too far from the recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother. Things like ribs, BBQ, lamb, Thai chicken breast, charbroiled salmon, shrimp and mussel pasta are made they way her her family would expect.
Devan says she “gives out really good quality” and generous portions. All of the side dishes and desserts in the case are made from scratch by Devan’s sister in Philadelphia and are packed up and brought down to Wilmington each day. In addition to Mac and cheese, you’ll find candied yams, potato salad, veggie rice, rice and gravy, cabbage, and green beans in the to-go case.
Plans to open Tasties 302 Newark
Devan already thinks her new space is almost too small. So she’s making a move to open yet another restaurant in Newark. She’s hoping a large space turns up.
Open for lunch and dinner, Tasties lists their hours as 11 am to about 10 pm daily. However, the first few days they ran out of food and had to close hours early.
Another diner who enjoyed his first meal on Tuesday returned for more on Wednesday. He said he’s likely going to be their number one regular.
“It’s so authentic. How she seasons it, it reminds me of my grandmother and my mother how they taught us how, and everything is from scratch.”