What to Try at Delaware's 12 West (Hint: Tacos)

Beth Stallings
Chef's Vegetarian Tostada at 12 West

Before a December fire shuttered 12 West just 6 months after it opened, the Delaware eatery was a polished neighborhood joint serving better-than-average Southwest-meets-Midwest fare. The forced furlough gave the restaurant an opportunity few newbies get-dedicated time for chef Spencer Haney to evaluate, tweak and perfect dishes based on customer feedback, but free of the nightly grind.

Without this time off, 12 West may not have added standout dishes like Faroe Island Salmon ($16) with smoked jalapeno cream and house marmalade, and Santa Fe Pork Shank ($17) with green chili polenta. They're fine-dining-worthy entrees in a come-as-you-are setting. That's the shtick of this 38-seater.

Dishes are distinctly Southwest in inspiration, from meatloaf ($12) spiced with green chilies and topped with smoky chipotle honey glaze to the Chef's Vegetarian Tostada ($7.50), a flavorful stunner with two crisp tortillas, pureed pinto beans, guac and a kitchen sink of seasonal sauteed veggies. Is that a golden beet next to my zucchini? Yep, it is.

Don't leave without ordering tacos. They're sold la carte, so one (or two) makes an easy appetizer. There are the standard carne asada fillers on the menu, but glance at the blackboard for daily specials. This is where Haney has some fun with iterations filled with atypical finds like sweetbreads and calamari.

If Oyster Tacos ($5.50) are scribbled there (typically on Fridays), order them. Haney dredges large oysters in buttermilk and cornmeal and fries them until crisp outside but bursting with salinity inside. Topped with brown sugar Sriracha sauce, it's one of the best things I've eaten this year. And I don't even like oysters. facebook.com/12westrestaurant