When Executive Chef and Owner, Gretchen Hanson, first opened Hobos immediately after the financial meltdown of 2008 she knew that above all she wanted it to be a different concept than she had ever done before. When interviewed, she could barely contain her excitement over her mission even after being open for seven years.  

“People were shutting down restaurants right and left, and I went and opened a locally-sourced bistro that was all about buying produce and livestock from local farmers and fisherman as well as making everything from scratch. It was completely crazy to buy only the best and most local products possible at a time when everyone was cutting their dining out budgets. What completely saved me was the backlash against corporate big business in favor of slow food. Then vegan and gluten free became the in thing and I became the ‘it’ girl. I had been cooking that way for 15 years and all of a sudden it became trendy. No one even knew what gluten free or vegan was back in 2009. Ellen DeGeneres became vegan and then there was a tsunami of vegan celebrities. It turned out that that my sassy style of global eco-fusion, lovingly prepared mom food that anyone could eat was an idea whose time had come. I wanted to cook and make people happy when they ate my food. I didn’t care what you wanted to eat, I just wanted to make it in a way that was good for you. I wanted everyone to eat happily and safely at the same table. It was that simple.”

“I wanted a restaurant where people were not intimidated by the menu and where people with food allergies, food choices or dietary restrictions would feel welcome. Above all, it was important to me that no one felt uncomfortable asking if they could eat what was on the menu. As a mother of a child with food restrictions, I knew how often we were made to feel like a burden or annoyance when we ordered. The last thing I wanted was for someone to feel that way in my restaurant. I had done the fine dining, chef-driven experience thing for years in NYC and I wanted something less about the chef and more about the customer’s experience. At Hobos, you could be picky and not have the server roll their eyes or the chef come storming out of the kitchen. What did it benefit someone if I made an amazing dish and they couldn’t eat it? From the beginning, the menu was not about me or showing how clever I was. The menu was about the person dining, and what they could and couldn’t eat.”

“What ended up happening was that the menu became completely interactive. All of our sauces were made gluten free and vegan up to a certain point and then we created each person’s individual dish according to their dietary specifications. If someone was vegan, they had a choice of multiple vegan proteins including homemade seitan and organic sprouted tofu. But if someone wanted to eat beef or chicken we made sure that our meat products were sourced antibiotic, hormone and steroid free. All our seafood was always wild and local whenever possible and we didn’t serve anything preprocessed, with chemicals or preservatives or with high fructose corn syrup.”

Hobos is located in Rehoboth Beach at 56 Baltimore Avenue on the second beach block. The restaurant is family friendly and has an entirely organic kid’s menu that is always available. Hobos welcomes your fur babies on the patio with a special doggy menu and doggy specific china and placemats. Chef Gretchen welcomes all forms of dietary restrictions and will happily create a meal ‘on the fly’ for anyone who needs her special skill set. Chef Gretchen teaches a 10-week plant based cooking class in the off season every year and is a regular contributor to many local media publications. For more information visit www.myhobos.com  or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gretchen.hanson.7.

Hobos Restaurant and Bar is the only restaurant in Rehoboth to be voted Best Restaurant Downstate, Best Chef Downstate, Best Healthy Dining, Best Vegan and Vegetarian Options by Delaware Today all in the last five years. Voted Best Healthy Dining and Best Vegan and Vegetarian Options by Coastal Style the last three years running. Most Creative Chef of the Culinary Coast 2015. Winner of the Polar Bear Plunge Chili Cookoff Best Vegetarian Chili every single year.

While Hobos menu changes almost daily, catering has turned into a large portion of the Hobos kitchen. Famous for her lavish buffets and spreads, Chef Gretchen creates wedding and corporate events that are memorable. Catering menus available by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. but your menu experience will be created individually if desired. Open year round check specific hours on our website. Reservations always suggested and happily accepted. Welcome to Hobos, welcome to our table.

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I never wanted a completely vegan restaurant. But one morning many years ago, I woke up and said “OK, I’m vegan now.” My then-husband responded to my pronouncement, “You couldn’t make a stop at vegetarian first?” The answer was a definitive ‘no.’ I was very clear that my time was right that second and it really was a nonnegotiable change.  (Actually, one in a series of mutual nonnegotiable changes that had effectively doomed the marriage a long time previously.) What he really worried about was the fact that I wouldn’t cook for him anymore, not that I wasn’t getting enough food or balancing my diet, work and family. And he was right, I did stop cooking for him eventually (that’s a side dish of divorce) and for a while I literally stopped eating anything at all.  Except hummus. I lived on hummus. And hummus made me happy in a way I had never been happy about food before. I was literally starving all the time in my own abundant restaurant kitchen and my entire existence had boiled down to one food source.

During this time my palette was completely rebooting itself and when I woke up from this phase almost every flavor was more vibrant, truly alive and real.  And yet even when I was a newbie freaky vegan who had not really figured out what to eat much less how to live as a vegan; I still wanted my restaurant to serve all the dishes that I loved to cook and had previously loved to eat. Even ones that included meat.  I cooked by smell, I cooked from memory and I still cooked with love. I wanted to feed the people that came to me what ever made them happy.

I never even played with the notion of making the restaurant entirely vegan and when the first article that came out about the restaurant was about how a new vegan eatery was opening in town I was horrified. That was exactly what I didn’t want. Exactly what I explained to the reporter I wasn’t going to do. Just because I was vegan didn’t mean that I was out to convert the world. I am often asked, as a chef who works in a restaurant that sources only local, antibiotic hormone and steroid free meats and chicken, wild sustainable seafood and of course seasonal and local produce why I need to be vegan when the quality of what is available to me is like having an organic farm in your pantry. Why vegan? Give me one reason why not, I answer. I am contributing to the health of my planet and allowing countless animals to live. I know that I want my body to be healthy and well and I know that I can make positive steps towards achieving that goal and making sure that my daughters have a mother maybe a little bit longer and certainly a lot happier.  

The whole mission of the restaurant is about being a place where food can be part of the community and where everyone can eat happily, safely and sustainably at the same table no matter what their food choices or food restrictions. What I have discovered over the many years I have wandered this planet is that food heals. Not just our body but also our souls. If we create a safe place for people to talk and communicate over the dinner table major rifts can be healed when their stomachs are happy. And even if the major rifts don’t get healed at least everyone is fed healthily and it’s really hard to be miserable with a happy tummy. The one thing I absolutely wasn’t going to do was to take my personal journey and use it as a blueprint for the success of the restaurant or for the ideology of its choices. I wanted to support the local farmers that raised animals and even if I didn’t consume them, I had a better handle on how they were raised and the compassion of their care in life and death. Just because I can’t raise a pig and slaughter it for food doesn’t mean I don’t respect the life choices of the farmers that do and want to support the fact that their pigs are fed mash from a local brewing company and wander around doing piggy things rather than living on a feedlot. I can’t eat meat anymore but that doesn’t mean I love my carnivorous friends any less or judge them for their choices.

But then of course I am vegan and what I love to cook is vegan and what ended up happening was that so many people that came into the restaurant said to me “if you cooked for me every day I would have no trouble being vegan most of the time either.” (You can have vegan super powers by keeping your animal product consumption in single digits percentage wise even though morally a lot of vegans would quibble with that) So that first dark, cold, miserable off-season in our very seasonal resort community I huddled around my stove called ‘Hell’ with three regular customers and taught them to cook my way. We cut and chopped and braised and reduced and sautéed and smoked and dehydrated and sprouted and people began to change the way they cooked and what they ate.
And then the strangest thing happened.

People that took the class started getting really, really healthy; having more energy and better sleep and a lot more sex than they had had in years. Cholesterol points dropped in the triple digits routinely and people began reversing chronic medical conditions, losing vast quantities of weight and without the benefit of being a nutritionist or doctor or dietician I ended up helping people to change their lives by changing the way they ate. Eventually over the next three years I developed a comprehensive teaching program for people that wanted to learn how to cook plant based. I taught people how to cook with unprocessed grains and greens and to cook in a way that didn’t leave you feeling deprived or as if you were being forced to consume tasteless ‘health food.’ In conjunction with learning how to care for themselves and their family by discovering  their’ inner chef’ in a technique driven building block classroom experience I also used a concept I called “Deliberate Eating” to reclaim the ritual satisfaction of dining.

As Americans we consume most of our meals by food that has been either handed to us through a car window, alone standing in front of the microwave or in our cubicle spilling ketchup and crumbs between spreadsheets. Food becomes merely a vehicle for existence and not a primary sensual and spiritual pleasure. Our health suffers, our soul suffers and let’s face it our ass suffers. We clamp on to each new foodie trend in dieting; high protein, low carbohydrate, low fat, plant based, carnivore, caveman…with the ferocious passion of zealots and yet we do not think about food as a long term relationship but more as an illicit affair. Most diets work short term: calories in, calories out, it’s a simple mathematical equation. What diets are not taking into account is that far too many people are having a furtive relationship with food rather than taking it out of the closet and putting it front and center in to the evening dress, the family, the marriage and on top of the dining room table.

In examining our relationship with food one of the most important things to ask ourselves is why we eat the WAY we do in addition to WHAT we do. Part of the process of remaking our relationship with food is to redefine the way we view the actual event and eliminate that which does not nourish our soul as well as our body. Your body wants to be well. Each day that you give your body clean nourishing soul sustaining food it is repairing and regenerating positive growth and healthy energy. Clearly the most important thing you can do for yourself is give permission for this healing and growth to occur. The process of deliberate eating is channeling and directing this positive energy to its greatest possible benefit. You must give yourself permission to enjoy the process of eating and caring for yourself rather than to feel guilty about the size of your ass (or thighs or stomach or hips) and make the inevitable decision that deprivation is the answer. It’s a completely novel concept for those of us that grew up believing that a perfect bikini size meant the perfect life.

As a mom I have raised my children to make their own choices based on their own personal path. What works for me personally may not be what is best for my daughters or my friends. I figure that getting to my own place of peace is hard enough without trying to drag people along kicking and screaming behind me.  Who am I to tell you what to eat and how to live? I can barely manage my own life with all the flotsam and jetsam, much less yours, but what I can do is care for you when you are with me, teach you how to cook in a whole new way and make sure you feed yourself in a way that is healthy and abundant and doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or unhappy. I can teach you the things that I do and show you what works for me. The decision after that is entirely yours. At this point dozens and dozens of people have reclaimed their lives and their health after taking my wellness immersion class. I met my now-husband when he signed up for my class two years ago. He was 100 lbs overweight with multiple health related problems. He is now a 50 year old vegan hottie head turner. He may have had ulterior motives to jump on the vegan bandwagon but hell, who doesn’t?

My path is not yours or your best friend’s or your spouses or your niece that went vegan and then developed some horrible disease or deficiency because she really doesn’t like vegetables. My uniquely circuitous journey that brought me here was based largely in being told what to do and who to be. I am only beginning to learn to wear my own clothes rather than the costume that was handed to me at birth and as I discover my own identity I am discovering that I love being vegan and love to teach people how to cook the way I do. To me it is not about sacrifice but about making a deliberate choice every day to live a certain way. And for me personally that choice is about treating myself and the world around me more gently.

I am no longer a newbie freaky vegan or even relentlessly 100 percent vegan anymore. I call myself a “dirty vegan” who will sometimes have a bite of a beautiful Chappelle from a local dairy or an egg from our local chicken man. I try not to kill things but sometimes I think it is hypocritical considering that the restaurant does have meat and seafood options and so I am not a zealot (because I find zealotry in all forms tiresome) and so I wake up each day making that plant based decision anew.  I am 100 percent sure that everything tastes better with bacon but for right now I am okay with forgoing that option to live in a way that makes less of a negative impact on the piggy population. What I am completely sure of is that I was meant to teach people how to cook and what to eat. I am completely sure that every meatless meal matters both to the health of the planet and your heart. I read this story once about an eighty year woman who looked back at a lifetime of Sunday dinners with chickens in the pot and thought that was an awful lot of chickens. At the end of my life a lot of little chickens will be running around because I taught people how to make a chicken-less Matzoh Ball Soup, a chicken-less Philly Cheese steak and a Palm Beach Chicken-less Curry Salad.

I like chickens. And that is one thing I know for sure.

EAT PLANTS, MAINLY PLANTS, MOSTLY PLANTS, AND AS MANY PLANTS AS POSSIBLE…thank you, Michael Pollan for distilling it into such simple terms.

I’m sure there are more ways to say it but I certainly can’t say it enough or any better than Michael Pollan did. Plants are filled with everything you need. Everything. Between fruits and vegetables and grains if you a diet filled with variety and lots of colors you can get your vitamin, mineral, calcium and protein needs all met without popping a pill, without ever going on a diet, without worrying how your swimsuit is going to fit in the summer…EVER. Human beings have thrived up till the last 60 years because they ATE their nutrients in their food. If you go back a hundred years there were no chewable vitamins, no premade prepackaged dinners in the freezer section. Dinner had to be made from scratch and most of the time you had to grow the food that went into it.  With all the improvements we have in technology and medicine over the last 100 years we have created diseases that weren’t common before. That’s right, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol (the list of newbie western diseases is endless) were present in such small amounts as to be virtually immeasurable as opposed to some of the top killers in our society today. Add to that the increases of cancer and heart disease and all our medical advances can’t make up for the fact that we are eating ourselves to death. Too harsh? Consider this, the fastest growing segment of obesity in this country is our youth, a staggering 30 percent increase over the last ten years brings the rate of childhood obesity to just at twenty percent. Our youngest generation faces serious health risks; most importantly the prevalence of type 2 diabetes which affects just about everything you do and the way you live. There is no soft way to say this: being overweight can shorten your life, and affect pretty much everything you think and feel about who you are and what you are capable of.  Most of you in the younger generation have been exposed relentlessly to media that tells you that you have to look and be a certain way to be popular, pretty, and accepted. Hell, forget the younger generation that was how I was raised in the 70’s. Couple that with the same today’s intense surround-your-life media that dictates what you eat, how you spend your social time and no wonder you are confused. The multi-billion dollar food industry wants your money and will stop at no lengths to get it. Everywhere you go or look you are being barraged with buy me slogans, add campaigns, commercials and media that tell you what you need to be happy.

Here is a fun exercise: Take an hour during your day, anywhere anytime and count the amount of branding slogans, logos you see, or pop up ads that are targeted to you. It takes practice to be aware of all the subtle ‘buy me’ ways that advertisers and marketers seduce you but look around you at any given point of your day and find some. The more practice you have noticing them the more easily you can discount their message.  Did you notice the diet pill ads next to the “Buy the right bikini for your body type” article in the fashion magazine? Accident? I think not…

It is up to you to start reading labels, start being aware of the marketing gimmicks and begin educating yourself and family and friends and to take matters into your own hands. I will give you the tools, just keep reading.

EAT WHOLE FOODS. Foods didn’t used to come in pretty little packages at eye-level in the grocery store aisles (add water and microwave, please) you used to have to grow your own, harvest and cook it yourself. Now there is no way we are all going to start rooftop gardens and have our own chicken coop but let’s see what we actually can do to get as close to the source as possible with what we eat.

GROW YOUR OWN. Not saying you have to start homesteading or move to the country but there are plenty of ways you can actual grow things to eat in an urban setting. Check out the how to section for sprouting and planting. It’s fun and as fresh and local as it gets.

CONSIDER WHERE YOU SHOP. In the section following it will talk about navigating the grocery store and farmers markets but think about what you want in your life as you grow up. Convenience stores or farm stands? The way you think about food now will be what happens in the future. Your choices affect the world, don’t think for a minute they don’t.

CONSIDER WHAT YOU BUY. If you are buying animal products were those animals raised in a way that was humane and kind? If you are buying dairy is that milk “clean” for you to drink? Are you putting chemical slurry in your body? What words are on the back of that box? Everything single thing you put in your body is a conscious decision.

SPEND LESS MONEY. That’s right. Most people will say that eating organic or whole foods is more expensive. Not true. Sure, vegetables and fruits are more expensive but when you look at how much you will save not buying junk food, fast food and commercially produced animal products (which you don’t eat a lot of) the cost savings is pretty amazing. A bag of beans and some veggies can make a meal to feed a family of four with leftovers for about 5 to 10 dollars. Show me a fast food window that can do that. If money is tight (and when isn’t it) look at the recipes with the $$ sign.

BUY LOCAL IN SEASON. Lots of grocery stores are starting to support local farmers and you can add your support by buying the produce that they sell. You will be reducing the carbon footprint (how much gas it takes to get from point A to B) of what you eat as well as eating food produced from your local community. There is a lot research out there that says you are better off if you are eating foods that are grown close to you. Was your body meant to eat a mango in the middle of an Eastern snowstorm? Hmmmm….

EAT A RAINBOW. Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different vitamins and antioxidants. You all have heard about carrots having lots of betacarotene (the orange antioxidant) and are good for your eyes, right? You all have heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well the same is true for every color and every veggie without the apples and carrots rockstar press agent. If you eat a varied diet of plants that are filled with different colors of the rainbow   you won’t have to take your vitamins you’ll be eating them. Different colors, lots of them, every day.

DON’T EAT ANYTHING THAT HAS A TV OR SPORTS PERSONALITY ON THE BOX.

DON’T BUY ANYTHING THAT SAYS ‘DIET’ ON THE LABEL.

DON’T EAT ANYTHING THAT HAS HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP ON THE LABEL. EVER.

DON’T EAT ANYTHING THAT HAS INGREDIENTS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW ON THE LABEL.  This seems like a harsh rule and it is …at first. As time goes by you will laugh at the fact that you thought it was hard. Look at the COMPANIES WE LOVE LIST in section ---- you will find these companies pretty safe most of the time but when you learn to read labels you will discover that most things can either be preserved simply or with every chemical ever made to taste like something it is not.

BEWARE OF GMO FOODS. GMO means genetically modified as in anything not made by God but by man and in a test tube. I don’t want to get all creationistic here but there are any number of potential ecological disasters in the making with modifying the gene code. For one thing we simply do not have the testing time to determine whether this is actually a good thing or not. Time will determine if the new gene code becomes invasive or mutates or overruns our delicate ecological balance in the watershed. There are simply too many unknowns and the main proponent seem to be the very people that sell the GMO seeds. If you haven’t been following the labeling controversy catch up on your agribusiness reading at fooddemocracynow.org  basically labeling GMO foods is common sense to anyone that eats… Food, that is.

KNOW THE DIFFERENT LABELLING PHRASES. What they are supposed to mean and what they actually do…look at food labels and the laws that govern them

Black Beans For Tostadas
2 cups black beans soaked with quick soak method
1 TB ground cumin
1 TB vegetable base
Herbamare and white pepper to taste
Roasted onion about 1 cup (2 cups diced onion plus 2 TB organic canola)

Soak beans, drain water, recover with water and add vegetable base and 1 tsp cumin. Bring to a boil, simmer till tender. Carmelize onions in organic canola oil and when browned add cumin to onions till seasonings heat and flavor, set aside. Puree beans with liquid, return to pot. Serve on top of  warmed tortillas with cooked soyrizo, cilantro, diced onion and tomatoes, baby lettuces and tomatillo salsa.

Soyrizo!
2 extra firm organic non GMO tofu blocks crumbled
1 cup TVP reconstituted with 1 cup veg stock
4 TB Ancho paste
2 TB Tomato Paste
1 tsp Agave nectar
3 TB Cumin
3 TB freeze dried Onion
1 TB dried Oregano
¼ cup Roasted Garlic
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp Ancho morita powder

Reconstitute TVP with vegetable stock, add ancho paste, tomato paste, agave nectar. Put 2 blocks extra firm tofu in food processor on pulse until finely pureed. Add roasted garlic and freeze dried onion. Pulse again. Mix both batches together with all remaining spices. Sautee in non stick pan till browned for crumbles. If you wish to form into patties add 3 TB vital wheat gluten to mixture to form patties. You can scramble this dry or with organic canola oil.  All the flavor of chorizo and none of the fat!

Tomatillo Salsa
6 cups cleaned, husked whole Tomatillos
2 cup Jalapenos with stems removed only
1 cup whole Garlic cloves
1 tsp (+/-) Chile salt
1 fat bunch Cilantro thoroughly cleaned
¼ cup Organic Canola Oil

Toss whole tomatillos, jalapenos and garlic with canola. Roast tomatillos, jalapenos and garlic in very hot oven preferably finishing under broiler till they are blackened and charred. Puree with cilantro and salt. You may vary the quantities of jalapenos and garlic depending on your taste. If you don’t have chili or lime salt use sea salt instead.

It is a grossly unfair fact of life that certain foods may taste good and be terrible for you but have you ever asked yourself why they taste so good? Lots and lots of research into what YOU (that’s right YOU) like food to taste like and then lots and lots of laboratory time and chemicals to make that flavor just so. Look at the back of a typical no-name brand can of chicken noodle soup. Those words you cannot pronounce (much less spell or know what they are) represent thousands and thousands of hours of research and billions of dollars by FOOD INC. Let’s examine what goes into that can of chicken noodle soup shall we? It has been determined by FOOD INC that we like our food WHITE and with very little bulk or fiber in it. Accordingly the flour in our country is made of wheat that is milled and refined and blended till all the natural fiber and nutrients are removed and it is white as the color of new snow, not tan or brown the way it is when naturally milled. Then the nutrients are put back in to re-fortify the flour. Those noodles are a concoction of corn starch and wheat glue; the proteins so valuable in wheat are long gone. The “chicken juice” of the soup can is a finely tuned balance of sodium, high fructose corn syrup and a blend of chemicals that are supposed to recreate the flavor of chickens as they used to taste. Those chicken bits are made from chickens who are pumped full of growth hormones to grow as twice the speed of nature, fed a food source that no birds were ever intended to eat in conditions that no living creature should endure. These are not the chickens you see dancing about on farms in your barnyard books from childhood. No matter how hard food engineers try they simply cannot improve on food the way it was originally was. Food is perfect for your body in its raw unadulterated unprocessed form. Anything you do after that to make a food whiter or more refined is just taking away from the natural perfection of whole grains and whole foods.   

If that can of chicken soup is iffy at best then you can probably guess that the fast food burger, french fries, soda and candy bar is not number one on the hit parade. Just about everything that would cause diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol is present in that one typical fast food meal. Present in this lovely concoction of flavors and smells (and yes, they are engineered to be addictive) is a blend of chemicals and preservatives that will prevent it from rotting. Try this experiment, buy a kids meal from any one of the major fast food chains and put that kids meal in a glass jar with an open lid. What happens next is a miracle of modern science. NOTHING. Sure the burger and fries petrify, but they don’t rot the way normal food will. Try the same experiment with a whole grain roll and veggie sub. The mold that grows will be thrilling and worthy of a facebook page post. Here’s a fast rule that you can pretty much dictate everything by. FOOD SHOULD ROT. If it doesn’t don’t eat it. It’s that simple.

Here’s another rule. SUGAR IS NOT FOOD. If you eat sugar instead of food you will not be getting the proteins, nutrients, vitamins and minerals you require to survive. It’s that simple. If you live on sugar you will be obese and probably get diabetes. Frankly giving yourself shots every day should deter even the most ardent sugar addict. Think about it. Are those Hoho’s really worth a shot?