Frank Dubinski was on his way to the beach when he drove past the historic bank in downtown Millsboro — a building that had been a restaurant a time or two, but had closed.
In the restaurant business for many years, and an experienced executive chef who has worked in areas including Lewes, Berlin, Md., and Bridgeville, he had been thinking about opening his own establishment, and when he noticed that old building — with “In God We Trust” still prominent over the front door — was for rent, the prospect stayed on his mind all the way to the ocean.
“I always told everybody I wanted to have a restaurant someday. I made some phone calls about this building, and it snowballed into me getting it,” an amiable Dubinski said one recent afternoon as he leaned over the bar situated where bank tellers once greeted customers who were making deposits into their accounts or cashing paychecks.
Plate & Palette, which opened several months ago, maintains the history of that bank, with original hardwood floors and its vault with heavy metal door, while offering a more upscale experience for diners — especially for those who don’t want to drive to the beach for a fine meal.
A pub was at that location previously, and it has also housed offices and a video rental store, but each one went out of business. Dubinski said he is confident Plate & Palette will remain a favorite spot in downtown Millsboro, at 303 Main Street.
“The people who work here are friendly. We have great servers,” he said with a smile.
Among menu offerings are mahi mahi, lobster avocado toast, crab dip and pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven.
The menu changes, and Dubinski orders meats and produce that are fresh and local. Desserts are made by Brookie’s Cookies in Millsboro, offering sweets including strawberry shortcake and chocolate tortes.
The shepherd’s pie is made with filet tips, and pizzas have roasted yellow and red tomatoes, or filet tips and blue cheese. Chicken, crabmeat and corn top the Sussex County Pizza. Among soups are cream of crab, cream of broccoli, cream of potato and Maryland crab.
There’s also a full bar.
“Everything on the menu is subject to change week to week — subtle changes. The perception is upscale, but really the concept is a gastro-pub — more food driven,” Dubinski said.
“People love it. They like our quality of food and service. A lot of people like the décor. We don’t have our website yet, but we’re working on it. They can find us on our Facebook page,” he added.
Wine-pairing dinners, available by reservation, are planned for the table for six located inside the vault.
Plate & Palette is open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
“This is my primary focus, so I’m here every day. This is my whole career,” Dubinski said, adding that his little girls, Leah, 9, and Paige, 7, help in the restaurant at times, seeing their father cook, the same way Dubinski watched his father, who enjoys barbecuing.
“I love the adrenaline, the dinner rush you get while you’re working. I just love it,” he explained. “People come in and they say, ‘I heard about this place.’ They like the history.”
“We are very tight-knit. We see a lot of the same faces, and passersby, and we welcome them.”
By Susan Canfora