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A popular slice of Newark is coming to Wilmington’s Trolley Square

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Just like University of Delaware students migrating north to Wilmington’s Trolley Square area to live after graduation, the restaurant scene is about to do the same.

Newark-based Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen will open a new location this spring next to Trolley Square Oyster House at 1709 Delaware Ave in the Forty Acres neighborhood.

After BarRoja closed in August, it has remained vacant until now. Newark-based Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen will be opening a location there this spring.

BarRoja, owned by Oyster House operators Big Fish Restaurant Group, had filled the space selling tacos and margaritas for a little more than two years before closing in August.

Before that, it was home to Scratch Magoo’s, a beloved watering hole that had a 29-year run before closing in 2018.

Grain restaurants, run by Hockessin neighbors-turned-restaurateurs Lee Mikles and Jim O’Donoghue, quickly have become omnipresent in our area since opening on Main Street in Newark in 2015. Both are UD graduates.

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The Trolley Square location will be their sixth, bookended by the Oyster House and Crow Bar. A fifth Grain restaurant previously had been announced last month, coming to University of Delaware’s STAR campus in mid-2022.

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen will move into 1709 Delaware Avenue, which was home to Scratch Magoo's for 29 years in Wilmington's Trolley Square neighborhood.

Other Grain dining rooms can be found at Bear’s Grain H20, Grain on the Rocks in Lewes and in Kennett Square on W. State Street.

Mikles, who also co-founded Wilmington digital design agency The Archer Group, said Trolley Square’s Grain location will feature a core food and drink selection similar to its other locations (snacks, sandwiches, craft beer, cocktails) with a few tweaks to make it match the popular city restaurant/bar district.

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Trolley Square’s Grain will offer a large bar in its front room with a dining room in back, along with a rear patio, which had been refurbished when BarRoja opened.

“Having grown up frequenting many of Trolley Square’s destinations, I fondly recall the relaxed atmosphere and outdoor patio of this spot,” O’Donoghue said in a statement announcing the new venture.

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen's short rib grilled cheese sandwich.

Grain will lease the space from Big Fish, which was unable to find success with their Southern California-inspired offerings. (For those still yearning for Big Fish tacos in Wilmington, try Taco Grande on the Riverfront, which opened last year.)

In a statement, Big Fish co-founder Eric Sugrue explained the decision to lease to an outside restaurant group: “We have had great success creating a destination block at Trolley Square Oyster House. We wanted a quality neighbor that complements what we have built and feel that we have found that in Grain.”

Have a story idea? Contact Ryan Cormier of The News Journal at [email protected] or (302) 324-2863. Follow him on Facebook (@ryancormierdelawareonline) and Twitter (@ryancormier).

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