On this final day of 2017, I’ve decided to take a look back at my best dining experiences of the year and share them with you. My job affords me the opportunity to travel, and this year, I got to visit some really fun destinations, and eat some truly inspired food. Continue reading “2017 in Review: My Top 5 Restaurant Experiences”
Angel Oak Restaurant
John’s Island, S.C.
I love discovering quaint, off-the-beaten-path delights. That’s what I would call Angel Oak Restaurant, a small, family owned spot on John’s Island. Located right off of Savannah Highway, about 10 miles from downtown Charleston, Chef Jay Kees is serving up some of the most flavorful Southern fare in the city, combining a balance of down home dishes with those that compete with the forward thinking, highfalutin’ standards of Charleston dining. That’s one reason it isn’t hard to believe Angel Oak Restaurant holds the title for longest running business in this location. Going on more than three years in service (they opened in summer 2012), the eclectic space was once a general store, a Mexican restaurant and an ice cream shop.
The one room eatery holds 15 tables with bench style seating and an assortment of wooden chairs. Guests may also choose to sit outside, where bulb lighting and table lanterns create a soft ambiance. At the entrance, a large hostess station filled with paper menus and reams of craft paper greet guests. Staff members dressed neatly in blue jeans and plaid button down shirts work the dining room.
Filled with intentional and meaningful details, the setting creates a warm atmosphere perfect for families or date night. Popular tunes play on the speakers. Small bottles filled with fresh flowers make inviting, simple centerpieces, coupled with a mix of blue, green and clear Mason jars for drinking glasses. Utensils rest comfortably on nautical cloth napkins. Open for lunch, supper and Sunday Brunch, I’ve had the pleasure of dining here on many occasions for all but supper.
One of the most popular Sunday Brunch dishes has to be the House Made Beignets, a plate piled high with powdered sugar-dusted doughnuts, served with chocolate sauce. Reminiscent of dulce de leche, the sauce has sweet caramel notes. Other Sunday Brunch dishes include hearty selections such as Country Fried Steak and Eggs, Chicken and Biscuits, Bacon, Egg and Cheese Croissant, and the Croque Madame. If you enjoy a good champagne cocktail, the $10 bottomless mimosas make the restaurant a motivating choice.
The Country Fried Steak and Eggs feature two buttermilk biscuits topped with collards and country fried steak, finished with poached eggs and gravy. Come hungry!
Consistent with the widely held belief of many a good chef, the husband and wife team at Angel Oak Restaurant prides itself on sourcing local, seasonal ingredients to best highlight the cuisine of the community. South Carolina farmers and purveyors including Geechie Boy Market and Mill, Legare Farms, Blackbird Farms, Limehouse Produce, Saffron Bakery and Burbages provide fresh ingredients from breads and grits to produce, beef, pork and eggs. The restaurant boasts its own herb garden.
Lunch, including a daily Blue Plate Special, features a variety of appetizers, salads and entrees. On my last visit, I ordered the sampler plate with Bacon Braised Collards, Tomato Salad and Mac N’ Cheese. Fresh and well executed, it was every Southerner’s taste of home. Mainstays like Fried Green Tomatoes, House Made Pimento Cheese and Fried Pickle Chips offer familiar comfort. A nice selection of local beers are available, along with a standard wine list.
So, the next time you’re stuck in traffic on Savannah Highway, stop in to Angel Oak Restaurant. Unassuming and rustic, its recipe for success is clear: Quality ingredients, locally sourced + friendly service in a unique environment. What more could a diner want?
New to Some Kinda Good?
Now based in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the former Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the television program “Statesboro Cooks.” From 2012 – ’14, she appeared regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and wrote as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah and The Local Palate. In addition, her work is published in Moments magazine and Connect Statesboro. Her culinary accomplishments are recognized in two publications: She is a featured alumna in Georgia Southern Magazine (Spring ’14) and the “Go Girl!” in Moments magazine (March 2104), a tabloid for moms and modern women. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.
Bowens Island Restaurant
Charleston, South Carolina
In my short six months as a Charlestonian, I’ve learned one very accommodating notion about the food scene: The Holy City offers a dining experience for every frame of mind. Without a doubt, diners will find their every hearts’ desire–Want high-end fare, served with keen attention to detail on white tablecloths to the tune of jazz music? How about brunch in a funky roadside dive or on the porch of a historic Victorian home-turned-culinary delight? Maybe it’s serenity you seek in the natural surroundings of the Lowcountry–a place where you can gaze upon the marshlands while sinking your teeth into the ocean’s bounty. Chucktown has it all.
While hand-crafted cocktails and perfectly plated entrées are a luxury, sometimes just the taste of crunchy fried shrimp or a good hush-puppy dunked in cocktail sauce and chased by a cold glass of sweet tea does the trick. On a warm Friday night recently, I found such a place: Bowens Island Restaurant. Down home and casual as can be, you’d never know it existed (the restaurant has no website or Facebook page) unless you had a little insider insight.
Just as traffic breaks free on the way out to Folly Beach, visitors will notice a large spray painted sign which points the way down a washed out dirt road to 1870 Bowens Island Rd. Take this road slowly, not just to avoid a flat tire, but because you won’t want to miss the glorious mansions on each side of the road, flanked by shade trees and grandiose Southern porches.
You’ll stand in line to place your order. It can be a long line, because people are willing to wait for good food. I met some friends there around 7 p.m. on a weekend, and we waited about 10-15 minutes.
Views of boats motoring up to the docks, the smell of fresh-caught seafood and the sun setting over the water will keep you pretty entertained. Not to mention the anticipation of at least 10 local brews on tap.
There’s not a bad seat in the house–or outside “the house” for that matter. Take your pick of where to rest your weary bones: Indoor dining room, indoor bar, or outside on the deck facing the water. Should you pick inside, be forewarned, there’s no air conditioning. Ceiling fans and the natural sea breeze keep the air circulating. The dining room is a bustling place. Waiters come barreling out of the kitchen with trays of hot fried seafood, hollering the name on your order.
Orders are served in recyclable cartons with plastic utensils. A big roll of paper towels sits on each table. The menu has everything from fried and boiled shrimp to in-season oysters and fried chicken tenders. The food is well seasoned, hot upon arrival and for those blessed to have eaten a lot on the coast, familiar. Unlike a large percentage of Charleston dining establishments, there won’t be an item on this menu you can’t pronounce or an ingredient you have to question. Hush-puppies, french fries and coleslaw come with just about everything. The “Big Ol’ Seafood Platter” is the most expensive thing on the menu, coming in at $19. Simple, and Some Kinda Good!
If your idea of a night on the town is a laid back, no fuss Lowcountry experience, this is your spot. Open six nights a week from 5 – 10 p.m., you can bet I’ll be there again soon, sipping on a cold Corona.
Now based in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgia native Rebekah Faulk is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the former Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the television program Statesboro Cooks. From 2012 – ’14, she appeared regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and wrote as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah and The Local Palate. In addition, Faulk’s work is published in Moments magazine and Connect Statesboro. Her culinary accomplishments are recognized in two publications: She is a featured alumna in Georgia Southern Magazine (Spring ’14) and the “Go Girl!” in Moments magazine (March 2104), a tabloid for Moms and Modern Women. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.
The Boiling Shrimp
The earliest known use of the American phrase, “The Whole Nine Yards,” an expression meaning “all of it, the full measure,” dates back to 1907 in Southern Indiana, but for one new Statesboro seafood restaurant, the term is a business model by which everything from the food to the service is based around. The Boiling Shrimp opened just over three months ago on U.S. 301 South with a mission to make seafood work in Statesboro punctuated by an unconventional, Asian-influenced approach. After visiting for dinner recently, I caught up with Assistant Manager Adam Tsang to get the details on this restaurant’s unique spin on presentation, flavor and entertainment.
Two things that caught my attention immediately: 1) Customers place their order in a 3-step sequence and 2) Food ordered Low Country boil style, is presented in a clear, plastic bag. First, you choose your catch, next your flavor and lastly, determine how you’d like it prepared. “We found that if we served the food directly on the plate, the sauces and seasonings don’t stay on as well,” said Adam. On my visit, I ordered a 1/2 pound of boiled shrimp with Cajun sauce for $8 and washed it all down with a cold Blue Moon. Currently, the restaurant serves beer with future plans to offer wine.
Once I got over the shock factor of the plastic bag on my plate, I found its contents divine. The aroma of a Low Country boil hit me as soon as I untied the bag, and the size of the plump, succulent shrimp alongside a half ear of deliciously seasoned corn on the cob and juicy sausage was all I needed to feel right in my element. Fresh, good quality seafood in the coastal plains of Georgia? What more could one want?
Menu items also include soups, salads and po’ boy sandwiches. Adam says the Fried Shrimp Basket is one of their most popular dishes. So, just where does the Asian influence come in to play? Owned by longtime Statesboro residents Charles and Jean Hsu, the Taiwanese Americans created their sauces –your choice of chili pepper, lemon pepper, Cajun or garlic — based on influences from their travels and previous restaurant experiences. “The Whole Nine Yards” is both a sauce (a combination of all of the above) and a dish on the menu. Asian influences can be found in the tempura fry style and preparation of the batter.
With an open floor plan, the casual atmosphere feels like you’re dining on the coast, as if you could walk outside and be on the beach. Oars and ship wheels fill the walls, along with flat screen TVs. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday – Saturday until 11 p.m. Live music is offered during lunch Sunday – Thursday. “We’re tapping into local musicians,” Adam said. “Right now, we’re featuring light jazz with Andrew Brantley who plays with The Orange Constant band. They’re really good.”
Seafood restaurants in Statesboro don’t have the best track record. Carry Hilliard’s Restaurant closed after just two years and The Shell House, what is now The Mill House, didn’t survive the college town either. Adam says, at The Boiling Shrimp, they’ve learned from the mistakes restaurants who’ve gone before them have made. With more than 700 Facebook “Likes” and a lot of positive buzz surrounding them, they’re off to a great start. If you haven’t made your way over to see them yet, keep an open mind and give them a shot! If it’s good seafood you seek, you’ve come to the right place.
‘A Boiling Shrimp’ of Flavors in Statesboro
New to Some Kinda Good?
Thanks for stopping by! If you like this post, you may also be interested to read about a few of the other local restaurants and bakeries I’ve reviewed. As the Statesboro Herald food columnist and a Georgia Southern University alumna, the ‘Boro is a second home to me. Be sure to like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter to keep up with all my latest, local food discoveries.
During Tybee Island Restaurant Week, I had the privilege of meeting a fellow blogger–one of my longtime blog followers, and discovering a new place I had seen in the distance many times while crossing over the Lazaretto Creek Bridge, but had never taken the time to stop and explore. After a little menu research on participating restaurants, the Fried Strawberries at Coco’s Sunset Grille caught my eye and the marina filled with shrimp boats and sunset views lured me in.
Immediately, Coco’s has the feel of a fun and festive Florida vibe with its bright, cheerful paint colors and lively bar. While my boyfriend, Kurt and I were waiting to meet our friends, Jon and Lydia, we took a walk around the docks and saw the Bait & Tackle Shop and Kayak Rentals on the marina.
We kicked things off with a couple of Landshark Lagers and dove right in to making our selections. For just $25, the special menu offered choices in appetizer, dinner and dessert categories. In the appetizer round, we had our choice of French Onion Soup, a Shrimp Cake, Fried Green Tomatoes or Bacon-Wrapped Scallops.
For my main course, I ordered the Shrimp Cakes with sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. This was something new for me. I had eaten crab cakes before, but never a shrimp cake. Cooked to perfection, the plump, wild Georgia shrimp were sweet within the seasoned breading and left me wanting more. Rustic including the red skins, the mashed potatoes sang on the plate. The house-made remoulade was mayonnaise based and one waitress commented, “I put it on everything. I even dip my fries in it.”
Other dinner selections included Sirloin Steak Marsala with scalloped potatoes and grilled asparagus, and Thai Tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. Coco’s is the place to go for sophisticated flavors minus the fuss of fine dining.
The Fried Strawberries totally surpassed my expectations! After the delicious meal we’d eaten, this came as no surprise. Served with fresh, sweetened whipped cream and a pretty pink strawberry sauce, the fresh fruit was fried in pancake batter and rolled in cinnamon sugar. I can’t wait to recreate this experience at home. They were Some Kinda Good!
So much of a customer’s dining experience is affected by a restaurant’s environment. From the attitude of the staff to the sound of live entertainment and the tastefully decorated, clean bathrooms, Coco’s Sunset Grille is a place I will definitely return, especially in the summertime. Their website took the words right out of my mouth–“Just add an ice-cold beer…great music, and a few of your best friends, and you’ve got a recipe for Tybee living the way it’s meant to be.”
Special thanks to my fellow blogger and new-found friend, Jon, of “The SOG City Oracle” (SOG is abbreviated for South of Gandy). Though we’d interacted before in the blogsphere, our visit to Coco’s was the first time we’d met in person. He’d suggested a “blogger convergence” during Tybee Island Restaurant Week, and we had such a great time meeting (and eating!) together. On his Tampa, Florida blog, Jon shares his passion for food and more, with “only an occasional opinionated detour.” While reading “The SOG City Oracle,” you’ll appreciate his witty sense of humor, be enlightened by his Quote of the Day and you’ll come across several restaurants worth paying a visit.
Good food and good company, that’s what it’s all about!
South City Kitchen
Midtown Atlanta, Georgia
In a city as large as Atlanta, Georgia choosing a place to dine is like being on a weight-loss plan and trying to fill your plate with only your favorite dishes on Thanksgiving. That was the situation last Saturday as we drove around the A-T-L in search of the perfect brunch spot. It was South City Kitchen that won me over–the lively patio full of happy customers drew me in and as soon as I laid eyes on the menu, I knew we’d made the right choice.
We were greeted politely, then led through the cool, sophisticated dining room out onto the more relaxed patio. We took a seat in the wicker chairs and soon after, our well-dressed waiter delivered a bread basket and poured us up a cold glass of purified water. It’s the little details that really take a dining experience up a notch, like watching your server pour water into a clean drinking glass while sitting outside in the June humidity. Filled with warm, soft biscuits and golden corn muffins, the basket also sported softened butter and cold apple butter for spreading. One bite of that biscuit and it was circa 1991 and I was in my Grandma’s kitchen without a care in the world.
On the menu, you’ll find many southern classics like Buttermilk Fried Chicken, BBQ Pork Sandwiches, She-Crab Soup and Grits & Grillades. Unpredictable side options like corn and tomato, kale salad and fingerlings are a nice surprise. The prices ranged anywhere from $5.95 for their House Made Granola to $19 for the Shrimp & Red Mule Grits- stone ground from Athens, Georgia.
The atmosphere is settling like a slower pace from a previous time. As a customer, you get the feeling you’re a respected guest. The restaurant’s most popular menu item is the Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Shrimp & Red Mule Grits takes second place.
I decided on the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffle with pure maple syrup for $17. I must admit, I’ve always been curious of the combination. Crazy as it seems, it works. The crunchy fried chicken with the buttery waffle…now I know why it’s a Snoop Dogg favorite. Right on Snoop Doggy Dog!
Finding parking was the only challenge to eating here, but after the chicken & waffle dish, it sure didn’t hurt me to walk a few blocks. Open since 1993, South City Kitchen lives up to its motto…dining the way the South intended.
Mallery Street Cafe
St. Simons Island, Georgia
A rainy morning on the last day of vacation led us to Mallery Street Cafe, a quaint place that boasts familiar, great tasting food in a causal setting. While the rain fell outside, we enjoyed a cozy table inside and awaited breakfast.
The menu is short and sweet with recognizable breakfast food like french toast, fruit, eggs, pancakes, grits and toast. You won’t break the bank here, because the items are a la carte. What is it about a coffee mug on a saucer surrounded by cream and a little spoon for stirring that elicits such a good feeling? A welcomed sight indeed in the early morning.
Anytime there’s a packed house, that’s always a good sign. Just give me friendly service and tasty food in a coastal environment and I’m good to go. Located just across the street from the popular St. Simons Island Village, the cafe is a short walk from the Pier.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe serves homemade soups, desserts and features daily specials. Make this place a stop on your next visit to the Golden Isles–you’ll leave simply satisfied.
Sandcastle Cafe & Grill
St. Simons Island, Georgia
It was a sunny Saturday morning and 81 degrees when I strolled over to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill for breakfast in the St. Simons Island Village. By 9 a.m., many islanders and tourists had beat me there, already seated reading The Brunswick News, sipping on piping hot cups of coffee. I made my way through the crowd and happily opted for indoor seating in the A.C.
The cafe opened in 1989 and has since fed many a hungry tourist and locals alike. With exposed brick throughout and an eclectic mix of decorations, the atmosphere is casual and the food comforting.
For just $8.50, you’ll get the “Glorious Breakfast Buffet” including just about any breakfast food you can conjure up. You’ll also receive unlimited pancakes, french toast and waffles. Or, feel free to order from the menu, where you can test your ticker with their signature Eggs Aorta–biscuits topped with gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage and cheddar cheese. Saving room for lunch? Try the lighter fare–the Fruit Plate with fresh seasonal fruit and homemade muffins. Check out the menu.
I got the breakfast buffet so I could pick and choose a few of my favorites–hash browns, fresh fruit, grits and sausage. The coffee mug was just the right size.
Guests help themselves to the wide array of buffet options. Sandcastle Cafe & Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know of any other place on the island where you’ll get more for your money.
Black and white images fill the long brick wall. Framed by the owner herself some 20 years ago, the pictures depict St. Simons Island in the 1950’s and local families whose descendants still eat at Sandcastle Cafe & Grill today.
After breakfast, or any meal for that matter, we always take a walk on the pier to see what the fishermen are catching, watch the shrimp boats or see if we can spot some dolphins swimming out in the ocean.
These are only some of the beautiful sights you might see on a visit to St. Simons. Pleasantly full from breakfast and feeling the sunshine on your skin, what a peaceful view.
Have you been to Sandcastle Cafe & Grill?
Island Chop House and Seafood Grill
St. Simons Island, Georgia
UPDATE 3/27/13 – Island Chop House and Seafood Grill Has Closed
It takes a lot of persuasion for my family to branch out and try a new restaurant, especially in the Golden Isles. We have our favorites, and you know how it is when you’re hungry–you want to go somewhere that’s guaranteed to be good, somewhere you know. On the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, we decided to take a chance on Island Chop House and Seafood Grill, a new St. Simons Island dining establishment that just opened this spring. The food was exceptional, the decor tasteful and I appreciated the fresh take on their inventive side dishes.
Call me a snob, but I typically prefer to dine in stand-alone restaurants. Located on Frederica road smack dab next to the Cleaners, there it was. Though I hadn’t expected the restaurant to be in a strip mall, it stood out among the other stores with an inviting exterior. Mom and dad waited in the car while I went in to scope out the scene. I came back with a thumbs-up, having been impressed with the clean, sophisticated decor, friendly host and desirable menu.
Upon greeting us, the hostess informed us that there’d be a 30 minute wait. It was 7:15 p.m. and we were hungry, so we weren’t thrilled about the news. Then 10 minutes later, she led us to our table. There we sat and waited until a cheery fellow appeared from the kitchen with three tall glasses of cold water garnished with lemon wedges–a welcomed sight after a long day in the summer heat. Our waiter was as nice as could be and immediately apologized explaining that he was waiting on clean glasses, as the restaurant had been so busy that night. There was a party of 20 at the table to our left and I could see he was right. He told us about the specials for the evening, asked if we had any questions and took our drink and appetizer order.
We began with a classic southern menu item: Fried Green Tomatoes. They were lightly fried Georgia green tomatoes layered with goat cheese combined with balsamic-tossed arugula. The presentation was reminiscent of an ice cream sundae. Stacked high, garnished with strawberries and drizzled with what reminded me of chocolate syrup, the tomatoes were crispy and the balsamic dressing provided a sweet tartness with the creamy goat cheese.
As I looked the menu over, I narrowed my decision down between the Smoked Gouda Shrimp & Grits and the Wild Coastal Shrimp. I chose the shrimp & grits for $18.95 with the mixed veggie medley: zucchini, carrots, onions and yellow squash. The dinner entrees come with 2 sides, so I also got a caesar salad. The grits were cheesy and hot, seasoned just right. The sausage was spicy and plump and the shrimp had a Cajun kick. Island Chop House and Seafood Grill offers the usual sides in addition to some pretty cool interpretations of basic carbs and vegetables with the volume turned up. Examples? Grilled Asparagus, Horseradish Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms or Blue Crab Mac-N-Cheese. Mom got the Blue Crab Mac-N-Cheese and man alive, it was Some Kinda Good y’all. It’s fried and spicy!
Maybe to maximize space, the restaurant seating is mostly tables. There is one booth in the rear of the restaurant reserved for larger parties.The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. – Until, with Happy Hour from 3 – 6 p.m. daily. I predict it’ll soon be a local favorite and yet another place my family visits to experience fine food on the beautiful St. Simons Island.
Have you been yet? What’d you think?