My family and I ventured south into the Grayton Beach area on a recent weeknight to try our luck at Chanticleer Eatery. I had eaten there only once before—lunch, during the Christmas season. I was impressed with how busy the place was and also with the food and extra-friendly and efficient service. I was looking forward to dinner.
They don’t take reservations. We got there around 6 p.m., and there was no wait but plenty of business. The restaurant sits in the back corner of a small and bustling retail and office area. There’s seating inside and out. We went inside.
I’m thinking the building may formerly have been either a residence or some kind of office. It’s honeycombed with variably sized rooms that work nicely as separate dining spaces. The walls are brightly painted and decorated with rooster-themed artwork (“Chanticleer” is the name of a rooster in French fables), and there’s a rooster image on every table.
A full bar/lounge is located in the rear, and the highly organized staff keeps on the move—serving, clearing and cleaning. Our hostess (I think she may be an owner) greeted us cheerfully and quickly got us a seat. She even took a moment to compliment my daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) on her dress, a gesture that made my kid blossom.
The menu offers starters, soups and salads, burgers, and main course items. There’s a list of desserts, but it’s off-menu so if you want to save room you should ask in advance. Menu items can change.
Our choices for apps were guacamole bites—deep fried—with dipping sauce, sliced spice crusted tuna over cusabi (cucumber and wasabi) vinaigrette slaw, caprese, chicken bruschetta flatbread, rosemary sage bread with olive oil dip, triple pork nachos (substituting fried pork skins for corn chips) with pulled pork and bacon, sauteed Creole-style crab claws, and mini-pretzels stuffed with wild boar/jalapeno sausage. We got the pretzels, which are baked to order and can take a few minutes.
The pretzels arrived super-hot in a basket, with a thick queso dipping sauce. They’re literally bite-sized, with a slice of not-too-spicy smoked sausage inside, and would be a perfect accompaniment to beer (as the menu suggests). TD broke hers open, gave her mother the sausage and lived on bread alone. They may make you think of little pigs in blankets, but with extra flavor. I noticed many of our fellow diners getting the pretzels as well.
For the main course, TD got chicken fingers with a side of fruit (off the kids menu), my wife ordered a pulled pork plate, and I chose shrimp with smoked gouda grits and andouille. TD’s chicken portion was generous, and I liked that they chopped the fruit, making it easier for a child to eat. Nice little touch.
The pulled pork plate offers a sizeable mound of lean but rich smoked pig (it comes regular and spicy), sweet baked beans, cornbread, slaw, and two kinds of sauce—Carib mustard and traditional sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. My wife took home half for lunch next day.
Eight large shrimp came surrounding a bowl full of thick but creamy grits, well laced with smoky cheese and garnished with bits of sausage, onions and smoked peppers. It was perfectly integrated and pretty to look at during its short lifespan.
Other main course items include dinner salads (Southwest, Cobb, summer salad, and a combo with tomato basil soup), ribeye steak in two sizes, shrimp jambalaya, marinated boneless pork chops (available in a half-order), hand-pulled chicken and yellow rice, and grilled chicken with cilantro/lime rice. There’s a bacon-cheddar guac burger, Swiss, mushroom and onion burger, barbecue, and build-your-own burger options. Sides include roasted garlic and dill smashed potatoes, roasted vegetables with feta, fries, cheese grits, baked beans and a side salad.
We had saved room for dessert. The night we were there they had key lime pie, a chocolate chip cookie, a white chocolate coconut cookie, carrot cake and lemon cake. Our server recommended the latter, so my wife and I split the lemon cake and TD had a chocolate chip cookie. She gave us each a fragment—it was rich and chewy. The lemon cake looked like a wedding cake, only it tasted good. The two layers were separated by lemon jam, and the icing was thick and butter-creamy. Half went home.
Local or visitor, Chanticleer will make you feel welcome and leave you well fed. Long may it crow.
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