The down time between Christmas and New Year’s presents a good opportunity to slip into restaurants you’ve been wanting to try. My family and I recently visited Grayton Beach for dinner at Grayton Seafood Co. It’s a small place, located toward the back of the Uptown Grayton retail shops, off 30A. The sign is easy to spot, and the entrance is in a little side-alley.
There are two dining areas, connected by a short passage. Ceilings are high, creating a more open feeling. The walls in the front dining room are rough-finish wood; in the back, they’re painted red. Shutters, curtains, painted images, pictures and nautical objets d’art add a warm, homey touch. They do not accept reservations or call-aheads, but if you’re feeling lucky it can be a rewarding place for impulse diners, as a large group discovered the night we ate there.
My wife and our almost-six-year-old daughter Grace (the Tiny Diner) chose to eat early, hoping to get a table while the getting was good. We were seated shortly before a party of 19 arrived. The server took a moment to figure things out, and swiftly moved tables around to accommodate the multi-family gathering – kids and teenagers at one, adults at the other. They were a well-behaved bunch, and their single server did an excellent job seeing to their needs.
As for my house, we ordered drinks and studied the menu. Grayton Seafood offers Happy Hour specials of oysters on the half-shell and draft beers. I got one of the latter—an Oyster City Apalach IPA. I ate a lot of raw oysters over Christmas (I could always have eaten more) but they had fried calamari as an appetizer, and neither my wife nor the TD eat raw oysters.
Grayton Seafood’s menu offers starters, oyster specialties, salads, fried, grilled or blackened seafood dinners, land and sea-based entrees, burgers, and some daily specials (crab cakes that night). They also serve lunch and a Sunday brunch.
The IPA was a welcome opening to the meal—crisp, cloudy and bittersweet. The calamari soon showed up, a pile of crunchy fried tube-and-tentacle goodness, with a chunky marinara dip. My wife and I need no coaxing with squid, and TD even tried a nibble. She still says she doesn’t like it, but I think she’s “evolving.”
Other apps include seafood gumbo, fried or sauteed blue crab claws, New Orleans barbecue shrimp, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, bacon wrapped, crawfish and sausage-stuffed jalapenos, spinach and artichoke dip, and fried pickles.
More substantial starters (suitable for meal choices) include freshly-opened oysters served raw; chargrilled with garlic butter and parmesan; “Bubbafella,” baked with collards, cornbread and bacon; barbecued with honey mustard buffalo sauce and blue cheese; and “Graytville,” topped with mushroom and shrimp. There are also dinner salads.
I was tempted by a cobia special, but went with a straight fried platter—a mix of shrimp, oysters, (more) calamari, and fish. The latter was catfish, but for a small additional charge they substituted cobia. I got sides of sweet potato fries and sauteed squash. My wife got a platter of shrimp and catfish with fries and cheese grits, and TD stayed on shore with a fried chicken kids meal.
As with the appetizer, the fish and shellfish were breaded with cornmeal and came out hot and ready for demolition. I usually get cobia grilled, but it’s just as good—dense, juicy and flavorful—when fried crisp. The house is generous with sides—the cheese grits are the more coarse stone-ground kind, by the way, which I like best—and we all packed up about half for home.
Other meal choices are chicken or crab claw platters, fish of the day prepared various ways, half-pound “Grayt Burgers” with custom toppings (including a fried egg), Creole shrimp and crawfish linguine alfredo, shrimp and mushroom capellini, blackened chicken penne, shrimp and grits, and a 16-ounce ribeye or eight-ounce filet mignon, both with surf and turf options.
The lunch menu offers sandwiches, po’ boys and meal sized salads. Sunday brunch offers a variety of eggs Benedict options including crab cake, beef tenderloin and green tomato, assorted omelets, French toast and a traditional bacon, egg, sausage potato and biscuit classic breakfast.
There were three desserts available that night—pecan bread pudding with whisky sauce, Kahlua cake and creme brulee. All sounded very good, but we had no room. There was another group waiting just outside, too. Next.
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