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Thursday, March 1st, 2012
Dining Reviews

First Note Music Hall – Eat, Drink and Listen Up

First Note Music Hall

2052 West Scenic Highway 30A

Redfish Village

Santa Rosa Beach

(850) 622-0221

Hours: Open Wed.-Mon. for Breakfast, 8-11 a.m.; Lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Dinner at 5:30 p.m.; Closed Tuesdays

Reservations: Accepted

Children’s Menu: Yes

Dress: Casual

First Note Music Hall’s First Note Cafe opened last summer and serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and entertainment in an atmosphere that’s part cocktail lounge, part cabaret and part home theater. Located on an off-highway corner with cool, almost unobtrusive modern signage, the restaurant is set up for dining with music.

Along one wall is a bar. Chairs and tables generally face toward the stage, over which several large screen TVs are positioned. Some nights there’s broadcast entertainment, others are devoted to live performances, frequently by local musicians.

The Web site lists a schedule of music, and that’s a story for another time. My family and I went there for the food.

It was a quiet weeknight, with no live entertainment scheduled. The Tiny Diner eats early, and we were the first dining customers of the evening. We took a table opposite the big-screen, which kept the TD curious and therefore silent, for a time. I ordered a Canadian beer, Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles, a substantial, almost sweet ale that was perfect for a cool night. There’s also a full bar, and a dinner menu that I think is for show nights.

We chose from the lunch menu, which features appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, wraps, soups and salads, desserts and milkshakes. The cafe dinner menu offers more elaborate fare such as sesame crusted tuna, shrimp and grits, brisket sliders, and some crossovers from lunch. The kitchen seems pretty accommodating. Our server even brought out crayons and paper for the TD, which we had to decline, lest she try to eat both.

We split an order of queso cheese sticks to start, a variation that entailed fried queso cheese breaded in tri-colored tortillas. They came with salsa and had a very respectable spicy kick. Other appetizers are wings, fried pickles and southwestern egg rolls (filled with smoked chicken, black beans and pepper jack cheese).

It was a night for substantial food and my wife loves a hamburger. She got the Southern Belle, and I went further south with a Venezuelan beef empanada. We tried the TD on samples from both entrees. She was more interested in the big-screen TV (the largest she has ever seen) to take more than a token few bites of beef, little carnivore that she is. She was getting a lot of attention from the staff, all of whom knew a pretty face when they saw one.

The food came, plenty hot, in baskets with sides of french fries and sweet potato tots (another first for us). My empanada was sliced into manageable pieces—lean beef with lettuce in slightly sweet, plantain-infused dough wraps with a drizzle of what tasted a bit like tzatziki. Great beer food. The Southern Belle burger was topped with two sliced fried green tomatoes, strips of brown sugar-cured bacon, cheese and Cajun aioli. I helped out with it. I’ve never been devoted to tater tots, but sweet potato tots definitely have a place with me now.

Other menu offerings (from lunch and the dinner menu) are burger variations like Big Texas, the Italian, chili verde, and the Do-It-Yourself. There’s a roasted portobello sandwich, a hot dog, sliders, turkey burger. buffalo chicken wrap, veggie wrap with hummus, soup of the day, salads, chicken and sausage gumbo, Moore County shrimp (sauteed in whiskey), quesadilla, and hot sausage antipasto.

There were three dessert options—key lime pie, chocolate tuxedo bombe, and one of an array of milkshakes. We got a shake to share, with an extra spoon for the TD. The shake flavor choices are vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, s’mores, lemon meringue pie, strawberry cheesecake, coffee, salted caramel, and floats with either root beer or orange soda (a/k/a the Dreamsicle).

We got a salted caramel, which made me think a little of a Payday bar, and which tasted very soothing on top of all the spicy fried food we had consumed. Sadly, the TD wouldn’t try it—sad for her, anyway. We left nothing but the glass and the cherry stem.

There’s a breakfast menu, served from 8 to 11 a.m., which offers a Southern meat n’ three, biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches, a breakfast bowl, french toast and wraps. The brunch menu incorporates some lunch items as well. First Note can feed you all day—breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and keep your ears happy as well. Sounds good.