Located on Georgia’s picturesque St. Simon’s Island, this seafood restaurant was a not-to-be missed highlight of our visit to this award-winning Golden Isle. As one island resident proclaimed to a couple browsing the menu outside the restaurant “Trust me. If you only have the opportunity to experience one of the island’s restaurants, believe me, this is it”. We overheard the comment, and boy, was he ever right.
Georgia Sea Grill opened in 1997 in the island’s Pier/Village area with seating for only 34. Small as it was, the restaurant quickly earned a reputation for its great seafood. Today, in its new setting in the heart of town, the restaurant seats 150, and they are still filling every table. Its savory, eclectic menu items feature mouthwatering southern coastal cuisine with a continental twist.
Its 2015 change of location also gave the restaurant the chance for a refreshingly new culinary philosophy. Already known for its exemplary service and great food, according to Zack Gowen, proprietor of Georgia Sea Grill, “it was time to take the farm to table experience to a whole new level”. Per Zack, the restaurant wanted to be at the very forefront of the fresh sustainable market creating savory southern dishes from top quality seafood and produce resourced from the local community.
Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Chef Jeff Lewis, a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, worked for popular chefs including Thomas Keller and Deb Paquette prior to becoming the executive chef at Georgia Sea Grill. Chef Lewis has developed his own unique style of cuisine using only locally sustainable products. Freshly caught seafood from local fisherman is featured, mirroring the restaurant’s sustainable philosophy. As a result, “fresh catch” menu items literally change on a daily basis.
One step inside Georgia Sea Grill’s casually elegant surroundings instantly makes you feel at home. Live piano music plays in the lounge where patrons are seated on riveted leather barstools. Bricked walls, wood beamed ceilings and white formal tables scattered throughout the restaurant reflect a classy and genuine sense of southern hospitality.
The restaurant’s impressive wine list is quite extensive, with an emphasis on award-winning wines not usually found at other local restaurants. The Alberino, Spanish white varietal with a floral bouquet and soft peach-apricot character paired beautifully with the Low Country Crab Soup. A previous longtime resident of Charleston, SC, where low-country she-crab soup reigns supreme, I wondered how the Sea Grill’s crab soup would measure up. Delightfully creamy and full of flavor with chunks of luscious crab meat, it rivaled the best Charleston has to offer.
Service was attentive and unrushed, and our waiter had excellent knowledge of the menu items. He gladly offered his recommendation of the fresh caught special of the evening, a tantalizing coriander-dusted swordfish, with sautéed bell pepper, turnip greens, and kohlrabi, finished with a spicy orange-butter sauce. My partner’s grilled whole snapper served over jasmine rice and topped with a chutney-pineapple relish was equally impressive. Both entrees literally exploded with flavor in a culinary extravaganza that was unexpectedly delightful.
Patrons at the next table raved about the Sea Grill’s famous Shrimp & Grits, a southern specialty prepared with Georgia’s wild shrimp. Indigenous to the clean coastal waters of the Atlantic, Georgia’s local wild shrimp is sweet and succulent with a firm texture. Accompanied by local Canewater Farms Grits, this mouthwatering entrée is smothered in roasted tomato and a savory house made tasso gravy.
Menu items, as well as desserts change on a seasonal basis. Our lemon cheesecake, topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and served over a raspberry coulis was a refreshingly light and smooth- a perfect finish to one incredibly delicious meal.
Everything about the evening was magical- the ambiance of the restaurant, live soothing piano music, outstanding service, delectable entrees, and a friendly proprietor mingling among smiling guests, all made for an unforgettable dining experience.
An unknown author once wrote that “Food is essential to life; therefore make it good”. Georgia Sea Grill is doing it one better. They’re making it great!