In Savannah, especially in the historic district, there always seems to be something new to try. Restaurants are always popping up. Yet, out on the islands, restaurant life seems a little more stagnant. The same ones have been around forever and rarely does anything new open and actually survive, whether it be due to poor management and marketing, or because of overpriced and under flavored food. Instead, islanders are stuck with the same old, same old – much of which tends to be below par chains and fast food. So when Blake’s Fresh Local Dining began putting up signs and remodeling the old Troy Mediterranean Cuisine, it created a lot of buzz on Wilmington Island. It was something new, and it promised local flavors and culinary treats. I was nearly beating down the doors to get in.
Blake’s took Troy’s (and before that, Grapevine’s) relatively dull and dated décor, and gave it a much needed update. Upon my first arrival, it was refreshing to see a bar (despite the little nugget growing in my belly that prohibits me from bellying up, so to speak) and a more modern, yet relaxing environment. The faux vines and paint were gone from the walls; the plastic grapevines hanging from the pergola a distant bad memory. Instead, raw wood paneling gives Blake’s a more organic, welcoming feel. The open dining room, however, still lacks intimacy, unless you are lucky enough to snag one of their four more private booths.
Since their opening, I have had the pleasure of dining at Blake’s twice. The hubby was even lucky enough to make both trips! The first round, we were stuck at a table where I felt like I was on display. Luckily the food made up for it. We ordered the Fried Goat Cheese, which was served with a green chile sauce and a marinara. Each round of creamy goat cheese was fried until just perfectly warm and golden. The waitress told us that this particular dish had just been added to the menu that night. I found it extremely satisfying, and then disappointing because when they were gone, I wanted more. I was disappointed that I had to share. The two sauces were perfectly paired. The marinara was more traditional, but the green chile sauce provided a bite to the creaminess. I couldn’t get enough. For dinner, I went out on a limb. I chose the Shrimp & Grits, which I NEVER do at a restaurant. I have been burned too many times on Shrimp & Grits. They are never what I imagine and I have a secret love affair with my father-in-law’s homemade version. It can’t be topped. I don’t even try to. But for some reason, on this night, the description of the tomato cream sauce caught my eye and I was willing to try it out. Although it didn’t beat my father-in-law’s, it came in a close second. The tomato cream was decadent and smooth. The shrimp cooked to a perfect pink. I was pleasantly surprised and glad I had tried it.
On my second trip, I got a better seat, the cherished romantic booths, but the Fried Goat Cheese disappointed…because it wasn’t on the menu. I walked in with my mouth watering for those precious little gems. However, I learned quickly that Blake’s is constantly changing their menu to what is in season, local, and fresh. This is always music to my ears, so I quickly got over my displeasure and tried a new creamy, cheesy appetizer, the Green Tomato Cheese Dip. As described on the menu, this dip was to be a mix of seasoned cream cheese and Gouda laced with green tomatoes and chard served with toast points. Although tasty, as most cream cheese dishes are, I have to say I was a bit let down. I rarely came across anything resembling green tomatoes or chard. It was flavorful, and this preggo lady downed it all, as I’m sure you can imagine, but it left me wanting something else. I felt this was something a friend would have made for a football game, not a fine dining canapé, as I had imagined.
Before we could order dinner, our overly talkative waiter told us of about four dishes they had run out of. With only 10-12 dishes to choose from, I found that a little absurd for 7:30 on a Friday night. However, it forced me to go out on a limb again. This time I ordered the Quail. It came out delicately plated atop a bed of sweet collard greens and the smallest sliver of au gratin potatoes. The quail was nearly boneless, but still fully intact. The skin was crispy, yet the meat was moist, fatty, and flavorful. It was simply amazing. I couldn’t get enough. I could have eaten five quails that night! Yet, the au gratin potatoes were just enough to give me a taste and make me mad. After completely cleaning my plate, all I wanted was more – for now we will just blame that on being pregnant, I guess. The hubby, on the other hand, left quite a bit on his plate so I helped him out a little. He chose the Burger of Sorts, which he eyeballed on our last trip. A friend had ranted and raved about this burger, so he was excited to try it. Maybe the buildup was too much, but it definitely didn’t live up to what either one of us had expected. The ground tenderloin comes on a brioche bun with Gouda, a fried egg, and pork belly – sounds amazing right? I think we could both agree it was just a burger, nothing spectacular. I was expecting a homerun, but all we got was a ground ball to first. I went back to my empty plate wishing I had more quail.
Overall, Blake’s will definitely have me as a repeat customer and from what I hear from my island friends, I think it may stick around longer than the usual newbie on the block. I think we can all agree that we love the fact that we can come to Blake’s and always try something new and local, thanks to the ever changing menu since we are surrounded by the same old foods on the island (unless that is, you have a mean hankering those Fried Goat Cheese balls and they don’t happen to make the cut that night). As Blake’s develops its reputation, I hope that the ambiance will improve over time, as well as the consistency of the dishes. Don’t get me wrong, everything was good; but sometimes good can be the enemy of great. There were great flavors, even fantastic dishes, while at the same time there were things that could be improved upon. Either way, I am looking forward to trying more. I will be back. If you are curious what’s on the menu today, go to blakesfreshlocaldining.com, or go check them out in person at 346 Johnny Mercer Boulevard on Wilmington Island. They are open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11-2 and for dinner from 5-10. They also serve brunch from on Sundays from 10-2.
Eat It and Like It
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