The Perfect Night at Pandora's of Grayton Beach
October 21, 2013 by Whitney Rowan
Pandora’s of Grayton Beach has been a SoWal landmark for more than 15 years and is well-known for their quality-cut steaks, prepared on an oak-burning open grill. Since 2007, General Manager Brandon Montalto and Executive Chef Chris Mack have strived to make Pandora’s a truly unique dining experience. Chef Chris is undoubtedly talented and his culinary experience shines through in every dish he creates. He sets a high standard in the area with his coastal-comfort cuisine by using diverse flavor profiles and sumptuous presentation.
Just the other night, the SoWal staff and I had reservations to dine at Pandora’s to celebrate our colleague Lisa’s birthday. When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a comfortable table for 10 in the round room. We were promptly greeted by John, our server for the evening, and placed our drink order. Pandora’s has a diverse selection of bottles on white and red wine, specialty drinks, and a full bar. As we settled in and began to sip on our respective cocktails, John explained the new appetizer and entree specials that had been added to the menu.
For starters, we decide to order the Tuna Tower, Fried Green Tomatoes and Bacon Wrapped Scallops. The Tuna Tower, which I have had before, was back on the menu and I was ecstatic. The presentation is something you’d see in a fine dining restaurant in any metro city. The colorful layers include crab salad, avocado, sushi-grade tuna, grilled mango and topped with crispy tortilla strips and a pomegranate reduction. This dish was truly something special as all the components complement each other and each bite was better than the last.
The Fried Green Tomatoes were divine. The thick-cut tomato slices were lightly battered and fried then topped with avocado, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and jumbo lump crab meat and their signature hollandaise sauce. The tomatoes tasted so fresh and were nice and juicy which combined nicely with the creamy avocado and jumbo lump crab meat.
Our last appetizer was the Bacon Wrapped Scallops which came on top of roasted corn relish and srirachi cream. The scallops were plump and perfectly cooked while the bacon was nice and crispy and gave it a great texture contrast. The roasted corn relish provided a sweet component to the dish which paired well with the spiciness of the srirachi cream.
As we enjoyed our appetizers, John took our entrée orders and brought us another round of drinks. A few in our group ordered the Prime Rib special and each of them said their cut was cooked to perfection. I decided to order the Filet special while my mother and Amanda ordered the Grouper Special and Tuna Special, respectively. The rest of the crew ordered off the traditional menu which included the New York Strip, Petite Filet, grilled Grouper and Sirloin with Crab Legs.
My mother’s Grouper Special looked like a work of art. The coriander grilled grouper came with a Tasso ham and goat cheese grit cake and was topped with a crawfish chipotle cream. I was lucky enough to have a bite and savored every second of it. The grouper was tender and perfectly seasoned and the grit cake was a little slice of heaven while the crawfish chipotle cream gave the dish just the right amount of spice.
I really enjoyed my Filet special which came with a plentiful amount of jumbo lump crab meat and Hollandaise along with a side of seasoned rice. It was prepared medium rare which was exactly the way I ordered it. I don’t want to admit this, but I ate the entire thing. I didn’t get a chance to taste any of the other dishes but the empty plates spoke for themselves.
For dessert we all decided to share two orders of both the Fried Strawberries and Cream Cheese Brownie with ice cream and caramel sauce. As our desserts arrived to the table one of the Fried Strawberries was lit with candles and fittingly we sang “Happy Birthday” to Lisa. Along with this special treat, Brandon personally prepared Frangelico Alexanders for the entire table.
The Fried Strawberries were flash fried then covered in powdered sugar and were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The cream cheese brownie was decadent, rich and the ice cream and caramel sauce helped harmonize all of the flavors.
Overall, we had a fantastic experience. The company was fun, service was great and the food was exceptional. Pandora’s of Grayton Beach combines a quality culinary experience with a casual atmosphere and I highly recommend dining with them.
On Wednesdays and Sundays, Pandora’s offers a Prime Rib special, which comes with bread, salad, French onion soup and choice of one side all for $14.95. Along with the Prime Rib special, Pandora’s offers Buy One, Get One entrees from 5-6 pm. Also, Chef Chris changes the specials weekly so go often and go hungry!
Pandora’s of Grayton Beach is located at 63 Defuniak Street and open for dinner at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday (Wednesday through Sunday during off-season). Check out the SoWal Dining Guide to rate and comment. Local businesses love to get feedback!