386 – Palm Coast, FL

Nestled along the A1A on Florida’s northeast coast is a little hidden restaurant gem, at least to those that aren’t local, called 386.  Self-billed as “a fusion of fine dining”, you would never suspect the inventive and delicious menu that’s served inside the charming ramshackle building.  Having a reservation proved to be a wise move as it was packed on Friday night!  We walked through the gravel parking lot into the small rundown building unaware of the fantastic experience we were about to have.

Inside the door you are greeted by a lively crowded bar and then moved to a comfy dining room to the left.  Seating isn’t cramped, but they definitely pack in the people into their little spot.  We ordered wine and craft beer from an ample list and listened to a long selection of chef’s specials for the night.  How could we pass up the warm brie with brown sugar and balsamic served with parmesan crisps??  It was warm rich and creamy, without being overly sweet.  While the crisps were good, I thought the brie was much better on the warm bread they served as well.  We had a selection of salads next – the garden, the wedge and also the roasted beet special.  Red and golden beets with walnuts, goat cheese and vinaigrette tuned out to be a perfect choice!  Although my pet peeve is that it was served on a black plate – why mask those beautiful colors?!  I can tell you that I haven’t had better elsewhere though.

The menu has a ton of options from small plates to entrees and everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked scrumptious.  Our table had a good sampling of entrees – Kansas City pork chop, herbed lamb chops, grilled ribeye and parmesan-crusted trout.  The meats were all healthy portions, cooked perfectly and served with simple, but tasty sides (think mom’s starch and veggie).  I ordered the trout, a huge portion crusted with parmesan bread crumbs and sage.  While the sage was a bit heavy, the fish was crisp and perfectly done.  Served with a simple risotto and green beans, it was all topped with a white wine butter sauce.

Dressed up or dressed down, a large group or an intimate dinner, you will love the inventive and well-cooked food at 386.  It’s clear that locals love this place as it was busy throughout the night!  Great service, comfortable surroundings and some of the best food in the area make this a must-visit if you’re in the area on vacation or if you live close by.  Find out more and check out the menu at threeeightsix.com.  Dig in!!

Tupelo Honey Cafe – Myrtle Beach, SC

You don’t often find me writing reviews of chain restaurants because most people have exposure to places they can find everywhere.  When we stepped into Tupelo Honey Cafe, we had no idea they had about a dozen locations around the southeast.  And let me tell you, this place is anything other than ordinary mass-produced food!  Their focus on locally sourced ingredients with beautiful southern dishes offer a twist on many classics.

This restaurant offers a ton of seating, indoor and out, with a full bar and ample large tables for groups.  The atmosphere feels more like a small southern kitchen though with comfortable chairs, soft lighting and a warm color palette.  There is a large local beer selection and some great craft cocktail choices.  After settling on a Westbrook IPA, brewed in South Carolina, we ordered the SC Pecan-Encrusted Goat Cheese.  Warm and creamy as you spread it on toasted bread, the cheese is complimented by a mixture of figs, grilled apples and pimentos.  We loved every bite!

Warm buttermilk biscuits are brought to your table before dinner, but won’t last long after they’re smothered with blueberry compote and buttery honey.  The small plates and dinner choices are vast and varied.  My wife settled on Cackalackie Pulled Pork with a tangy vinegar-y mustard BBQ sauce.  Served with fried onion straws and house pickles, she loved the creamy rich baked mac-n-cheese and roasted brussels sprouts.  There wasn’t a bite on that plate that either of us didn’t love.  I chose the Carolina Mountain Trout seared with brown butter – a huge filet with great texture and crispy edges.  My basil sautéed green beans and eggy Appalachian corn souffle were outstanding and Sunday-supper-feeling.

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The only regret here is that we didn’t get to try more!  The menu definitely will have us coming back again.  Banana Pudding served with fresh whipped cream and crumbled vanilla wafers was an awesome treat we brought home to enjoy later in the evening.  I highly recommend visiting their website and checking out where you might find them on your next trip around the southeast.  You can find them here at tupelohoneycafe.com.  Mostly, just find them and dig into a taste of the south!