A New Favorite: 1618 West Seafood Grille

Since moving to West Virginia this year, we have tried all kinds of new restaurants. Many delicious discoveries have been made in our own immediate vicinity. But we've also taken several road trips and made some fabulous finds. For instance, on one trip back to Nashville, we took the northern route (I 64) and wound up having dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant called Rocco's Ristorante in, of all places, the small WV town of Ceredo. My phone has a "places" app and when I connect to GPS, it will give me restaurant options (hotel, attractions, etc.) close by. I can click on reviews, read menus, and get directions. It is a handy tool when you're hungry in unfamiliar territory. And this is how we found Rocco's, which turned out to be as good as anything you'd find in Little Italy, NYC. We agreed we will probably never be able to pass up the opportunity to eat there any time we take that route again.

A couple of weeks ago John attended a business meeting in Williamsburg, VA. I went along and we spent the weekend. On that trip we found two exceptional restaurants we would definitely return to. One was Aberdeen Barn, which specializes in prime rib. The other was Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant. Food and service were great at both. I thoroughly enjoy fun and memorable dining experiences. Few things in life make me as giddy-happy as incredible food.

Today John has a Honda dealer meeting in Greensboro, NC. And I tagged along again. It's a quick overnight trip. And I enjoy seeing new places. This is where John Edwards is currently on trial. So you've been seeing the Greensboro Courthouse steps on the news a lot. Last night we saw them in person. And that was interesting. But the highlight of this trip was 1618 seafood grille, where we had dinner.

We have been eating a little too well recently. And by well, I don't mean healthy. We just celebrated my birthday over the weekend by going out for Mexican food Saturday night and seafood Sunday night. And then Monday night we attended Celebrity Night Charity Fundraiser at Bunkers in Glade Springs, where we ate wings and nachos and Baked Alaska done tableside. We are just having too much fun involving food. But since we were out of town and had to eat out, I began my phone app search.

In an attempt to be frugal, I mentioned every economical choice I found. I was more than happy to settle for a sandwich or a salad. One priority was finding a place not too far from our hotel. And if John feels like having a glass of wine, the priority is finding a restaurant that offers a desirable Riesling. When 1618 Seafood Grille popped up on my "places" app, I went to their website and commented to John that they had a "deep" wine selection. He said, "Let's go there." (They also have an extensive beer selection and interesting cocktail menu.)

This turned out to be an excellent decision. Not only did they have a delicious Riesling, the food was remarkable. When John and I originally got together, I explained to him that I love food more than jewelry. And if he just fed me well (which means great restaurants), I'd always be happy. He was listening. It isn't the only way he spoils me, but my darling husband has certainly provided a lot of "fine dining joy" for me to revel in. And, believe me, I savor every morsel of every experience. It is never "just a meal" for me.

We arrived at about 6:00 pm on a Tuesday evening and the restaurant had not yet begun to fill up. So it wasn't a problem that we did not have reservations. If we had tried to drop in a little later, it would have been. By the time we finished dinner, the joint was jumpin'. We were seated and immediately greeted by one of the servers before our assigned server/manager, Nick Broome, came over and welcomed us to 1618 Seafood Grille. He asked if it was our first visit and we explained why we were in Greensboro and how we'd selected the restaurant. He proceeded to tell us about the uniqueness of 1618 and explain what sets their restaurant apart. John was poring over the menu, but I was listening intently as Nick shared their concept and vision, as well as the chef's creativity and expertise in combining flavors to achieve extraordinary taste. He went over a few of the menu items in each category and told us his personal favorites.

John likes to joke that if I ever leave him, it will be for a great chef. (Not a chance.) But it's true that I'm in love with great food. I not only love to eat; I love to hear food described, look at it on other people's plates, smell and admire it as it's carried past me to other guests. I really-really love food. I've been told a thousand times, "It's a wonder you don't weigh 300 pounds." But I actually think the way I savor food is the reason I don't. I appreciate good food. I'm not a mindless eater. And when you are seeking the ultimate enjoyment from everything you put in your mouth, you are usually a little more selective about what you eat. The only meals I regret are the ones I don't enjoy. I save up for these kinds of meals. And I will gladly do pennance afterward. But most importantly, I've been faithfully exercising for the past 22 years. I think good food is one of the great pleasures of life. And I don't intend to deprive myself of it.

As usual, I digress. Back to 1618 Seafood Grille....

There were several starters that appealed to us, but we decided to follow Nick's suggestion and ordered the blackened beef tenderloin (on texas toast with baked brie, caramelized onions, and a pear relish served over a grilled red onion, sherry, and bacon sauce). The appetizer was small and so absolutely amazing that we could have easily eaten our own. But we shared. (Everything is ala carte and it's a little pricey, so you could rack up quite a bill if you don't exercise some restraint. John helps me in the restraint department because, left to my own devices, I would wind up in the poor house.)

We noticed several other of the appetizers being served to other tables, and they all looked fabulous. Every dish at 1618 is beautifully presented. If your main priority is quantity, this is not the place for you. The portions are appropriate and adequate, but this food is all about superior quality, taste and attention to detail. The ingredients are so artfully combined that it's like a flavor explosion in every bite. I'm fortunate to be able to eat a lot of great restaurant meals. But I have not eaten in a lot of places that compare with 1618 Seafood Grille. It's just very special.

I'm kind of known for saying, "This is the best -- fill in the blank -- I have ever eaten" every time I fully enjoy something. John doesn't say this nearly as often as I do. But in the middle of his entree last night, he said, "This is one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in." That is a big endorsement, I promise.

We both had Caesar Salads which were pretty and delicious. I'm always happy when the croutons are obviously homemade in-house. Nick had told us before we ordered that everything is made in-house, including all the salad dressings. Their Caesar dressing was mild, the lettuce cold and crisp, the croutons just crunchy enough and perfectly seasoned. John ordered the pan seared halibut and crispy soft shell crab (with sweet corn custard cake, demi glace, andouille sausage, grilled asparagus and sauteed zucchini and tomatoes). I tasted the halibut and the sweet corn custard cake. Both were wonderful. And my only regret is that I did not take pictures of our food. Because the presentation is so impressive at this place. I frequently pull my phone out to take food pictures, which I immediately post on Facebook. But John doesn't fully understand this compulsion and while he is a great sport and doesn't complain, I know this sometimes makes him just a tiny bit uncomfortable (he doesn't like to draw attention). So I resisted my impulse to start taking pictures. I opted for being considerate; a worthy goal. But nevertheless, I so regret my self-control! Now that I'm writing, I wish I could include pictures with my descriptions of this exquisite food!

I do not normally order grouper, but the way their grouper dish was prepared sounded so amazing that I decided to try it. I had cajun rubbed and pan seared n.c. black grouper (with a pineapple and habanero chutney, caramelized onions, red pepper and shrimp sushi rice, honey drizzled onion rings, and a spinach and mushroom alfredo sauce). I told John, "I would never have thought to drizzle honey on an onion ring, but it's genius!" As Nick explained to us, the dishes sound very "busy" on the menu (so many ingredients and flavors), but do not taste busy. When blended together, they truly become a food mosaic (my description, not Nick's). One flavor does not dominate any of the others, nor do the ingredients compete. Each taste enhances another. Chef (and co-proprietor) George C. Neal III is truly an artist of exceptional talent. This restaurant -- and his skill -- so impressed us.

In the middle of my entree, I started feeling the inspiration to write about my meal and just knew this restaurant was going to make an immediate appearance on my blog. I asked Nick if I could take a menu with me so I could describe the entrees with precision. They are also listed on the website, but I'm so glad I asked for a hard copy because, along with it, he brought me his business card with the owners' names and email addresses as well as his own. If this was my restaurant, I would certainly want my name to be mentioned in the review. I have already told you about George, the chef/proprietor. The manager/proprietor is Nick Wyatt. James B. Ingold is sous chef. And I should probably mention Melissa McCandless, as she is the assistant manager listed on Nick's business card. This is obviously a great team because I have nothing critical whatsoever to say about our dining experience. Service and food were first rate. No detail overlooked.

I have provided links to the 1618 seafood grille website so that you can visit their menu yourself. I won't try to describe anything I did not taste. But I will tell you that every dish on this menu is unique and special. I would love to win the lottery for many reasons. That would be impossible, since I've never purchased a lottery ticket in my life. But one of the things I would do right away, if I ever did play and win, is go back to this restaurant with a bunch of close friends and sample every single item on the menu.

We do not routinely order dessert when we go out. We're usually much too full because we both love appetizers. Sometimes we splurge anyway. But we had planned to intentionally skip dessert this time because we both need to shed the pounds we have picked up from so much birthday-partying ... and the wings habit we've developed since moving to West Virginia (I kid you not; almost every place we try in WV has great wings). But when Nick asked if we'd like to hear about the desserts, well, you know who HAD to hear about the desserts. I had to at least HEAR about them. Right? I saw John's eyes light up when Nick described the white chocolate creme brulee with strawberries and raspberries. And I of course capitalized on that moment, closing the sale with, "We need to share a dessert because I haven't taken one picture and I want to write about this place." So, as usual, he humored me.

Even if I added another unwanted pound that I have to work off when I get home, I am so glad I did not miss this experience.

And, no, it was not just a meal. It was an experience.


Bonnie said…
Happy Belated Birthday, Shari! What a special dinner you had. Creme Brulee = Heaven in a ramekin!

I liked your Silver Linings post. I can't say that I know what it feels like to have the Pollyanna gene. Haha. I tend to have to work to see the bright side of difficulties, but the point is that I try, and that is good enough. God also provided me with a sweet husband who *does* see the positives in the bad things, though. Enjoy your week!
Shari said…
Thank you, Bonnie. I had more heaven in a ramekin after last night's dinner. And I've picked up a few extra pounds from all the splurging lately. Self-control is on THIS week's agenda. Hopefully.

I always love hearing from you. Thanks for staying in touch!