Choose your pleasure at Collectors Café, where everything, from the service, to the ambience, to the food, is creative, decadent, and delicious
Once you come to know this delightfully quirky beach town, it’s not at all surprising to find a Wine Spectator award–winning eatery and art gallery nestled amid a bank of shops, Sam’s Corner, and Subway.
Since Collectors Café opened its hand-carved-wood doors in May of 1994, in the storefront strip off 79th Avenue North, the European-style coffee klatch, Mediterranean menu, and eclectic artwork have made it a landmark address.
What partners Mike Smith and local artist Tommy Davis have managed to create so well is an ambience that’s indeed artsy, yet unpretentious: chef-inspired fare that excites foodies but offers mashed potatoes, attracting a clientele as diverse as its wine list. On any given day, power brokers dine alongside artists, and golf shirts are as common as button-down oxfords.
From start to finish, Collectors Café is a sensory feast.
The first menu option to ponder is which table to take from the cozy warren of six interlocking rooms ranging from the columned main dining room with crisp white linens to “The Hideaway” private lounge with sink-in couches and a thirty-foot Robert Sadlemire metal sculpture hanging from the ceiling.
We decided to get up close and personal with our food, choosing a high-top ceramic-tile table in The Grill Room where we could watch the fiercely focused chef deftly turn out a stream of edible masterpieces from the open kitchen.
As difficult as it was to pass on the signature, meaty and slightly sweet scallop cakes, we took a culinary leap to the filet of beef carpaccio appetizer. Paper-thin shavings of raw meat covered a gallery-white, wide-brimmed plate, caressed with swirls of olive oil, spicy mustard, and balsamic vinegar, topped off by a snowfall of fresh parmesan. Along with the warm artisan bread and rosemary-infused dipping oil, we could have made this our entire meal.
We stood firm on our decision to explore and experience. My companion passed on his favorite: New Zealand rack of lamb drenched in Merlot syrup and bedded on a salad of apple, fennel, and apricots, and ordered the grilled filet of beef tenderloin. And I closed my eyes to the rare, yellowfin tuna served with a flirty oriental couscous salad to delve into the grilled salmon entrée.
The intermission between appetizer and main dish was the house Caesar salad tossed with a welcomed bite of authentic anchovy, but, nonetheless, it fell short of the rest of the meal.
Like all of Collectors’ dishes, the entrées arrived so beautifully plated that you have to pause a moment to appreciate the visual artistry before tucking in with fork and knife.
My companion declared the beef tenderloin to be perfectly rare. The sauce was a masterful medley of the sweet notes of caramelized onion, tang of Dijon mustard, and deeper tones of a brandy cream sauce. Cuddled up to a bed of mashed potatoes, the sauce did credit to everything on the plate.
The salmon arrived medium, firm but tender, topped with delicate bite-sized artichoke chips. My first two forkfuls of fish were flavorful, but my palate took a pleasure-trip when I tasted the orzo pilaf with feta and earthy spinach in a lemon-cumin vinaigrette. The pilaf mélange transcended the salmon filet to culinary bliss.
As our dinner plates were cleared, we were very satisfied, but not stuffed, so it seemed that dessert would be in order.
The high, cream-layered coconut cake looked ethereal, but we couldn’t resist the crème brulee—one of the best I’ve tasted since my honeymoon in France. The custard was cool and firm and the caramelized sugar crust was like a thin expanse of cracked ice over a winter pond.
The service at Collectors is always top-notch, and servers are well-versed on the menu, wines, and specialty coffees. Take time to absorb the artwork with an after-dinner cappuccino. And, of course, allow yourself ample time to savor every bite.
Location: 7740 N. Kings Hwy.
Myrtle Beach, S.C., (843) 449-9370 Reservations Preferred
Hours: Open Monday to Saturday, noon to midnight; Dinner served Monday to Thursday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.