Tried and True

October 2014
Written By: 
Denise Mullen
Photographs by: 
Ruta Elvikyte
Georgetown’s River Room delivers an enjoyable dining experience
I’ve never had a reason before to relate two Grand Strand restaurants, but if you’re a fan of Myrtle Beach’s Sea Captain’s House, you’re sure to feel the same passion about Georgetown’s River Room.

They have so much in common: Both have stood the tricky test of time for more than 30 years. Both are seafood-intensive, taking menu cues from the seasonal catch of local waters. Both are housed in historic waterfront buildings—Sea Captain’s in a former family beach house of the 1930s right on the Atlantic Ocean while the River Room sits on ages-old pilings on Georgetown’s historic harborfront and occupies a building from the late 1800s, the former Steele-Moses Store.

And they share a down-home ambiance that comes from careful restoration, the artful sprinkling of antiques, and embracing their seaside roots in décor. Plus, both offer the big bonus of a ticket to spectacular views. All of these ingredients seem to make up a recipe for success, since both venues are wildly popular with locals and visitors alike. In fact, I have never been by either eatery at supper time when there wasn’t a group of people waiting outside for the next available table.

So, on our late summer visit to the River Room, we waited outside with other guests, sitting on a park bench amid a bank of planters giving life to ripening tomatoes and the fragrant flourish of fresh herbs. We lucked out with porch seats offering a bird’s-eye view of boats gliding along the Sampit River and hand-holding couples taking an evening stroll along the boardwalk.

River Room was celebrating “the most delicious fish in the ocean,” the Carolina Grouper, that happened to be in peak season. You could have it chargrilled with tomato-basil-lime butter or blackened with basil cream sauce or herb encrusted or stuffed with crabmeat and covered in hollandaise.

Red snapper was the night’s special served with a Cajun crawfish hollandaise. Other interesting offerings included grilled yellowfin tuna spiced with a lime-ginger-soy sauce and wasabi and a baked Atlantic salmon touting a soufflé-style topping of parmesan and horseradish.

Even though I had heard raves about River Room’s McClellanville crab cakes (Funny thing: Sea Captain’s House is also known for its crab cakes!), the seafood casserole and stuffed chicken, I decided to go with the chef’s specialty: Shrimp & Grits.

And special it was. Perfectly set stone ground yellow grits played a soft background to the shrimp and rounds of smoked sausage tossed in a dark pool of Tasso ham sauce.

True to form, my husband hungrily zoned in on the beef cuts, pointing out that it is rare to be able to order a steak truly “blackened” anymore, let alone topped with Cajun shrimp. I guess he had a point.

But if it were me, I’d have swapped out the spicy blackened for the sweet and savory promise of River Room’s 12-ounce, char-grilled porterhouse pork chop with apple-raisin chutney.

Judging by the number of ample appetizer plates being run to diners that evening, it seems that River Room is an ideal spot to share a sampling of tasty dishes.

There appears to be an “app” for everyone: Spicy crawfish dip; McClellanville crab balls with remoulade; “Oysters Rock” topped with spinach, bacon and hollandaise; seared rare tuna; house-made potato chips with blue cheese crumbles and dressing; broiled smoked mozzarella with a tomato-basil salsa; black-eyed pea cakes served with a red onion aioli; and “Pig Wings” (mini pork shanks) plated with apple-cabbage slaw and house barbecue sauce.

River Room also offers a well-rounded menu of homemade desserts, including Mud and Key Lime pies, German chocolate cheesecake, sautéed pound cake with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and, by all accounts, one of the best New Orleans-style bread puddings with bourbon cream sauce around. Our top picks of the night? Hands-down, the shrimp and grits delivered on all fronts in taste, texture and style. Service was warm, attentive and efficient. The collards were outstanding, as were the dinner rolls and mixed greens salads with house-made dressings. The ambiance and views are second to none.

For the most part, appetizers run from $6.95 to $9.95 and entrees range from $17.95 to $24.95 with a salad and sides.

If you get a hankering for a waterfront dining experience, River Room is well worth the trip south over the long and scenic bridge and into the historic charms of Georgetown to its tried-and-true landmark restaurant.

River Room
801 Front St. Georgetown, SC 29440 (At the intersection of Front St. & Broad St.) (843) 527-4110
Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 5–10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The building is adjacent to the city docks at Francis Marion Park. Dockage is available on a first-come-first-served basis.