Warning: If Jamie the chef comes out of the kitchen and asks if you want to hear a pirate joke, just say no.
Otherwise, you’ll hear something like this:
“Where does a pirate go when he wants a drink?”
“To a BAHHHHRRRR.”
Trust me there are many more pirate jokes where that one came from.
But if Jamie is not quite ready for prime time on Comedy Central he could definitely hold his own on the Food Network.
St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast is blessed with several very good restaurants. I strongly recommend Crabdaddy’s, which has the best selection of non-fried seafood on the island, and Barbara Jean’s, which tends more toward home cookin’ but has excellent crab cakes and fried catfish.
But my favorite island restaurant by far is the Blackwater Grill, where Jamie Cadden is the chef.
Owned by islanders John and Rhonda Howton, Blackwater offers a varied menu with a touch of Louisiana flavor.
Appetizers range from Andouille corndogs to fried green tomatoes to Boudin fritters. But the favorite starter of Blackwater diners appears to be the Dungeness crab — four legs and a claw served with drawn butter — for $11.95.
You can also choose from several soups, including an outstanding gumbo and Jamie’s award-winning Brunswick stew (both come in a cup for $4.50 or a bowl for $6.50). Remember that St. Simons is just across the causeway from the port city of Brunswick, and people in these parts take their Brunswick stew very seriously. The stew at Blackwater is definitely my choice as the best around.
But don’t get too carried away with that first course. There’s a lot more to come.
The entrees include more Louisiana-flavored choices: from spicy crawfish etoufee to jambalaya (both $17.95).
The Tybee fried shrimp ($18.95) is billed on the menu as the “best on the island” and lives up to that billing. Blackwater serves only wild Georgia shrimp and each is individually hand breaded. If you don’t want them fried, you can have them grilled or blackened and served with a Creole remoulade. The shrimp and grits dish ($17.95) is also as good as you’ll find anywhere.
Every island restaurant is also expected to serve fish. Blackwater offers the popular grouper Daufuskie ($23.95), served over caramelized onions and mushrooms with a special sauce; an excellent sautéed mountain trout ($17.95) from north Georgia, which is pan seared and served with lemon butter sauce and fresh tomato concasse, and a catch of the day from local waters. When I order the market-priced catch of the day, I sometimes get it in whatever special sauce the restaurant suggests, but I often ask that it be cooked just the way the trout is prepared.
And if you’re not in the mood for seafood, choose from the tender steaks that always come cooked just right — either a filet ($27.95) or a ribeye ($24.95) — or the 10-ounce grilled pork chop ($18.95) that is an island favorite.
Blackwater doesn’t neglect the vegetables, either. Most of the entrees come with two sides, which can include one of two salads, nightly vegetable and potato specials, sweet potato fries and other choices. My favorites are the Southern-style collard greens, red beans and rice, or the rice with Tasso gravy.
For dessert, be sure to ask about the homemade ice cream. Jamie prides himself on the ice cream as much as the Brunswick stew. The flavors change daily. But, even without dessert, I’ve never seen anyone go away hungry.
The atmosphere at Blackwater is cozy. The décor is what I would call rustic coastal. And the staff is friendly. I would caution you not to say anything too mean about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, however. John, the owner, is a grad and a big fan. But, fortunately, he is a kindly sort with a good sense of humor.
And, oh, by the way, how does a pirate go to a BAHHHHRRRR?
In a CAHHHHRRRR, of course.
Blackwater Grill is located at 260 Redfern Village, St. Simons Island. Phone: 912-634-6333. Web site: http://www.blackwatergrill.com/