New Folly Beach restaurants open for business

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Monday night, with no groceries in the fridge and a hungry crew, we decided to head out to Folly Beach to check out one of the new restaurants. In the last couple weeks, Center Street Kitchen, Blu, and Rita's Grill have all opened. We missed Blu's big opening night bash on April 2 because we were out of town for spring break, but reports were that the renovation of the old Holiday Inn was simply amazing.

We decided to stop in for dinner at Center Street Kitchen, stroll over to Rita's and check it out, and finish the night with dessert at Blu.

First stop was impressive. I wholly approve of the menu prices at Center Street Kitchen. Here we are, in the center of Folly Beach, and there's nothing more than $10. That's damn good and enough to win the loyalty of locals. The food was tasty, if a bit heavy for the beach. We ordered baked pimento cheese with grilled sausage and crackers and black-eyed pea cakes for appetizers. Good, but in retrospect I wish we'd gone for the BBQ pork sundae served in a parfait glass.

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For dinnner, several at the table went for veggie plates. And, of course, these are southern "veggies," so that included cheese grits, red rice, and mac and cheese. I tried to keep it light and ordered collard greens and okra and tomatoes to go with my CHICKEN-FRIED STEAK. Ironic, I know. The fried catfish with crab succotash was a big hit at the table, and everyone was pleased with the black-eyed peas and the baby limas.

Biggest regret of the dinner: that they were out of the pickled vegetable jar appetizer. I love pickled veggies.

After dinner, we walked outside and found a blustery wind whipping around. Over at Rita's Grill, we ran into Chip, one of the owners, and he gave us a tour of the expansive patio, complete with outdoor showers and bathrooms for sandy beach bums. Good idea. This will no doubt be a popular place to hang this summer.

Final stop was the Holiday Inn. What a dramatic renovation. The lobby of the hotel is mod and fresh, opening right out to a fantastic view of the ocean. The Blu dining room features a nautilus theme in a palette of blue and cream. I loved it. The wide-plank floors have been left unvarnished, giving the whole place an upscale but natural vibe. Neon lights are used in a sophisticated way and it just feels so unlike Folly.

The dining room was pretty empty (it was about 8 p.m. at this point). We sat down and ordered some coffee and a pricey dessert sampler that gave us two creme brulees, a molten chocolate cake, and some other items I can't recall. It was good, but I think I need to go back for a full meal (hint hint husband).

Just got an email from Stratton Lawrence, one of our Folly Beach-living writers, about yet another new restaurant: "Just ate at the Drop-In Deli on Folly. Definitely a big step up from Dolphin Deli. Mushroom-brie soup was killer. Southwest salad was good. A big ass bowl of spinach artichoke dip for 3 bucks. And assorted pickled veggies with every order."

Looks like this weekend everyone will be flocking to the beach, so it's a good time to check out one of these new places before the crowds of summer hit full force.

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