Atlanticville is a fixture of Sullivan's Island, offering a blend of Lowcountry fine dining with casual beach style. Now well into its second decade of operation, it's been around long enough to develop both a strong seasonal business with the vacation crowds and a solid base of local regulars. And, if you duck back in every now and again to refresh your memory, it's easy to see why: good, solid cooking.
One of the things I like most about Atlanticville is that the dishes always incorporate a few surprises. This is immediately noticeable on the appetizer menu, which is one of the better ones around town.
The fried oyster plate ($9), served with housemade sausage and a piquant roasted garlic aioli, is one of the restaurant's most popular starters, but for my money it's upstaged by the inventive scallops ($12). As at most restaurants, the thick white scallops are seared brown and perfectly crispy on the top, but in a unique twist, Atlanticville wraps theirs not in bacon but in thin slices of smoked salmon. It's an unusual combo that really works. The salmon sears up crispy around the edges and, like bacon, adds a touch of smoke, but the texture is even richer and silkier.
The tuna roll ($10) consists of a chunk of magenta tuna wrapped in white rice and nori then very lightly battered and fried. It's served sliced into discs with a flashy drizzle of bright orange sriracha sauce on one side, which adds a big splash of fire, while the big pile of pickled ginger and thick shreds of kimchee on the other side provide a tangy, cool accent.
Seafood dominates the appetizers, but there are a few hearty land-based choices, too, like a braised short rib ($12) accompanied by three porcini-mushroom filled ravioli. The big hunk of beef is tender and succulent, but the ravioli steal the show. Made by local artisans Rio Bertolini, the squares of pasta are thin and delightfully firm, and they're filled with a slightly spicy porcini filling that's rich and complex. It's the kind of appetizer that you gobble down in a flash and wish you'd ordered two.
After impressing with the appetizers, Atlanticville manages to deliver entrées that are as equally intriguing and surprising. The lump crab crusted mahi ($29) immediately grabs your attention; after all, how does one encrust something in crab meat? It's a bit of a misnomer, since "encrusted" here means a layer of deviled crab spread over the top and lightly browned, but it's exceptionally hearty and filling. It comes with an excellent succotash that blends corn and butter beans with country ham, onions, and sweet red pepper in a grainy mustard sauce with plenty of savory thyme. As if that's not enough, there's a bonus fried green tomato and pimento cheese sandwich, a delightful New Southern culinary mash-up that layers rich melted pimento cheese between two crisp, tangy green tomato slices. It's not only out of the ordinary but delicious, too.
The other regular entrées show a fusion of international flavors, like a mojo criollo marinated chicken breast with black beans and rice ($24), along with more traditional fine dining offerings like a grilled veal chop over polenta ($30) and a tenderloin filet with garlic mashed potatoes ($28). It's worth taking some time to check out the specials board each night, too, for worthy items appear with regularity. A recent cobia filet special served the fresh fish with a ball of white rice in a spicy watermelon broth. The cobia is mild and thick, and the white rice is equally mild, too, but the fish is seared a spicy brown, and cubes of watermelon and apple give a nice fruity crunch. The subtle interplay of sweet and spicy flavors really sneaks up on you — the kind of experience where you get lost in conversation and forget about the dish for a moment, and then suddenly you take another bite and are surprised all over again.
Many of the items on Atlanticville's regular menu have Asian accents, like the Thai cucumber, tomato, and cilantro salad that accompanies the grilled peri peri prawns appetizer ($10) and the "forbidden rice" and wok-seared bok choy that accompany the duck breast entrée ($25). Those Eastern influences move to the forefront once a week for Thai Tuesday, whose special menu includes everything from pad Thai to a Chinese-style char siu pork.
All told, the multiple elements — the atmosphere, the food, the casual but attentive service — come together for a very pleasant dining experience. The big deck area, in particular, with its round metal tables adorned with white tablecloths and little tea light candles, is a fine blend of the casual and the elegant.
Old friends like Atlanticville tend to slip into the back of people's minds as newer, flashier places come and go around town. But, on a pleasant evening when the breeze is up, it's well worth a drive out to Sullivan's to get reacquainted.