When restaurants try to be all things to all people, they often suffer the fate of Icarus.
Not so is Martini in North Myrtle Beach.
My dining companions run the gamut from my nieces, 20-something hipsters, who like to dine at an hour that many folks are abed, to hip 90-somethings, who like to dine before the six o’clock news. Martini suits both.
The ambience is sumptuous not stuffy; elegant, but not self-important.
A similar description could be applied to their menu, not simplistic but straight forward and refreshingly sans bloviation. Nothing is napping, blanketed, gelée or sous vide and the provenance of ingredients is not detailed.
For pre-twilight diners, the early menu offers a nice variety of choices for $14.95. Our friends, Harold Sackett and Emma Gale, joined us for such a repast.
We began with the Baked Brie Provencal – a French baguette topped with warm brie and fresh tomato basil marinade. The appetizer underwhelmed, as the robust sauce overpowered the mild cheese.
On a future visit, I would opt for the Blue Cheese Chips – a housemade sauce served with homestyle potato chips or the Sautéed Mussels in white wine, garlic and butter.
The house salads with nine dressing choices, added for a $2.95 up charge, were nice, as were the warm complimentary rolls and butter (piped into a ramekin and served at the perfect consistency, not a foil-wrapped pat in sight).
Aside from the company, the entrées were the best part of the evening. Gale, who has an admittedly selective palate, chose the Eggplant Parmesan and, for once in all the years we have known her, did not need a carry out box. The prime rib, a house specialty, was a hit with Sackett, and my husband thoroughly enjoyed the crab cakes.
With apologies to my dear friend, Ellen Chapman, who declared that “boneless and skinless were the worst things to ever happen to a chicken,” I chose the seasoned chicken breast served with steamed vegetables and gorgonzola mashed potatoes.
Let me say, were she still corporeal and available for our annual birthday tête-à-têtes, I would take her to Martini’s confident that her opinion would, at least, be swayed. The mashed potatoes could make a strong man swoon, and the veggies were delightfully crisp.
In addition to their early dinner and happy hour menus, they offer some really nice specials throughout the week. Sundays and Mondays, select Italian entrees are $14.95, Tuesdays their Prime Rib is $14.95 (reservations encouraged) and Thursdays they have 1-pound lobster dinners for $18.95.
Last week, we hosted my aunt who, not admittedly, has a selective and very budget conscious palate, on the evening of the Prime Rib special. It was a roaring success; although the menu was her proverbial oyster, she chose the special with the housemade French Onion soup as her starter.
She said the soup was served at the perfect temperature, and she enjoyed it down to the very last drop. The tender prime rib, served with a baked potato with a perfectly crisp jacket (skin), was also spot on.
For me, although I would heartily recommend the prime rib to any carnivore (it was divine), I could have happily devoured the asparagus by the plateful.
I am sorry that I cannot offer an opinion about their dessert offerings. On both occasions, we were too sated to indulge.
Martini has something for almost everyone; their menu could use another vegetarian option or two. Given their commitment to customer service, no doubt they would do their best to prepare something special upon request, but that can make some diners feel uncomfortable.
A balancing act that they have perfected is having a staff that is attentive without being annoying. As a former waitress and restaurant manager, that is hard to teach. My experience has been that their servers, Debra Painter, in particular, read their tables very well.
My advice: Try Martini. It’s an affordable indulgence, nightly entertainment included – a veritable champagne experience at a house wine price.