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Must-try Surfside cafe adds dinner

If the Crystallite Cafe isn't on your South Strand eatery list, you need to wise up.

I've never had anything from this quaint eatery at 799 U.S. 17 Business in Surfside Beach that I didn't like, and I've missed it since I haven't been in a while.

Executive Chef Carlton Hennigan gave me a great excuse to hightail it back there. He said the cafe is now serving dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

When he told me about the menu, my mouth watered.

Shrimp and grits, a longtime Southern favorite, is one of the entrees.

"We cook it with a twist," said Hennigan, a former Army cook who began his new job on April 5. "It's cooked with sherry cream sauce."

That made me want to try the shrimp and grits, but I am more anxious about getting my teeth into the pork entree.

Hennigan stuffs pork with Italian meats and cheeses, flavors it with Paul Prudhomme seasoning, sears it on the grill, slices it then and serves it with a Mandarin orange sauce on top.

Another tempting dish is the sweet and sour shrimp and scallop dish with sweet Thai sauce. It is served with white rice and sauteed vegetables.

Plus, the price is right.

Hennigan said each dinner entree on the menu is priced below $20.

The desserts, priced no higher than $10, sound just as satisfying.

Check this out: He presents the white chocolate bread pudding made out of croissants in a martini glass with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, fanned strawberries, chocolate syrup, almond syrup and caramel.

A former sous chef at Waterscapes in Myrtle Beach, Hennigan told me he borrowed the recipe from Executive Chef Marvin Jones, who works at Just Off Main in the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach.

"I give credit where credit is due," he said between chuckles. "I told him I was going to use his recipe."

He also compliments his boss - Jill M. Christeleit-Lazaroff, owner and operator of Crystallite, for letting him fly on the wings of creative, culinary freedom.

"I just feel really blessed," said Hennigan, a Conway resident who has been a professional cook for 22 years. "God has brought me to this place."

Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday for dinner. Call 839-9080.

Guest cooks

Is cooking your thing? I mean, can you really prepare a meal so delicious that people can't wait to get more?

If that's you, you may want to call Carolyn Cole.

Once the Atlantic Beach Bikefest is over, Cole, manager of Nora Lener's in Atlantic Beach, will launch a guest cooking program.

The eatery, at 601 31st Ave. S., is home to soul food cooked with the flavor of traditional soul food without the traditional fat.

"This is what we want to do," Cole said. "We want to have fun. There are people out there who love to cook and brag about how good they can cook."

She wants me to bring my mama, Catherine B. Wilson, to cook her collard greens made with olive oil and secret seasonings.

I haven't asked Mama if she would participate, but I think I might be able to get her involved.

Cole said folks in the community who might want to be a guest cook should contact her.

"I will enjoy spontaneity of it," Cole. "It may be something that happens two or three times a month. If they have soul food, country cooking or seafood recipes they want us to taste, call us."

The program will launch in June. In addition to baseball hitting coach Ken Griffey Sr., Cole's friend Arvita Coleman will be a guest cook and prepare oxtails.

"We will help you prep the food and all that," she said. "So come on, let's eat. Good eats and good times was what my grandmother [Nora Lener] enjoyed. She liked having some fun, being entertained and eating some good food."

Willie Cole, Cole's father and one of the eatery's owners, said he will be a guest cook, too.

"He loves anything that comes out of water," said Cole, which includes turtles he uses for turtle stew.

The regular menu will still be available whenever guest cooks are in the house.

So when her dad cooks that turtle stew, you'll have other options to snap at.

Seafood is served every day, and chicken (fried or barbecue) and turkey wings are among the lunch features. Breakfast is also served.

Breakfast platters are $5. Lunch entrees are $7, and dinner plates are $10.

If you go, try the broccoli. It's so good.

Seasonal hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but Nora Lener's will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Memorial Day. Call 361-1400.