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River Room in Georgetown lives up to hype

The name carries a great reputation.

The River Room on Georgetown's storied Front Street is infallible in its delivery of solid-good food.

Ask around, as I did, and folks will consistently tell you the River Room is one of their favorite Georgetown spots. It has been in this fair city for 26 years, with Sally Swineford and her partner, Sid Hood (who built most of the dining room tables), manning the helm.

I understand folks' allegiance.

Through the years, I've eaten at this nautical-themed restaurant on numerous occasions, but I've never written about my dining experience until now.

I figured everybody knew, but you know what they say about making assumptions.

Besides, the Grand Strand is by definition a hot bed of transients, and there might be folks out there who are oblivious to this eatery's existence - and that would be a shame.

How could I face a foodie looking for a wonderful meal with scenery just as memorable and not mention The River Room?

The ambience is idyllic.

An aquarium, home to clown fish, pygmy angel fish, sea cucumbers, a ditzy hawkfish and other aquatic life, is at the very front of the dining room.

There are some people who will fraternize with the fish before being seated, but I visit the aquarium after I've gotten my grub on.

Strangely, I have never been to The River Room during lunch, although I've been in Georgetown aplenty during lunch hours.

Various sandwiches, a few comfort foods, seafood and salads dominate the menu.

Shepherd's pie ($6.95), shrimp & grits ($7.95 and also on the dinner menu for $17.95), a fried soft-shell crab ($8.95 and served on a sesame-seed hoagie) and cantaloupe stuffed with chicken salad (garnished with almonds for $8.95) are among the lunch menu's all stars.

Night time (early evening) is the right time for me, though, because I love looking out on the Harborwalk, with The River Room facing the waterfront and a bevy of docked boats.

The assorted bread basket before the meal always gets the party started right.

The bread is always hot and served with real butter.

Oh, and I can't forget the music. You will hear blues, Motown favorites and folks I've never heard of before, like Suzy Bogguss sweetly and lazily singing "Comes Love."

Each time I visit, except in the winter when I order duck, I always get one of the fresh fish specialties.

All - the yellow fin tuna, Atlantic salmon and South Carolina grouper - are experiences worth having.

However, I prefer tuna, which can be chargrilled and served with lime-ginger soy sauce and wasabi or blackened with basil cream sauce. Both are revelations in tastes with a touch of exotica but familiar like food from home, if you took the time to cook it.

Most recently, I dined with a dear friend, and I went for the 12-ounce chargrilled porterhouse pork chop topped with apple-raisin chutney. The pork chop was good, and it didn't need the apple-raisin chutney to make it shine, but it certainly added just the right amount of sweetness.

The chutney was made with semi-chunky slices of apple and juicy raisins, and the pork chop was perfectly seasoned and juicy.

The meal, an ongoing special for $18.95, is one I chose to go with collard greens and a rainbow medley of sauteed vegetables, including red cabbage, eggplant, broccoli and squash. I could have eaten a whole plate of just the veggies.

My other side was collard greens, which were shockingly bland.

Therefore, I had to doctor them up with dashes of Tabasco, pepper and salt.

My dessert of choice was the strawberry shortcake ($5.50), which was thinly sliced strawberries, drizzled in homemade strawberry syrup and placed between a homemade cinnamon biscuit, topped off with whipped cream and more strawberry syrup.

I ate two bites and then took it and the rest of my meal home. The next day, all the food tasted even better.

The next time I head to The River Room, I plan to have dinner in the bar area.

Not to pick up men, mind you, because I'm not that kind of woman, but just to dine in the muted and sexy, soft light of the bar that is off to the side in its own nook in a room filled with wine, a lone television and books.

Yet believe me when I tell you that The River Room is worth every single word in bites alone.

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