As loyal readers know, we love all types of dining experiences, from casual haunts we frequent, um, frequently, to special places we typically head for, um, special occasions… like Cele’s early-December birthday or the upcoming Holidays.
Thus, we recently found ourselves at Port Royal’s popular Black Dog Grill for an early celebration of Cele’s birthday, with Lowcountry Weekly publishers Jeff and Margaret Evans. And, no, though many friends think we score lots of free meals as travel writers, neither the Evanses or the friendly folks at The Black Dog Grill picked up the check. We’re more than happy to pay for a special dining experience (or any experience involving good food and company). Okay, we’ll also write for food!
Anyway, both the ambiance and the cuisine at The Black Dog Grill makes any evening there special. Others must feel the same, in that the restaurant remains a popular choice with extended families celebrating their new Marine and many others looking for a special and tasty way to celebrate in the area.
The Black Dog Grill is Michael and Leslie Pressley’s late-2019 “steakhouse” gift to
the area, after successfully owning and operating Rosie O’Grady’s Irish American Pub since 2005. Michael’s typically at bustling Rosie O’Grady’s and Leslie can be found at The Black Dog Grill. He says the old school-style restaurant was his idea, “…to go back in time and use some old menu ideas, like Coquille Saint-Jacques [a traditional French sea scallops treatment].”
Michael had the unique opportunity to grow up at Hunting Island State Park and Edisto Island State Park, where his father was a park superintendent. He recalls flipping burgers at state park grills before eventually moving into the hotel industry and, especially, the food and beverage sector, where he worked for Sheraton in a variety of roles, including lounge manager for Sheraton’s then-largest North American nightclub (Nashville’s McGavocks). His impressive hospitality- and service-driven resume ranges from the Carolinas and Tennessee to Florida.
Matt Pickering is The Black Dog Grill’s executive chef, and Michael and Leslie say he’s made the dining experience there better than ever. Matt’s a Johnson & Wales grad and, when we met, we immediately started trading Charleston restaurant and chef stories, including Matt’s time at beloved Peninsula Grill, where he was chef de cuisine from 2016 to 2019. “My menus change seasonally and I’m expecting a spring refresh, including an even more approachable pasta and seafood specials.”
Let’s start with Matt’s current menu, with entrées focusing on prime hand-cut cuts of perfectly prepared meat, but also providing many other options. For instance, the New York strip and luscious ribeye are both aged melt-in-your-mouth angus beef. Next, their filet mignon is the center cut of aged tenderloin. Matt reports the meats are sourced from Halperns’, a southeast purveyor we know and love.
Steak lovers can add Matt’s classic Bearnaise sauce, as well as his sweet onion and
mushroom sauce or their house made horseradish chimichurri (we especially love this pairing with beef). There’s no additional charge for your choice of sauce. There’s also an optional luxuriant lump crab Oscar topping for those wishing to take their beef choice over the top.
Lynn loves lamb, so he’s a fan of their lamb chops for good reason. They’re from the Land Down Under, where they know a thing or two about lamb. Speaking of lamb, if readers ever see Virginia’s Border Springs Farm lamb in any form on a menu during their travels, order it. Trust us.
Of course, The Black Dog Grill isn’t just for red meat lovers, bless their hearts and
ours. Additional entrée choices include: a grilled bone-in Duroc Farms pork chop with Creole mustard demi-glace; chicken saltimbocca, which Margaret Evans raved over and offered everyone a taste (ditto on Jeff’s sirloin tips special); and jumbo Atlantic white shrimp lightly breaded and deep fried, served with a traditional tartar sauce and a fun bloody mary cocktail sauce.
There’s also a fresh fish of the day, which Matt reports is coming from Lowcountry Shellfish, including, of late, fresh snapper, grouper, and even South Carolina swordfish, which has become a very popular addition to Matt’s menu. Generally speaking, entrées are prettily plated with a choice of farm-to-fork seasonal vegetables, which are often sourced by Matt at Saturday’s Port Royal Farmers Market.
Back to the menu for starters (we couldn’t help starting with the tasty entrées this time)…there’s freshly shucked oysters, with preparation changes daily; their famed Fripp Island crab cake; jumbo shrimp cocktail with the aforementioned cocktail sauce; Prince Edward Island mussels; Coquille St. Helena (a tasty riff on the aforementioned traditional French sea scallops preparation; and grilled steak skewers (a nice intro to The Black Dog Grill’s red meat magic). There’s also traditional steak house salad with iceberg, their Seabrook Caprese with a pecan pesto/balsamic glaze, a Caesar with house-made dressing; and made-daily soups, including Matt’s staple lobster bisque and overflowing French onion soup, which was perfect on the rainy night we were there.
Desserts change frequently and are very popular with those celebrating something, including the conclusion of a special meal. They’re made in-house and often include chocolate flourless torte, crème Brulé, and coconut cake, which Matt’s reports is just as good as Peninsula Grill’s famed version and which we plan to order next time there. We were honestly all too full for dessert, this time. Unless you count finishing a bit of red wine as dessert.
And, speaking of wine, their wine list is perfect for their menu, with a nice selection of whites, pinks, and reds by the glass and bottle, including La Crema, a pinot noir from Monterey that we think pairs well with practically everything on a plate. They also have a full bar menu for those so inclined.
Oh, and as for the name and logo. Michael and Leslie love dogs, including their black lab, Phoebe.
The Black Dog Grill
1635 Paris Avenue
Port Royal, SC 29935
Dinner Wednesday to Saturday, 5p.m. to 9p.m. Reservations by phone recommended.
To continue with the “black” theme of this “Lowcountry Dish,” here’s an update on Blacksheep (www.blacksheeponboundary.com), which many readers know we’ve loved from the day it opened:
*This past July, we attended one of Blacksheep’s special “Goodbye Dolly” dinners, to say so long to the wood-fired oven that was such an essential part of Blacksheep’s original concept. The updated and renovated restaurant and kitchen are now better than ever…and so is the food. Trust us.
*The renovation included the addition of five fun bar seats overlooking the new kitchen
and Matt doing his magic. They serve wine, beer, and creative bar snacks, and it’s first-come, first-served. If the sheep neon light in the kitchen window is on, the bar seats are full; if it’s off, come on in!
*Due to an increase in costs, the unique Blacksheep dining experience will be $60 per person, starting January 1, 2023. It’s worth it.
*Lots of people report that it’s hard to get a reservation and they’re right. Us too…every month. So, here’s an update from most wonderful Krista about reservations that we’re reprinting pretty much verbatim from a recent email to their fans:
We serve 8 tables per day. 16 days per month. That’s 128 spots per month. They book fast. Really fast.
It’s not because there’s a special list of folks that get to book first. Or because we only book our friends and family for reservations.
It’s simply because a group of phenomenal people set their alarms, make a conscious effort, and log on to our site right at 8:00 to book a reservation.
It’s more than 128 people vying for 128 spots.
For those who have messaged saying they think they are “doing it wrong” or are looking for a “trick,” here is a bit of advice…
The reservation system is a computer that does it’s very best. I am monitoring the system in real time, but if two people are trying to book the spot at exactly the same time—which happens often—the computer will take whoever has their information in first. It happens.
That being said, the computer “holds” reservations for nine minutes and if folks don’t finish the booking process, the reservation will come back up in the system. So, for example, if you tried January 18 and there were no openings, it’s worth it to check back to see if a spot has become available.
If you can see the calendar, something is available or may become available. When all reservations are booked for the month, you will see the default message: “We are currently not accepting online bookings here. Please get in touch if you have any questions”
This is a lot of words. Hopefully if you’ve taken the time to read them, it will be helpful.
Krista also asked us to mention that cancellations are posted on Instagram and that reservations still open at 8 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month for the following month.
Us again… good luck and we’ll see you there! We might be at the bar, but we’ll leave the light on…or off…for you.
Beaufort-based travel journalists Lynn and Cele Seldon (www.seldonink.com) often cover culinary travel around the world, and Lowcountry Weekly recently lured them to write a monthly feature covering the local food scene. This will include articles about restaurants, chefs, food-focused stores, farms, farmers, farmers markets, and more. They welcome suggestions for topics.