By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
If you're looking for a great place to dine that registers somewhere between "surprising and amazing" on your "gotta go there" scale, look no further than the Plantation Bar and Grill north of Ormond Beach.
Just getting to the Plantation is part of the fun. Though the quickest route is Interstate 95, the most scenic is the "Loop" -- the beautiful and revered by-way that includes Beach Street through Tomoka State Park and Old Dixie Highway, winding through miles of graceful old oaks and placid bayous. The "loop route" eventually takes a sharp turn west towards its completion and that's where you find a Publix shopping center. Tucked between a row of shops is the Plantation -- and one of the best dining experiences you'll find anywhere.
My guest and I arrived at the Plantation on a late Tuesday afternoon. Our first impression: Surprise. The exterior was frankly less than impressive, but then we also had no idea what was inside. Entering the restaurant we were warmly greeted by a charming young lady, who, as it turned out, would also be our server. The front room was casual and spacious. It had ample seating, a bar and two televisions. As I was quickly trying to figure out what we might order, the young lady gestured towards the back of the restaurant, stating they had other dining areas. She then escorted us to a completely different venue.
We entered a small dining room appropriately called "The Loop," which had paintings of old Florida on the walls and lighted candle holders on the tables. Since we were relatively early, we had our choice of tables. We chose one in the middle so as to see the décor all around. A half-wall separates the "Loop" from the "Bistro," a smaller dining room with walls adorned by a handful of colorful French paintings. A third dining room, entered from the "Bistro," is the "Verona," a more intimate dining area, and perfect for private gatherings.
As my guest and I settled in, our server, Brittany, noting our look of surprise, told us "a lot of first time customers have unexpected surprise." She then brought us menus, including a complete list of wines. Soon the manager, Megan Morinelli, came to our table, greeted us warmly, and told us the menu, which is quite large, is their new summer menu -- just out this past week.
Since it was happy hour, we opted for the "two for one." We started with a "King Estate" pinot grigio, then tried the "Stump Jump" shiraz. Both were excellent. Brittany offered some sliced bread accompanied by a dipping sauce of clarified butter, olive oil, honey and spices.
After taking our time perusing the extensive menu of appetizers, soups and salads, pasta dishes, sea selections, house favorites and the Plantation's signature burgers, we were ready to order.
My guest ordered two appetizers: The pan-seared fresh lump crab cake served over roasted red pepper sauce; and Scallops Rockefeller -- sea scallops over a bed of fresh sauteed spinach, topped with a parmesan-bacon cream sauce.
I also chose the crab cake appetizer; plus the Greek Market Salad, lightly mixed with their signature Greek dressing and served in a deep-dish bowl. Everything we tried was delicious and expertly prepared. After all, the Plantation Bar and Grill has an expert chef, Casey Ford, formerly of La Crepe and Rose Villa. "Everything is made from scratch," Kendrick Roberson, the assistant manager told us.
Though I seldom go for desserts, this time was an exception. The selections were Crème Brulee, New York-style cheesecake, Oreo Mousse and Wild Berry Crepe -- all made in house by Chef Casey. After a brief contemplation of "Do you think we should," my guest and I decided to try the Crème Brulee and split the tasty rewards.
Mr. Roberson, who's been with the restaurant since it first opened three years ago, is dedicated to the success of the business. Referring to the manager, Ms. Morinelli, he said, "Megan was the little angel that came in -- she does a good job. We really appreciate her."
Indeed, this eating establishment has all the right ingredients: Comfortable ambience, excellent food and great service.
Plantation Bar and Grill is at 3754 Roscommon Drive, Ormond Beach. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday. Phone: (386) 615-8948. plantationbarandgrill.com.