By Tonya West
For Hometown News
BeachTown Grill in New Smyrna Beach opened its doors in July and before they even advertised, a loyal following had begun.
Rib fanatics and Philly cheesesteak addicts soon populated the tables regularly and began popping their heads into the kitchen to express their enthusiasm. Owned by David Brown, who also operates Kilman Jewelers a few short doors down in the plaza, the restaurant has been washed of its former Beef O'Brady's decor and has morphed into a family-fun, casual dining experience with more than one trick up its sleeve.
One thing is for sure: "casual dining" is not to be confused with just another uninteresting, unmemorable place to grab a burger. The chefs at BeachTown Grill have too much passion to allow that type of experience to happen for you.
With that passion comes a menu created by Mr. Brown's fiancée, Dawn Kelly, a chef who trailed after her mother in the kitchens of Louisiana and ran restaurants there for more than 20 years. Ms. Kelly is very particular about flavor and method -- if her kitchen isn't using cast iron to "blacken" the chicken or fish, then she'll bill it as "seared." She honors tradition to that degree and has rounded up a staff that is equally compelled.
The kitchen pays above average attention to cleanliness to avoid cross-contamination: latex gloves are used methodically with the mantra "right hand for chicken" and "left hand for beef." There's also a heightened awareness of those with allergies or restrictions and every precaution is taken when a customer expresses such. The menu's gluten-free offerings will expand and vegans can also be comfortable knowing the staff is knowledgeable about the products that go into the creation of each dish.
The BeachTown Grill takes the time to hand patty, hand bread and will resort to making something from scratch way before buying something that is already processed. That includes their 31-season Creole spice. If you bite into the New Orleans Muffuletta and wonder what's making it so crazy good, then you've touched on something pretty special. The Muffuletta bread is overnighted directly from Gambino's in New Orleans and the olive spread is, too.
The same originality goes into the Cuban sandwich. We're not talking just any pressed white bread here. BeachTown Grill orders the Cuban bread from an enclave in Tampa.
"They use a palm leaf recipe," said Mark Davis, a kitchen manager. "They take the leaves from the palm fronds and wrap it around the bread. The way they wrap it gets this beautiful shape of the Cuban loaves. They press perfectly and the Cuban has a bit of a twang due to the palm."
Mr. Davis' 17 years of experience began early as a lead saute chef at a country club restaurant run by a Cordon Bleu trained chef. From there, he ventured to Gainesville and became enmeshed in the locally-sourced, organic, herbivore/carnivore experience.
Toward that end, he has creative freedom with BeachTown Grill's specials and he may just sneak some healthy flax seeds into your meal. Rest assured, there will be no sugar or salt in his specials. With a preference for "preservative free," Mr. Davis is more likely to prepare his dishes using organic honey and fresh herbs. He believes wholeheartedly that fresh herbs "help people's livelihood."
BeachTown Grill is striving to be a family-oriented restaurant with a Louisiana flair, a place that has something for everybody. Even the little ones have great dining choices that come with mandarin oranges, fries, coleslaw or jasmine rice, a small drink, and an ice pop. Bonus: kids under 12 eat free all day on Wednesdays!
The menu is moderately priced, portions are satisfying (all sandwiches and tacos are loaded with seven ounces of meat or fish).
BeachTown Grill is at 1966 State Road 44 in New Smyrna Beach.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Sundays.