Story And Photo
By Becky Billingsley
Ernest Bledsoe is the chef/proprietor, and he is joined by his wife, Kimberly Bledsoe, who is managing the front of the house.
The couple, who live in the Pawleys Island area, have been married 10 years and have four children ages 2 1/2 to 10. They moved to the Grand Strand area in 2007 when the chef took the executive chef position at Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club.
Chef Bledsoe's father is a banquet chef, so once he decided to join the family line of work his professional culinary experience began at age 15. Since then he moved up the ranks at restaurants in his native Florida, including several fine dining properties. The chef has also earned several local culinary awards including Grand Champion at the 2008 Myrtle Beach ACF Southeastern Chefs Competition and Grand Champion at the 2010 American Culinary Federation Souper Supper.
Now the Bledsoes have the first restaurant they can call their own: Bliss Restaurant and The Reel Bar, which are part of the property at the new Inlet Sports Lodge in Murrells Inlet.
L.R. Hotel Management built Inlet Sports Lodge with fishermen, hunters and golfers in mind. The majority shareholders are Ponderosa, Inc., which consists of the local Spring, Lachicotte and Beckham families; and Dr. Luigi Piccione, who lives in Little River and specializes in pediatric oncology and infectious diseases.
Inlet Sports Lodge has about three dozen units on two floors that face a central brick courtyard. The rooms have hand-carved mahogany doors, hardwood floors, granite surfaces, full-size refrigerators, locally produced art, mini kitchens with induction burners, sisal rugs and dishes emblazoned with the Inlet Sports Lodge logo. Behind the courtyard, guests have their own multi-sink fish-cleaning room and a walk-in cooler in which to store their catches.
A widow's walk on top of the property offers a breathtaking view of the inlet and a close-up look at the property's unique hand-crafted copper weathervanes.
In the restaurant a rustic and relaxed tone has been set with lots of interesting woods such as the tables and chairs made from South American Osage Orange, and banquettes that are long antique church pews. The main rectangular dining room has two sections separated by a half-wall topped by rectangular vases filled with fresh flowers and river stones.
The Reel Bar is in a separate room at the end of the dining room, and in its cozy, dim and pub-like space there are a wide variety of options from an eclectic wine list to several premium draft brews and canned Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The overall ambiance is like dining at the exclusive fish camp owned by a wealthy aunt and uncle who employ a fine chef.
What's to eat
Chef Bledsoe is committed to sustainable agriculture and procurement practices, and he seeks locally harvested foods from area farms and fishing boats. Bliss Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Lunch appetizers include Gator Ribs with Tennessee Peach Barbecue Sauce; Duo of Tartare (beef and tuna); and a Trio of Dips (crab, pimento cheese, spinach/artichoke) served with house-made chips and crackers.
Salads are made with choice ingredients and are beautifully presented, from Wedge Salad with oven-dried tomatoes, apple wood bacon and "Roaring 40s" blue cheese dressing; to Spinach and Rocket Salad with prosciutto, candied pecans, aged asiago and balsamic vinaigrette. The chef's signature dressings are also available by the bottle for $5 each.
There's always the chef's award-winning She-Crab Soup, Chili and a soup of the day, and at lunch there are soup/salad/sandwich combinations. There are 10 sandwich choices including a Slider Trio (duck confit, pulled pork, buffalo burger), Prime Rib Dip and Baby Reubens. Fresh bread for the sandwiches and bread baskets is delivered to Bliss daily from nearby Benjamin's Bakery in Surfside Beach.
Four lunchtime entrees include Tournedos of Beef and Pan-Seared Flounder with prosciutto hash.
Dinner expands on the creative slant of the lunch menu with appetizers like Baby Pumpkin filled with vanilla scented lobster risotto; Grilled Romaine Salad with prosciutto; Buffalo Meatloaf stuffed with gouda cheese; and Crab Crusted Grouper with corn/leek/shiitake ragout and crab cream sauce.
Last week Bliss also started breakfast service. Choices include Steak Benedict, Crab Cake Benedict, Vegetarian Omelet, Biscuits and Gravy, Stuffed French Toast, Southwestern Seafood Omelet, and Tomato/Mozzarella Omelet.
Desserts are also blissfully house-made, with choices such as Caramel Apple Pie, Pear Strudel, Sweet Potato Bread Pudding and Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.
Bliss Restaurant and The Reel Bar
Where: 4600 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet
Phone: 282-6737 or (877) 585-9360, Ext. 2000.
Website: The Bledsoes have a website for their salad dressings and more at BlissEats.com.
Noise Level: The sound system wasn't yet on when I visited, but they planned soft and natural "new age" music.
Vegetarian Options: Salads, Pimento Cheese, Spinach/Artichoke Dip, and Stuffed Portabello Sandwich on focaccia with truffle aioli.
Smoking: Allowed outside where there are al fresco seating and a fireplace.
Hours: 6-10 a.m., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. daily; the Reel Bar stays open until midnight with food available until 10 p.m.
Prices: Breakfast dishes are $3-$10, while most lunch choices are $8-$9, with the lunch entrees $12-$14. Dinner appetizers and salads are $5-$9, with entrees spanning $15-$26.
Check for Two: Breakfast averages $20. At lunch, without alcoholic beverages, about $30 plus tip. Dinner with a shared appetizer, two salads, two entrees, shared dessert and a couple drinks each would run about $90 plus tip.
Through Nov. 20, you can order the Bello Cibo Heat and Eat Thanksgiving Dinner. For $75, the meal serves 6-8 and includes 4 pounds of sliced turkey, 2.5 pounds Garlic Mashed Potatoes, a 12-ounce Green Bean Casserole, 16 ounces Cranberry Sauce, 1 pound Cornbread Stuffing and 16 ounces Natural Turkey Gravy. Bello Cibo Deli is at 115 Willbrook Blvd., by Piggly Wiggly in the Litchfield Market Village Square Plaza, Pawleys Island, 237-4333.
Bistro 217 in Pawleys Island is expanding into the store next door and will soon have more interior dining space. Bistro 217 is at 10707 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island, and the number is (843) 235-8217.
It's open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
The chef and partner, Adam Kirby, recently earned two first place trophies (in judged and people's choice categories) for his Winter Mushroom Soup at the 2010 American Culinary Federation Souper Supper in Myrtle Beach.
From 1-7 p.m., Chef Bill Austin and Annette Austin are offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with a breathtaking oceanfront view for $27 ages 12 and older or $14 ages 11 and younger.
The meal includes Butter and Herb-Basted Roast Turkey with Roasted Shallot and Turkey Gravy, Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes, Country Sausage, Sage and Cornbread Stuffing, fresh Cranberry Relish, Candied Sweet Potatoes, and Sesame Baby Beans with Red Peppers.
A limited version of the regular menu will also be available.
Austin's Ocean One is at One Norris Dr., at The Litchfield Inn, Pawleys Island, 235-8700.
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