Story by Becky Billingsley
Photo by Becky Billingsley
Keith and Wendy Wolff have much restaurant experience in all phases of the business, from serving and prepping to manager, bartender, cook and whatever other roles running a restaurant entails.
They have been married for 17 years and have four children ages 5-13, so when they aren't tending to the restaurant they're going to scout meetings or camping or watching their children compete on their swim teams or taking family vacations to places like Disney World.
While most days and nights customers usually are greeted by at least one of the Wolffs, they need help in the kitchen.
Keith used to be a managing partner at Gulf Stream Cafe in Garden City Beach, and that's where he met the three cooks now in the Salt Water Creek kitchen.
"Billy Horner is a manager who also cooks," Keith said. "Juan Castillo is a lead cook, and Juan's brother, Edwin Castillo, is the other lead cook."
Justin Richardson also works in the kitchen.
In March 2008 the Wolffs opened Salt Water Cafe, and their popularity was immediate. In January 2010 they had to change the restaurant's name to Salt Water Creek Cafe due to a trademark issue with a California restaurant chain called Salt Water Grille.
The Wolffs have a unique and tasteful style.
As you approach Salt Water Creek Cafe there's a lovely outdoor dining area canopied by big old live oaks and ringed by a low wall with mortar oozing from between the bricks.
That genteel Southern ambiance is given a gentle modern kick by the graceful blue swirls of the restaurant's logo on an exterior sign.
You enter a small vestibule with a hostess stand, and then step up into a comfortable bar with a brick floor and a low ceiling with rustic beams. There's both bar and table seating, and behind the bar is a tantalizing jar of house-made limoncello.
After 4 p.m. a sushi bar along a side wall offers succulent seafood tidbits.
The main dining room is a couple steps down from the bar, and it is beachy without being touristy mainly due to the excellent oversized sepia photography of Kathy Cacicedo.
A central two-sided fireplace lends a cozy touch, while thoughtfully selected artistic glass pieces, including a mirror cut like their logo, add understated sophistication.
It's a comfortable space with booths and tables and banquettes where no one feels they have to dress up or be anything except relaxed and ready to stop being hungry and thirsty.
What's to eat
The Wolffs and their staff have mastered the art of having a little something for everyone without creating a monster-size menu that's too big to digest. It's part diner, part Lowcountry specialties, part innovation.
My favorite picks from the appetizer list include House-made Potato Chips with Buttermilk Chive Dip, She-Crab Soup that's loaded with crab meat and served in a teacup, Cluck Cluck, which is fried chicken livers on a grit cake doused in Creek Gravy, and Portabello and Zucchini Fries with Horseradish Dipping Sauce. In season, you can get a Steamed Whole Artichoke.
It's Thanksgiving every day at Salt Water Creek, because they have a Turkey and Stuffing Sandwich served with cranberry sauce.
Other sandwiches include the Blue Moo (steak and blue cheese), Chicken Feta Wrap, Thai Steak Wrap (love the spicy peanut sauce), Fresh Salmon Sandwich, Meatloaf Sandwich with Jack cheese, and a Prime Rib Sandwich with Monterey Jack and jus.
A few more dishes outside the entree category include Quesadilla, Fish Tacos with black beans and rice, Pesto Pizza (there are other pizzas, but the pesto is luscious), Creek Cobb Salad and Spinach Salad with red onions, Mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.
The Thanksgiving tradition continues with entree selections, because you can get Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Cuban Pork comes with black beans, rice and sautéed plantains, while the Manga!
Chicken is a breast stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses that's place atop fettuccine and topped with Alfredo and marinara sauces. Grilled Salmon with Lemon Pesto is another popular choice along with the Fried Seafood Platter, Crab Cakes, Filet Mignon and Creek Chicken where the chicken is marinated in honey mustard, topped with bacon and a couple of cheeses and served with rice and a vegetable.
If you want to dine early, between 4 and 6 p.m., many of the regular menu items are serves in slightly smaller portions for lower prices.
A few items are special to the early dining menu, including Grouper Francaise for $13, and Fried Grouper Bites with fries and tartar sauce for $12. Entrees also come with a choice of house or Caesar salads or a cup of the soup of the day.
There are also daily specials, such as on Tuesdays when a rack of barbecue pork ribs, mashed potatoes, slaw, soft drink and ice cream is $16; Wednesdays when all pizzas are $6; or Sundays when calves' liver lovers can get their liver and onions (and bacon) fixes.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays there's a special brunch menu with luxurious dishes such as Lobster Omelet, Filet Mignon or Crab Cake Benedict, and French Toast stuffed with strawberry preserves, cream cheese and bananas.
And we shouldn't forget the fun Salt Water Creek desserts, from a Dixie cup of ice cream for $1 to house-made Ana Banana Pudding and Cookie Slop, which is layers of chocolate pudding, whipped cream and chocolate chip cookies.
Salt Water Creek Café
Where: 4660 U.S. 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet
Noise Level: Sometimes there is live entertainment such as a solo singer/guitar player, but it isn't so loud you can't talk to your dining companions.
Vegetarian Options: House-made Potato Chips, Cheesy Nachos, Portabello & Zucchini Fries, House-made Mozzarella Sticks, Steamed Whole Artichoke, Mushroom Pizza, Pesto Pizza, Margharita Pizza, salads, Pasta Alfredo, Pasta with Fresh Tomato and Basil.
Smoking: Only allowed outside.
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily starting at 11 a.m.; on Saturdays and Sundays they open at 10 a.m. for brunch.
Prices: Early dining specials are $3-$13.50; sandwiches are $8.50-$12; pizzas are $8.50-$9.50; entrees $12-$29; desserts $1-$5.50.
Check for Two: Lunch for two with tea or soda averages $25, plus tax and tip. One appetizer, two entrees and one dessert with two glasses of wine would run about $65.
Wine and Jazz
The 11th Annual Pawleys Island Wine Gala will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24 at Litchfield Plantation. Attendees will sample wines from more than 80 wineries and enjoy live entertainment from U”N”I, a five piece group that specializes in jazz, swing and blues. A highlight of the evening will be exquisite hors d’oeuvres prepared by the talented and award-winning Certified Executive Chef Robert Beuth. This will be one of the last opportunities to sample Chef Beuth's cuisine in this area; he is starting a new job in October at a Virginia country club. Tickets are $100; for more information visit http://pawleysmusic.com/ or call 626-8911.
Closing Season Begins
Restaurant closures have been rampant lately in the Grand Strand area. One on the south end that closed on Sept. 12 is Black River Grill at 1000 S. Commons Dr. in Surfside Beach, which was featured in The Georgetown Times in November 2009. It specialized in wild game and seafood.
Scammers have been attempting to bilk money and food out of area restaurant owners. In one scam a "deaf" person calls and talks with restaurateurs via a TTY service or Internet Protocol Relay service for the hearing and speech impaired and places a large catering order, and then asks for an extra amount to be charged to a credit card and refunded in cash.
In the second scam, people say they are from out of town and are flying in to arrange catering or in-house dining for a group that will have a convention here.
They go to the restaurant, eat a lot of food, and then attempt to leave the restaurant without paying.
They pretend to think the meal was on the house because they were discussing business, and when the restaurant owner insists on payment, they say they do not have credit cards or identification with them.
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