The Review: Blu
Rolling surf and a brilliant October sky are reasons enough to visit Folly Beach on a crisp fall day. Add a brisk walk along the sand and a delicious meal, and you’ve got the perfect outing. The selection of good food is expanding rapidly on the “Edge of America,” and thanks to the recent reinvention of the Folly Beach Holiday Inn and the opening of BLU Restaurant & Bar, yet another star glows on the horizon.
On a recent autumn evening, we headed to this sleek new spot for a sunset dinner, enjoying the marshfront drive and picturesque scenes along the way. Upon arriving, we particularly appreciated the parking provided at the hotel. For years a beacon for summer crowds and waterfront frolicking, the Center Street property has been beautifully converted to an island retreat offering new rooms, meeting spaces, and dining options.
The transformed interior boasts tasteful furnishings and art in shades of seafoam and driftwood. One of the few oceanside restaurants in the area, BLU offers an incredible view that’s always at the forefront as guests stroll through the lobby to the dining room, indoor and outdoor bar areas, and patio.
In keeping with BLU’s location, colorful drinks are in high demand, and our evening began with house specialties recommended by our excellent server. The gorgeous Tru Blu Martini arrived with its own neon Hypnotiq swizzle floating in a mesmerizing blend of citrus-infused French liqueur, Grey Goose vodka, and white cranberry juice with a lemon twist. The feisty Blushing Mojito made with melon rum, fresh mint, and lime was also refreshing.
Chef Jonathan Hagins’ menu displays a pleasant number of innovative dishes, including starters, a sharing menu, and entrées, many featuring fresh catches as part of his commitment to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Initiative. As we heard descriptions of the dinner offerings, decisions became increasingly difficult, so we opted for dishes from the sharing menu.
From beginning to end, we were delighted with each item. A simple salad of crab and avocado with a fine dice of red pepper and artisan greens came with a Parmesan crisp and was dressed in preserved lemon drizzle, blending a lovely balance of delicate textures and flavors. The shrimp “bruschetta”—featuring grilled ciabatta paired with fresh local shrimp flashed in the pan; deglazed with limoncello liqueur; and finished with housemade pesto, slivers of yellow tomatoes, and microgreens—was delicious to the very last bite.
Andouille-encrusted pan-fried grouper was moist, tender, and served with green tomato marmalade and fresh sautéed spinach. Succulent beef short ribs were accompanied by an heirloom tomato salad served in a Parmesan crisp tuile. Finally, pure petite lump crab cakes were delivered with a generous cloak of slightly creamy butter bean succotash with grained mustard. All were portioned in just the right sizes for splitting. With each, we enjoyed wines from the ample list, which includes a good by-the-glass selection.
The dessert menu features a variety of trios and mini tasting options, which we welcomed after indulging so generously. Frozen specialty drinks like the Dreamsicle and Apple Pie with apple rum and ice cream were appealing, but since we were at the beach, the ice cream trio won out. Three tiny cones arrived in their own little china tray with scoops of banana, blood orange, and dulce de leche balanced in beds of rich brownie and chocolate espresso beans, undeniably created by a child at heart in the kitchen.
As the sun set and the lighting changed, we relaxed in the comfort of the coastal décor, including banquette tables with wispy panel curtains, chambered nautilus-like chandeliers, and colorful aquarium sculptures enjoyed by big kids as well as little ones, who are treated to their own dinner and dessert menus. As we reluctantly ended our evening, we were already planning our next visit to this peaceful retreat with wonderful food, impeccable service, and a barefoot spirit.
BLU Restaurant & Bar
1 Center St., Folly Beach, (843) 588-6658, www.blufollybeach.com
Daily: Breakfast, 7-11 a.m.; Lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sharing menu only, 3-5 p.m.; Dinner, 5-10 p.m.; Late night sharing menu, 10 p.m.-until
Average lunch salad/sandwich: $8.50
Average dinner entrée: $22