Just last week, Zach Kell and Seth Hendricks brought their Goin’ Coastal concept from Canton, GA all the way down I-75 and into Virginia Highlands. As the name suggests, Goin’ Coastal is all about the seafood; what sets them apart from their competition is their overt focus on sustainable fishing.
Backed by support from the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium (in the form of product consultation), Goin’ Coastal promises a bevy of seafood options delivered from the sea to your plate inside of 36-hours. Kell, a Georgia native, and Hendricks opened GC in Canton just about two-years ago (they also own The Downtown Kitchen up yonder). Despite a strong following, I had never ventured into either of their flagship restaurants. However, I have long lamented the dearth of good seafood options in this city, so when Goin’ Coastal finally came ITP, I dropped in to see what was what.
Having usurped the space occupied by the Figo pasta chain in the form of a buyout, Coastal finds itself just a few steps from the namesake intersection of the neighborhood. Flanked by Paolo’s Gelato and the soon-to-be second iteration of Yeah! Burger, it’s a prime target for foot traffic or destination eating. Though a parking spot in the area can be harder to win than the Triple Crown, you shan’t let that deter you should you rely on a motorized horse carriage for transportation.
Inside, the restaurant immediately settles in. While there is no doubt it comfortably fits in the neighborhood you find yourself, the light blue color palette, brick walls, and paper lined tables might remind you of a New Orleans’ oyster house. Then again, it might also draw you to the shores of Hilton Head. It’s not fancy, but it is clean casual.
Though Coastal is open 7-days a week, they don’t do the lunch thang. However, they are currently offering a Sunday Family style meal (starts at 1pm and ends at 4pm), so we ventured in to take advantage of their 3-course/$17-head service.
The restaurant was relatively empty during our visit, marked by the 4-1 employee to patron ratio. Still, you can’t fault them for providing prompt and courteous service throughout. Our table was stamped and claimed soon after we sat, helping to break down the concept of pretense in a sustainable restaurant. This service remained friendly throughout the meal, and regardless of who we were talking to (higher up or minion) … the sustainable education was neither excessive nor arrogant.
This comfortable flow allowed us to take a look at the full menu, though it was the cuisine du jour. Since the list of fresh catches rotates daily … as logic necessitates … and the rest of the menu rotates with the seasons, there isn’t much to say about the assembly beyond the obvious. I was particularly intrigued by the fried gator tail ($7) and the tri-typed baked oysters (6 for $6) if for no other reason than I am a slave to their orders. Meanwhile … anyone else think that new State Farm guy is a little too Tom Cruise?? Okay then …
Then there are the salads, the dinner specialties, and the platters. Regardless of where it actually comes from, much of the menu screams Southeastern coastal in its execution. Nothing revolutionary or truly breakthrough, you are left with a succinct selection that includes shrimp and grits ($18), bay scallop au gratin ($20), and a few low country options. There are also a few land grants available, and like their flippered friends, the fried chicken and filet of beef are conscious friendly. The menu wraps with steamed and fried platters made from a potpourri of proteins as well as a selection of sides. Plenty to keep you busy.
Being as it was Sunday, the chalkboards supplanted the table side menus. As an aside, we had a chance to check out their wine list … and though we passed, much of Goin’ Coastal’s ideology seems to seep beyond the food. Nice to see a consistent thought process all the way through. All this information fluttered about while we munched on cake crumbly good cornbread. Infused with parmesan cheese and topped with whipped butter … that stuff was a great substitute for the usual bread rolls you find around town.
As we were caught up to speed on the important parts of the restaurants concept as it pertained to our meal, neither of us actually paid attention to the price tag (which will matter later). The sole appetizer for the day was the she crab soup. A southern staple, I didn’t mind this … but didn’t really enjoy it either. The broth had some flavor, but the sherry subtlety most often drifted towards the sweet end of the spectrum. A good she crab soup is most often a bit thicker than the serving we had. I also would have appreciated a bit more of the crab than what actually ended up in our bowl. Despite those shortcomings, we slurped it up (but not before adding some pepper and hot sauce).
For our entrées, we took down the Au Gratin (a hold over from the main menu) and the fish of the day … which happened to be trout. The table was also littered with all that is not healthy: collard greens; mac & cheese, and jalapeño corn bread pudding. It seems like I’m always eating family style, so I gladly grabbed my fork and started digging into the various vessels laid before me.
Everything looked and smelled fresh, an all to important fringe benefit to using good “tools.” The trout was cooked beautifully. It flaked as it should, held a noticeable crunch on its skin, and caught my attention with the hint of lemon we added table side. For a straight up piece of fish … that made me happy. The au gratin showed up in a cast iron skillet beckoning me to face plant in it. Realizing that my mug is just to beautiful to press up against a piping hot piece of iron and covered in cream, I went with my fork instead. This serving is available full time, and had a lot of promise. Though a little too sweet for me, the cornbread and bacon brought together the southern thematics with the textural depth that made this worthwhile. Though I’m not sure if the portion size is any different the rest of the week, I probably would have been a little hesitant for this much at the $20 price tag.
The three sides all performed admirably. But with as with the trout, the best performer was the most straight forward. The collard greens were the best I’ve had in this city in a long long time. Full of flavor and not over cooked, they looked green and tasted as such. Sure I added more pepper sauce … but that’s just my own sense of self torture. From an execution perspective … they used the right amount of hot. The mac and cheese was wrapped in ooey goodness, and though it won’t win them any awards, I was a fan of the caramelized onions. It, along with its jalapeño table mate relied a bit too much on the natural sweeteners; but otherwise it was a nice side.
The bread pudding was one of the more adventurous dishes … still nestled in the safe zone. That said, I definitely picked up on the spice, and found the rest of it to be almost reminiscent of a cornbread concoction. Crumbly, but full of stuff. Still … lets sweet would have gone a long way.
By the time the banana pudding with nilla wafers showed up – we were bested. Still, we persevered and toppled the amputated martini glass in no time. I don’t do desserts, so take this with a grain of salt : we enjoyed. Despite the thematic sweetness of the meal, this actually seemed like a relatively restrained display of sweetness … and that was just what the doctor ordered. I look forward to hearing what someone who knows a thing about desserts has to say.
My biggest hope for the menu is that it will grow to include a few more fish driven dishes whereby the fish isn’t doctored with bread crumbs, heavy sauces, and the like. One of the true joys of top quality ingredients is their natural flavors. As was, there really isn’t anything serious to knock Goin’ Coastal for, but I’d like to see just a smidge more in that department.
The service was friendly, informative to those not well versed on sustainability, and the food was definitely fresh. That we got out of there for a measly $17 is stupid awesome. I’m sure this is a loss leader for now … but regardless, take advantage of it anyway. Even during the rest of the week, the food here seems very appropriately priced for what they deliver.
While they don’t do a lot to push our culinary envelope forward, Goin’ Coastal has already crushed many of the seafood services in the city. It shows strong promise and is a place I’ll look forward to returning to. If anything, the little fold-it education card on all things good fish (sushi and otherwise) was a fantastic going away gift.