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Random bites: Tortuga's Island Grill
Tortuga's Island Grille

Tortuga's Island Grille

This popular Thunderbolt breakfast and lunch restaurant is making changes. Breakfast is out –– except for Saturday and Sunday; lunch continues and dinner becomes a transforming experience for hungry diners who want a cozy, intimate get–away. At dinner, Ms. T.J. and I discovered last week, the lights go down, the Delta Blues come up and the food soars to heights far beyond this casual dining restaurant’s lunch menu. With the aid of Chef Jay Cantrell, founding chef of Vic’s on the River, the Tortuga’s dinner menus features daily fresh catch and beef options, as well as Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and crab cakes. My big, sizzling rib–eye glazed with a balsamic reduction was right on my desired temperature of medium rare. It was tender, savory and accompanied by a comforting mound of mashed potatoes and a healthy serving of wilted greens. Ms. T.J’s bouillabaisse was classic. A rich, savory red stock was swimming with giant scallops; plump, sweet shrimp; tender, flaky sea bass and homemade Andouille sausage that added plenty of additional fiery spice. Crusty bread was just right for mopping up the decadent juices. Our appetizer of shrimp fritters (four) was a perfect sized tarter course –– and each fritter contained plenty of white, sweet shrimp pieces. We did save room for desserts, which are made from scratch. The Amaretto bread pudding is served piping hot; it’s soft, gooey and delicious. The caramel cake with caramel sauce featured a mound of cinnamon–laced whipped dream. Both were beautifully presented and added just the right sweet spot to dinner’s end. These folks are working hard to make their restaurant go –– and deserve more attention. New happy hour appetizer and drink specials are a good start. It’s solid, meticulously prepared food that stands above the humble surroundings. Quality, value and variety are plenty of reasons to make Tortuga’s a regular dining out location.

2815 River Drive/201–3630

Rumor Mill

The gossip mongers are at it again. During a wine tasting last week, five different people approached me to ask about the future of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Rest assured doomsayers, that Ruth’s’ Chris is not going anywhere, says owner Jeff Conway. True, the local franchise pulled substantial advertising accounts from two vendors –– and shifted that money to another advertising medium. It’s common practice to shift marketing strategies when entering year two –– which is where Ruth’s Chris is now. It’s certainly not a sign of failure. Franchise owners Jeff and Paula Conway also have two location in Charlotte, N.C.