Austin Taylor May 4th, 2008
The Palmetto House is an upscale restaurant set in the beautifully restored Seven Gables lodge, and features wonderful ambience and excellent food.
Friday evening, the missus and I took dinner at the recently restored and re-opened Seven Gables, now known as the Palmetto House. The exterior is beautiful- the lodge has a English Georgian look to it, with exposed timbers and stucco, and a beautiful patio with lots of tables so you can enjoy the open air. The inside is even more delightful- rich wooden paneling on the walls, elegant wood detailing in the ceiling, and even those great wooden floors that ‘klunk’ delightfully as your heels drop down on them. Giant fireplaces and antique fixtures and fans tastefully finish out the decor. Even some of the windows still have the ropes inside for the window weights. I haven’t seen that in years. And if you look carefully, you can see that some of the older panes of glass have that rippled look from age. The tables and chairs are an eclectic match that don’t quite match each other but fit the character of the room right on. New owner Robin Dunn has done a magnificent job restoring and tastefully decorating the exterior and interior.
Now let’s get to the important part – the food. A sly glance in the kitchen revealed that it was sparkling clean, and the menu was simple with just enough variety to satisfy most and keep it easy on the chef. We were expecting big things, and weren’t disappointed.
Lydia opened with fried asparagus, a glass of the house Riesling, and I had a plate of steamed mussels with the house Merlot. Both of us were very pleased with the quality of the wine and the appetizers. I had two mussels that didn’t open, which did kind of surprise me since they were arranged in a circle pattern on the dish, so surely the kitchen had to notice.
For dinner, Lydia had the surf and turf special, which she again reported was delightful. Initially intending to have red meat, I instead chose to have the stuffed flounder, which absolutely blew me away! It was delicious! Why go to the Bonefish in Augusta when you can get fish like that? I’ve not had an entrè quite that good in recent memory.
For dessert, Lydia had the Key Lime Crush, and I had fun watching her rave about that too.
There were a few flaws, though. The table cloths on the tables weren’t ironed, a fixture by the doors had a light bulb out, and a utility closet by the bathrooms was just hanging open, with bric-a-brac stacked all over the place. The men’s bathroom looked like it was still stuck in the Buffalo Room days, with rusty fixtures and dingy tile. The wait staff too, weren’t quite dressed the part either, wearing khakis and golf shirts with aprons that looked out of character with the rest of the room. They need something just a touch more formal for evening dinner.
One thing I need to mention here is that the Palmetto House is up-scale, fine-dining, and the wait staff needs to be more formal. I hate when a waitress has to write down the orders for only two people, but when she leans over and uses your table to write on the ticket, that’s going too far. And my wife isn’t doll, we aren’t guys, and we don’t need you to interrupt to ask how are we doing in the middle of eating. That’s fine for a casual place like Outback, but then again Outback doesn’t charge $35 for a steak either.
The total bill for dinner for two came to just over $100 before gratuity, which is a bit steep for North Augusta, but I think it’s a fair price for the ambiance and the food, both of which are difficult to be matched in the Augusta area.
Owner Robin Dunn really needs to get the word out. I think if she could hire away a popular bartender from downtown and maybe get some of the young yuppie crowd in there she could really crank up the business. The bar looks like it would be one of the finest watering holes in the area but it was empty Friday night. Here is hoping she succeeds because the Palmetto House is definitely worth a visit.
- The historic building is delightful and tastefully decorated
- The food is outstanding, and with a new menu, should only get better
- The wait staff needs some polish
- Work on the bathrooms and hide the utility rooms
- Get the wrinkles out of the tablecloths!
- You probably haven’t gone there and should!
If it sounds like this is a negative review, it’s not my intent. The restaurant has just opened, so you expect a few start-up problems. The negatives are all small touches that I am sure will get smoothed out over time. It’s incredibly hard to get a restaurant started, and seeing what a great job she did with the building -and is doing with the food- I am very confident Robin will get it sorted out.
Last word: I will definitely be going back to the Seven Gables, I mean Palmetto House, again.
For more information, and pictures, you can check out their website: Palmetto House at 7 Gables