This weekend Mrs. Food Blogger and I spend some time on the Gulf Coast and had the opportunity to take in a establishment that we have both been wanting to try for some time – Darwell's Cafe in Long Beach.
I am usually skeptical of joints that I see on the Food Network, with one exception – Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives, and even Guy Fieri's rave review of a certain Gulf Coast BBQ joint that will not be named had me scratching my head.
But, back to the focus of the review – Darwell's.
This is a fun, quirky, eclectic eatery provides a one of a kind dining experience on the Coast. Upon entering the front door you order at a counter. Behind the counter you can see directly into the kitchen where Chef Darwell Yaeger and his staff are hard at work. With the extensive menu on small signs all over the walls. That was my only complaint, I studied the small signs for a good 10 minutes and I still couldn't come close to telling you what all they serve.
They had a dry-erase with some nightly specials, being somewhat confused I just blurted out a special that sounded good.
I ordered the “Blackened Filet Tips with Lump Crab”, Mrs. FB ordered “Blackened Shirmp with Lumb Crab”. We also ordered a crab cake appetizer.
After placing you order you move to the beverage station where you order your drinks, and then decided where you want to sit. Darwell's features both indoor and outdoor dining,. Being it's June with temps pushing into the mid-90's we opted for indoor dinning.
After picking up our Coke Zero's at the beverage station we picked out a table in their back dinning room (it was about 15 degrees cooler than the front dinning area), started looking at the unique folk art and water-colors that adorned the walls. Most of the art is the work of Darwell's father – Papa D.
It wasn't long before our crab cakes arrived.
They served them with a nice hollendaise sauce and a vidalia onion dressing.
Upon cutting into the nicely portioned crab cake it was easy to tell that Chef Darwell's lump crab to bread-crumb ration was off the chart! These crab cakes were some of the best I've had, and I've long been known as someone who loves crabcakes. The hollendaise sauce was the perfect compliment, but if you prefer a sweeter taste the vidalia onion dressing was nice.
I'll be honest here, I probably ordered my blackened filet tips because of the confusing menu display, because as a rule I do not like “blackened dish” weather it be steak, redfish, or whatever. I think my general disdain for “blackened” dishes is because 90% of places don't know how to do it correctly.
Do not include Chef Darwell in that 90%, the blackened filet tips were exceptional! Filet tips grilled to near perfection. The tips were cooked medium with a perfect amount of blankening seasoning. They were served in a large shallow bowl, with slice of french bread in the middle of the bowl. The filet tips were served around and over the toasted slice. Then huge chunks of lump crab meat were played in the middle of the dish.
The crab itself was not blackened, just steamed, lightly seasoned and served atop the steak tips.
Having dinned at a large number of seafood restaurants over the years I think the lump crab was largest chunks of succulent crab I've been served.
Interestingly, the dish wasn't served with any sides, but that was the only complaint anyone could make.
The lump crab took on hints of the seasoning from the blackened filet tips, and the toast was a nice touch.
Mrs. FB was kind enough to exchange a few of her blackened shrimp for a few of my filet tips, and while the blackened shrimp had a touch more spice than the tops, they were also excellent. The shrimp were sauteed to perfection, with a rich full deep water taste. They were plated in the same manner as the tips with lump crab and french bread.
Several times while we were dinning Chef Darwell emerged from the kitchen to talk with patrons and to insure everyone's dinning experience was up to his high standards.
In all this was an outstanding dinning experience, we'll be back in the future to try some of their other Southern Coastal inspired dishes, and that doesn't even take into account huge smoker churning out BBQ with Papa D serving as pit-master.
The low light in the back dinning area wasn't good for photos, and they didn't come out, so sorry for no accompanying photos.
Darwell's Cafe gets two big thumbs up from the Food Blog Family!