The Art of Steak Is Alive and Well at Pandora's in Grayton Beach
This was my first visit to Pandora’s Steak House in Grayton Beach, though I have driven past the place numerous times. There were always plenty of cars parked outside, a good sign. It’s also been there a long time, which is likewise promising. My wife, the Tiny Diner and I ate there on a recent weekend. Pandora’s is currently observing winter dinner hours, Wednesday through Sunday. They are also open Tuesdays in the busier season.
If your idea of a steak house involves red wallpaper, Tiffany lamps, and photos of prizefighters on the walls, Pandora’s Grayton could broaden your horizons. It’s fairly unobtrusive from the outside, a rambling single-story beachy looking building with wood and palm embellishments, very relaxed and casual.
Once inside, you can turn to the right and sit in what one of the servers referred to as “the round room.” If you take a left, go past a window where the wood-burning grill can be seen, then make another left, you will reach another dining room, decorated with pictures of jazz musicians. There’s also a room with a bandstand (Pandora’s offers live music later in the evenings), and an outdoor bar and patio. We were seated in the round room.
The ceiling is high and conical (sort of a theatrical Polynesian look), one side is a bar, and the walls are decorated with brightly painted artwork, including a window ledge painted to look like a piano keyboard. We had told them we had a little one, and they had a high chair ready.
Pandora’s menu focuses on steak, but includes pork, chicken and seafood as well. There are starters, salads, main courses, and nightly specials on appetizers and entrees. Sides come with some entrees, or can be ordered separately. Much of the food comes to you by way of the aforementioned wood-burning grill.
I ordered a martini, and we split an appetizer--fried eggplant with crawfish tails and a creolaise sauce. We warmed up on hot bread and butter while we waited for it. The eggplant slices were crisp but light, and the sauce was both rich and tangy. The bread helped get it all up. The martini was just right, too.
Other apps include French onion soup, baby back ribs, burgundy mushrooms, and sautéed shrimp. There are nightly specials as well.
I had come in thinking I might get fish, but the wood-burning grill had the red meat flag flying high. My wife ordered prime rib (regular size--they also offer an “extra” size). I chose a Delmonico steak. Both came with salads and a choice of rice, fries or baked potato. We got the last two.
I got up to do a reconnaissance walk in the other dining rooms. I took TD with me, and let her watch the grill man for a few seconds, through the window. He gave her a little wave, but mostly he tended his fires- -searing beef, pork, chicken, and fish, with lots of flames and plenty of good scents.
The food arrived, the meat cooked as ordered. My wife’s prime rib was the regular cut, but it was a big slab o’ beef, served au jus and with a prickly horseradish cream for dipping. She took about half home. My Delmonico had a wellblackened crust, and a juicy, crisp/tender interior chew. No need for steak sauce, in fact, they didn’t offer and I didn’t think to ask. There was a ton of butter melting on the potato, and that’s how it should be.
Also available are grilled pork chops, baby back ribs, chicken breast, New York strip, T-bone, filet and petite filet mignon, top sirloin, steak and seafood combos, yellow fin, grouper, lobster tail, and fried or sautéed shrimp. Nightly specials vary.
The dessert list includes some liqueuredup ice cream and coffee drinks. The sweet table included bread pudding, crème brulee, key lime pie, New York-style cheesecake, a cream cheese brownie with ice cream and caramel sauce, and fried strawberries. Guess which one we got.
Fried strawberries are actually not as weird as they might sound. In fact, if you like toast with strawberry jam, they will taste familiar. Lightly breaded berries are fried, then served with ice cream and whipped topping. You get crunch, soft fruit, then swiftly melting ice cream (the berries are fried, after all), so you need to eat fast. I look forward to assistance from TD in the future.
Nothing kicks off the year like a meal at a good steak house. I don’t make resolutions at New Year’s--if something seems worth starting or stopping, I won’t let the calendar get in my way. I’m glad I didn’t resolve not to eat steak in 2012. If you didn’t either, the art of the steak is alive, well, medium-well and rare at Pandora’s in Grayton Beach.
by Bruce Collier, courtesy The Beachcomber