If a golf club is not one of your first choices when you think about where you would like to have dinner, you might change your mind once you've eaten at the Legacy Restaurant at Sea Oaks County Club in Tuckerton. For an affordable, top quality meal, it's as good as any restaurant in its class.
The decor is what you would expect at a country club. The stately wood and hunter green interior looks like the model for many other clubhouses of this kind, always inviting and comfortable with a view of the golf course.
Our waitress greeted us at the entryway, escorted us to a table and proceeded to single-handedly serve us along with many others who decided to dine on a mid-week night. I am compelled to mention that she was seven months pregnant, sprightly, and on top of her game. When a server finds herself alone in a busy dining room, there is a rhythmic flow that needs to happen in order to take care of everyone practically at once. This woman had it down. Nothing flustered her, which is a sign of experience and professionalism.
The menu is pretty standard with items such as prime rib and strip steak, crab cakes and flounder francaise, and, of course, there is a section of typical Italian American crowd pleasers. Penne with vodka sauce anyone?
My guest and I started with two delightful appetizers. New to the menu (and gaining popularity at other places as well), were portobello mushroom fries ($5.99), which came tempura-battered and deep-fried, crispy (although a bit greasy) and scrumptious dipped in spicy wasabi ranch dressing. Move over potatoes. Mushrooms are the new french fries.
A hot antipasto platter ($7.99) was more than enough for two people to share and priced so reasonably we thought there was a mistake.
We loved the delicate seafood stuffed littleneck clams loaded with crabmeat and finely minced peppers - a welcomed changed from traditional clams casino. Several large shrimp oreganato were perfectly cooked and tender. Two delicious long-stemmed, lightly charred artichokes rested in a lemony butter sauce, and thinly sliced eggplant rollatini with a touch of tomato gravy were spot on. The mussels marinara, however, fell short. They tasted old and a tad overcooked. We thoroughly enjoyed everything else on the plate though.
The crab and corn chowder ($2.99) was creamy and flavorsome, but we couldn't find any crabmeat in it. Needless to say, it disappointed us.
I've tired of mediocre Caesar salads, so I don't often order one, but my guest had a craving. This version came mounded with bite-sized shreds of romaine ($4.50) with dressing that indeed tasted homemade as the menu touted. Plus, the croutons were fresh and crunchy, not from a box. Our only quibble: too much dressing. We prefer a lighter toss.
What tickled us most about the entire meal was a dish that surpassed any expectations we may have had about what you can do with ordinary chicken to make it memorable. Chicken giambotta with (optional) Italian sausage ($18.99) won our hearts. Maybe it was the fork-tender, bone-in, light and dark meat chicken parts that brought to mind a coveted family recipe, or the rich, glossy demi glace that tasted like real homemade brown gravy, or the sauteed onions, bell peppers and mushrooms that added a stew-like quality. And the sliced fried potatoes on top were better than potato chips with dip.
Despite its textbook flavor, the filet mignon ($22.99) left us a little less enthused, probably because it arrived hovering between medium and medium-well instead of medium-rare as requested. A nice pinot noir demi glace, mildly spiced garlic-mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus were just the right accompaniments for the beef.
For dessert, we shared a piece of apple crumb cheesecake ($5.50). Cheesecake lovers might appreciate its homespun consistency, but between its thick streusel topping and sugary apples, I found it way too sweet to thoroughly enjoy.
To our surprise, my guest and I left feeling that we'd discovered something that we never expected to find at a public golf course: straightforward food done well. With or without a round of golf, it's worth a visit.
Legacy Restaurant at Sea Oaks Country Club
99 Golf View Drive
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and Sundays, to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Liquor license: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Credit cards: All major
Price range: Appetizers, $4.99 to $11.99; entrees, $12.99 to $24.99
Our bill for two: $69 plus tip