Bluffton's Walnuts Cafe works wonders for dinner

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An Oyster Caesar Salad is an occasional lunch special.

During its 10-year run in The Village at Sheridan Park, Walnuts Café has built a reputation on reliably excellent-for-the-value breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch.

Owner John Briody is often on hand to greet his regulars by name, and still seems to marvel that "70 percent of my business is women over 40."

They no doubt love the convenient storefront location off Hwy. 278, the cozy café ambiance and the signature salads and sandwiches, such as house-roasted turkey breast with ginger pears, aged brie and spring mix on wheat bread with walnut mayo, $10.50, served with soup of the day, homemade from scratch.

At breakfast they can get eggs to their liking - "What you grew up with is what you like," said Briody - poached, scrambled, over hard or easy or in an elegant omelet with Chablis-braised mushrooms, caramelized onions and Gouda, for around $8 to $11.

Now, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Walnuts does wonders at dinner as well, offering a constantly changing, select menu of everything-made-from scratch dinner specials at two for $29.

"I worry when I go to a restaurant and there's a big menu," said Briody, classically trained at Culinary Institute of America and a former executive chef at Palmetto Bluff and Colleton River. "It's only three days, so (our menu) has to change based on what's fresh and in season."

That said, a recent dinner menu featured more than a dozen entrees, with an a la carte Tomato Bruschetta with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil for $7, side salads for $4, and homemade desserts including Key Lime Pie, $5, and Chocolate Mousse with Fresh Raspberries, $6.

Among the two for $29 selections, Grouper Daufuskie with Lump Crab, Dijon Glazed Mushrooms and Sauteed Spinach, stood out. Briody said the dish was on the menu at Old Fort Pub on Hilton Head Island when he did an internship there in 1986.

He said Chicken Francaise or Picatta and Sauteed Mussels with Marinara or Garlic White Wine Sauce, each served with angel hair pasta, are especially popular, and there is always a steak on the menu, along with a vegetarian dish, such as Eggplant Lasagna layered with mozzarella and marinara.

Shrimp Scampi, Teriyaki Salmon, Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos and Potato & Onion Crusted Grouper with Grilled Asparagus and Horseradish Cream Sauce round out the seafood choices.

Fresh floral sprigs decorate each table, set with linen napkins and cobalt blue glassware. Smooth jazz plays in the background, with the evening's specials handwritten on chalkboards.

The dining room can accommodate about 50 at tables lining the pecan-colored walls and seats at the small granite bar. Walnuts has a full bar and serves beer and wine by the glass or bottle.

For reservations, call 843-815-2877.

Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park Press.

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