Fresh is best. That’s essentially the credo at Dean’s Seafood Grill & Bar, Cary’s newest outpost for well-prepared fish and other sea-centric fare that was likely hauled in just days before being served.
The restaurant’s primary hook? An impressive seafood menu that changes weekly and features seasonal offerings from around the country — including Alaska and Hawaii — and beyond. Whether it’s mahi mahi, Corvina sea bass or Opelu Kala (unicorn fish), variety abounds. Of course, then there are selections like rainbow trout and bigeye tuna caught right here in North Carolina.
Seafood and shellfish are available grilled, pan-seared or fried — or, in the case of oysters and clams, raw or pan-steamed. Oyster enthusiasts would be well served to order the sampler, which features bacon-wrapped, casino, Rockefeller and buttermilk-fried.
Standout seafood specialties include pistachio-encrusted salmon served alongside impeccably grilled asparagus; shrimp and scallop gnochetti suffused with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, capers and prosciutto; and blackened fish tacos containing chipotle ranch slaw and tomatillo-cilantro salsa.
More than a dozen distinctive “accompaniments” range from Thai peanut sauce and lemon-tarragon aioli to mango chili sauce and cumin-tinged spicy harissa garlic butter. Salivating yet?
If you’re not in the mood for seafood, a “food without fins” menu section offers tantalizing choices such as the wood-fired filet, ribeye, New York strip and even a double bacon burger with smoked blue and hoop cheddar cheeses. An orange-mint-marmalade-infused pork chop is another winning option.
Save room for dessert. Among the nine irresistible choices, you can’t go wrong with white chocolate banana bread pudding, peanut butter brownie cake with warm chocolate ganache, or the vanilla bean crème brulee. Most desserts are sized to share, especially the indulgent chocolate sampler with enough goodness for two people or more.
Proprietor Dean Ogan, owner of Rocky Top Hospitality, which also runs local establishments Twisted Fork, The Daily Planet Café and Rocky Top Catering, opened Dean’s in January 2013 and considers his newest establishment a comfortable place with something for everyone to enjoy.
When it comes to libations, 14 craft beers are presented on tap, and more than 80 wine selections plus a signature cocktail list vie for consideration. Nightly specials are an attractive draw, including happy hour in the bar from 5 to 6 p.m., with half-priced oysters, shellfish, appetizers and $5 burgers. A tempting Sunday brunch buffet, which is served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., features all-you-want oysters and peel-and-eat shrimp.
An upscale casual décor features deep ocean blue walls and attractive earth-tone striped banquettes. Custom aquatic-themed sculptures created by local metalsmith Nelson R. Smith are showcased in the center of the dining room. What’s more, the walls are adorned with black-and-white framed photos from Ogan’s various globetrotting excursions.
Photos courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee