RON and Kelli Lash are no new-comers to serving up made-from-scratch goodness-on-a-plate.
For over six years their lil’ pizzeria in Marion, Ohio, was known for its extensive homemade selection of fresh breads, pizza, rolls and house-made sauces, sausages as well as the freshest of local ingredients.
Ron yearned for more, though. Ten years running a cattle ranch in Arizona gives him a deep love of good meat and a well-honed knowledge of what makes it flavorful, and he planned to expand on that knowledge with a vengeance. Scouting around during vacation he came upon the little outta-the-way hamlet of Richmond Hill.
His mom, Melody, known throughout the family as a genius in the kitchen, came to give him a helping hand, and various cousins and kids followed him and Kelli to their new spot on the Georgia coast.
Family works in the kitchen, serves at table, and his best friend and fellow cattle-rancher, Steve, oversees the Sandbar Cantina, making up mind-boggling batches of martinis—I recommend the Muscadine Madness made with Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka.
This trio of good friends presents quite a picture: with their lacings of finely detailed tattoos, good-hearted smiles and a sort of mellowed-biker vibe-- it sorta draws you in and makes you wanna stay a while.
In fact, this little café sitting near the junction of Highways 144 & 17, was once a notorious biker hang-out. Enter the family Lash, who take time to clear out all the stale smoke, make it clean as a whistle, tone down that raucous vibe, and offer an eclectic menu with weekly specials that will have your mouth watering as you run down their Facebook page.
Least you fear to bring yer mama here for fried shrimp and tea, be assured, this quaint lil’ café and bar make a perfect nook for lunching moms, grandpops, kids under 10 who get $2 meals on Saturdays, as well as young couples yearning for a bit of culinary heaven with their cold beer.
Ron makes sure to keep his menu alive with fresh flavors like the classic Vietnamese Banh Mi, soft corn tacos generously stuffed with shredded carnitas (seasoned pork), and our old South fave, Shrimp ‘n’ Grits.
Now, Ron, who originally hails from colder climes, says he’d never had grits prior to 3 years ago—it’s one of those dishes Yankees love to laugh over without having actually eaten them. He first got to know what the fuss was all about in New Orleans, where he was served a heaping bowl of stone ground grits slathered in rich gravy, heavy with Andouille sausage and big Gulf shrimp—and he was sold, baby!
He makes his own version here, covered in sherry-laced gravy, with chunks of Andouille, and yes—grilled, big, wild Georgia White shrimp. If you want THE perfect summer meal, try this along with a basket of those same beauties delicately fried with a side of hand-battered fresh okra.
My mama is one of the pickiest women alive when it comes to eating out, and yet she raved over the shrimp here—golden, light, crispy without a hint of being overcooked, and wished we ordered a bigger basket of fried okra!
My sister Lori’s head was turned by Chef’s Favorite, the “Triple B”: a luscious mound of smoky, thin-sliced Beef brisket piled high on a pillowy Brioche roll, and topped with melted Brie. Good golly Miss Molly—hand me another Guinness and an extra plate of those hand-cut Cajun Fries!
Ron is particular about his condiments, down to the creamy tartar sauce accompanying a golden hand-breaded fresh oysters or the Caribbean Jerk spice on the wings. Every single thing is made from scratch—on a kitchen walk-through I saw the detailed grocery list of the sauces made fresh that day—and meats are smoked out back.
Veggies and fruits have a distinctly fresh flavor and only the breads are bought elsewhere. Ron tells me they specialized so long in breads at the Pizzaria that, if they made them here, that’s all they’d have time to do---and the point, after all—was to expand!
Desserts here are a dangerous collaboration of the very gifted Chef Ron & Mom Melody: Death by Chocolate Cheesecake, Killer Key Lime Pie, Grannie Smith Apple Pie a la Mode or the totally decadent Poundcake Bread Pudding with creamy Rum sauce—if you can save some room after all the tempting menu choices!
Melody’s Coastal Café
2518 US HWY 17, Richmond Hill, Georgia
(912) 459-6357, www.melscoastalcafe.com/
Sunday - Monday: Closed, Tue-Sat 11am - 9 pm