Parson’s Table Delivers Heavenly Taste, Atmosphere

June 20, 2009

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A small staircase leads to the front doors of what was an old church. Hardwood floors, stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings and a cozy atmosphere continue to attract the faithful.

Unlike years past, people don’t file into the building in search of sermon. They arrive each night for service at one of the Grand Strand’s best restaurants, and the Parson’s Table satisfies those cravings. Parson’s Table calls the old Little River United Methodist Church – built in 1885 – home.

It’s the perfect venue for one of the Grand Strand’s food and wine cathedrals.

Ed Murray, owner of Parson’s Table, has expanded the restaurant several times, adding to its charm and seating capacity on each occasion. The building oozes ambience, but it’s not why the Little River restaurant is on the short-list of the Myrtle Beach area’s best eateries.

Parson’s Table, with a menu Murray describes as French continental with a Lowcountry flair, offers an eclectic selection of food and wines that has won over critics and patrons alike.

Parson’s Table  is the Myrtle Beach area’s only AAA 3-Diamond and Mobil Travel Guide 3-star restaurant, prestigious ratings earned through feedback provided by anonymous diners. Throw in the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for six years running, and the Wine Enthusiast Magazine Award of Unique Distinction, and the picture of a restaurant that can satisfy the most discriminating of palates comes into focus

The menu includes everything from cornbread encrusted grouper and sesame seared tuna to cashew encrusted rack of lamb, the signature dish. Parson’s Table also offers a full range of prime USDA choice beef and it’s all sliced in house.

Murray’s fish is locally caught. The flounder, grouper, tuna and nearly everything else on the menu that swims will go from the boat to the restaurant in the same day. The words frozen food are alien to the Parson’s Table kitchen.

Parson’s Table also offers one of the region’s most expansive wine lists.  There are 250 different bottles available for purchase and 25 wines are served by the glass. The wine list is California driven but has ample entries from France, New Zealand, Australia and Germany. If you are a wine connoisseur, there isn’t a better destination along the Grand Strand.

“One of the things I wanted to expand when I bought the place from my father was the wine list,” Murray said. “I wanted to make it affordable. We don’t overprice ourselves. I’d rather people come in and enjoy a good bottle of wine as opposed to having it sit in my library and collect dust.”

The atmosphere, menu and varied wine list scream upscale restaurant, though Parson’s Table isn’t stuffy. It’s a dining experience, but a jacket and tie aren’t required, people don’t talk as if they are in a library, and the menu prices are exceedingly reasonable, particularly in light of the quality.

“It should be a dining experience,” Murray said of his restaurant. “But the sign says, ‘Wine, Dine and Relax.’ We aren’t walking around talking in hushed tones.”

Entrées range from $16 (grilled salmon with a béarnaise sauce) to $30 (braised Maine Lobster), and for those of us who aren’t well versed in the world of wine, each menu item has a recommended vino.

Parson’s Table is deceivingly large. It can serve up to 120 people at a time and has the ability to seat parties in individual rooms. If a group of 20 golfers are looking for a reservation, they can be easily accommodated.

One of Murray’s additions was a bar, paving the way for people to stop by for a happy hour drink and an appetizer. Parson’s Table doesn’t offer 25-cent wings and 30-cent oysters but the bar, which greets guests upon entrance, has provided another reason for people to visit the restaurant.

“If I can get you in here one time, I’ve got you,” Murray said. “You aren’t going away unhappy. You are going to want to come back and you are going to want to tell you friends.”