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“Outstanding Food and Good But Not Great Service”
Review of Live Oak Cafe

Live Oak Cafe
Ranked #15 of 82 Restaurants in Southport
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $13 - $20
Cuisines: American
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings
Dining options: Dinner, Outdoor Seating, Reservations
Description: For current menu and wine list information, please visit our website
Durham, North Carolina
Level Contributor
116 reviews
79 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 150 helpful votes
“Outstanding Food and Good But Not Great Service”
Reviewed August 2, 2014

It was my wife's birthday, so I wanted to take her to a nice restaurant at the beach where they have reservations, as we do not want to fight the tourist crowds at most of the restaurants. I called two weeks ahead and told them it was my wife's birthday, (a significant one) and was offered seatings at 6:30 or at 8 PM. I opted for the 6:30 and so we went last night (Friday August 1st). We were greeted by the hostess and seated at a table for two. The restaurant is an old house that has been converted into a restaurant. There were three other tables in the room that each seated four people. The room was quaint with oak tables and nice chairs.

Our waitress Brandy was timely and provided the menu with a very detailed description of the two specials. So far so good until I asked what the Argentine $7 and California $8 Chardonnays were like, as I was not familiar with the two selections by the glass. She had no idea, so we ordered a glass of each. We told Brandy that we wanted to start off with the Calamari appetizer and would think about which entree we were going to order, as each of us was torn between two selections. Sometimes when this happens, a decision can be made by watching the other tables being served while you eat the appetizer. This evidently was not what Brandy wanted to hear as she stated, "I need these tables by 8 o'clock because I had a reservation for 16 then". Given that we were 10 minutes early for our reservation and it was exactly 6:35 pm, I was somewhat taken back by this statement. My wife clearly was not at all happy with this, as we barely had a chance to even gaze at the extensive menu. She said for Brandy to just bring us the appetizer and handed the menu to her. This was definitely not what you want to hear, especially when you are not even 10 minutes into a birthday dinner. I handed Brandy my menu and she left stating she would put some fresh bread in the oven for us. I thought we would get fast service after that since they seemed to be in a sprint to the finish, however it was not so. The bread arrived about 10 minutes later and there was dipping oil on the table, however the wine still had not been served. Finally we got the wine just as the appetizer arrived. The Argentine was a little on the dry side and the California was very good straight forward vintage. My wife was happy as she likes dry chardonnays and I was more than satisfied with the other.

The calamari $9 was served over a bed of seasonal greens with Roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted yellow peppers and crumbled goat cheese. It was truly outstanding in every way. The calamari was flash fried and the combination was awesome. We shared it and Brandy stopped by to see how we were doing, topped off the water and brought us some more dipping oil. Then she said that we needed to go ahead and order as there was a big 8pm reservation in the next dining room, and we needed to get our order in the kitchen before it backed up. I could see the next dining room and the big party had not even arrived (they started arriving at 7:30). Plus the 6:30 reservation guests were still dining at their individual tables. This again was not what we wanted to hear, as it was only a few minutes past 7 pm. I found myself starting to become a clock watcher instead of a birthday diner.

Brandy only brought one menu back to the table which was surprising since there seemed to be a rush on. We each ordered one of the specials because we did not want to take the time to look at the menu again. Then we went into a dead zone time warp where Brandy was lost in space and not seen for 15 minutes. We sat with empty wine glasses wanting to order another glass so that it might arrive before our entrees were served and an empty calamari dish with two serving plates. Finally Brandy arrived and took our wine order and removed the dishes. It was 5 minutes before the wine arrived and then our entrees were served right behind the wine. I felt like I needed a stop watch at this time.

The entrees were totally amazing and easily the best meals we have ever had at the beach !!! My wife's grilled shrimp and scallops $26 were HUGE and served with black beans and feta cheese over a bed of mixed greens that was superb. My grilled vermillion snapper $29 was topped with spicy Andouille sausage in a cream sauce with two large lobster pieces on top and served with mixed grilled squash, zucchini and red cabbage over a bed of long grain rice. It was a masterpiece in presentation and had a wonderful balance of herbs and spices that combined to make a most memorable meal. We had to ask Brandy for some salt and pepper, so she got the pepper mill and did a great job but forgot the salt. She quickly returned with the salt which was the fastest thing that was served all night.

When we clearly had finished eating, Brandy stopped back by and asked it we wanted dessert, however she never informed us as to what the choices were. We declined and asked for boxes to go and the bill. Brandy took our plates and came back with the boxes and the bill that actually said Happy Birthday on it. This was the first and only mention by the staff that it was my wife's birthday. We asked Brandy to take our picture which she did, but she never said happy birthday to my wife. I left a credit card on the bill and checked out the wonderfully appointed rest room. I passed through the large party of people gathering in the lobby and saw the staff starting to set up their table in the other room, that was several of the smaller tables pushed together. When I got back to our table, Brandy still had not been by to take the bill. After a few minutes she picked it up and returned, we signed and left. When we got to the car, it was 7:40 pm that allowed for more than enough time for the next seating. By the way, we were the second of the four tables to leave our dining room and the table next to us wished my wife a happy birthday after the picture taking. There was a second waitress serving two of the other other tables and they did not seem to be in a rush at all. They were still eating and drinking when we left.

Given that they have two seatings and have been doing this for a long time, you would think that any issues would have been solved by now that did not require early diners to be rushed. Also if there is a rush, you would think that the wait staff needs to be more timely in their service which was not evident. We had memorable food that was truly amazing, service that was uneven and a waitress that rushed us, but was not rushing herself. There was no mention of the birthday and no mention of any free birthday dessert (or even a cookie) which is usually customary, especially when it is a major birthday year.

The bottom line is that we will go back, and when we make reservations it will definitely include that Brandy not serve us. If the restaurant management reads this and wants to discuss our experience, they have my cell phone number in their reservations book.

  • Visited August 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
7 Thank Gary C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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166 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    106
    36
    18
    3
    3
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Greensboro, North Carolina
Level Contributor
28 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Best meal in Southport”
Reviewed July 28, 2014

The rainbow trout with a bourbon sauce was heavenly. The service was exceptional. The restaurant is in a lovely old house that has been restored. A charming place.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
Thank ReomaM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Long Island, New York
Level Contributor
11 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Wonderful... Do not miss if you are in Southport.”
Reviewed July 18, 2014

I would highly recommend eating at Live Oak if you are in Southport. Our waitress was so welcoming and had a great way of explaining the different dishes. She was knowledgable about the menu as well as the wine selections. She spent time with our table and helped us to enjoy our dining experience.
Our food was awesome!!! I had the scallop dish and it was amazing. My mother had the seafood bake and she loved that as well. The salads are large so I do suggest splitting one as your first course. But save room for dessert because the pie was delicious.
All in all I would say that this restaurant is terrific. I will definitely be returning when I visit.

  • Visited July 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Allysonb88
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oak Island, NC
Level Contributor
17 reviews
11 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Taste Bud Heaven!”
Reviewed July 16, 2014

As a local, I had not taken the opportunity to experience this restaurant because from the outside, it didn't look like much. Boy, was I fooled! A true culinary delight in a warm, quaint setting. An historic house with antique rustic furnishings, all tastefully decorated. The service was superb, first-class. All the food was fresh and seasoned perfectly. The portions are filling. The wine list looks impressive (I was driving, so I did not try any spirits). The local pecan encrusted trout with squash ravioli was simply divine. The only itsy-teeny criticism I have is cut the bushes in front of the house so more people can see the lovely façade. Bon Appetit!

  • Visited July 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Scoobynoll
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Level Contributor
30 reviews
26 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Awesome food and service!”
Reviewed July 16, 2014

This is one of our favorite spots to eat in Southport. They have wonderful food and a great staff, especially Chris! It is hard to pick what to order because it is all amazing! We have enjoyed special events such as a wine dinner pairring that were very good!

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Cbbeacham
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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