The main course at the Pine Island Grill is a grand water view.
They could serve a saute of driftwood with a side of sand here and you wouldn't mind that much. Enjoy the company, the cocktail, the coastline. Very '90s.
But, a decade ago, the restaurant was transformed under now-TV chef Joe Ciminera. It was much more ambitious, often excellent, with New American cuisine that matched the look and the surroundings. Ciminera really made you want to "taste this."
Today, you'll still find an airy, streamlined dining room, with mobiles of marine life overhead. But a lot of other things have changed, reflected, in part, by the vintage, typewriter-style design of the current menu.
Pine Island Grill, situated at The Crescent Beach Club, generally has taken the risk-averse path. The food often is good but rarely better. And it's unlikely that any dish will cause you to interrupt any conversation.
The excitement is contained. Actually, the liveliest fare here now comes from the sushi bar. There's a fine rainbow roll, among other colorful choices. Traditional sushi satisfies, too, in a platonic way. But you can skip the tuna tataki and the salmon crudo, each more waterlogged than sauced.
Go west with a tasty opener of lobster sliders on mini-brioche buns, and the unadorned shrimp cocktail. The raw bar, with oysters and clams, has its basic appeal. Maryland crabcakes are modest contributions, paired with mesclun. The wedge salad will do.
Of course, the filet mignon is tender, served with mashed potatoes and summery vegetables. The strip steak subs shoestring fries for the mashed spuds.
This year, the Grill seems most at ease with what are described as "comforting classics." They include a commendable version of Southern-fried chicken with house-made coleslaw and French fries; homey, bacon-wrapped meatloaf with garlic-mashed potatoes and a thatch of fried onions; and the spareribs, also with fries and slaw, plus a piece of cornbread.
You could list the eatery's steamed, roasted or stuffed lobster in this category, too. The stuffing stars crabmeat for another $12. But you'll be equally content with the straightforward steamed two-pounder.
By dessert time, diners who remember the almond and lemon tarts of old, the "prince of chocolate" combination and the ripe cheeses will feel more than nostalgia. No need to bother with the brownie or the sorbet.
Just look out the window. That's sweet enough.