In southeast coastal Georgia’s town of St. Mary’s, Sterling’s Southern Café is all the rage, garnering great reviews in local newspapers and magazines.  The lady at the Georgia Welcome Center, a good two hours up I-95 from St. Mary’s, had recommended it.  I had little choice but to stop for dinner last night.
    At first, I had trouble negotiating the menu, not because it was large or loaded with creative dishes, but rather because the menu seemed overrun with clichés.  Chicken parmesan is not exactly a classic low country dish, and the almond crusted grouper, tenderloin tips and chicken picatta seemed like déjà vu all over again.  I chose the crab cakes to start and the crabmeat stuffed grouper as the entrée. 
    I wasn’t disappointed, although the two crab cakes were a little light on the crab.  But the filler was tasty and perfectly seasoned.  The grouper was a large piece of fresh fish, lightly and perfectly pan sautéed, crisp on the outside, almost as if it had been fried, and moist inside. The accompanying lemon sauce was appropriately restrained in both its taste and quantity. The jasmine rice and bright green crisp beans were the right accompaniments.
    Sterling's is intimate; I counted about 10 tables.  The wait staff goes out of its way to be friendly. They were solicitous but stopped short of overbearing.  My water glass was refilled twice without asking.  Prices are friendly as well, with no entree topping $20, although salad does not come with the dinner (a nice piece of garlic bread does, however).
    The restaurant does something we haven’t seen since Durgin Park, the famous restaurant in Boston that seats people at long tables, strangers next to strangers.  Sterling’s maintains a communal table inside the bay window in the front of the room for those without reservations.  I had reserved a table, but a couple from Indiana who followed me in had not.  They were offered the empty communal table for eight.  A few minutes later, a single came in and was shown to a seat at the end of the table.  When I left, they were all on their way to becoming fast friends.  The communal table is a terrific idea that would solve some problems for busy restaurants, and maybe promote world peace (okay, okay, but we do like the idea).
    Some years ago, St. Mary’s was granted a “best small town” award by one of those magazines that invents such awards to boost circulation.  By all accounts and our own experience, Sterling’s is the best restaurant in the best small town.
    Sterling’s Southern Café is at 219 Osborne Street in St. Mary’s, GA.  Phone:  912-882-3430. Web:
    No matter how bad or good the real estate market is, the marketeers who represent them will always find the glass full.  We received an email from a marketing firm that represents a few communities we know, and we just had to chuckle at the way they paint lipstick on the pig.
    When the market was booming, the urge from the real estate industry went something like this:  "You better buy now, because prices are going up and you won't be able to afford the house you want a year from now."  The logic was unbeatable...if you consider real estate an investment, rather than shelter.
    Now that the market is in the tank, here's what the nattering nabobs of optimism say (and this is a direct quote from a company called GamePlan Resort Solutions):  "We are in the midst of a strong ‘Buyer’s Market’ which means that it is a great time to buy while the incentives are plentiful, interest rates are low, and sellers are motivated."
    Well, yes, it is a great time to buy...if you have the cash and if you are looking for a home.  Unspoken, of course, is that if you own a home, you are going to have to be a motivated seller in order to buy one of those homes being offered by another motivated seller.  Ergo, you accept less for your house and then have less to pay for their house.
    Resort Solutions also quotes news reports to show that, "Recently there have been indicators that the economy is accelerating and the real estate market is gradually coming back to life."  The company's email was sent to us on Wednesday (Feb. 28), the day after the 400+ point loss on the Dow Jones Industrials, demonstrating, yet again, that Pollyanna is alive and well, and probably selling condos in Miami.