I'm embarrased to say I didn't try any of the restaurants I was considering...I went with the old stand--bys since I had guests in tow. Except for Rosebank, that is, and that was a mistake. My short reviews, in order of how happy they made me, are:
Al di La - my second visit. I love this place. Arugula salad, ricotta gnocci, fettucini bolognese, scallop risotto...all delicious. Wine delicious. One of the most professional servers I can remember having. That guy could go work at Daniel. Great atmosphere. Love it.
Sermet - The bread is so delicious there, I can barely move on to the food. The grilled calamari is a perenniel favorite, as is the lavendar pork tenderloin.
Hanks - I tried a salmon terrine for app. It was pretty good, and ambitious with good quality salmon...not perfectly executed though, and the "goat cheese" in the terrine was really cream cheese. I had the Shrimp curry, made w/ mango chutney, leeks, bananas...it really was delicious. I tasted my MIL's shrimp and grits and they were very good, as well. Just enough vinegar to keep them from being cloying as they sometimes are when made very rich in a restaurant. My husband called his shrimp and scallop pasta "mediocre". Really, I don't know why he would order pasta after being at Al Di La the night before, it had to be a disappointment. They gave us one of the big booths hidden behind the bar, it was reasonably quiet (thanks Lizzie).
Hominy Grill - this was my second trip to HG. Now that my expectations were lower, I liked it better. Just a nice spot for brunch, good shrimp and grits...I approve of very little in the way of sauce and cheese. S&G should be S&G. Someone should teach them how to make a biscuit, though. ALl those poor Yankees eating there on vacation and thinking that's what a southern biscuit should be.
Rosebanks Farms Cafe - Don't waste your time. This was a long drive for mediocre to bad food. My grilled Mahi was the best thing I tasted, fresh and not dried out on the grill...it went downhill from there. Salty butterbeans, mayonaise laden squash casserole, bland red rice, heavily breaded shrimp. The fried oysters were pretty good. ALso the atmosphere was a surprise to me...I thought it would be funky/casual since it's affilated with a Farmstand...but it was very bland and touristy. A waste of a meal.
My husband was so annoyed at that point, we blew off the planned visits to the tea plantation and winery and just headed back to the beach (a good choice). I stopped at the wine store on Folly (11 Center street) and picked up some of the muscadine wine. I got the "dry" white. It's not a terrible wine, you can definite taste the muscadine...so it's interesting...but to lable it dry is insane. It is very, very sweet. I bought a "semi-dry" and a "semi-sweet" to give as gifts...I'm curious how sweet they will be.
I apologize for not branching out more after all the suggestions I got...I'll try to do a more interesting trip report next time.