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Publisher: Andy Brack
editorial Editor: Sam Spence Cuisine Editor: Mary Scott Hardaway Arts Editor: Connelly Hardaway Music Editor: Heath Ellison Web Editor: Lauren Hurlock Contributors: Stephanie Barna, Susan Cohen, Suzanne Cohen, Katherine Connor, Eric Doksa, Robert Donovan, Kinsey Gidick , Allston McCrady, Robert F. Moss, Melissa Tunstall, Vanessa Wolf Editorial Interns: Shannon Murray, Christian Robinson, Priscilla Vanartsdalen
sales Advertising Director: Blair Barna Sales Manager: Cris Temples Account Executives: Hollie Anderson Colby Chisholm Ashley Frantz Lauren Kesmodel
design Art Director: Scott Suchy Production Director: Déla O’Callaghan Graphic Designer: Christina Bailey Staff Photographer: Ruta Smith Additional photography: Jonathan Boncek
Charleston is a city anchored deep in the history of America. All over town, people and places seem to yearn for a comfortable connection to the past or a leap away from the bygone. Somewhere in between — where most of us spend our middling time — those vectors overlap and create the Charleston where we each find something to hold close. From this perspective, we can learn to appreciate new, boundary-breaking
creations coming out of kitchens like Jackrabbit Filly and Estadio while also loving the tangy mustard-covered pork that Bessinger’s BBQ has been serving for more than 80 years. Indeed, as Robert Moss examines on p. 6, long-running Charleston mainstays would not be here without innovating on their successful ideas. Cheers to the Charleston institutions old and new in this edition of Dish.
It’s hard to become a local institution, and even harder to stay one
Jackrabbit Filly’s Corrie and Shuai Wang welcome their first restaurant baby to the world
The City Paper’s essential guide to eating out, from the dives to the divas of Charleston’s food scene
An excerpt from All Ripe for Dreaming
For more than a decade, Charleston chefs have been bewitched by H&L
Introducing the top restaurants in Charleston for Winter 2020
Ode to an Asian Market
The Top 50
Index A breakdown of restaurants in this issue by type of cuisine
On the Way I Wonder
Circulation Manager: Maury Goodloe Circulation Team: Mandy Baker, Jesse Craig, Jane DuBose, Chris Glenn, Danny Haynes, Robert Hogg, David Lampley, John Melnick Published by City Paper Publishing, LLC Members: J. Edward Bell • Andrew C. Brack
o n the cover Estadio’s paella, photographed by Ruta Smith. Dish is a publication of the Charleston City Paper and is published twice a year by City Paper Publishing, LLC. All content is copyrighted and the property of City Paper Publishing, LLC. Charleston City Paper 1315 Rutledge Avenue Charleston, SC 29403 (843) 577-5304 charlestoncitypaper.com
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S till Here It’s hard to become a local institution, and even harder to stay one
By Robert F. Moss
or a city with such deep historical roots, Charleston’s restaurant industry is relatively young. Where are our counterparts to New Orleans’ Galatoire’s (1905), Commander’s Palace (1893), or Antoine’s (1840)? We have no shortage of acclaimed fine dining establishments, but few are old enough to truly qualify as a “Charleston institution.” The old Henry’s Restaurant (now called Henry’s on the Market) is often cited as Charleston’s oldest. Its roots stretch back to the 19th century, when a young German immigrant named Henry Otto Hasselmeyer opened a grocery store at 54 Market St. Like most grocers of the period, he sold beer, wine, and liquor alongside canned goods and provisions, and customers could enjoy a drink on premise at the bar in the back. The arrival of the state dispensary system in 1893 — a largely forgotten temperance experiment that restricted alcohol sales to government-run dispensaries — forced grocers to either abandon liquor sales or operate as a “blind tiger,” Charlestonians’ term for a speakeasy. Hasselmeyer took the latter route, and his store was raided repeatedly for selling alcohol in the decades that followed.
As soon as Prohibition ended in 1933, Hasselmeyer launched “Henry’s Beer Parlor” in the building adjoining his grocery store. He started selling boiled shrimp and deviled crabs to hungry beer drinkers, and soon converted the store into a large dining room. Henry’s eventually evolved from beer saloon to Charleston’s swankiest restaurant. Hasselmeyer’s son, Henry Jr., and son-in-law, Walter Shaffer, took over the business, and their chef, John Bolton, an African-American World War II vet, introduced Charlestonians to an array of French-inspired seafood dishes like flounder meuniere and trout Colbert. Through the 1950s and ’60s, Henry’s was the place in Charleston to dine, drawing tourists and locals alike for a big night out on the town. By the 1970s, though, the restaurant was starting to show its age. A critic for The International Review of Food & Wine was “shocked at the cooking” she found there in 1979, and Bill Moore of the Asheville Citizen-Times noted, “The furniture in the dining room was battered. The red leather booths in the bar were worn … It needed paint.”
Photos by Ruta Smith
Michael and Tommy Bessinger run their family 'cue biz day-to-day
continued on page 8
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Henry Hasselmeyer Jr. died in 1980, and his son-in-law George Brownwell ran the business for another five years before throwing in the towel. Business sagged as the market area became more touristoriented and parking more difficult; “You can’t run a ’40s restaurant in the ’80s,” Brownwell told the Greenville News. In 1985, Brownwell sold Henry’s for
$1 million to a young restaurateur named Leo Chiagkouris, who thoroughly remodeled the aging buildings and overhauled the menu. Over time Chiagkouris has added a whiskey lounge, a rooftop bar, and a dance club complete with bottle service. But the Henry’s name persists in honor of the location’s past, and I sometimes take out-of-towners there for a nostalgic drink at the worn wooden bar on the first floor. The modern Henry’s bills itself as “the oldest continuous restaurant in Charleston,” but that continuity is more with the physical building than the food. The current menu offers a fairly standard selection of fried flounder and catfish along with tacos, burgers, and pasta. Long forgotten are Henry’s “Famous Shore Dinners” with tenderloin of trout and deviled crab and Bolton’s many creations, which he adorned with grand names like Seafood a la Wando and Spanish Mackerel a la Gherardi. Surviving long enough to become an institution requires a tricky balance between continuity and reinvention. Stay too wedded to the old ways and you’ll be left behind by changing fashions and the wear and tear of time; reinvent too much and you can lose what made the restaurant special in the first place. Down on lower King, you may have noticed the blue banner hanging in front of Old Towne Grill declaring it “Charleston’s Oldest Family Owned Restaurant.” It was founded in 1972 by Spiro Fokas and Steve Ferderigos, two brothers-in-law from Greece who immigrated to Charleston. Old Towne’s menu has changed little since the 1970s, and the open kitchen is located right at the front, so passersby can see the chickens spinning on their roasting spits through the window. Blue banner aside, it would be more accurate to call Old Towne “downtown’s oldest family owned restaurant,” for there are older candidates to be found elsewhere in the city. I’m excluding Bowens Island (1946). It’s an undeniable Lowcountry institution but isn’t in Charleston proper. Gene’s Haufbrau, established in 1952, serves a full slate of wings, burgers, and sandwiches today, but it would be more accurate to call it Charleston’s oldest bar. During the 1970s, pinball, a jukebox, and kegs of beer were the highlights, and it operated during the 1980s as a private club, requiring a membership card for entry. For my money, the Charleston restaurant with the best claim for being a genuine Charleston institution is Bessinger’s BBQ.
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Here from page 7
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The Bessinger family traces its barbecue roots back to 1939, when patriarch Joseph “Big Joe” Bessinger opened the short-lived Holly Hill Café up in Orangeburg County. Bessinger’s 11 children learned to cook pigs from their father, and many of them ended up moving down to Charleston and opening restaurants. Around 1952, J. D. Bessinger opened the first Piggy Park, a drive-in on Rutledge Avenue near Hampton Park. His brothers Melvin, Thomas, and Robert all moved down and started working at that original Piggy Park, but they soon branched out and opened restaurants of their own. In 1960, Thomas and Melvin teamed up to open what is now Bessinger’s BBQ on Savannah Highway. At the time, Thomas’ son Michael Bessinger recalls, that area was all “cabbage patch fields and farms.” In the early days the brothers cooked whole hogs on brick pits, and carhops delivered chopped pork sandwiches along with other drive-in standards like hamburgers and hot dogs. Unlike the old Henry’s, the Bessingers regularly updated their restaurant to accommodate changing times. By the early 1970s, drive-ins across the country were struggling to compete with fast food burger chains, and in 1974 the Bessingers overhauled their operation. They phased out curb service and later removed the old car canopies, replacing them with two trendy new innovations: a drive-thru window and an all-you-can eat buffet. They also changed the name from Piggy Park to Bessinger’s BBQ. In 1983, the brothers branched out and opened the first Melvin’s BBQ in Mt. Pleasant, and more locations followed. In 1990, they ended their formal business partnership, with Thomas retaining the Savannah Highway restaurant and Melvin continuing to build out more Melvin’s outlets. The key to becoming an institution? Having a clear line of succession to the next generation of owners, be they family members or long-time employees who can maintain the restaurant’s identity and ways of doing things. Thomas’ two sons, Tommy and Michael, run the business today, though the elder Bessinger — now 88 years old — still comes in daily and isn’t shy about correcting workers who are not doing things to his standards. (The two remaining Melvin’s, I should note, are run today by Melvin’s son, David Bessinger.) Tommy and Michael now split the management duties, and as they navigate the business into its ninth decade they are still making revisions. A few years back, when Texas-style barbecue became trendy, customers started demanding, “where’s the brisket?” Bessinger’s retired the sliced eye of round and replaced it with salt-and-pepper brisket. These days, instead of black plastic plates, barbecue is served on stainless steel
platters lined with brown butcher paper, like one might find in a central Texas joint. Even more dramatic changes may lie ahead as market headwinds stiffen. In September 2018, as food costs spiraled, the Bessingers shuttered the all-you-can-eat buffet to focus on counter-service. The city’s recent prohibition of non-recyclable containers raised the cost of a take out box from 6 cents to 75, creating a tough choice between raising prices or reducing portion sizes. Changing barbecue tastes are an even bigger challenge. A new crop of highly acclaimed barbecue restaurants has opened their doors in recent years, importing craft barbecue styles and offering full bars with cocktails and wine. It’s exposed a growing divide between younger, more affluent diners, who will happily pay more for prime-grade beef and local beers on tap, and Bessinger’s traditional clientele, who are more price-sensitive and happy with things as they are. “We’ve never seen such a change as in the past seven years,” Michael says. He and his brother are trying to decide how to best use the big space that once housed the buffet side of the restaurant. “We might put a bar in there, and cater more to the trendy crowds — fun appetizers, cocktails, beer.” “You have to give a little to get a little,” Tommy says, but he knows there’s a risk, too. “Old timers come in here and they are so appreciative that things haven’t changed.” Michael agrees. “You have to evolve or you will die out,” he says. “But you fear the old way of doing things will get lost.” Even if they add fancier apps and draft beer, the Bessingers have no plans to abandon their long-running offering of chopped pork generously dressed in tangy mustard sauce. It may seem like anathema to those who learned from food television that “good barbecue doesn’t need sauce,” but pre-saucing the meat is how it’s always been done in South Carolina. A recent Eater Charleston article asked “Is Charleston’s Massive Barbecue Bubble Shrinking?” It noted the recent closures of Smoke BBQ’s two locations and Black Wood Smokehouse, then observed, “In a town with Rodney Scott’s BBQ , Home Team BBQ , Lewis Barbecue, Swig & Swine, Martin’s Bar-B-Que, and more, it’s a tough field to play.” Conspicuously absent from the list were Bessinger’s and Melvin’s, which is a shame. My hope is that, rather than shying away from something that seems old or unfamiliar, newer Charleston residents and visitors from afar will embrace local traditions like yellowsauced pork and slow-simmered hash. “Tommy’s and my goal is to hit 100 years,” Michael says. They already have 81 under their belt. The question is how to get through 20 more. “Who are we going to be moving forward?” he asks. “My gut is telling me to stick with what we are doing. Stay tried and true to what we are.”
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Ode to an
ad the poet John Keats come upon the saturated aisles of an Asian market on the south end of Rivers Avenue, rather than an ornate, classical Greek urn at the British Museum, the resulting ode may have gone something like this: Thou still unravished cooler of bagged bok choy, Thou foster child of nam pla and kaffir lime Urban historian, who canst thus express An olfactory tale more pungent than our rhyme. From the outside, it’s easy to underestimate H&L Asian Market. Set at the far end of a dispirited strip mall and surrounded by a vast, pothole-ridden parking lot, it might be surprising to learn how many decorated area chefs are navigating these same craters. Kwei Fei chef/owner David Schuttenberg deserves his own parking spot. “I’m headed there now, for the second time today,” he laughs. “I love it there. I have a great team and they’re hard at work in the kitchen right now, but that’s not the only reason I do the H&L runs.” Part of it might be that he knows the store like the back of his hand, “Other chefs will call me, ‘Where’s the Zhenjiang vinegar?’ Third aisle, about 10 feet down, bottom shelf on the left.” He goes there to source, well, just about everything needed to make his authentic Sichuan cuisine: amber-colored Shaoxing rice wine; Doubanjiang, a spicy fermented bean paste; and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, available in a variety of volumes and brands. “It’s a great store. I love it. Granted, I have a heart attack if they’re out of something I need, but Kwei Fei never would have happened without them.” Husband and wife-owners James Guo and Carina Lam’s eclectic grocery store stocks an awe-inspiring assortment of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Thai ingredients (not to mention an entire aisle of diverse Mexican and South American products). My local happy place, I’ve spent hours just wandering around. continued on page 12
For more than a decade, Charleston chefs have been bewitched by H&L By Vanessa Wolf Photos by Ruta Smith
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Market from page 10
Out of such meanderings has come a particular pleasure: staging products like canned, imitation (vegetarian!) abalone and fruit-flavored Chinese beef jerky in elaborate still-life photos. This puerile form of self-amusement won’t get you far with chef/owner Shuai Wang of Jackrabbit Filly, however. “Nothing is unfamiliar to me in that store, but I am super surprised that they have pig’s blood in the freezer. I’m assuming it’s for blood sausages.” If you’d like to speculate in-person (Filipino pork blood stew? Taiwanese pig’s blood cake?), you might find Wang near the packaged hemoglobin. “I love the frozen section! There are so many snacks, and I’m a fat kid. Fat kids love snacks.”
"I remember walking in and going, ‘It smells like my parent’s grocery store,’ and that felt like home.” When he and wife Corrie moved here from Brooklyn in 2014, “We were like, ‘What are we going to eat? Where are we going to get condiments for our rice?’ I was very happy to find H&L. I remember walking in and going, ‘It smells like my parent’s grocery store,’ and that felt like home.” Here, chef/owner Josh Walker sources for Xiao Bao Biscuit, picking up green papaya, fish sauce, and even the lone ghost chili pepper. However, if given $100 to splurge, he reports he’d be more likely to fill his cart with “a whole roasted duck, a green tea matcha waffle ice cream sandwich, a big bag of short grain rice, and a Pocari Sweat (the Japanese answer to Gatorade)” presumably to wash it all down. Chef/owner Thai Phi — the brains behind popular pop-up turned soon-to-be King Street storefront Pink Bellies — is also no stranger to H&L’s chockablock shelves. “The variety of products they carry is really amazing,” he enthuses. “Asia is a huge, diverse continent and H&L manages to carry many ingredients from each country. There’s something for everyone.” Case in point, he once ran into a legendary pitmaster and 2018 James Beard award winner somewhere between the stainless steel hotel pans and the fresh Thai eggplants. “I met Rodney Scott there for the first time. I fan-girled a bit. He’s a really cool dude. “ Despite Phi’s own finesse in crafting the richly seasoned broth, he notes of Pho No. 1, the modest Vietnamese restaurant tucked in H&L’s front corner, “Sometimes I stop by for a quick bowl after an intense session at the gym. It’s probably the only other place I’ll get a bowl of pho in Charleston.” Phi’s own ‘Grandma’s Chicken Pho’ is likely the other one, and comes up again with respect to his hypothetical $100 shop-
ping spree. “Either I would raid the snack section and have a party, or I would buy $100 worth of yellow chickens and make some really good pho ga.” A celebration either way, one can only hope for an invite. Same goes for the bacchanalia imagined by Wang, who gushes “OMG. I would buy tons of Indomie Hot & Spicy fried noodle packets; several packs of lumpia; a couple mochi; some Japanese curry packets; a couple of packs of Shaobing; Takis; frozen dumplings galore; Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp, but the kind with the peanuts in it; hot pot base ... is that over budget?” Either way, your future shopping list may now include some new entries. Sorry, chefs. Burgeoning entrepreneurs take note, while H&L offers a staggering smorgasbord of fresh, frozen, canned, jarred, and otherwise alluring options, there’s really only a little bit of everything. As a result, it can be tough for some area restaurants to source from them all that they need at the volumes or frequency they require. Interested in becoming a local distributor of fresh mung bean sprouts, dried bihon noodles, or pickled umeboshi plums? Opportunity is knocking.
Thai Phi of Pink Bellies spends many hours at H&L, stocking up on his favorite sauces and eclectic produce
Photos by Ruta Smith
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Jackrabbit Filly's Corrie and Shuai Wang welcome their first restaurant baby to the world
By Corrie Wang
xactly one week before my husband and I opened our restaurant, Jackrabbit Filly, I had the dawning realization that I imagine every new parent feels: What the hell did we just do? My life as I had known it was about to be over. Granted, I had a similar realization five years back, when we opened our food truck, Short Grain. But that realization came moments in on our first day of service. As I hauled a heavy rice warmer to our tiny food trailer at 4 a.m., well aware I’d be hauling it off in a few short hours, I foresaw exactly how grueling the act of producing food from a moving vehicle would be. This new “Oh shit” realization was different. Coming off a year functioning as a popup restaurant, I foresaw all our lazy Sundays, time with our dogs, travel abroad, and trips back home to see family — never mind my
continued on page 16
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Continued from page 14
writing career — screech to an abrupt and indefinite end. Work would be my life now. Turns out, I was right. While it’s hard processing — let alone writing about — something I’m very much in the middle of, I can report that from the time Shuai and I wake up at 7 a.m. until we go to bed at 2 a.m. our days are entirely filled by the restaurant. Opening week, as excited Short Grain regulars streamed through our doors, I was barely convinced we could serve family meals let alone a full slammed service. Yet every guest wanted to know how excited I was to finally be here. I bared my teeth in what I hoped was a decent approximation of a smile. While they marveled at the glitter in the floor stain and our bunny wallpaper — granted, the wallpaper is dope — all I could see were the faults. Tables not being cleared. Food being misdelivered. Bare walls where I had yet to find the perfect tchotchke to hang.
Our first month open, I cried every Wednesday as our work week “started” again. It didn’t help that Shuai and I were subsisting entirely on coffee and adrenaline.
Chef Shuai Wang is now whipping up both lunch and dinner at their Spruill Ave. spot Ruta Smith
Our one meal of the day was consumed at midnight. A huge bowl of restaurant castoffs — rice, random proteins, lots of chili oil — eaten as much out of hunger as stress relief. It also left us with such wicked heartburn upon waking, that we began popping TUMS before we went to bed. Shortly around opening, a friend swung by with sandwiches and fresh juices for us and I immediately regretted every time I “meant to” bring food to friends who opened businesses or went through a health scare or lost a family member. Because
while everyone generously offers to help, only a few send f lowers or drop off treats. And on a day when nothing is going right, fresh-baked pie never goes wrong and reminds you that there is still goodness to be had outside this thing that is sucking your life force. Because even though our restaurant is closed two days a week, our only actual time off is Monday night from 7:30 p.m. until you pass out o’clock. Otherwise, those two off days are entirely consumed by running errands, prep, making dumplings, writing
checks, installing new POS systems, buying and fixing things that broke during the week, being placed on hold. Friends and family insist I spare time for self-care. But there is literally no time to spare because there is no “end” to our week. Only another week of work that leads straight into another. Again, and again, all over again. And we’ve signed on to do exactly this for the next seven years. Our first month open, I cried every Wednesday as our work week “started” again. What had we done? “It’s exactly like having a kid,” an industry friend of the gift pie sympathized. “It sucks for the first six months, but then it gets better.” Aspects of my former life that filled up hours of my day before became moot as I truly understood what busy was for the first time in my life. I used to listen to podcasts. Text friends. Write every day. Now I have permanently chapped lips, divide people into two groups, those who want to sell me something we don’t want and those who want reservations we don’t take, and I have a strained back muscle that makes it almost impossible to twist, stand up or lie down, and take deep breaths. “Three years,” a brewery friend replied, when I asked him how long before things become easier. continued on page 18
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Continued from page 16
Around week five, I bought a pack of men’s white T-shirts from Costco and have begun to solely wear those. Knit hats are my other new best friend because nobody has time for hair. I used to wear make-up because I liked how it made me look. Now I wear it simply to appear awake and I find myself weirdly sympathetic to Mark Zuckerberg. If I’m this stressed running a 61-seat restaurant, how the hell does he get by? Lithium, I imagine. Or minions. But as we crawled into month two, I started to notice little things about our restaurant baby. Like, if you set a table with chopsticks, children (of all ages) will treat them like drum sticks. And that Charlestonians shed a lot of hair. But I also noticed Jackrabbit Filly was turning out to be the neighborhood joint we’d hoped for, with neighbors nightly running into neighbors. Hugs are given. Friends wave and call out across the space. Everyone walks in wearing a huge smile and seems genuinely happy when they leave. And a small corner of my brain starts to see that this is what we’ve done, too. After a guest told me that the spicy noodles were different last week — better — we decided that keeping to a standard menu sucks and went back to what we used to do: have fun with our food. Shuai lopped
off half the opening menu. weekly visits and willingness to wait for that Now, we run playful nightly speFriday night table, you make my heart sing. cials and a Fri-yay Fish Fry in ode to my As does the fact that our early seatBuffalo, N.Y. roots. Ever so slowly, I start ing is full of families and high chairs believing people when they tell me their and kid’s noodles. (Note to self: buttered dinner was incredible. ramen does not easily come off concrete Same goes for the staff. f loors). We wanted to make a place where From only seeing faults, I now see their our loved ones felt welcomed to bring magnificence. Our bartenders who make their loved ones. Sure enough, one night 120 cocktails on a Wednesday and remain finds two mamas simultaneously breastgracious hosts. Our servfeeding in different parts I worried this ers who welcome all guests of the restaurant. with a smile even though I Another evening sees restaurant baby continually flat seat them the couple who provides us would break us, with four tables at a time. fish sitting next to two yet I’ve never felt our Our cooks who now so women enjoying that day’s more “in” this life catch. Every other week, permanently live in the with someone. there’s the couple we turn weeds that we ought to buy them machetes, yet table 41 sideways for as wake up every morning — our sous somesoon as they walk up, because even after times earlier than us — to do it all over 30 years together, they still like to sit side again. My husband, who looks perpetuby side and hold hands. ally exhausted, but still throws me a jokAt the time of this writing, our ing thumbs up during hectic services. Two Christmas tree still stands in our living months in, I find myself marveling at his room. My old life is definitely gone forever. passion, talent, and sweetness, exactly as I To be honest, on a daily basis, it depends did when we first met. I worried this reson how well I slept whether I think it’s a taurant baby would break us, yet I’ve never fair trade. But then I remind myself of the felt more “in” this life with someone. solemn girl who I caught as she was leaving And while we knew it from our Short to ask if she enjoyed everything. Still not Grain days, what I relearned, and continue cracking a smile, she instead turned, took Ruta Smith to learn, with JF is that y’all are seriously in the space, and said in a whispered sigh, the best people in the world. You. Our cus“I love it here.” The couple has come a long way from tomers. With your chagrin at your multiple It’s hard not to be okay with that. their food truck days
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Introducing the top restaurants in Charleston for Winter 2020 By Robert F. Moss
ix years ago, City Paper food writers and editors decided to revamp the way we categorized restaurants in our biannual Dish dining guide, introducing for the first time the “Top 50” category. Up until then, we bucketed restaurants primarily by price, with the tacit assumption that the “Upscale Fine Dining” places, with their big-ticket entrées and brigades of servers and sommeliers, were naturally the best restaurants in town. At the low end of the scale, you might duck into a “Cheap Eats” spot for a quick lunch or a greasy fix after a hard night out, but no diner of discernment would seriously recommend such common fare to a visitor from out of town. By 2014, though, it was clear that price was grossly inadequate as a proxy for quality. Chefs were discarding fine dining trappings to focus on heirloom ingredients and traditional Southern preparations. Neighborhood joints were upping their burger, taco, and pizza games, and a parade of flavors from around the globe were inspiring an entirely new category of serious food in casual settings. So we kicked “Cheap Eats” to the curb, merging the pizza joints and hot dog stands into the Neighborhood Favorites, and created a separate category for those rare establishments — upscale or downhome, expensive or cheap — that stood out as the Top 50 in town. Recent years have only continued to blur high and low. For this issue, the CP team took a step back and scrutinized our former Top 50 selections. We revisited the incumbents to make sure they weren’t getting stale. In a slew of shared documents and days-long email threads, we debated which old timers had slipped and which newcomers might be worthy replacements. As we worked through the list, we concluded that the same criteria formulated in 2014 still works today. Be it the swankiest big-night splurge or a traditional home-cooking joint, is it a great place to eat? Would you tell a visitor to Charleston that this place shouldn’t be missed? Would you recommend it without qualification to friends or family members who love to eat well? We didn’t always agree on the
Delaney Oyster House's seafood chowder features clams, mussels, shrimp — even a scallop — tossed in a creamy, flavorful broth
answers, but they were still the right questions to ask. Some impressive newcomers are making their first appearances. Delaney Oyster House, Estadio, Maison, and Jackrabbit Filly all opened in 2019, and each is not just an outstanding restaurant but an apt reflection of Charleston’s evolving culinary scene. They bring fresh new approaches to established genres — oyster house, tapas bar, French bistro, Chinese-American restaurant. They apply Charleston’s distinc-
tive passion for fresh local ingredients and intense flavors, and deliver their offerings with stylish flair. All told, Charleston’s Top 50 offers a diverse and impressive array of dining options. High-end steakhouses and chefs’ tasting menus appear side by side with taco joints and seafood shacks. Slow-smoked barbecue and old Geechee favorites mingle with bold new flavors from around the globe. Roll them all together, and 2020 is a very good time to be eating in the Holy City.
tomato and red wine braised meatballs with polenta, an Italian take on chicken cordon bleu and sausage and peppers that would make your Nona proud. —Robert Donovan
Moderate Downtown. 193 King St. (843) 579-4997 167raw.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Surrounded by high-end boutiques, swanky inns, antique stores, and art galleries, 167 Raw’s new King Street home sits along a quiet stretch of storefronts. But fear not, they’re still boasting the same lineup of New England bivalves and lobstah rolls that were much-lauded at their original (teeny) East Bay spot. The first floor of the ever-socharming 19th century building is long and narrow, with original brick walls and a new walnut bar. Bar vet Teddy Nixon is behind the long bar, shaking up the good stuff, while owners Jesse Sandole and Harrison-Panes, donning matching aqua hues, greet regulars at the door. Even with four times (at least) as much seating as their original space, 167 Raw gets packed. Arrive early to tuck into your 10-hour carnita taco and bay scallops in stud butter. —Mary Scott Hardaway
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 976 Houston Northcutt Blvd. (843) 884-6969 baccocharleston.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Fri.), Dinner (Tues.–Sat.)
Moderate Downtown. 82 Wentworth St. (843) 789-4568 basickitchen.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Weekend Brunch
In a city filled with hearty Southern cuisine, sometimes it’s tricky to find a flavorful, light meal. Not so at Basic Kitchen — according to co-owner Ben Towill that has been exactly the goal since opening the restaurant with his wife Kate in 2017. “We want to provide massive flavor and a meal that’s hearty but still feels light.” Since taking over as Basic Kitchen executive chef in July 2019, Robin Hollis has homed in on this mission by creating more wholesome dishes that highlight vegetables from local purveyors. BK’s lunch menu is divided into small plates, bowls, salads, sandwiches, and sweets. As for dinner selections, Towill says, “We wanted to narrow our focus by adding more classical entrees, and Nathan Wentworth has enhanced our wine program by making it all natural, biodynamic wines.” Look for an airline chicken breast served with sweet corn polenta and a vegetable tagine made with freekah and chermoula. —Parker Milner
Bertha’s Kitchen SOUL FOOD
Inexpensive Downtown. 2332 Meeting Street Road. (843) 554-6519 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Fri.)
Head up Meeting Street until you see a twostory robin’s egg blue building with purple trim, and a line stretching out the door. The Southern soul food platters here are so tasty, generous, and inexpensive, that the line starts forming well before they open for lunch. Businessmen, laborers, and far-flung tourists alike shuffle through the quick cafeteria-style service counter loaded with a smorgasbord of meat and threes, such as fried pork chops, fish specials, yams, stewed greens, home-style mac-and-cheese, limas continued on page 22
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For more than a dozen years, Mt. Pleasant’s Bacco has successfully pulled off the idea of that fabled “neighborhood Italian place” you hear about in other cities: small, friendly service with straightforward Southern Italian food that creates regulars out of customers. Start your meal with the fire-roasted olives, warm multi-varietal and multitextured olives straight out of the wood burning oven. The insalata di polpo, tender braised and grilled octopus, is a highlight of the antipasti. The Italian focused cocktail menu is no slouch with a barrel-aged negroni and the Ficcho Bello, a fizzy drink with fig infused vodka with rosemary and cherry bitters. The primi course is where chef Michael Scognamiglio shines. The gnocchi bolognese are little airy pillows tossed in meaty bolognese and the Risi e Bisi is a buttery parmesan packed risotto with peas and pancetta. If you’ve made it this far the secondi course serves up dishes like beefy
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Top 50 Top 50 from page 21
Butcher & Bee MEDITERRANEAN
nestled with smoked turkey necks, dark roux okra soup, moist cornbread, and fried chicken better than anyone’s Grandma ever made. —Allston McCrady
Bowens Island Restaurant SEAFOOD
Moderate James Island. 1870 Bowens Island Road. (843) 795-2757 bowensisland.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Don’t expect white tablecloth and maitre’d service at Bowens Island. It’s famously no frills, but it’s worth it. The nightly crowds are a testament to the family fish camp. Since its founding in 1946 it’s grown from a grimy, albeit quaint, cinderblock outpost to a pluffmud pantheon that offers up damn good fried seafood, hushpuppies, and cold local beer in its upstairs dining room. Follow your nose downstairs and elbow-out yourself a space at the allyou-can-eat oyster tables and slurp down tasty local oysters by the shovelful that were likely pulled off the marsh that day. Oyster season or not, we have a hard time passing up the Frogmore Stew, a pot full of potatoes, sausage, corn on the cob, and shrimp steamed together as God intended it. —Sam Spence
Moderate Downtown. 1085 Morrison Drive. (843) 619-0202 butcherandbee.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Moving from a dark, tiny space on Upper King Street to a bright, sunny building on Morrison Drive in late 2016 made a world of a difference and elevated the restaurant from hipster hangout to dining destination. B&B’s menu features a large range of dishes with everything from falafel to duck confit pappardelle. An excellent feature present on the menu for brunch, lunch, and dinner is B&B’s mezze selection, a collection of small plates with a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influence. It’s safe to say that pretty much anything you order from here will be incredibly creative. —Suzanne Cohen
Charleston Grill MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 224 King St. (843) 577-4522 charlestongrill.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Amid ever-shifting culinary fashions, Charleston Grill has remained one of the city’s crown jewels by delivering a consis-
tently flawless dining experience. Executive chef Michelle Weaver’s dishes can be decadently lush, like her beef tenderloin with bourguignon sauce or seared foie gras with an apple hand pie topped with whipped mascarpone crème fraîche. The dishes are balanced, ingredient-centric creations, like a delicately bright salad of octopus tossed with heirloom cherry tomatoes, lemon, and parsley, while contemporary spins on Southern cuisine — like a braised pork shank with Sea Island red peas and smoked jowl jus — are bold and satisfying. The best way to experience the full sweep of the cuisine is with Weaver’s four to eight course tasting menu, which may well be the most impressive in town. —Robert F. Moss
Chez Nous FRENCH
Expensive Downtown. 6 Payne Court. (843) 579-3060 cheznouschs.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Sun. Brunch
Each morning just before lunch, the Chez Nous feed (@cheznouscharleston) posts a picture of the day’s menu, handwritten in black ink on a small white card in executive chef Jill Mathias’ eccentric and highly stylized script. Next comes a separate picture of each and every dish being served
that day, taken from above in flawless light. Admittedly, it’s only seven pictures total, since Chez Nous serves just two starters, two entrees, and two desserts, and the selection changes daily. The setting is charmingly old and the cuisine European-inspired, but it’s hardly a throwback to an older mode of dining. Chez Nous stands alone just as it is, an eccentric outlier. With such a dynamic menu, any review of Chez Nous is by necessity a fleeting snapshot. On my last visit each of the courses balanced a dark, heavier dish with a brighter fish-based option, and each was splendid, though in very different ways. —Robert F. Moss
Coda del Pesce ITALIAN/SEAFOOD
Expensive Isle of Palms. 1130 Ocean Blvd. (843) 242-8570 codadelpesce.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
With Coda del Pesce, chef/owner Ken Vedrinski of downtown’s Trattoria Lucca headed out to Isle of Palms to create a beachside Italian seafood restaurant. The beautiful second-story dining room has brick walls, reclaimed wood floors, and, in a rarity for the Lowcountry, floor-to-ceiling windows offer continued on page 24
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FOODIES GOOD-TIME GURUS STORYTELLERS WELLNESS WARRIORS LIBATION LOVERS CONVERSATION STARTERS MORE THAN A GLOBETROTTERS WINE + FOOD FESTIVAL INNOVATORS
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Top 50 Top 50 from page 22
ing a lovely view of the Atlantic. It’s an ideal setting for Vedrinski’s signature high-end Italian fare, which offers plenty of bright flavors and unexpected twists. Masterful pasta anchors the primi selection, which includes tagliatelle tossed with blue crab, Colatura di Alici, lemon, and basil. The secondi highlight fresh fish like black bass and there’s a little heavier fare, too, like naturally raised veal "marsala.” Pair any of these with an Italian wine from the impressive list, and you’ll have one splendid fish tale to share with friends. —Robert F. Moss
Dave’s Carry-Out SOUL FOOD/SEAFOOD
Cheap Downtown. 42-C Morris St. (843) 577-7943 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
This soul food joint offers a true taste of Charleston. For under $10 you can get a takeout box filled to the brim with the best of Lowcountry cooking like pork chops, crispy chicken wings, and finger-lickin’ ribs. The selection of sides is small but tasty — try the lima beans, thick steak fries, or red beans and rice. The lunch specials change daily, but your best bet is to go with a seafood platter — they range from $7 for a generous
portion of shrimp to $13 for shrimp, fish, scallops, and devil crab. If you want a true local experience, opt for the lima beans and rice. It’s meaty and filling. A few tables allow customers to dine in, but most folks get their Dave’s to-go, whether for lunch or a greasy late-night snack. —Melissa Tunstall
Delaney Oyster House SEAFOOD
Moderate Downtown. 115 Calhoun St. (843) 594-0099. delaneyoysterhouse.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The Neighborhood Dining Group — owners of Husk, Minero, and McCrady’s — have converted an old single house on Calhoun Street into a stunner of a seafood restaurant. The raw bar offerings range from local oysters and clams to Kaluga caviar, and executive chef Shamil Velazquez’s inventive small plates are stylish and intensely f lavored. Rich kombupoached lobster is tossed with orbs of tangy Asian pear, ground peanuts, and green Thai basil leaves, while a deconstructed chowder delivers tender clams, mussels, shrimp, and a f lawless peachhued scallop within a pool of creamy, savory broth. Each dish is finished with precise visual style that befits the picture-
perfect setting. Grab a seat out on the second f loor piazza, order a glass of chilled red wine, and dive in. —Robert F. Moss
Edmund’s Oast MODERN AMERICAN
Expensive Downtown. 1081 Morrison Drive. (843) 727-1145 edmundsoast.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
This hip gastropub has a laid-back vibe. There are communal tables, as well as a chef ’s counter and an expansive outdoor patio. Chef Bob Cook’s menu highlights include the house-made charcuterie and cheese plates, plus upscale bar food like fried tripe, hanger steak, or crispy chicken with green curry sauce. The drink menu is every bit as compelling, rife with small batch cocktails, meads, and a host of inventive beers brewed on-site. And $5 happy hour in The Bower when the weather’s nice, well, the price and vibes cannot be beat. —Vanessa Wolf
The Establishment MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 28 Broad St. (843) 789-4028 establishmentchs.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
With something of a Midas touch, every-
thing about The Establishment works: Buzzy, popular, and teeming with energy around the bar, service remains personal and intimate. The space itself feels historic, with high ceilings and portions of artfully exposed brick, yet the large, digital aquarium and chef ’s table dining area are fresh and contemporary. Fun meets foundation: There’s undeniable chemistry from the start. The ‘Taste’ portion of the menu features chilled local shrimp, crispy duck confit, and chilled deckle. The entree selection, ‘Savor,’ veers seafood heavy — dive in with the swordfish, served with freshshelled beans, salsa verde, and brown butter. —Vanessa Wolf
Moderate Downtown. 122 Spring St estadio-chs.com Serving Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Estadio, which opened on Spring Street in October 2019, is technically the second outpost of a successful Washington, D.C., Spanish-style bar and tapas restaurant. The decor and the deep sherry and gin selection echo the D.C. original, but executive chef Alex Lira’s impressive menu is unique to Charleston. The pintxos and tapas — grilled
Authentic Mexican Cuisine
Fine Dining Lowcountry Cuisine
Our go-to restaurant list
shrimp on skewers, crisp patatas bravas, tuna-topped “seven minute” eggs — offer beguiling little bites. Fresh local shellfish and savory sofrito- and saffron-laced rice — especially the crispy bits charred to the edges of the flat metal cooking pan — transform the seafood paella into an unforgettable treat. With a slate of sherry cocktails, “gin tonics” made with rare Spanish brands, and porróns of wine, Estadio brings a brilliant taste of Spain to the heart of downtown Charleston. —Robert F. Moss
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1075 E. Montague Ave. (843) 225-1796 evopizza.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
At EVO, the use of fresh, local ingredients is key, and they’ve been keeping it local from the very beginning, back when they were a mobile wood-fired oven serving pizza at the farmers market in Marion Square. Large chalkboards decorate the walls, listing local ingredients from various farms, along with daily specials, ranging from housemade sausages to duck crostini. But we’re partial to the pizza. The crust is thin and slightly charred, and the mozzarella is made
fresh and pulled in-house twice a day. The pistachio pesto pie was named one of the best pizzas in the country by Food Network Magazine, and the sinful Pork Trifecta keeps customers coming back. Check out the beer list for what’s on tap, and you’ll find plenty of local brews to keep your inner beer snob happy. —Kinsey Gidick
Fat Hen FRENCH
Moderate Johns Island. 3140 Maybank Hwy. (843) 559-9090 thefathen.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Folks in the know, especially those from Kiawah, pack this adorable cottage on Johns Island nightly for sumptuous dinners. The hyper-local menu includes favorites like fried green tomatoes with pimento goat cheese; the shrimp and crab with spicy hoppin’ John; coq au vin half-chicken; and the braised short rib with veal broth, red wine, mashed potatoes, and spinach. End with a pluff mud pie, passion fruit creme brulee, or local seasonal ice cream, then treat your food coma to a peaceful moment beneath the nearby ancient Angel Oak, said to be the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi. —Allston McCrady
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ BARBECUE
Inexpensive West Ashley. 1205 Ashley River Road. (843) 225-7427 Downtown. 126 Williman St. (843) 225-7427 Sullivan’s Island. 2209 Middle St. (843) 225-7427 hometeambbq.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
With three Charleston locations plus one up in Columbia and another way out in Aspen, Colorado, pitmaster/chefs Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan have built an acclaimed barbecue empire. Whether you’re at the West Ashley original or at the newer outposts on Sullivan’s Island or downtown, the barbecue offering is anchored by pulled pork, smoked chicken, ribs, and a superb salt-and-pepper brisket, all cooked over wood on offset metal pits. Siegel’s and Garrigan’s fine-dining roots show in an array of creative snacks and tacos, like chopped brisket sliders on brioche buns and smoked shrimp tacos with white bean puree. There’s always a cheffy special or two, like pulled pork empanadas or a pit-smoked pork chop with purple cabbage and apple, and don’t miss out on Home Team’s smoked chicken wings with tangy white Alabamastyle sauce. —Robert F. Moss
FIG MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 232 Meeting St. (843) 805-5900 eatatfig.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
In 2003, Chef Mike Lata set out to prove that ‘food is good.’ After blazing a trail for the robust local farm-to-table restaurant scene, FIG still stands out, winning awards and creating devotees year after year. Although snagging a reservation can be a challenge, the seasonally inspired cuisine and impeccable service are worth the effort. Change is a constant, but stalwart menu standbys like the fish stew provencal and pillowy ricotta gnocchi alla Bolognese never fail to satisfy. Be sure to check out the wine offerings, as — along with two nods for Best Chef Southeast — FIG is also a national James Beard award-winner for Outstanding Wine Program. —Vanessa Wolf
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Modern Italian Cuisine in the Heart of Downtown Charleston PATIO A ND BA R SEATING A LWAYS FIRST COME FIRST SERV ED
FOR RESERVATIONS (843) 212-0920
15 BEAUFAIN STREET • DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON (JUST OFF KING STREET) • LEFARFALLECHARLESTON.COM
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BRUNCH • LUNCH • DINNER APERITIVO AFTERNOON
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Top 50 crescent dumplings are an outstanding way to give your tastebuds a crash course in the events to come. Made with ground pork and redolent Sichuan pepper, the five plump dumplings are served in a soy-based, vinegary sauce and topped with fresh cilantro and chives. Hot, sour, salty, sweet: everyone’s here. On the “vibes” side of things, vegetarians are well-taken care of with the dry-fried green beans. Here some rice makes sense and adds bulk to the delicate haricots verts, which are coated with an intense, chunky garlic and ginger combo with a little spicy kick. But of course. —Vanessa Wolf
Top 50 from page 25
The Glass Onion NEW SOUTHERN
Moderate West Ashley. 1219 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-1717 ilovetheglassonion.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sat. Brunch
Since 2008, the Glass Onion has exemplified the “neighborhood favorite” category — a restaurant less formal and ambitious than a fine dining spot but still delivering seriously delicious meals. The offering blends the home cooking of chef/owner Chris Stewart’s native Alabama with dishes and styles he absorbed while working in fine dining kitchens first in New Orleans and then in Charleston. That means hearty, savory gumbo brimming with okra and sausage, Cajun boudin balls with Creole mustard, and crisp okra beignets served with spicy red remoulade. Pristine local seafood makes for fresh, satisfying plates, like pan-roasted flounder served over tender braised beans and thick mashed potatoes. A few more adventurous entrees, like a beguilingly dark rabbit ragout with ricotta gnocchi, pop up with regularity alongside hearty Southern classics like shrimp and grits and fried catfish with red rice. It’s a surefire formula for a satisfying meal. —Robert F. Moss
Moderate Downtown. 804 Meeting St. (843) 203-3118 goatsheepcow.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Although arguably goat.sheep.cow.north’s menu is more about curating than cooking, the varied cheese, charcuterie, and combo boards showcase those impressive skills well. Each board represents products from each of the animals and provides a thorough smattering of textures — expect a solid bang for your cheeseloving buck. Those looking for something more substantial might appreciate the signature grilled cheese, muffuletta, or any one of the special daily sandwiches. The welcoming, refined space features an extensive wine list, with dozens of by-the-glass and whole bottle options, as well as a beer and cider selection. —Vanessa Wolf
The Grocery MODERN AMERICAN
Expensive Downtown. 4 Cannon St. (843) 302-8825 thegrocerycharleston.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Sun. Brunch
Occupying a space that is at once industrial and inviting, chef/owner Kevin Johnson’s menus are seasonally inspired and passionately local. Utilizing a mix of fresh farmed, fished, and foraged ingredients, The Grocery exemplifies farm-to-table dining. The Southern/Mediterranean offerings
Le Farfalle ITALIAN Andrew Cebulka
Minero has recenlty added menu items like the New York strip with crispy potatoes have included such highlights as fried oysters with deviled egg sauce and bread and butter pickles. Year-round standbys include the generous portions of Lowcountry seafood pilau and the changing varieties of roasted whole fish, cooked in the restaurant’s massive wood-burning oven. Along with a celebrated Sunday brunch, The Grocery’s innovative cocktail program features standouts like the dirty green tomato, a martini made with pickled green tomato juice. —Vanessa Wolf
Husk Restaurant NEW SOUTHERN
Expensive Downtown. 76 Queen St. (843) 577-2500 huskrestaurant.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Husk has outposts in Nashville, Greenville, and Savannah, but this location — housed in a white mansion on Queen Street — is the original. Here, executive chef Travis Grimes carries out the vision of innovative, modern farmto-table perfection. The kitchen creates such must-try marvels like Southern fried chicken skins, ‘Kentuckyaki’ pigs ear lettuce wraps, or the hulking Carolina heritage pork chop, while dessert offerings include such innovations as the savory-sweet cornbread pudding. There’s a welcoming, rustic atmosphere indoors, but if weather permits, sit out on the upstairs porch and enjoy what is, without hesitation, Southern food at its best. —Vanessa Wolf
Jackrabbit Filly CHINESE
Moderate North Charleston. 4628 Spruill Ave. (843) 4600037 jackrabbitfilly.com Serving Lunch (Wed.-Sat.), Dinner (Wed.-Sun.)
The menu at Jackrabbit Filly — Shuai and
Corrie Wang’s brick-and-mortar jump from their popular Short Grain food truck — takes quintessential Asian fare, and adds some vamp. The pork and cabbage dumplings are where Yangtze meets Ganges, with a rich mix of pork, cabbage, ginger, and coriander encased inside the perfectly cooked pasta wrapper. Topped with a pungent chinkiang vinegar and Lao Gan Ma chili crisp sauce, the first bite is like suddenly finding something you hadn’t even realized was missing. Short Grain’s beloved karaage endures — the meat is juicy, the coating crunchy, and the drizzle of lemon mayo and ponzu, along with some togarashi-induced heat, should be presented with the following disclaimer: “The karaage is a small structure made of chicken. It is delicious, and you are not ready for it.” While no World Famous Jackrabbit Filly twist contest exists (yet), a similar, multi-tiered, two-foot tall trophy sounds about right. Grab some friends, share the love and share it hard. —Vanessa Wolf
Kwei Fei CHINESE
Moderate James Island. 1977 Maybank Hwy. kweifei.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Set next door to Charleston Pour House in the space previously occupied by The Lot, Kwei Fei’s interior looks the same-ish, except now the chairs are yellow and you’ll find some Asian knick knacks scattered about. But the updates are the only understated thing about Kwei Fei. Pretty much nothing else — from the food to the music to the chef himself — can be described as subtle. Kwei Fei’s menu is an equally wild ride, offering an array of appetizers, entrees, and veggie-based sides sorted into blocks labeled “Loud,” “Hot,” and “Vibes.” The
Expensive Downtown. 15 Beaufain St. (843) 212-0920 lefarfallecharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Led by celebrated chef Michael Toscano, Le Farfalle is certain to delight. The bright, upscale space is generously laid out with an elegant bar suitable for a quick lunch of agnolotti pasta or a relaxed after-dinner conversation over craft cocktails. Dinner service starts with a slice from the restaurant’s ginormous wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, but matters are then in your own hands. Seasonal appetizer stand outs have included a veal tartare toast served with shoestring fries, and a sublime octopus carpaccio. You can’t go wrong with the housemade pastas, and other memorable dinner selections have included a vibrant whole branzino with pine nuts and a tender fried chicken picatta. —Vanessa Wolf
Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters SEAFOOD
Moderate Downtown. 698 King St. (843) 531-6500 leonsoystershop.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The chargrilled oysters at Leon’s embody the restaurant’s approach to food: unfussy and delicious. The fish fry platter is a jumble of oysters, shrimp, and fish battered and delicately fried and served with a tartar sauce so good we sometimes just dip a fork in it in between bites. If we know anything about restaurateurs Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink, it’s that they know how to design a restaurant that both looks and feels good. This is the kind of place that gets in your regular rotation because it’s comfortable, delicious, and reliable. —Stephanie Barna
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Top 50 Top 50 from page 26
Lewis Barbecue BARBECUE
Moderate Downtown. 464 N. Nassau St. (843) 805-9500 lewisbarbecue.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Lewis’ building houses four custom built smokers and a sausage smoker that can cook 1,600 links at a time, all hand built by Lewis and his father. Once inside you’ll queue up to have meat hand-sliced by one of two meat-cutters stationed behind a long counter directing you to opposite ends. Lewis’ “life changing” beef brisket is definitely the star. The infinitely tender meat has a salty, peppery crust and shines with melted fat. But there’s also juicy smoked turkey, pulled pork, pork ribs, and Texas sausage called “hot guts” available and priced by the pound (or hot guts by the link). After your tray is filled with your order of meats, choose your sides from mustardy potato salad, lemon slaw, cowboy beans, and rich green chile corn pudding. —Robert Donovan
The Macintosh MODERN AMERICAN
Expensive Downtown. 479B King St. (843) 789-4299 themacintoshcharleston.com Serving Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Back in 2011, the Macintosh was among the wave of pioneering Upper King restaurants that helped transform Charleston into an international dining destination. An enduring passion for local ingredients prepared with the focus and discipline of a classical kitchen keeps it vigorous and relevant today. Intensely beefy ribeye deckle, flawlessly tender ricotta gnudi, and luxurious bone marrow bread pudding are now long-running favorites of the restaurant’s regulars. Chefpartner Jeremiah Bacon keeps things moving forward, too, with seasonal plates that highlight the freshest local seafood and produce: seared flounder with Jimmy Red grits, chilled shrimp with tigre de leche and mint, a medley of brassicas with romesco and mustard. An innovative in-house seafood charcuterie program incorporates heads and trimmings into tempting morsels like wreckfish rillettes and fish bologna, the perfect foundation for a stunning seafood slider. —Robert F. Moss
Expensive Downtown. 708 King St.(843) 990-9165 maisoncharleston.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Maison shares a low, unassuming King Street building with a climbing gym, but step inside and you’ll find an immaculate invocation of a stylish French bistro. There’s a pewter-topped bar, hexagonal white and black floor tiles, and Parisian-style bistro chairs with white and black woven backs. The menu options — escargots, steak frites au poivre, coq au vin — seem to hew to traditional bistro standards at first, but chef Vandy Vanderwarker gives each a creative, flavorful spin. The sultry coq au vin is a deconstructed delight, with long-marinated chicken that’s braised, shredded, and blended with roasted ramps into an intensely flavored patty. A thick wedge of monkfish tail has a smooth, buttery bite beneath its golden brown sear, heightened by the unexpected richness of roasted chicken butter sauce. With deep, intense flavors and a playful sensibility, Maison’s daring interpretations of traditional French plates are a welcome addition to the Charleston scene. —Robert F. Moss
Moderate Downtown. 33 Spring St. (843) 926-0475 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Even experienced tapas lovers may find themselves a bit wide-eyed at Malagon — the eight-page menu isn’t fooling around. Rather, it gets right down to some sweet tapas tenderness, starting with familiar snacks like marcona almonds and dates wrapped in ham. The mojama (cured tuna belly) is a classic treat. Firm and salty, it’s often referred to as the jamón of the sea. Accompanied by roughly a dozen baby potatoes, tender chunks of octopus have a silky texture similar to that of a rare scallop. The mild flavors of the two soft ingredients are dominated by the sprinkling of smoked paprika on top. Despite being ‘small plates’ and probably owing in part to all the potatoes, your meal can be surprisingly filling and notably affordable. Malagon is not only doing something different, they’re doing it extremely well. —Vanessa Wolf
Martha Lou’s Kitchen SOUL FOOD
Cheap Downtown. 1068 Morrison Drive. (843) 577-9583 marthalouskitchen.com Serving Lunch, Early Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Write ups in the New York Times, numer-
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Our go-to restaurant list
ous Best of Charleston awards, and mentions by Sean Brock and other chefs have had Martha Lou’s Kitchen on the list of many a Charleston visitor. The accolades haven’t caused the food to change much, still serving up classic meat and three options. The menu changes daily but there’s a good chance some combo of the fried chicken, whiting, or pork chops will be available. The fried chicken and whiting come to you straight out of the fryer, hot, both with a salty, well-spiced, craggy crust. It’s all fried to order so be prepared to wait. Round it out with red rice, collards, mac and cheese, or okra and you’re set except for the tea. Sipping Martha Lou’s tea you might question if there’s any sugar left, anywhere. —Kinsey Gidick
know that they will continue to deliver the creative, locally focused, ingredient-driven cuisine that our guests have enjoyed at the restaurants over the years.” So go ahead and settle in for an evening of that ingredient driven cuisine — choose from one of six nightly seatings and receive in return a highly choreographed meal with impeccable wine pairings. The plates are both artful and playful, balancing rich, intense flavors with delicate nuances. —Robert F. Moss
Named for the family who once ran a pharmacy in the same space, Melfi’s menu offers updated takes on Italian staples. The polished, old-school dining room is warm and buzzy, providing a welcome backdrop to get your carbs on. Slip into a leather booth and proceed to feast on house-made linguine tossed with pancetta or littleneck clams, or “Roman-ish” pizza, like the Mr. Wally, made with vodka sauce, Fresno peppers, sliced salami, and meaty hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. Don’t miss the delicate tuna crudo with buttery pine nuts and Calabrian
Expensive Downtown. 2 Unity Alley. (843) 577-0025 mccradysrestaurant.com Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sun.)
McCrady’s former executive chef Sean Brock once described the space as “the restaurant I’ve always wanted to have.” Although Brock has officially cut ties with all of his restaurants, he assured his fans in a press release in the summer of 2018 that, “I have full confidence in these chefs and
Expensive Downtown. 721 King St. (843) 513-0307 eatatmelfis.com Serving Dinner (daily)
chile vinaigrette. Negroni aficionados will appreciate the choice of seven innovative variations. —Vanessa Wolf
Moderate Downtown. 153 East Bay St. (843) 789-2241 minerorestaurant.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Sean Brock has also parted ways with Minero, but you can still feast on expertly crafted Mexican street food on East Bay with executive chef Alex Yellan at the helm. Even with exposed brick walls, wood-slatted banquettes, and servers in T-shirts and khakis, they’re still serious about the food. Servers douse charcoal-grilled chicken wings with Valentina hot sauce and shake them tableside in brown paper bags. The menu’s cultural mash-ups include delectable Yucatan pork meatballs served with chilmole, Cotija cheese, pickled raisins (yes, it works) and red rice. And the Minero Burger — two chorizo smash patties, white American cheese, and special sauce on a brioche bun — which used to be a Wednesday only speical, is now a permanent menu fixture. The appealing bar selection includes 16-oz. cans of Tecate, dozens of artisan mescals, and an array of cocktails named for lucha libre wrestlers. —Robert F. Moss
Nana’s Seafood & Soul SOUL FOOD
Inexpensive Downtown. 176 Line St. Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
With pork chops, fried whiting, cornbread, and bread pudding, Nana’s is real deal comfort food. Seafood entrees start at just $8.50 — choose from shrimp, oysters, tilapia, scallops, or any combo of the above. And for those who need a Nana’s fix both on and off the peninsula, you can now visit Nana’s Uptown, located at 5117 Dorchester Road. —Kinsey Gidick
Oak Steakhouse STEAKHOUSE
Expensive Downtown. 17 Broad St. (843) 722-4220 oaksteakhouserestaurant.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Located in a restored 150-year-old bank building, Oak is a long-running favorite for a big Charleston night out. Hefty prime ribeyes and strips are the main attractions, with luxurious family-style accompaniments like creamy whipped potatoes and lobster mac and cheese. Within the traditional steakhouse format there is always a twist or continued on page 30
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Top 50 Top 50 from page 29
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two, like a daily local seafood special or beef belly with sorghum barbecue sauce. The deep wine list focuses on California reds, and the service is reliably top-notch, regardless of whether you eat downstairs in the bar area, with its exposed brick walls and clubby red leather booths, or at the white cloth-draped tables in the second story dining room, its high windows looking out over Broad Street. —Robert F. Moss
The Obstinate Daughter SEAFOOD/SOUTHERN
Moderate Sullivan’s Island. 2063 Middle St. (843) 416-5020 theobstinatedaughter.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
At The Obstinate Daughter, executive chef Jacques Larson’s big, open kitchen has a plancha and a wood-fired oven, and he uses it to create a beguiling array of pizzas, pastas, and small plates. The pizzas bear tempting toppings, like clams and roasted fennel or pork meatballs and red peppers. The dishes on the rotating “plates” menu range in size from “Geechie frites” (long strips of fried polenta) to a crispy duck with with carrot farrotto, cipollini, and chermoula. Fluffy ricotta gnocchi are topped with an intensely flavorful short rib ragu with tender strands of beef in a pool of reddish orange tomato-tinged jus. OD boasts a cheery, casual environment for enjoying Larson’s impressive parade of delicate but flavorful dishes. And that makes it one of the best upscale dining destinations not just out on the beaches, but anywhere in town. —Robert F. Moss
The Ordinary SEAFOOD
Expensive Downtown. 544 King St. (843) 414-7060 eattheordinary.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
In December 2012, a historic King Street bank building found new life as an upscale oyster hall. The Ordinary — second child of Adam Nemirow and chef Mike Lata — opened with soaring 22-foot ceilings, the promise of locally sourced seafood, and lots of buzz. Today such concepts are a dime a dozen (on the half-shell, please). But The Ordinary was the first of its kind, and, I would argue, still the best. While regularly packed and filled with an upbeat ambiance, the high ceilings diffuse the jovial noise to a pleasant buzz. Along with six daily varieties of raw oysters on the half shell, the house-smoked oysters are not to be missed. Presented in an oil and vinegar-filled preserve jar and spiked with slices of crisp pickled celery, the six oysters are so gently smoked that they are still raw. As a result, each is tender and juicy, the delicate hint of
ocean flavor touched with woodsy smoke. Served with fancied-up saltines (brushed with butter and Old Bay), rich, cold creme fraiche, and vibrant hot sauce, the combination is outstanding: cool, crisp, and smoky all at once. —Vanessa Wolf
Peninsula Grill NEW SOUTHERN
Very Expensive Downtown. 112 N. Market St. (843) 723-0700 peninsulagrill.com Serving Dinner (daily)
There are milestones in life that require a fancy steak. Or at least the kind of place where one can get a fancy steak. If you’re in the midst of such an occasion, Peninsula Grill has got you covered. Even after more than two decades, Peninsula Grill continues to impress with its luxurious fare. Take, for instance, the seared foie gras. The dish is deserving of a modeling contract, with the perfectly cooked slice of delicate liver resting atop artful smears of cinnamon-infused strawberry coulis and aged balsamic reduction. Backed by a vibrant fence of fresh strawberry slices and a crisp arugula salad, this is about as good as foie gras gets. —Vanessa Wolf
Expensive Downtown. 237 Fishburne St. (843) 300-2253 purlieucharleston.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Stepping into this intimate, relaxed Westside bistro is almost like being transported to a Parisian neighborhood. Chef John Zucker’s seasonal menu offers traditional French dishes like escargot and Parisian herb gnocchi, plus reimagined classics such as mache salad with duck prosciutto or a refined bouillabaisse filled with local seafood. The warm, cozy space is filled with reclaimed wood ceilings and tile walls, providing a distinctly European ambiance. The carefully chosen wine list only adds to the experience. —Vanessa Wolf
Moderate Downtown. 384 Huger St. (843) 952-7864 renzochs.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
This former storefront-turned-hip neighborhood trattoria has a wood-fired oven and knows how to use it. Along with tempting starters like warm homemade sourdough bread or charred cauliflower florets with savory mushoom XO sauce, the menu features a trio of pastas, plus an array of creative Neapolitan-style pizzas. Feeling adventurous? The Cheli offers a tomato base with lamb continued on page 32
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32 || DISH || Winter 2020
Top 50 Top 50 from page 30
sausage, tangy pickled peppers, honey, and za'atar. There’s a bagel brunch on Sundays, plus Renzo offers one of the area’s largest selections of nat wine. —Vanessa Wolf
works, Rodney Scott is exporting South Carolina-style whole hog cookery across the entire South. —Robert F. Moss
Slightly North of Broad NEW SOUTHERN
Expensive Downtown. 192 East Bay St. (843) 723-3424 snobcharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Rodney Scott’s BBQ BARBECUE
Inexpensive Downtown. 1011 King St. (843) 990-9535 rodneyscottsbbq.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Rodney Scott made waves in 2017 when, after two decades of cooking hogs at his family’s acclaimed operation in Hemingway, he brought his traditional burn barrel style of barbecue down to Charleston. That splendid whole hog — basted in a pepper-laced sauce and pulled into long, succulent strands — remains the foundation of Scott’s offering on King Street, but he’s added a few new options for the city crowd, like meaty spareribs, crisp fried catfish, and craft beer on tap. The f lawless collards and the ribeye sandwiches, made from pit-smoked steak sliced thin and piled high on soft rolls, are musttry sleepers. Now, with a second restaurant open in Birmingham and two more in the
Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) is the perfect place to take visiting friends for their first taste of Charleston cuisine, for it embodies so much of what makes the city’s dining scene special. Since taking the reins in 2016, executive chef Russ Moore has deftly balanced the restaurant’s traditional dishes with more forward-looking fare. Grilled Carolina quail stuffed with dirty rice delivers a “wow”-inducing burst of richness from the very first bite. Pristinely fresh seafood gets an elegant Southern touch on plates like New Bedford scallops with tomato ham hock broth or seared tuna topped with crisp fried oysters and tart yellow “mustard Q” sauce. SNOB was a local charcuterie pioneer, and a platter of hearty country pate, savory pork rillettes, and lush chicken liver mousse is the perfect evening starter. —Robert F. Moss
Sorghum & Salt MODERN AMERICAN
Expensive Downtown. 186 Coming St. (843) 872-6393 sorghumandsalt.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun,)
Situated in the space that once held the beloved Two Boroughs Larder, chef Tres Jackson’s Sorghum & Salt has more than enough chops to fill those shoes. Tenaciously fresh and unapologetically creative, Jackson’s cuisine offers a mix of familiar and foreign in ways that are fresh and unexpected. The menu is as continually in flux as the ever-shifting Lowcountry weather, but don’t miss a chance to try the superlative salt-roasted beets or sweet, yet savory Ambrose Farms radishes. An obvious labor of love, anticipate thoughtful, provocative food prepared and served by people who are clearly proud of it. —Vanessa Wolf
Moderate Downtown. 114 St. Philip St. (843) 400-0026 stellascharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
It’s hard to say what’s most striking about Stella’s on St. Philip Street. Is it the hip, yet boisterous vibe? The large portions at an incredibly reasonable price point? Or is
it the vast, authentic, and consistently delicious menu? Regardless of your ultimate conclusion, this is a trifecta worth a visit… Or five. The grilled octopus and spanikopita are simple perfection, while the saganaki is a visual showstopper and an excuse to pig out on cheese. Stella’s own recipes — namely her calamari and braised lamb shank with No. 5 noodles and brown butter shank sauce, are at once comforting and elevated, testimony to the woman who inspired it all. —Vanessa Wolf
Trattoria Lucca ITALIAN
Expensive Downtown. 41-A Bogard St. (843) 973-3323 luccacharleston.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Chef Ken Vedrinksi knows pasta and he knows it well. At Lucca, he makes fresh pasta and serves elevated Italian cuisine using the finest seafood, produce, and meats from nearby purveyors. The quaint charm of Lucca acts as the perfect setting for us to be awed by Vedrinski’s work. The ever-changing menu gives us every reason to go back as often as possible. —Eric Doksa continued on page 34
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Top 50 Top 50 from page 32
Wild Olive ITALIAN
Moderate Downtown. 430 Meeting St. tu-charleston.com Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sat.)
The culinary team behind Xiao Bao Biscuit offers this fresh take on the food of the subcontinent. The restaurant is set in an updated, expanded Charleston single and the quirky Indian-fusion dishes are locally sourced, veggie-forward, and always creative. While apt to change, diners can expect options like traditional caulif lower and potato-filled samosas, modernized with the addition of tart currants. Along with a black pepper curry hailing from Southwestern island neighbor, Sri Lanka, the menu includes Indianstyle fish and chicken-based curries. Don’t miss the exceptional dosa, an impossibly crisp crepe-like creation filled with paneer cheese and topped with fragrant ground beef keema. —Vanessa Wolf
Zero Restaurant + Bar
Xiao Bao Biscuit ASIAN FUSION
Moderate Johns Island. 2867 Maybank Hwy. (843) 737-4177 wildoliverestaurant.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Right off Maybank Highway sits Wild Olive, chef Jacques Larson’s haven for exquisite Italian fare. Since 2009 it has served as the go-to place for anniversary dinners and reunions with old friends. A comfortable bar greets those looking for a casual bite but don’t let that relaxed atmosphere deceive you. Larson’s food is anything but. Incredible (and decadent) risotto fritters stuffed with sausage, spinach, Parmesan, and mozzarella are a great way to start. And always ask about the specials, of which there are plenty. A past highlight was a pappardelle with proscuitto, pork, and escarole. Larson is a firm believer in local and his conviction permeates everything on the plate. —Kinsey Gidick
Inexpensive Downtown. 224 Rutledge Ave. xiaobaobiscuit.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Expensive Downtown. 0 George St. (843) 817-7900 zerogeorge.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
What started as a pop-up with a devout following eventually found a dedicated shrine much to the delight of all who crave a wide swath of Asian flavors (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Taiwanese) interpreted with fresh Lowcountry ingredients. The dishes are not for the meek or unadventurous; each packs escalating levels of heat. On the gentler scale is the popular Okonomiyaki, a Japanese cabbage pancake criss-crossed with drizzles of sriracha and Japanese mayo, then topped with a runny-yolk egg. On the spicy end of the scale is the Mapo Dofu, whose cubes of tofu incinerate your taste buds with swirls of chili oil, leaving heat seekers crying through tears of gratitude as they lick their plates clean. Cool your palate with a coconut milk or a (nonalcoholic) lemongrass ginger beer. —Allston McCrady
On the grounds of the elegant Zero George Street Boutique Hotel, Zero Restaurant + Bar’s romantic dining room is set in a former carriage house built in 1804. Here, chef Vinson Petrillo whips up innovative tasting menus with the option of four or seven courses, plus optional wine pairings. Selections vary with the seasons, but anticipate such treats as lightly grilled mackerel served with foie gras and local citrus, or venison prepared with vadouvan curry and taleggio cheese. Hit up happy hour for a craft cocktail; whether wielding a lead pipe or the candlestick, the bourbon-based Colonel Mustard is sure to pack a punch. —Vanessa Wolf
One of Charleston’s
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Voted Charleston’s Most Romantic Restaurant 19 Years in a Row
5 Fulton Street • Downtown Off King Street • Just South of Charleston Place • 843-853-5555 Mon-Thu 5:30-9PM & Fri-Sat 5:30-10PM
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Downtown’s vibrant dining scene is home to many of our Dish Top 50, and there are plenty of restaurants that might not have made the big list that are still worthy of your patronage. The best news about eating downtown is that you can get much more than shrimp and grits. The restaurants are listed in order alphabetically. Neighborhood Essential Contributors: Suzanne Cohen Katherine Connor Eric Doksa Robert Donovan Kinsey Gidick Allston McCrady Robert F. Moss Vanessa Wolf See p. 20 for downtown restaurants that made the Dish Top 50.
execution to approachable favorites. The menu is all over the place but it’s comforting and filling and flavorful all in a gorgeous Italian Renaissance Revival building.
39 Rue de Jean FRENCH
Moderate Downtown. 39 John St. (843) 722-8881 39ruedejean.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
39 Rue de Jean looks like it’s been at 39 John St. forever and in Upper King’s recent restaurant history, it has. For almost two decades the brasserie has kept regulars returning thanks to French classics and then some, like the nicoise salad, brimming with tuna, green beans, eggs, and a toothsome vinaigrette, or the big plates, like the braised short ribs (with butter!), the burger (one of the best in town maybe?), and the six preparations of mussels.
5Church MODERN AMERICAN
1 Broad Street AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 1 Broad St. 1broadstreetrestaurant.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Weekend Brunch
One Broad chef Kevin Getzewich makes a mean shakshuka. The Middle Eastern classic is a brunch must with its tangy tomatoes and custardy poached eggs. Somehow Getzewich has managed to take his fine dining background (Indaco, Macintosh, Two Boroughs) and bring the same level of
Expensive Downtown. 32 N Market St. (843) 937-8666 5churchcharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
The sister restaurant to 5Church Charlotte, 5Church Charleston is run by exec chef Adam Hodgson and Bravo Top Chef alum Jamie Lynch. While the menu veers pretty standard high-end, approachable, “modern American” fare — think salmon, raw bar items, flatbread — the Market Street spot has made a point to go the extra mile by sourcing ingredients from Lynch’s new six-acre farm located 30 minutes from Charlotte.
Huger St. grilled cheese is one of six grilled cheese options at 60 Bull Cafe
60 Bull Cafe AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 60 Bull St. (843) 718-3145 60bull.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Finally, Harleston Village has its neighborhood cafe back. After Bull Street Gourmet closed at 60 Bull St. back in 2013 it left a sandwichsized hole in the neighborhood. But with 60 Bull, breakfast, lunch, and now dinner have returned to the hot address. Lunch keeps things fresh with salads like the classic Caesar and a spinach and arugula mix. There are loads of sandwiches as well — from pimento grilled cheese to a black bean burger. For dinner, the Heritage Farms pork chop makes a nice option before trying one of 60 Bull’s cobblers.
82 Queen NEW SOUTHERN
Expensive Downtown. 82 Queen St. (843) 723-7591 82queen.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
A downtown bastion of Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew, 82 Queen has steadily been building a menu of forward-thinking dishes. Of course, the proven classics remain. Locals and visitors alike continue to head to the Queen for fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, Lowcountry seafood gumbo bog, tomato pie, and crispy fried oysters.
The Dish dining guide
A.C.’s Bar & Grill PUBS + TAVERNS
Cheap Downtown. 467 King St. (843) 577-6742 acsbar.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner, Late Night (daily)
A.C.’s is a no-frills watering hole known for its satisfying slate of late-night eats. The dive has endured highs and lows, but with a go-to Beer of the Month special, a small army of fast-moving bar staff, and plenty of Miller High Life, you can’t keep the crowds from the dimly lit corners of this King Street mainstay. Of course, A.C.’s is still serving up their trademark cheesesteaks, burgers, and always-satisfying bar food that will fulfill even the booziest of cravings.
The Alley AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 131 Columbus St. (843) 818-4080 thealleycharleston.com Serving Lunch (Thurs.-Sun.), Dinner, Late Night (daily)
The Alley’s got everything you need for an adult game night — cold beers on tap, wings in six flavors (check out honey habanero), and eight bowling lanes. Yes, you can have your drinks delivered lane-side. With a solid selection of arcade games, too, The Alley is downtown’s best spot to fill up and play on.
Expensive Downtown. 12 Anson St. (843) 577-0551 ansonrestaurant.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Anson serves a surefire mix of upscale seafood, steak, and traditional Lowcountry offerings. While the restaurant’s classic crispy fried flounder enjoys regular accolades, it’s the rich, decadent she-crab soup “laced with sherry” that cannot be missed. With an elegant interior, high ceilings, and large, inviting wood bar, the noise level can be a bit exuberant, but don’t let that distract you from the upscale elegance.
Babas on Cannon CAFE/TAPAS
Just when you thought Charleston couldn’t possibly support another small plates, European-inspired bar, along comes Babas on Cannon. Grab a seat, and you’re soon presented with a complimentary bowl of green olives and another filled with salty potato chips, thereby getting the dehydration — and no doubt the craving for a carefully curated adult beverage — off to a rollicking start. Try the martini (only $5
Baker & Brewer PIZZA
Inexpensive Downtown. 94 Stuart St. (843) 297-8233 bakerandbrewer.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Born in spring 2019, new arrival Baker & Brewer combines the lofty warehouse space and innovative craft brews of Holy City Brewing you love with the dough-based EVO sustenance you need. Any fan of the original EVO knows all about the eponymous extra virgin ovens. Wood-fired splendors endure at B&B, where the Margherita pizza is every bit as reliable as its predecessor. Wonderfully balanced, it’s all about sweet crushed tomatoes and aromatic basil leaves, tempered by the chewy dough and mellow fresh mozzarella cheese. Brunch items include pizza inspired skillets like green chorizo and wood-fired French toast.
An exceptional single malt whisky with the traditional smooth, honeyed character of The Balvenie married with notes of toffee and a hint of fruit, with a warm, lingering finish.
Moderate Downtown. 58 Line St. (843) 577-5393 barsacharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Barsa’s Spanish-inspired menu has made it a favorite among locals. A hearty selection of meats includes an 18-month Serrano ham, six-month chorizo, and speck. Barsa offers a solid list of Old and New World wines, well-prepared cocktails, and attentive service. When time isn’t an issue, order one of the three paella options — they’re discounted during happy hour — and make sure to check out the daily specials.
Bay Street Biergarten AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 549 E Bay St. (843) 266-2437 baystreetbiergarten.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily), Weekend Brunch
Bay Street Biergarten’s menu states that the restaurant is “Bavarian Inspired, Southern made” and with bites like their pretzel bombs, surprisingly crisp and light golf ball sized cheese and sausage stuffed pretzel balls, and the Jaegerschnitzel entree, they’re backing that up. But we know it’s about the beer. Order from a list of 50+ bottles and cans and 24 draught beers.
continued on page 38
Handcrafted to be enjoyed responsibly The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky ©2018 Imported by William Grant & Sons, Inc. New York, NY.
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Moderate Downtown. 11 Cannon St. babasoncannon.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
on Tuesdays) or the “as you wish” — any spirit, fresh pomegranate, lemon, orange, Campari, and demerara. The fried chickpea panisse, served with a wedge of lemon, is an unexpected delight.
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Neighborhood Essentials Downtown from page 37
Big Gun Burger Shop BURGERS
Inexpensive Downtown. 137 Calhoun St. (843) 789-3821 bigguncharleston.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily), Weekend Brunch
FULL $ TACOS TEQUILA IN HANDMADE TORTILLAS BAR
VARIETY OF SALSAS & VEGAN TACOS!
Chef Austin Kirkland took it up a notch when he opened his retro-dive burger joint, Big Gun Burger Shop in 2011. Styled with old hub-caps and playing classic tunes, not only does Big Gun serve artisan burgers like the Towering Inferno with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, queso fresco, and habanero slaw, he also makes you jealous of the “nonburgers.” There’s the Dirty Gardner vegetable burger with eggplant tomato jam and fried kale and the Jive Turkey with a ground turkey patty, turkey bacon, gouda cheese, avocado, and peach jalapeno mustard.
Bin 152 WINE BAR
Inexpensive Downtown. 152 King St. (843) 577-7359 bin152.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily)
There is beauty in simplicity. Bin 152 is essentially a wine and cheese bar. Yet the offerings are anything but simple. Cosmopolitan husband-and-wife team Patrick and Fanny Panella (Chez Nous, Malagon) are fanatical about their selections. It’s the perfect spot to sip cava and nibble on triple cream fromage served with thinly sliced, fresh baked baguettes before heading to dinner or a show.
Bistro A Vin FRENCH
Moderate Downtown. 40 Archdale St. (843) 974-4441 bistroavin.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
EVERY WEDNESDAY 7-11PM
Open until the last taco is gone Fri and Sat!
616 Meeting St • Downtown 843-406-5958 • ElPinchoTaco.com
As you walk into Bistro A Vin — the sister establishment and next-door neighbor to pastry-focused Cafe Framboise — the sound of Frank Sinatra fills the air. In accordance, the olive oil shop-turned-wine-bar is elegant, but cozy. The menu is unapologetically French with salad nicoise, foie gras, and quiche du jour plus thoughtfully sourced fromage and charcuterie. Service is decidedly European, which is to say friendly when you beckon, but otherwise hands-off.
The Blind Tiger AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 36-38 Broad St. blindtigerchs.com Serving Lunch (daily), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
When Mike Shuler, the owner of King Street Dispensary, said he was taking over
The Blind Tiger, it was anyone’s guess how the remodel would go. Come to find out, Shuler shined up the place but left the Tiger’s personality intact. Plus, he improved upon its menu. Now you can get char-grilled oysters and smoked wings in addition to a burrata salad. Burrata salad at Blind Tiger? Yes, you read that correctly.
Bon Bánh Mì DELI + SANDWICHES
Cheap Downtown. 162 C Spring St. (843) 414-7320 Mt. Pleasant. 1440 Ben Sawyer Blvd. (843) 388-7080 bonbanhmi.com Serving Lunch (daily), Dinner (Mon. - Sat.)
Jason Sakran and Jeremy Spencer’s version of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich edged out the rest of the local competition in the City Paper’s side-by-side Battle of the Bánh Mì many moons ago ... and with good reason: They serve arguably the best baguette in town. It’s hard (but not tooth-breaking hard) on the outside and soft on the inside. The fillings include five spice tofu, red curry beef, lemongrass chicken, and the fusiony egg and Canadian bacon, but none are quite as good as the traditional country pâté and the Spamlike — gasp — Vietnamese ham; it’s a little fattier than the rest, but it will stick to your ribs for hours.
Breizh Pan’ Crepes FRENCH
Cheap Downtown. 39 George St. (843) 822-3313 breizhpancrepes.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (Mon.-Sat.)
There’s something so multi-purpose about a crêpe. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, the French have mastered the allday meal. But for all their utilitarian appeal, there are few who can prepare them up to Gallic standards. Luckily for us, Breizh Pan’ Crepes is the real deal.
Cane Rhum Bar CARIBBEAN
Moderate Downtown. 251 E Bay St. (843) 277-2764 eatdrinkcane.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Relentlessly festive and fun, this is no kitschy tiki bar. Rather, Cane Rhum Bar offers a chic, tropical vibe with Caribbean flavors on the menu and smooth-drinking cocktails with which to wash them down. Belly on up to the polished bar and order a zippy, gingerinfused Instant Vacation. If you’re looking for something to snack on, highlights include the Jamaican jerk chicken, ginger beer braised pork, and spicy beef empanadas.
continued on page 40
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charlestoncitypaper.com/dish || 39
40 || DISH || Winter 2020
Neighborhood Essentials their following on Bogard Street, you’d think that they’ve been around forever. At least once a week, someone on the CP staff dials up D’Al’s for a few of our favorites, usually the Chauncinator (margherita minus tomatoes, plus double-pepperoni) and the Get Gnarly, a killer white pizza with mozz, blue cheese, basil, and chicken roasted in balsamic vinegar. They’ve just opened another outpost in Summerville, so you can grab the killer pies wherever you reside. And yes, they even take orders online.
Downtown from page 38
Caviar & Bananas CAFÉS
Inexpensive Downtown. 51 George St. (843) 577-7757 caviarandbananas.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily)
We’ve often thought the owners of Caviar & Bananas just might be the smartest proprietors in Charleston. Located in the midst of 10,500 hungry undergrads on George Street, the to-go gourmet shop was a great idea from the beginning. But what’s kept C&B humming is their reliable quality. From fresh salads to sushi, pre-made mac ‘n’ cheese to specialty products, this tony market is the easy solution for a quick bite when shopping downtown, heading to a Spoleto show, or en route to class.
Chubby Fish SEAFOOD
Moderate Downtown. 252 Coming St. (854) 222-3949 chubbyfishcharleston.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Chubby Fish is airy and welcoming with a product people clearly want. There are raw bar dishes along with small plates, entrees, and landlubber friendly options — all constantly changing — plus limited beer and wine selections. The chili garlic shrimp is a standout dish. Greasy and satisfying, the six plump shrimp are garnished with cilantro and green onion and plated on rice. Chubby Fish recently made Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants 2019 list — they were the only Palmetto state eatery to do so.
Circa 1886 MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 149 Wentworth St. (843) 853-7828 circa1886.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
When it comes to romantic fine dining, Circa 1886 at The Wentworth Mansion is about as luxe as you can get. For more than a decade, executive chef Marc Collins has focused on high-quality, local ingredients to create light and vibrant dishes. In 2019, Collins launched a new menu focusing on the humble beginnings and multinational influences of South Carolina foodways, and how that translates to the plate today. His culinary narrative includes dishes like preserved rabbit with corn cob bouillon and Seewee bean succotash.
CO THAI + VIETNAMESE
Inexpensive Downtown. 340 King St. (843) 720-3631 eatatco.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Located in the heart of the King Street shopping district, CO takes Vietnamese street
Daps Breakfast & Imbibe AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 280 Ashley Ave. (843) 718-1098 dapsbreakfast.com Serving Breakfast (daily)
The charred rainbow trout at Chubby Fish is topped with a chunky Vietnamese-esque sauce of lime, green onions, and ginger food uptown and serves it at prices that are extremely reasonable considering the highly valued downtown strip. Apps include the requisite summer rolls (both of the tofu and shrimp variety) and pork belly buns — think sliders with hoisin sauce, pork belly, and pickled veggies. You’ll also find four varieties of bánh mì sandwiches ranging from five spice pork belly to braised Korean short rib with spicy kimchi.
Expensive Downtown. 39-D John St. (843) 722-8838 coastbarandgrill.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Just to the left of 39 Rue de Jean, down a narrow alley lined with ivy covered brick, look for the bright neon sign beckoning diners into this friendly, boisterous seafood venue. An open kitchen f lanks the lively bar area as classic rock tunes and rustic décor (we dig the red blowfish lamps) contribute to the “island lounge” vibe. Weather permitting, grab an open table along the alley and imagine you’re in a coastal European town, that is, until your heaping plate of shrimp and stoneground grits plants you squarely in the Lowcountry.
Cru Café FUSION + ECLECTIC
Moderate Downtown. 18 Pinckney St. (843) 534-2434 crucafe.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Tucked in a cozy Charleston single house on Pinckney Street, just a stone’s throw away from the busy City Market, chef and owner
John Zucker has been serving wandering visitors and in-the-know locals for almost two decades now. Between his downtown dining room and its original namesake, Cru Catering, chances are you’ve had their crowd-favorite four-cheese mac or the pork belly crouton-topped fried tomatoes. But you owe it to yourself to visit the cafe again. Expect satisfying plates ranging from their famous Thai seafood risotto for dinner to generous salads and sandwiches.
The Daily CAFE
Moderate Downtown. 652-B King St. (843) 619-0151 shopthedaily.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
Sometimes you just need a kale salad in a hurry. That’s what The Daily — the sister property to Butcher & Bee — has taught us. Since this coffee shop/meets grocery/ meets bakery opened, it’s become our go-to for quick bites and caffeine hits. While we tend to stop by in the morning for a latte and whipped feta toast with local honey and cracked pepper, a visit later is just as smart. Snag some pita, a pint of kale salad, and a bottle of vino for a feast at home.
D’Allesandro’s Pizza PIZZA
Inexpensive Downtown. 229 St. Philip St. (843) 853-6337 Summerville. 415 Nexton Square Drive. (843) 900-3593 dalspizza.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Brothers Ben and Nick D’Allesandro have only been throwing pies at their funky Elliotborough pizzeria since 2006, but from
Daps Breakfast & Imbibe occupies a bright, Westside single renovated into something straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalog. The menu focuses on the breakfasts of champions: You know, English muffin egg sandwiches, pancakes, and booze. Order the chickpea folded egg sandwich — a light, beautifully cooked omelette-style egg is folded into quarters and placed within a substantial English muffin. Doughy in a good way, the muffin stands up to the lightly fried, yet still mushy chickpea patty. And the Apple Jacks pancakes offer a reason to re-embrace carbs for breakfast.
The Darling Oyster Bar SEAFOOD
Moderate Downtown. 513 King St. (843) 641-0821 thedarling.com Serving Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
With high ceilings, honeycomb tile floors, and oodles of vintage charm, it’s no wonder locals have been streaming into The Darling. The menu runs the gamut from smoked salmon dip and Creole shrimp to traditional favorites like shrimp and grits, hamburgers, and fry baskets. But the real standouts are the raw offerings. Sit at the glass-enclosed raw bar and people-watch as you dine on fresh, raw local clams and East Coast oysters.
Doar Bros. COCKTAIL BAR
Moderate Downtown. 225 Meeting St. doarbros.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Doar Bros. looks fancy, but much like flare dresses and skillful haircuts, feels effortless. The menu is first and foremost geared toward libations, and cocktails are the name of the game. There’s a seasonal menu of modern offerings, plus a list of standards. continued on page 42
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Fenwick Commons JOHNS ISLAND • STARTING IN THE MID $200s
Neighborhood Essentials Downtown from page 40
Much like the fresh and thoughtful cocktails, the tidy food menu is geared toward sating your palate. There are East Coast oysters on the half-shell, assorted cheeses with baguette, and aged prosciutto di Parma should you prefer the familiar. If not, the brown butter popcorn delivers a touch of decadence in a small brown paper bag.
East Bay Deli DELI + SANDWICHES
Inexpensive Multiple locations eastbaydeli.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
With six Charleston area locations, East Bay Deli is your one-stop shop for classic deli sandwiches, salads, and soups. Grab a specialty sandwich or make your own, pairing it with fresh sides like pasta, potato salad, and coleslaw. Each East Bay Deli location offers different soups every day — we’ve got a soft spot for the broccoli cheese, but the chili is always a good idea. If soups, salads, and sandwiches aren’t really your thing, the deli’s variety of spuds topped with choices like cheese, bacon, and sour cream is a no-brainer.
El Pincho Taco MEXICAN
Upscale Features Standard
STAINLESS APPLIANCES & MAPLE CABINETS W/ ISLAND CHOICE OF QUARTZ OR GRANITE COUNTERTOPS
MOULDINGS, WAINSCOATING & CHAIR-RAILS CEILING FANS IN EVERY BEDROOM HARDWOOD DOWNSTAIRS + MOHAWK CARPET UPSTAIRS
COMING SOON FOUNDRY ALLEY DOWNTOWN AT NASSAU ST.
Inexpensive Downtown. 616 Meeting St. Suite B. (843) 406-5958 elpinchotaco.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
This family-run, independent restaurant and catering company offers authentic Mexican cuisine on Meeting Street. They use family recipes, fresh ingredients, and have a combined 40-plus years of cooking experience. They serve up traditional taco proteins like beef tongue, tripe, and cabeza — cow’s head. For the less adventurous there’s barbacoa, carnitas, and chipotle chicken.
Five Loaves Café CAFÉS
Inexpensive Downtown. 43 Cannon St. (843) 937-4303 Mt. Pleasant. 1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. (843) 849-1043 Summerville. 214 N Cedar St. (843) 804-9410 fiveloavescafe.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
MySouthwindHome.com Call Lisa 843-714-1407 for more information
Five Loaves Cafe has mastered the fine art of the soup-and-sandwich combo, and that’s why there’s usually a line out the door at lunchtime. The rotating selection of half a dozen soups are made daily with fresh ingredients in a sparkling array of flavors. At night, the menu expands to include a range of hearty pasta dishes like shrimp gnocchi and tri colored cheese tortellini, plus tasty comfort fare like chicken paillard and a filet with blue cheese crust, roasted
mushrooms, rosemary potatoes, seasonal veg, and demi glaze.
Fleet Landing SEAFOOD
Moderate Downtown. 186 Concord St. (843) 722-8100 fleetlanding.net Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Water water everywhere, but not a place to see it, at least as far as Charleston restaurants are concerned. Luckily we have one downtown spot with a most distinctive maritime setting and best waterfront view in town — Fleet Landing. Seated in a refurbished Naval house set over a reinforced pier, you’ll be counting dolphins and sailboats while you dine. Order southern seafood standards and you won’t be disappointed: Carolina lump crab cake with pickled corn relish; shrimp and grits; she-crab soup with blue crab roe and sherry; a Lowcountry boil full of shrimp, sausage, corn, and red bliss potatoes; and crispy whole fried flounder with apricot glaze.
Cafe Framboise FRENCH
Inexpensive Downtown. 159 Market St. cafeframboise.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (Tues.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
When it comes to croissants, really no one does them like the French. That’s why stumbling upon Market Street’s Framboise is always a treat. Inside patissier Dominique Chantepie serves up perfect almond, chocolate, and traditional croissants in addition to brioche and danishes, cakes and tarts. At lunch you’ll find salad nicoise, Croque Monsieur, crepes, and French onion soup.
Inexpensive Downtown. 211 Rutledge Ave. (843) 737-5959 fuelcharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
This former gas station turned Caribbean kitchen has been satisfying for years. Their menu — which can be enjoyed inside or on their sprawling back patio — features fresh and flavorful dishes like sweet corn bisque, braised pork tacos, grilled shrimp salad, and sweet plantain fritters. Killer cocktails and a solid beer list round out the menu.
Fulton Five ITALIAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 5 Fulton St. (843) 853-5555 fultonfivecharleston.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Fulton Five sits in a charming, vine-covered continued on page 44
charlestoncitypaper.com/dish || 43
Learn more at scaquarium.org/afterhours.
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Neighborhood Essentials Downtown from page 42
building just a half block from King Street. Its cozy dining room, complete with banquette seating and white tablecloths, is perfect for an intimate candlelit dinner. The Northern Italian menu features handmade pasta like gambretti tagliatelle and lobster linguini with hearty trattoria fare like grilled lamb rib chops. Not surprisingly, Fulton Five has won the City Paper Readers’ Pick for Charleston’s most romantic restaurant for years.
Gabrielle MODERN AMERICAN/FRENCH
Expensive Downtown. 404 King St. hotelbennett.com/dine/gabrielle Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Gaulart and Maliclet Fast and French FRENCH
Inexpensive Downtown. 98 Broad St. (843) 577-9797 fastandfrenchcharleston.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
G+ M’s unmistakably French dishes — croissants for breakfast, Croque Monsieur for lunch, straight through to fondue specials for dinner — have been coming out of the tiny Broad Street kitchen for more than three decades now, and they show no signs of letting up. Hot and cold sandwiches, soups, and daily specials are the name of the game during lunch. Choose from “something very French” a little later in the day, like smoked ham, butter, and cornichons.
The Griffon PUBS + TAVERNS
Cheap Downtown. 18 Vendue Range. (843) 723-1700 griffoncharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily)
In many ways, The Griffon is the quintessential dive bar. It’s a no-frills joint with old tables, rickety chairs, and a well-worn bar.
FR EE PA RK IN G
Gabrielle, the signature restaurant of King Street’s swanky Hotel Bennett, is formal and refined, with white tablecloths, upholstered chairs, and Swarovski-laden netting draped from the ceiling. There are also a small cluster of tables outside offering superlative views of Marion Square. Dinner highlights include the duck a l’orange, a testimony to the heights of which the kitchen is capable. Beautifully presented, the delec-
table, crisp skin on the bird is perfection. Same goes for the tender meat.
BAKERY 7AM - 10PM | PIZZERIA & TAPROOM 11AM - 10PM 94 STUART ST. | 843-297-8233 | BAKERANDBREWER.COM
And you certainly won’t find a restroom with fancy-schmancy bathroom fixtures that look like the bastard offspring of an IKEA catalog. For Pete’s sake, The Griffon is the kind of place with dollar bills stuck to the ceilings, walls, and, well, who knows where else they may be. However, in addition to a menu of pretty standard bar fare, this little Vendue Range pub serves up the choicest craft brews and an unexpectedly good fish and chips plate.
Halls Chophouse STEAKHOUSE
Very Expensive Downtown. 434 King St. (843) 727-0090 hallschophouse.com Serving Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
First opened on King Street in 2009, the upscale steakhouse has since expanded to include four locations across the state. The family-run empire excels at flawless service, craft cocktails, and wet and dry-aged steaks. Regulars are known to eat there daily, and after sampling the Hall’s legendary she-crab soup, it’s easy to understand why. Note that the bar menu offers unique treats, like the chophouse burger, served with black truffle fries. The popular Sunday gospel brunch usually books up a month in advance, so plan accordingly.
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant SEAFOOD
Expensive Downtown. 10 Hayne St. (843) 723-3474 hanksseafoodrestaurant.com Serving Dinner (daily)
At Hank’s, waiters in white jackets and black ties serve historic local dishes like she-crab soup, bouillabaisse, and Seafood a la Wando, a blend of shrimp, scallops, and fish in a rich sherry cream. The “Fried” options on the menu feature different selections of heaping Southern seafood platters, all served with fried sweet potatoes and classic coleslaw. And of course you’ll find Hank’s seafood tower or seafood castle — gleaming silver ice-filled pans bearing chilled shrimp, oysters, mussels, lobster, and stone crab claws. Add it all up, and you’ve got flashy, big-ticket seafood dining that can please even the most sophisticated palate.
The Harbinger CAFE
Cheap Downtown. 1107 King St. (843) 637-3410 theharbingercafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
Charleston was light on adorable cafes until Harbinger rolled up on King Street. Owners Greer Gilchrist and Cameron Neal have
The Dish dining guide
brought their love of fresh pastries, sandwiches, and salads and placed them into a ridiculously charming space on Upper King. Stop by for the Jam Sesh, a house-made jam bar with tahini and chocolate chunks or half of a butternut squash salad. The ladies serve all your favorite coffee options, too.
Cheap Downtown. 62 Queen St. harkencafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
The second ‘H’ cafe baby of Greer Gilchrist and Cameron Neal, Harken is almost more Instagrammable than her big sister Harbinger. This Queen St. shop serves similar sweet treats and coffee offerings, plus sandwiches with meat — Harbinger is veg-only. Order a meat slab pie (ugly name, delicious reality) and settle into the corner with your favorite book.
Harold’s Cabin MODERN AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 247 Congress St. (843) 793-4440 haroldscabin.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Weekend Brunch
This hip Hampton Park Terrace restaurant’s
dinner menu is divided into ‘graze & nosh;’ ‘small plates and lite bites;’ ‘bulkies, burgers, and hoagies;’ and ‘vittles.’ From house-made gnocchi with yellow tomato butter to crab fritters to a seasonal veggie plate, it’s eclectic, yet comforting and the welcoming feeling keeps regulars coming back for more. Brunch is similarly divided, with highlights including the crab benedict and everything bagel and smoked fish plate with a jammy egg.
Very Expensive Downtown. 334 Meeting St. (843) 872-9065 henriettascharleston.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily) & Weekend Brunch
Billed as a Southern brasserie, Henrietta’s is the Dewberry Hotel’s f lagship restaurant. The frequently changing menu is decidedly upscale with a France-meetsNew Orleans focus. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, recent menu highlights included buckwheat crepes with homemade ricotta, a decadent Croque Madame with house-cured ham, and delicate f lounder grenobloise with kumquats and brown butter. The extensive wine list and full bar is certain to quench most any thirst.
Herd Provisions MODERN AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 106 Grove St. (843) 637-4145 herdprovisions.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
This hyper-farm-to-table bistro and butcher shop sources their meat from the owner’s Virginia farm, Leaping Waters (LWF). Meanwhile, just about everything else — from fruits and veggies to the beans, breads, and desserts — are locally sourced. If you’re here for the meat, order the LWF steak of the day. Delicately seasoned, the juicy sirloin is served sliced and cooked perfectly as ordered, allowing the subtle flavors of the grass-fed meat to shine through.
High Cotton NEW SOUTHERN
Very Expensive Downtown. 199 E Bay St. (843) 724-3815 highcottoncharleston.com Serving Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Chef Brad Kelly helms the kitchen and offers up your standard fare — crab cakes and filet mignon, scallops, and shrimp and grits. But the key is to go on a night when he’s working his magic on the specials. Past highlights include a beautifully plated triggerfish with some of the best smoked clams we’ve ever
had. Don’t forget to consider the sides. Those gruyere potatoes au gratin make a perfect match if you do just want a steak.
Cheap Downtown. 563 King St. (843) 573-7505 homcharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
HōM (pronounced home) is still slinging some quality gourmet burgers. The HōM Wrecker has been a menu staple since the restaurant opened, and there’s good reason for that. A juicy beef patty is topped with applewood-smoked bacon, pepper jack cheese, and a perfectly cooked sunny-side up egg. Besides the beef, HōM offers a wide array of burger patties such as lamb, turkey, falafel, and tofu. The hand-cut fries and garlic-chipotle onion rings go hand in hand with the burgers, and the crunchy fried pickles are fantastic.
continued on page 46
CHECK OUT OUR NEW COCKTAIL MENU (Yes...we still have our Moscow Mule)
Breakfast Menu Until 1am 474 King Street
charlestoncitypaper.com/dish || 45
Happy Hour Tue - Fri • 4 - 7 pm
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Neighborhood Essentials Magnolias
Downtown from page 45
Expensive Downtown. 185 E Bay St. (843) 577-7771 magnoliascharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Moderate Downtown. 24 N Market St. (843) 723-0044 hookedcharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Magnolias has been serving Charleston indulgent, quality Southern fare for longer than almost anyone else in town, but even after all this time, the East Bay staple still deserves a spot on your to-do list. Homestyle standards like buttermilk fried chicken with biscuits and gravy are musthaves, but dishes like the sweet chili rubbed ahi tuna and braised beef short ribs make sure there’s something for everyone.
Formerly occupied by Noisy Oyster on the corner of East Bay and Market, Hooked Seafood opened spring 2019 with an expansive menu featuring fruits de mer in all its iterations. The interior offers “a chic dining atmosphere” with a long bar and rollup doors, as well as art from local artists on the walls. While Noisy Oyster veered more Gilligan, Hooked leans more Ginger Grant (with a touch of Mary Ann). Menu items include fried platters, ‘new Southern’ seafood dishes like grilled swordfish, and Lowcountry faves like shrimp and grits
Moderate Downtown. 526 King St. (843) 727-1228 indacocharleston.com Serving Dinner (daily)
The executive chef shuffle at Indaco is hard to keep up with — currently, former sous chef Michael Holler is at the helm. The food, though, well we dream about it. The black pepper tagliatelle is drizzled in nature’s sauce — a perfect egg yolk. And the Neapolitan style pizzas? The mushroom pie with Maitake, prosciutto di Parma, red onions, mozz, and fontina is supposed to be shareable, but you’ll want the whole thing for yourself.
Inexpensive Downtown. 78 N Market St. (843) 853-8270 West Ashley. 2 Magnolia Road. (854) 429-1777 kaminskys.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch (West Ashley only)
Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe serves fresh pastries and decadent milkshakes on the Market, and now, in Avondale, too. While the sweet treats are great, those in the know love to frequent Kaminsky’s late night for a good old fashioned cocktail or boozeinfused coffee drink. Bar hopping got you down? Head here for Kioki Kaminsky, made with coffee, chocolate, Kahlua, and brandy. Talk about a night cap.
Kickin’ Chicken AMERICAN
Cheap Multiple locations kickinchicken.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Oh Kickin’ Chicken, we loved you when we were in college and we still love you
Mama Kim’s KOREAN Ruta Smith
Sink your teeth into the pork confit entree, served alongside peperonata, Sea Island red peas, and frisee at Herd Provisions today — especially after a festive night on the town. This local chain’s locations now service more than hungry CofC Cougars. But it’s what got the biz started, super tasty chicken sandwiches, that always lures us back. We’re suckers for the Johnny, a mighty meal of chicken, bacon, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese with an oh-so-necessary side of ranch dressing.
La Patisserie FRENCH/CAFE
Inexpensive Downtown. 404 King St. hotelbennett.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
On the corner of King and Hutson, a few steps from the main entrance of the hotel with a separate door opening onto King, sits Hotel Bennett’s equally eye-catching in-house French pastry shop, La Patisserie. Lyon-born executive pastry chef Remy Funfrock serves traditional French items from brioche and macarons to eclairs and meringues.
Cheap Downtown. 68 Cannon St. (843) 579-2855 James Island. 1175A Folly Road. (843) 225-8810 Mt. Pleasant. 1164 Basketweave Drive. (843) 606-2711 West Ashley. 3125 Bees Ferry Road. (843) 769-9800 ladlessoups.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Basically the antithesis of Seinfeld’s famous “Soup Nazi,” Ladles is a charming local chain providing all manner of liquid sustenance to the Lowcountry. Started more than 10 years ago,
it’s quickly expanded far beyond Charleston, but maintains its commitment to quality with a rigorous franchise plan all owners must adhere to. That means that the tangy lemon chicken soup is just as good downtown as it is in West Ashley.
Moderate Downtown. 298 King St. (843) 501-7500 leyla-charleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Wed.-Sun)
After you’ve tucked into a hearty helping of the mezze offerings at this Mediterranean spot, you’ll be hard-pressed to find room for more. The shankleesh, labneh, falafel, baba ghanoush, and grape leaves are served up with warmth and plenty of explanation for those unfamiliar with Lebanese cooking. On the entree side, the shawarma — thin shavings of spiced beef roasted on a spit — is delicious, wrapped in a pita or on its own.
Little Jack’s Tavern AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 710 King St. (843) 531-6868 littlejackstavern.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Owners Tim Mink and Brooks Reitz created a unique concept when they came up with Little Jack’s. Like the favorite checked tablecloth joint of the Rat Pack’s, Little Jack’s feels like it’s of another time. The restaurant serves chef-driven cuisine featuring everything from crudités to a shrimp burger. While you’re there, try a vintage cocktail and the now famous Tavern burger while you listen to Frank Sinatra crooning from the speakers. Before you know it, you’ll be transported back to the ’40s.
Moderate Downtown. 349 King St. (843) 577-7177 Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Mama Kim, a petite Korean woman with the strength to take on Charleston and become a surrogate mother to all who dine here, has a memorable slogan, “Rock out with your wok out.” And rock it she does with her interminable energy and genuinely warm hospitality. For all the turn-over that happens in this collegiate area, the testament to Mama’s food comes from the length of time it’s been around — over a decade. This established hole-in-the-wall serves authentic spicy pork bul-go-gee that comes with all the accompaniments; if Korean bee-bim-bop isn’t for you, try the Japanese hibachi or the famous bibimbap.
Maui Tacos FUSION + ECLECTIC
Cheap Downtown. 200 Meeting St. Suite 2 mauitacos.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
This Hawaii-based franchise has been cranking fast casual tacos since 1993. A tiki hut-themed salsa bar and bright blue map-covered tables share the space with vibrant metal chairs. Order the Baja grilled fish taco. It features a double layer of warm corn tortillas generously filled with freshly grilled fish and topped with cabbage, plus a mild, creamy cilantro jalapeno dressing. Better yet, there’s more than enough of everything stuffed in there to warrant dividing it among the tortillas and doubling your pleasure.
Mellow Mushroom PIZZA
Inexpensive Downtown. 309 King St. (843) 723-7374 West Ashley. 19 Magnolia Rd. (843) 747-4992 North Charleston. 4855 Tanger Outlet Blvd. (843) 790-9000 Mt. Pleasant. 3110 N Hwy. 17 (843) 881-4743
Summerville. 1306 N Main St. (843) 873-2253 mellowmushroom.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Mellow Mushroom offers enough variety to make just about anyone happy. We’re talking andouille and artichokes, tempeh and tofu, along with the more traditional pepperoni and sausage. The same ingredients can be incorporated into dozens of salads, hoagies, and calzones, and they’ve also got glutenfree crust and vegan cheese as options, too.
Millers All Day AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 120 King St. (843) 501-7342 millersallday.com Serving Breakfast (daily)
Millers All Day’s menu aims to appeal as does its polished, mid-century modern, straight-outta-Mad Men interior. The decor could be a movie set and everything about it is appealing: From the bright retro lighting, to the illuminated ‘Prescriptions’ sign over the kitchen, it’s an homage to carefully crafted nostalgia. The menu has a similar air of updated sentimentality. The traditional-minded can’t go wrong with the fried chicken biscuit. Breakfast all day fiends will find pancakes, egg plates, and biscuits and gravy... all day.
Moe’s Crosstown Tavern PUBS + TAVERNS
Cheap Downtown. 714 Rutledge Ave. (843) 641-0469 moescrosstowntavern.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Moe’s Crosstown Tavern has one of the most loyal followings of any dive bar in town. It’s also one of the few you’ll find with a packed house at lunch, dinner, and on game day. There for lunch? Bypass the gutbusting burgers and try a wrap. The Bronco, chicken Caesar, and buffalo shrimp are all solid picks. Dinnertime? Now it’s time for a burger. Stop in on Tuesday and you’ll pay half-price for any of the cooked-to-order options, like the Eye Opener (bacon, cheddar, fried egg), and the BLT, complete with a crispy fried tomato.
Originally opened in 2008, the once-tiny Monza pizzeria survived and thrived through the considerable, decade-long transformation of what is now Upper King Street. In late Oct. 2018, adjacent sister restaurant Closed for Business permanently called it a day. Restaurateurs Tim Mink and Brooks Reitz, the
Off Track Ice Cream ICE CREAM + FROZEN YOGURT
Inexpensive Downtown. 6 Beaufain St. offtrackicecream.com Serving Sweet Treats (daily)
Marc and Alissa Zera opened Off Track Ice Cream in summer 2019 with eyes on quality and unique offerings. In addition to 20 dairy ice cream options, look for vegan ice cream, cold brew shakes, “ice cream flights,” and sundaes. The beautiful space on Beaufain Street is just a block from the rush of King, perfect for a stop on your walk.
Moderate Downtown. 463 King St. (843) 737-0112 o-kusushichs.com Serving Dinner (daily), Late Night (Fri.-Sat.)
You pretty much can’t go wrong with O-Ku. The King Street hotspot has something for the California roll lover and the nigiri expert alike. To be honest, we rarely stray from the sushi. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like O-Ku’s twist on the venerable potato roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, shoe-string potatoes, eel sauce, and mango remoulade). Our favorites are the tuna tataki roll (seared tuna, tempura shrimp, avocado, eel sauce, spicy aioli) and the dapper snapper roll (red snapper, spicy tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled red onion, sweet chili vinaigrette).
SUNDAY BRUNCH 10:30AM - 1:30PM
Voted Best Neighborhood Bar 19 years! 714 Rutledge Ave. (843) 641-0469 MoesCrosstownTavern.com
The Park Cafe MODERN AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 730 Rutledge Ave. (843) 410-1070 theparkcafechs.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily), Weekend Brunch
When Karalee Fallert opened a cozy cafe near Hampton Park, the neighborhood rejoiced. Xan McLaughlin runs the front of house and executive chef Patrick Gottschall’s menu is entirely focused on giving locals what they want — super fresh breakfasts and lunches like house-made granola, honey poached turkey sandwiches, and, of course, Park Cafe’s cult favorite avocado toast. They’ve recenlty expanded their dining room, too, which means a shorter wait for your boozy weekend brunch fix. continued on page 48
MODERN TRADITIONAL OAXACAN CUISINE
INGREDIENTS AND TECHNIQUES
LUNCH • TUE – FRI • 11 AM – 3 PM | BRUNCH • SAT – SUN • 11 AM – 5 PM | DINNER • TUE- SUN • 5 PM – 10 PM TEQUILA & TACO HOUR • TUE – FRI • 3 PM – 6 PM | FOOD & BEV NIGHT • SUN 5 PM – 10 PM 100-A SPRING ST • 843-764-9343 • PINKCACTUSCHS.COM
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Inexpensive Downtown. 451 King St. (843) 720-8787 monzapizza.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
powerhouse duo behind Leon’s, Melfi’s, and Little Jack’s Tavern, spearheaded the overhaul. Where the original Monza was narrow and cozy, the latest edition feels spacious and modern. There are still holdovers like the antipasta platter and butterbean salad, plus newbies like the ricotta meatballs.
QUICHE & PANCAKE SPECIALS • “MOE HOT” MARY’S
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48 || DISH || Winter 2020
Neighborhood Essentials find cold-pressed coffee and crowd-favorite, made-to-order crepes.
Downtown from page 47
Expensive Downtown. 442 King St. (843) 722-3474 parcel32.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Late Night (Fri.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Moderate Downtown. 212 Rutledge Ave. West Ashley. 1337 Ashley River Road. (843) 789-4342 rutledgekitchen.com Serving two dinner seatings (daily) downtown/ (Thurs.-Sat.) West Ashley
Taking over the Charleston single that used to house Fish, Parcel 32 is modern and fresh, with patterned green and white tile floors that make way to light wood, dark walls, and moss-colored velvet banquettes. Aiming to honor the “flavors and history of the coastal south,” the menu is a mix of both old and new. Entrees range from the local catch of the day with bok choy, chrysanthemum broth, and benne seed miso to a roasted Joyce Farms chicken with greens and grits.
Pearlz Oyster Bar SEAFOOD
Inexpensive Downtown. 153 E Bay St. (843) 577-5755 West Ashley. 9 Magnolia Road. (843) 573-2277 pearlzoysterbar.com Serving Lunch (Sat.-Sun.), Dinner (daily)
Whether you’re looking for a vibrant hotspot to take out-of-town guests for dinner or a few spots at the bar to grab a late bite, Pearlz has you covered. As you’d expect, it’s all about the oysters. You can get them steamed, but we recommend them served fresh on the half shell — don’t be shy. After you slurp down the first batch, ask your server for a round of oyster shooters — Absolut Peppar, spicy horseradish, black pepper, lemon, and, of course, a raw oyster. Not in the mood for bivalves? Opt for an angus burger or crab cake sandwich.
Pink Cactus MEXICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 100 Spring St. (843) 764-9343 pinkcactuschs.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Fri.), Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Weekend Brunch
Set in the once-home of both Nacha Mama’s and Garcia’s Tortilla House on Spring Street, Pink Cactus is sticking with the genre, offering sophisticated, regional Oaxacan fare and potentially turning ¡Oaxaca! into a local battle cry, or at least a notable buzzword. Pink Cactus makes their own corn tortillas, grinding the masa for the tortillas in-house. They’ve recenlty introduced a weekend tasting menu option in addition to their regular a la carte offerings. Add an agave pairing for $35.
Poke-San FUSION + ELECTIC/SUSHI
Inexpensive Downtown. 207A Saint Philip St. (854) 444-3481 poke-san.business.site Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
The club sandwich at Millers All Day is stacked with turkey, country ham, havarti, tomato, and herb mayo This teeny family run restaurant serves up fresh poke bowls and a smattering of sushi rolls to college kids and Airbnb folks alike. Poke lovers can choose from proteins like tuna, salmon, steak, and tofu; mix-ins like avocado, mango, sweet corn, pineapple, and edamame; plus a variety of toppings and sauces.
right in the sweet spot between attentiveness and privacy. Also hitting the bull’s eye, the menu offers a funkified take on a traditional smokehouse barbecue — think spicy pickled fried okra and Redneck nachos. There are also the requisite smoked meats and standard sides (‘tater salad, mac, collards).
Poké Tea House
HAWAIIAN/FUSION + ECLECTIC
Inexpensive Downtown. 441 Meeting St Unit E. (854) 444-3591 Mt. Pleasant. 627 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. Suite B (843) 606-2790 poketeahouse.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
With a second location in Mt. Pleasant, Poke Tea House proves that when it comes to fast casual, diners like to build their own, perfect meal, or, in other words, “poke your way.” The poke your way option lets customers choose from nine proteins including chicken and eel, 15 mix-ins ranging from tamago to shiso leaves, and 11 toppings including squid salad and corn. And considering there are also 10 flavored sauce options and the choice of seaweed burrito or green salad bases, odds are anyone can muster a concoction to their liking.
Poogan’s Smokehouse BARBECUE
Moderate Downtown. 188 E Bay St. (843) 577-5665 pooganssmokehouse.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Don’t let the high ceilings and weathered, industrial brick walls fool you. Poogan’s Smokehouse emanates warmth. The ambiance is laid-back, while the service lands
Moderate Downtown. 547 King St. (843) 793-2964 prohibitioncharleston.com Serving Dinner (daily), Lunch (Thurs.-Sat.), Weekend Brunch
Chef Greg Garrison’s entrees are dazzling and change seasonally. Those prone to the decision making paralysis that often comes along with such a robust entree menu should take note of the hidden gem of the menu: more than a dozen artfully crafted appetizer and shareable plates born out of a love of local produce, much of it sourced from Ambrose Farms.
Queen Street Grocery and Café CAFÉS
Cheap Downtown. 133 Queen St. (843) 723-4121 queenstreetgrocerycafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
The postcard-worthy sidewalk outside of Queen Street Grocery is a textbook example of why so many people love Charleston. Just a block off King Street, QSG has stayed a local favorite in a city full of local favorites for years, by sticking to a simple plan: Keep the place stocked with the essentials and keep the menu board full of delicious fresh-made sandwiches, salads, crepes, and more. Stop by in the morning and you’ll
There’s something special about texting a restaurant and asking for a reservation, giving the anonymous user on the other end your name and any food allergies you may have. What’s even more special is showing up to R Kitchen — either downtown or West Ashley — and walking into what feels like a good friend’s kitchen. Pass bottles of wine around the bar or patio — we’re all family here — and bite into a light piece of wahoo to start. Or perhaps your night starts with fresh tomatoes, drizzled with the lightest touch of spices and oil. The menu changes every night at R Kitchen, depending on what the chefs can get their hands on, and the surprise is part of the fun.
Rappahannock Oyster Bar SEAFOOD
Expensive Downtown. 701 E Bay St. No. 110. (843) 576-4693 rroysters.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Don’t let the word “bar” fool you. Rappahannock is so much more than an oyster bar thanks to the work of Chef Kevin Kelly who adds exceptional ceviche, perfectly prepared scallops, and even a Lowcountryworthy shrimp and grits to what appears to be just another oyster bar. Of course the oysters aren’t bad either. Rappahannock comes from Richmond, Va. via cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton. The two took over their family’s 200-acre oyster leases in 2001 with no aquaculture knowledge. Today they own six restaurants and distribute their sought-after Chesapeake oysters to some of the top restaurants in the nation.
The Rarebit AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 474 King St. (843) 974-5481 therarebit.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (Tues.-Sun.)
With a long marble-topped bar, fresh seafoam green paint, and green-and-black plaid seats on the booths, this retro-styled King Street diner captures the feel of the pre-Hippie ’60s. The menu looks backward too, with classic, no-frills fare ranging from tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to big plates of fish and chips and chicken and waffles. The breakfast menu’s steak and eggs, huevos rancheros, and French toast are
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served all day, offering something substantial to line your stomach even late at night.
The Royal American AMERICAN
Cheap Downtown. 490 Morrison Drive. (843) 817-6925 theroyalamerican.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily), Weekend Brunch
The Royal American has been one of our favorite bars for a long time now. But Royal is now not only a great bar, it’s a pretty solid restaurant, too. Their menu boasts quality eats that belie the dive bar rep — from daily specials like a fresh chicken shawarma salad to menu staples like the crazy good dry-rub magic wings (not too spicy, but with a subtle sweet kick). Sounds like just what we’d like with Royal’s Rum Punch.
Rutledge Cab. Co AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 1300 Rutledge Ave. (843) 720-1440 rutledgecabco.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Rutledge Cab Co. has answered the call of upper peninsula residents looking for an allAmerican joint where they can eat a couple times a week. The restaurant is slinging burgers, pickling veggies, and shaking up cocktails, and at a low price point, too. The space has a modern, yet unpretentious vibe, with a huge welcoming patio. The burger is one of the best values in town.
RuRu’s Tacos MEXICAN
Moderate Downtown. 159 E Bay St. (843) 637-3686 rurustacosandtequila.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Santi’s Restaurante Mexicano MEXICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 1303 Meeting St. (843) 722-2633 Mt. Pleasant. 1471 Ben Sawyer Blvd. (843) 388-3146 santisrestaurentemexicano.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Dirt cheap pitchers of strong margaritas,
Shi Ki SUSHI + JAPANESE
Inexpensive Downtown. 334 E Bay St. (843) 720-8568 shikicharleston.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
The next time you get a sushi craving and don’t want to break the bank, head to this little hole-in-the-wall next to the Rite Aid on East Bay. Fill up on a dynamite roll (soft shell crab, smelt roe, and scallops), super crunch roll (shrimp tempura and Asian pear), romantic sushi boat for two, or a steaming bowl of udon noodle soup packed with seafood swimming in a dashi broth.
Inexpensive Folly Beach. 15 Center St. (843) 588-9761 Downtown. 217 Huger St. (843) 789-3333 Summerville. 106 Front St. (843) 851-8226 tacoboy.net Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The infectiously upbeat trumpets of mariachi music blasts as you enter the doors of Taco Boy, instantly setting a festive mood. Even its bathroom walls are lined with vintage Mexican movie posters. None of this eye for detail would matter if the food weren’t as good as it is. Fresh guacamole makes a great start, and taco choices are endless, such as chipotle marinated grilled mahi mahi, kimchi beef with sesame seeds and Korean barbecue sauce, or the al pastor with thinly shaved spit fire pork and roasted pineapple salsa, all served in your choice of corn or flour tacos, or Bibb lettuce wraps for the virtuous.
Tattooed Moose DELIS + SANDWICHES
Inexpensive Downtown. 1137 Morrison Drive. (843) 277-2990 Johns Island. 3328 Maybank Hwy. (843) 952-7591 West Ashley. 2070 Sam Rittenberg. (843) 709-0053 tattooedmoose.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Long before there were oasts and home teams on Morrison Drive, there was the continued on page 50
TACOS QUESADILLAS MARGARITAS
$ 2 TACOS + HOUSE DRAFT OR SODA
LIVE MUSIC THURSDAYS
HAPPY HOUR MON-FRI
Kitchen Open Til’ 1am
439 King St. • 843-723-6224 | 410 W. Coleman • 843-329-6224 JuanitaGreenbergs.com
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This Charlotte-based taco fusion joint threw open its doors on East Bay Street in early 2019, bringing a sizeable menu that spans “super duper” tacos, burritos, vegetable bowls, and more. RuRu’s has been a popular spot in the Queen City for some time — Charlotte’s got a lot, have you heard? — with the new Charleston location being their first venture outside the 704 area code. Tacos are delivered on flour tortillas in the $4-$5 range utilizing fresh preparations with fish, shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, and veggie options.
sangria, and cerveza with the best chips and carafes of salsa would be enough to keep most of us returning to Santi’s, but the spirited décor and the green outdoor patio combined with the authentic Mexican comfort food makes this a regular spot. Don’t be deterred by the shabby exterior and the full parking lot — the cheerful interior with friendly, speedy service will quell any nerves. Mama’s specialty of chicken soup with beef-filled tortilla is soulful and the Mexican tacos have the most flavorful meat complete with the simplicity of a lime, cilantro, and onions.
50 || DISH || Winter 2020
Neighborhood Essentials Ted’s Butcherblock
Downtown from page 49
DELIS + SANDWICHES
Tattooed Moose. A neighborhood dive bar festooned with stuffed critters, including its namesake, the Moose hit paydirt as one of the first places in town to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The Moose is known for its cold beer, killer sandwiches, and duck fat fries. Oh, the fries. Served three ways, you can get your fries straightup, with roasted garlic and blue cheese, or with a side of gravy.
TBonz Gill & Grill AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 80 N Market St. (843) 577-2511 West Ashley. 1668 Old Towne Road. (843) 556-2478 tbonzgillandgrill.com
It doesn’t get much more American than the ol’ Gill & Grill. Sidle up to the bar for a big lunch of lump crab cakes, Texas chili, or one of the hearty CAB burgers. If you’re hankering for a classic steak dinner, check out their expansive list of steak boards, featuring cuts from New York strips to prime rib to, you guessed it, T-bones. They have a solid cocktail list in addition to the requisite cold beers, plus a gluten-free menu for those gluten-averse folks.
Inexpensive Downtown. 334 E Bay St. (843) 577-0094 tedsbutcherblock.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Not just a full-service butcher shop, Ted’s Butcherblock is also a fabulous lunch spot, a great source for good wines, and a regular destination for food-loving beer geeks. Owner Ted Dombrowski stocks the coolers with high-quality gourmet ingredients, from Kobe beef and stinky cheese to artisanal bacon and smoked duck. The seafood counter is also convenient for finding high-quality, locally caught fish.
Twenty Six Divine CAFÉS
Inexpensive Downtown. 682 King St. (843) 297-8118 twentysixdivine.com Serving afternoon tea by reservation (Mon.-Sat. )
There’s nothing so gratifying as a culinary love story, especially when it culminates in what some call their favorite meals in Charleston. Husband and wife chefs/owners Enan and Jennifer Parezo first met while working on Seabrook Island, then held posts at Charleston Place. Elegance, surprise, and
artistry make this place a sure bet. And since Jenn is a trained pastry chef, the made-fromscratch desserts will send you off on a dreamy sugar high.
Uptown Social AMERICAN
Inexpensive Downtown. 587 King St. (843) 793-1837 uptownsocialchs.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
While Uptown Social is a vast, spacious bar with more TVs than a Best Buy it also happens to be a decent way to while away some time, especially if you can get a spot on the rooftop deck. Uptown Social is a bar — technically, four bars — a responsibility they take seriously. Whatever your pleasure, they have some. The bar food fares well. The sloppy joe sliders are billed as “cafeteria style, but better.” The classic cheeseburger sliders require no adjustment and the armitage pizza makes a case for what Uptown Social does best — bake fresh dough.
Cheap Downtown. 347 King St. (843) 579-2884 Mt. Pleasant. 730 Coleman Blvd. (843) 388-4394 Mt. Pleasant 616-A Long Point Road. (843) 388-5289 West Ashley. 13 Magnolia Road. (843) 203-6192 eatatverde.com Serving Lunch (daily), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
With a create-your-own option as well as a solid list of signature items, Verde covers all the (green) bases. Salad bases range from mesclun to kale, with topping choices like beets, edamame, and artichoke hearts. Add cheese, protein, and a dressing (we recommend the lemon tahini) and you’re good to go. If you’d prefer to save your decisionmaking capabilities then grab a signature salad like the Southern Harvest which stays true to its name with cornbread croutons and sweet tea vinaigrette.
Vincent Chicco’s ITALIAN
Moderate Downtown. 39-G John St. (843) 203-3002 holycityhospitality.com/Vincent-chiccos Serving Dinner (daily)
The entrance of Vincent Chicco’s with a spiral staircase, antique mirrors, and a vin-
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tage wooden bar makes one feel as though they’ve entered a European café. The restaurant offers southern Italian cuisine with homemade pastas in an elegant setting. Antipasti selections include house-made burrata. Try the veal marsala with braised mushrooms and sundried tomatoes. You can even order these dishes while having cocktails at their neighboring, Victor’s Social Club, giving you multiple venues to enjoy these Italian delicacies.
“decadent.” And don’t forget the booze — this is a wine bar, after all. With a reasonable number of wines by the glass, beer, and cocktails, Vintage has something for all the drinkers in your party.
Located on the corner of St. Philip and Spring streets, this hip neighborhood bar has been serving upscale bar fare and excellent libations to downtown denizens (and bachelorettes) since 2013. The menu has a little bit of everything. Snacks include fried oyster deviled eggs with chow chow and home-made chicken tenders with Lowcountry dry rub. More substantial plates include a butcher steak and frites and customizable noodle bowls.
Moderate Downtown. 545 King St. (843) 818-4282 vintagechs.com Serving Dinner (daily)
With a new chef taking over in summer 2019, Vintage Lounge upped the ante of what it means to be a peninsular wine bar. Menu offerings have included a local crudo made with radish, lime, and heirloom tomato; a pan con tomate, a comforting but light dish made with baguette and crushed tomato; and something tres Francais, seared foie gras with toasted brioche and housemade strawberry preserve. Vintage still features an impressive cheese and charcuterie list, with cheeses and meats divided with descriptors like “funky rich,” “aged firm,” “wild,” and
Warehouse MODERN AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 45 Spring St. (843) 202-0712 wearewarehouse.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily), Sun. Brunch
The Watch AMERICAN
Moderate Downtown. 79 Wentworth St. (843) 518-5115 Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Charleston has many rooftop restaurants but for food-to-view bang for your
buck, this is the place to go. It’s a toss-up between settling in for bar snacks — we’re fans of the bacon and eggs deviled eggs — or opting for a true meal. If you go with the latter, the Watch burger will set you right and the mussels aren’t bad either. Cocktails are a must and rotate seasonally.
Wild Common MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Downtown. 103 Spring St. (843) 817-7311 wildcommoncharleston.com Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sun.)
Choice can be overrated, especially when it comes to menus. Limiting choice does not necessarily stif le variety, though, as chef Orlando Pagan’s streamlined menu at Wild Common shows. Its four “Bites,” two “Firsts,” three “Nexts,” and two desserts fit on a single side of a cream-colored slip. You can order a la carte, but if you and a companion go the four-course prix fixe route and stagger your selections, you can sample almost everything on the menu. Throw in $45 more for pairings, and the wine decisions are taken care of, too. Here, the service strikes the right balance between formality and informality, friendly and humorous but also very
knowledgeable and attentive. All told, it’s a delightful dining experience worth the little detour away from the crowded sidewalks of King Street.
Moderate Downtown. 1503 King St. (843) 996-4500 workshopcharleston.com Serving Lunch (daily), Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Michael Shemtov’s brainchild is a six stall fancy food court tucked into the newest business development on the peninsula. Workshop offers up-and-coming and established chefs a place to take some risks on new concepts and so far the results have been as unique as the idea. Currently there’s a burger-centric option, Jewish deli, woodfired fare, sushi, tacos, and Filipino eats, plus a pop-up bar.
AND RUNNERUP BEST CHEAP MEAL IN 201 9!
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Charleston • 1302 Meeting St. • 843.722.2633 | Mt. Pleasant • 1471 Ben Sawyer Blvd. • 843.388.3146
52 || DISH || Winter 2020
Mt. P and the surrounding area is growing at breakneck speed — from Coleman Blvd. concepts to restaurants creeping into Cainhoy, East of the Cooper is catching up and starting to compete with Charleston’s busy dining hub. Restaurants are organized geographically and alphabetically.
MT. PLEASANT Art’s Bar & Grill
PUBS + TAVERNS
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 413 Coleman Blvd. (843) 849-3040 artsbarandgrillsc.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Most of the patrons of Art’s Bar & Grill go there for happy-hour beers or late-night Jäger shots, but wise eaters stop in at lunch because they know the secret. The lineup of fried seafood, burgers, and sandwiches looks run-ofthe-mill at first glance, but everything is either made from scratch or brought in from great local purveyors. You can always get a halfpound, cooked-to-order burger on a poppy seed bun or the delightful French dip. You might even call them works of art.
The Basement PUBS + TAVERNS
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 1055 SC Hwy.-41 floriesdininggroup.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Chef and restaurateur Brannon Florie shuttered his Southern, modern American restaurant On-41 in winter 2019. In its place he opened The Basement, a dimly lit bar with more than a dozen arcade games, TVs, cheap beer, and bar snacks galore. Pair your $5 beer and shot combo with truffle fries, soft pretzels, fancy grilled cheese, a variety of cast iron baked mac and cheese, smoked wings, and more. While billed as “dive bar” the libation list includes a Hemingway daiquiri and Boulevardier in addition to Miller High Life.
Patio apps include the sausage sampler at Butcher & The Boar
Bistro Toulouse FRENCH
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1220 Ben Sawyer Blvd. (843) 216-3434 bistrotoulouse.com Serving Lunch (Wed.-Fri.), Dinner (Wed.-Sun.), Weekend Brunch
Don’t judge Bistro Toulouse by its strip mall exterior. Follow the chalkboard inside to find a warm bistro that excels in classic regional French dishes like cassoulet, crepes with duck confit, salad Lyonnaise, mussels in truffle cream, and escargots. As with any French venue worth its weight in foie gras, the desserts here are magnifique, particularly the lavender crème brulee, and the dark chocolate soufflé with Grand Marnier crème anglaise.
Butcher & The Boar MODERN AMERICAN/STEAKHOUSE
Moderate-Expensive Mt. Pleasant. 730 Coleman Blvd. (843) 868-8000 butcherandtheboar.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Lunch (Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Butcher & The Boar is a “man’s man” of restaurants. Cocksure and handsome, he’s wellheeled, but easygoing, pulling out a chair while proffering a well-curated array of beer, bourbon, and meat. And boy, howdy,
is there meat — thick meat, raw meat, meat that climbs on rocks. The indoor dining room veers more swanky steakhouse, with pricey meat and seafood entrees. The patio menu is more casual, with wings, peel and eat shrimp, and po’ boys. No matter where you’re seated, be sure to check out the salads and sides: the Brussels are deep fried, then tossed in a tangy, spicy Buffalo-style glaze, while the fries are superlative — a frite by any other name. Similarly, the wedge salad — where even as a side dish, is presented as an actual wedge — shines with housesmoked bacon, blue cheese bits, and balsamic-infused tomato syrup.
Carmen y Juan’s Homestyle Mexican Food MEXICAN
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 1118 Park West Blvd. (843) 856-0805 carmenyjuanhomestyle.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Carmen y Juan’s Homestyle Mexican Food is a refreshing break from the countless cookie cutter Tex-Mex joints that blanket the Lowcountry. Instead of numbered combinations with endless permutations, the menu is slim, and everything on it is made from fresh ingredients using homestyle recipes. From the thick, fragrant mole rojo to the fluffy and
filling tamales, everything is a little bit better than you might expect.
Coleman Public House AMERICAN
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 427 W. Coleman Blvd. (843) 416-8833 colemanpublichouse.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Coleman Public House has a big “On Tap” chalkboard with an ever-rotating list of American craft beers and Belgian brews. The food is equal to the beer. The half-pound Angus burgers are a big draw, and the dinner menu blends hearty pub fare like fish and chips with more ambitious plates like encrusted yellowfin tuna. Creative munchies like mini lamb burgers, crab and corn fritters, and Asian-glazed baby back ribs make for fine bar snacks, and on weekends the brunch menu stacks up pancakes alongside big plates of huevos rancheros, biscuits and gravy, and steak and eggs.
continued on page 54
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SAT & SUN 9AM-3PM W/LIVE MUSIC
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BREAKFAST SERVED ALL DAY EVERY DAY
Neighborhood Essentials East Cooper from page 52
Grace & Grit AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 320 Wingo Way Suite 100. (843) 698-4748 gracegrit.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.), Weekend Brunch
The menu at this stylish, contemporary Mt. Pleasant venue highlights Lowcountry staples. Expect traditional brunch and dinner dishes like fried green tomatoes, shecrab soup, and shrimp and grits, plus locally sourced fish and seafood selections prepared six different ways. The restaurant’s name refers in part to its Baskin Robbins-esque approach to grits, with 15 sweet and savory varieties available.
The Best Food Under the Sun!
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 863 Houston Northcutt Blvd. (843) 606-2493 grazecharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sunday Brunch
Quietly and confidently, Graze continues to serve up a creative and eclectic menu. Choose from down-home favorites — lobster mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, and cornflakecrusted catfish with butterbeans, sweet corn, and hominy succotash — plus more creative dishes like pear and gorgonzola ravioli with walnuts, spinach, and basil-brown butter.
Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails MODERN AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 735 Coleman Blvd. (843) 972-8060 handcraftmtp.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
NOW OPEN IN MT. PLEASANT SIMPLE, COMFORTING FOOD MADE WITH CARE menus differ in each location
HOMEMADE BAGELS • OMELETS • CREPES • BENEDICTS SHRIMP & GRITS • SANDWICHES • WRAPS • SALADS • PIZZAS
SUMMERVILLE 110 Miles Jamison Rd 843-225-6201
MT. PLEASANT JOHNS ISLAND 1039 Johnnie Dodds Blvd 1797 Main Rd 843-856-7796 843-718-1858
Southern sister restaurant to the OG Handcraft located in NYC, Mt. Pleasant’s version is fully clad in reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs, featuring a spirit forward cocktail list with everything from pre-Prohibition classics to hot new trends. As far as food, think ‘elevated bar fare’ ranging from crispy fried wings to mac n cheese to baby beets and ceviche. Larger dinner plates include a ribeye, bone-in chicken breast, scallops, and local fish. But the star of the show is the cocktail list, curated by veteran mixologist Tyler Rothenberg. A veritable time capsule of libations, pay special attention to the Drinks of Yesterday section — the melon ball is neon in color, but light in taste, served in a tasteful, etched coupe glass.
Jack’s Cosmic Dogs HOT DOG JOINTS
Cheap Mt. Pleasant. 2805 N Hwy 17. (843) 884-7677 jackscosmicdogs.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The original bright-hued location of Jack’s
Cosmic Dogs on Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant has won over a constellation of fans, including Food Network star Alton Brown, who declared the Cosmic Dog one of best things he’s ever eaten. Alton’s favorite, has blue cheese slaw and sweet potato mustard, while the Astro Dog is topped with onion relish and spicy yellow mustard. With glass bottles of soda on ice and an old-style soft-serve ice cream machine, it’s a pitch-perfect throwback to a lost era of roadside hot dog stands.
Kairos Greek Kitchen GREEK
Cheap Mt. Pleasant. 1100 Bowman Road. (843) 606-9314 West Ashley. 975 Savannah Hwy. #307. (843) 376-2011 eatkairos.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Located in the old K-Mart shopping center on Bowman Road, the flagship Kairos promises “healthy, Greek inspired dishes” and they deliver them fast. Get in line and start by choosing a rice bowl, pita, or salad base. From there your protein choices are excellent falafel, slow roasted lamb, chicken, or meatballs. Dress it up with a choice of spreads and dressings including tzatziki, harissa yogurt, tahini, and baba ghanoush and then top it with kalamata olives, tomato and cucumber salad, feta, or one of the other 10 toppings and you’re out of there in less than five minutes.
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1035 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. (843) 388-8001 Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi plays on a loop in this humble little suburban eatery, owned and operated by Chef Sean Park, who made a name for himself at O-Ku downtown. In 2010, Esquire’s John Mariani praised the chef by saying, “Sean Park turns out beautiful, fanciful sushi,” and tagged O-Ku as one of the best new restaurants of the year. His work is art. He creates vibrant sushi platters and aromatic bulgogi. His gazpacho is as beautiful as it gets, and you’ll find little gems on the menu, like steamed buns and miso ramen, that are worth trying if you’re not in the mood for sushi.
Kid Cashew MEDITERRANEAN
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 1440 Ben Sawyer Blvd. (843) 352-7585 kidcashewcharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Set in the site of the former Triangle Char and continued on page 56
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TRY OUR MOCHI ICE CREAM
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Neighborhood Essentials East Cooper from page 54 ©
Bar, the space has been quickly, but lovingly, renovated into a welcoming, rustic-chic eatery. Similarly, the menu is largely approachable, with a strong Mediterranean slant. There’s a fairly hearty list of options for those eschewing all forms of animal products, but if you can indulge in the meat, order the all-natural smoked chicken; brined for 48 hours, the flavors permeate deeply into the bird and the skin is incredible — crisp and flavorful. Kid Cashew offers a variety of creative speciality cocktails, like the Big Fig Newton, made with bourbon, chopped rosemary, and figs.
La Pizzeria ITALIAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 976 Houston Northcutt Blvd. (843) 375-4607 mtplapizzeria.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
PHOTO CREDIT: LIBBY WILLIAMS
Coastal Italian Cuisine I N T H E H E A R T O F M T. P L E A S A N T
La Pizzeria’s hearty lasagna bolognese, veal saltimbocca, and delicious chicken ravioli will get you in the door. This hidden gem is one of Mt. Pleasant’s best secrets. The pizza is the big draw, though, and has been the making of many a loyal fan. From a quatro gusti pie made with sausage, mushroom, artichokes, and black olives to La Pizzeria’s take on a Hawaiian with ham, bacon, and pineapple, even the pickiest of pie enthusiasts will be won over here.
Langdon’s MODERN AMERICAN
Serving local seafood, Italian classics, house-made pastas, pizza, antipasti & charcuterie, SAVI features custom cocktails, 40+ wines by the glass and another 150+ by the bottle. Let our in-house sommeliers pair the perfect wine with your meal! — MT. PLEASANT’S BEST HAPPY HOUR 7 DAYS A WEEK FROM 3 - 7PM —
Very Expensive Mt. Pleasant. 778 S. Shelmore Blvd. (843) 388-9200 owensdininggroup.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Langdon’s in Mt. Pleasant has long been the reliable place to turn for a big night out east of the Cooper. The offerings from chef/owner Patrick Owens blend Lowcountry cuisine with a range of international inf luences, resulting in tempting combinations like gnocchi made from local goat cheese and curried duck and mint spring rolls with a jalapeño-coconut dipping sauce. The entrees are rich and elegant with a few unexpected twists. The food-friendly wine list, which received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, offers options ranging from big value to big spender. From the food to the atmosphere to the service, Langdon’s doesn’t cut any corners, and that makes all the difference.
Little Miss Ha F U LL BA R
M E AT BALL M ONDAYS
INT I M AT E W I N E B AR
1324 Theater Dr. | Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 | Across from Palmetto Grande
843.606.1856 | savicucina.com |
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 915 Houston Northcutt Blvd. littlemissha.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Popular Vietnamese catering company and
pop-up Little Miss Ha has opened their first storefront. Chef/owner Janice Hudgins succesfully hawked her flavorful Vietnamese dishes at exploratory food court Workshop for a year, building a cult following of her mother’s original Vietnamese recipes. She’ll be keeping that fast casual, counter service model in her new Mt. Pleasant space, serving dumplings, egg rolls, spring rolls, fried rice, vermicelli bowls, and more for lunch and dinner.
Locals Sushi JAPANESE + SUSHI
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 1150 Queensborough Blvd. (843) 388-5114 West Ashley. 1680 Old Towne Road. (843) 7633908 localssushi.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
They “roll hard” at Locals. The sushi bar/ sports pub boasts a huge two-page menu at both their original Mt. P location and their new West Ashley spot (located in the old Manny’s Grille). If your tastes veer more sportsball and beer, order wings and tacos; if you’re here for the raw fish, buckle up. Choose from 10 classic rolls; nigiri and sashimi; and more than two dozen specialty rolls, with knockouts like the Charleston Competition award winner (2014) made with snow crab, crispy onions, mango, cilantro, shrimp, jalapeno, tuna, tamarind sauce, masago, and spicy mayo. Phew, that’s a mouthful.
Long Point Grill AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 479 Long Point Road. (843) 884-3101 longpointgrill.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Popular Mt. Pleasant spot Long Point Grill serves turned up diner fare for lunch and dinner. Big salads such as the shrimp scallop cobb and pecan crusted chicken vie for your lunch attention with the fried or grilled chicken BLT, house burger with a choice of five cheeses, and the decadent duck confit melt. The Grill’s dinner menu’s bigger plates add pistachio crusted chicken and herb crusted crab cakes along with larger portion carryovers from lunch like the buttermilk fried chicken with thyme gravy and the LPG mac and cheese.
Mainland Container Co. Kitchen & Bar AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1528 Ben Sawyer Blvd. (843) 284-8174 mainlandcontainerco.com Serving Dinner (Wed.-Sun.), Weekend Brunch
Hidden at the end of a gravel drive off Ben
The Dish dining guide
Sawyer Blvd., Mainland Container Co. is comprised of a rustic, beachy restaurant, a ground-level bar set in a shipping container, and ample umbrella-covered seating. Decadent bar food offerings range from wings in a variety of flavors; ball-sized hush puppies that are basically savory donuts drizzled with honey, and served with hot pepper jelly and pimento cheese; and duck fat-fried covered and smothered tater tot extravaganza called The Full Container. And the fish of the moment requires no modifications, it’s a successful execution made even better by the accompanying seasonal vegetables.
Mario’s Peruvian Chicken PERUVIAN
Cheap Mt. Pleasant. 1909 N Hwy 17. (843) 936-3265 mariosperuvianchicken.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Known for pisco, alpacas, and Machu Picchu, the stark, rugged landscape of Peru is about as far as one can get from the gently undulating Lowcountry. The food, however, is now available in a quiet end location in Sweetgrass Corner Shopping Mall in Mt. Pleasant. The real star of the show is the chicken. Cuminmarinated and rotisserie-cooked, for those seeking a familiar comparison, the flavors are evocative of tandoori chicken. The poultry itself is charcoal-roasted, the two large ovens apparently keeping with Peruvian tradition. The skin is dark and flavorful — perhaps even crisp if you get your timing right — and the meat tender and juicy. Dipped into the spicy mayo-based sauces, it’s the stuff of stretchy pants dreams.
Mì Xào THAI + VIETNAMESE
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 1055 Hwy. 41. (843) 388-5733 mixaocafe.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Nico Oysters + Seafood SEAFOOD
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 201 Coleman Blvd. (843) 352-7969 nicoshemcreek.com Serving Dinner (daily), Lunch (Sat.), Sun. Brunch
After leaving his near decade-long post at Fish, Chef Nico Romo started his own venture in Mt. Pleasant, Nico Oysters +
Do you like to stare at shrimp boats? Or ponder how many acres of marshland is out there?
Opal MODERN AMERICAN
Expensive Mt. Pleasant. 1960 Riviera Drive. (843) 654-9070 owensdininggroup.com/opal Serving Dinner (daily)
This gem of a restaurant offers some of Mt. Pleasant’s most romantic dining. The Californian-slash-Mediterranean-inspired menu starts with an extensive cheese and charcuterie selection and little neck clams prepared three ways, our favorite being the Berkshire sausage, tomatoes, and chiles variety. While you can’t go wrong with Chef Patrick Owen’s papparedelle with wild mushrooms and black truffles, make sure someone in your party orders the grilled bone-in pork rib chop with gnocchi, spinach, smoked duck ham, and apple-citrus pan sauce so you can snag a bite (or two). There’s also a comprehensive wine list and a rotating selection of desserts.
Page’s Okra Grill SOUTHERN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 302 Coleman Blvd. (843) 881-3333 pagesokragrill.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily), Dinner (Mon.Sat.), Weekend Brunch
We blame it on the Redneck Rolls. The fried barbecue and cheese spring rolls were all the magic voodoo Page’s needed to basically print money. This big Mt. Pleasant restaurant sees lines out the door every Sunday for it’s brunch, but really any time of day you’re going to find it a full restaurant. That’s because the service is always friendly, the environment welcoming to even the most rambunctious tot, and the food of the stick to your ribs variety. You’ll find Southern classics like chicken fried steak, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes, not to mention chicken livers. But there’s also a burger to satisfy even the pickiest tween.
Pier 41 SEAFOOD
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1039 SC Highway 41 #600. (843) 388-4229 pier41mtp.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Pier 41 has arguably the best happy hour continued on page 58
VICKERY’S IS YOUR PLACE
Set in a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere, Vickery’s boasts the BEST in waterfront dining and drinking. Enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch on our wide-open patio, or sit dockside while you sip happy hour cocktails. IT GETS BETTER! Into watching sunsets? See ours. You’ll be AMAZED!
Open every day Happy Hour M-F 4-7pm Late Night Menu until 1am Mt. P. – Shem Creek 1313 Shrimp Boat Lane (843) 844-4440 VickerysMtP.com
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A takeout-centric restaurant from chef/owner Anh Toan Ho, Mì Xào brings traditional Vietnamese cooking to the northern edge of Mt. Pleasant. The compact menu includes noodle soups, rice dishes, and salads along with cool summer rolls and tender steamed dumplings. The beef pho brims with savory spices while the tom yum kung presents big, flavorful shrimp in a lime-tinged sweet and sour broth. Daily specials offer a sampling of classic dishes from across Asia, too, like pad thai, pancit, and Korean barbecue.
Seafood. As the name implies, the restaurant shines when it comes to raw seafood. Nico offers up to 12 daily varieties of oysters, as well as caviar, periwinkles, and even a Scotch Oyster which involves a glass of Bowmore 12, a single oyster du jour, and four-part instructions. The new (and tres Francaise) brunch menu features both sweet and savory crepes, croque monsieur, and chicken pate with waffles.
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Neighborhood Essentials East Cooper from page 57
in town. What sounds like hyperbole can be backed up by fact: $1 oysters and $1 Champagne from 4-7 p.m. every day they’re open, including Friday and Saturday nights. The defense rests. And the defense apologizes for likely making the line even worse. They also have a bloody mary that will put all other bloodys to shame, and will make you the queen or king of Instagram for a day. The food menu, meanwhile, covers all the bases: there are small plates like crab dip, ceviche, and baked oyster; medium plates like lobster fried rice mac and cheese, a seafood tower, and lobster roll; and non-seafood items like a burger, teriyaki chicken, and kimchi fries.
Poke Bros. FUSION + ECLECTIC
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 644-H1 Long Point Road. (843) 800-5600 North Charleston. 5070 International Blvd. (843) 718-1354 eatpokebros.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
This poke chain has two locations in the Charleston area, serving up both signature bowls and build your own bowls. Like other poke joints, the bases, proteins, and mix-in
choices are fresh and varied. The best part about Poke Bros., though, is that you can order your bowl online. When the paradox of choice paralyzes us, we go with a surething signature. Try the Johnny Utah with salmon, avocado, edamame, cucumber, masago, OG sauce, and Sriracha aioli.
Red Drum FUSION + ECLECTIC
Expensive Mt. Pleasant. 803 Coleman Blvd. (843) 849-0313 reddrumrestaurant.com Serving Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Start with Red Drum’s fried shrimp — beneath light, crisp batter, the tender shrimp has that rich, briny bite you only get when they’re fresh from the sea. The heart and soul of chef/owner Ben Berryhill’s kitchen is his custom wood-fired grill and the quail and sausage entrée. It neatly encapsulates the restaurant’s South-by-Southwest theme, blending local Southern ingredients (South Carolina quail) with the flavors of Berryhill’s native Texas (venison sausage from Broken Arrow Ranch). The deboned quail is dark and delicious, with a touch of crisp char from that wood-fired grill, and the savory sausage offers a nice contrast to the creamy gooeyness of the cheese grits over which they’re layered.
Savi Cucina + Wine Bar
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 130 Mill St. saltwater-cowboys.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
While seated on the dog-friendly outdoor deck, the water views cannot be beat. Kayakers, shrimp boats, and even dolphins pass by. The menu features a variety of sandwiches, as well as fried seafood platters and barbecue. Try the fried grouper fingers — these ain’t no fish sticks. Rather, the five chubby “fingers” — firm and fresh — are lightly breaded and perfectly fried. They’re accompanied by an excellent tartar sauce, but the white, flaky grouper is so lovely it seems a shame to drown it in mayo, no matter how fine. Order a bevy of sides, you can’t go wrong. The Geechie Boy house grits are a fine example of the genre. Creamy and buttery, yet not ridiculously so, they’re another solid offering. Same can be said of the collards, which are neither too sweet nor too vinegary, and still retain a bit of their verdant vegetableness. If it’s ‘cue you crave, go for the smoked turkey breast.
Open For Lunch, Dinner & Weekend Brunch Lunch wednesday - Friday 11:30am - 2:30 pm Dinner wednesday - Sunday 5:00pm - 9:30pm Brunch Saturday - Sunday 11:00am - 3:00pm
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1324 Theater Drive. (843) 6061856 savicucina.com Serving Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Located in Mt. Pleasant Towne Centre, Savi Cucina + Wine Bar serves “upscale coastal Italian” fare nightly. The ‘wine bar’ part of their name means they have quite the selection, and offer weekly evening tastings. They also have a killer happy hour every day from 3-7 p.m. with a handful of drink specials — $9 wine flights — plus snacks. The dinner menu includes requisite Italian offerings like burrata, shrimp carbonara, eggplant parm, and osso buca. We’re here for the Italian brunch, though, with breakfast pizza, bisteca and eggs, and ricotta gnocchi.
The Shellmore WINE BAR
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 357 N Shelmore Blvd. (843) 654-9278 Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.) theshellmore.com
Known for its happy hour, this intimate Mt. Pleasant wine bar sits on a tree-lined street
Happy Hour wed - Fri 5:00 - 6:30pm $6 Mussels, $3 Frites, $3 Olives $6 Cheese & Charcuterie $5 Cocktails with House brands $2 off Wines by the Glass $1 off Draft & Bottled Beer
Wine Wednesday $10 Off ALL Bottles Of Wine ALL day!
1 2 2 0 B e n Saw y e r B lv d. S u i t e I • M t. P l e asa n t • (8 43) 21 6 -3 43 4 Sea Island Shopping Center. Corner of Ben Sawyer Blvd & Chuck Dawley Blvd.
bis tro t oul ouse.com
The Dish dining guide
sic. Billing itself “the best little deli South of Chicago,” Skoogie’s has been knocking out BLTs, reubens, and Italian beef sandwiches for more than 30 years. The egg salad and chicken salad sandwiches are noteworthy, but the classic Chicago-style Skoogie Dog is the real star of the show. It’s a genuine Vienna Beef wiener in a steamed poppyseed bun, piled high with onions, mustard, tomatoes, and sport peppers and finished off with a kosher pickle strip and a dash of celery salt.
The Shelter Kitchen + Bar AMERICAN
Jonathan Boncek file photo
Watch dolphins as you snack on Saltwater Cowboys’ oyster bacon po’ boy and is replete with cozy touches. Pull up a Parisienne chair and place an order for raw oysters, crudo, or a cheese plate served on flowery antique dishes. Look to the chalkboard on the wall for the daily specials, a rotating menu of seasonal salads, thoughtful sandwiches, and comforting small plates.
Skoogie’s HOT DOG JOINTS
Cheap Mt. Pleasant. 840-C Coleman Blvd. (843) 884-0172 Serving Lunch (Daily)
This tiny lunch spot is a Mt. Pleasant clas-
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 202 Coleman Blvd. (843) 388-3625 theshelterkitchenandbar.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Roll up to the Shelter on Saturday and Sunday and you’ll see it packed to the gills for their uber-popular weekend brunch. Grab a table on the deck and enjoy one of their ‘crushes’ (fresh, fruity, icy cocktails) or decadent brunch favorites like breakfast tacos, steak rancheros, and more. The price is right, the location near Shem Creek is great, and with live local music to boot, we’ll probably see you there.
Tasty Thai and Sushi THAI + VIETNAMESE
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 320 W Coleman Blvd.(843) 3883912 West Ashley. 874 Orleans Road. (843) 573-8825 tastythaiandsushi.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Start with a pot of the tom yum koong, a flavorful bowl bursting with traditional Thai tastes like lemon grass, galanage root, lime leaves, and cilantro. Shrimp swim in the broth and a pot is big enough for two to three people. House specialties include red curry duck and spicy udon noodles and salads like the Yum Yai (mixed seafood) are healthy and filling enough for a meal. Did we mention sushi? This place has plenty of it, with a sushi chef whipping up the tasty rolls.
Tavern & Table MODERN AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 100 Church St. (843) 352-9510 tavernandtable.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Daily)
This waterfront venue combines the best of many worlds. With multiple interior dining areas, indoor and outdoor bars, a covered continued on page 60
Sun-Thu 11am - 10pm • Fri & Sat 11am - 11pm LaHaciendaMexRestaurants.com
N. CHARLESTON 8461 Resolute Way • 5070 International Blvd • 6322 Rivers Ave NEW! WEST ASHLEY 1859 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. • SUMMERVILLE 1205 N Main St. GOOSE CREEK 205 N Goose Creek Blvd. • MT. PLEASANT 3050 South Morgans Point Road
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NOW IN 7 CONVENIENT LOCATIONS THROUGHOUT THE CHARLESTON AREA
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Neighborhood Essentials more tender and sweet than the usual offering, a welcome improvement that complements rather than competes. Topped with a runny egg and rich hollandaise, attempting it as a handheld will probably result in wearing some of it home. But, hey, it’s a look.
East Cooper from page 59
deck, and couch-lined dockside patio, diners can choose the seat that best suits their mood. That could be enjoying crispy dynamite shrimp with Calabrian chile honey and pickled banana peppers beneath handcrafted chandeliers inside, or biting into drunken wings with a bourbon Sichuan glaze on the outdoor patio while watching pelicans skim the water.
Vickery’s Bar and Grill AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 1313 Shrimp Boat Lane. (843) 884-4440 vickerysmtp.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Daily)
Topsail Restaurant and Bar SEAFOOD
Expensive Mt. Pleasant. 440 West Coleman Blvd. (843) 416-8306 topsaillmtpleasant.com Open for Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Located on Coleman Blvd., just across the street from Shem Creek, Topsail Restaurant and Bar serves a seafood-focused menu, with an emphasis on local ingredients. Fresh seafood takes center stage at Topsail, where you can nosh on small plates like house ceviche and mussels, or larger entrees like scallops, tuna, and monkfish. Landlubbers will leave happy too; choose from goods like bone-in pork chops or filet mignon. Get to the bar every day from 4-6 p.m. and enjoy happy hour, with deals on food and drinks. You can never go wrong with $5 house wine.
Viscious Biscuit’s Sea Biscuit features four battered shrimp, ‘yum yum’ slaw, and Thai chili sauce sandwiched between a big, buttery biscuit
Vicious Biscuit BREAKFAST
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 489 W Coleman Blvd. (843) 388-7362 viciousbiscuit.com Serving Breakast, Brunch (daily)
Behold, the vicious biscuit: A big, buttery,
perhaps even bulletproof colossus of dense dough. The Crab Benny a large, meaty crab cake, fried slice of green tomato, sunny-side up egg, and hollandaise sauce. Generous in both size and seafood, the crabcake alone is worth the price of admission. Then there’s the green tomato, which seems to have been cooked prior to battering. This renders it
For large parties or if kids are in tow, Vickery’s, which overlooks picturesque Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, is just the spot for some good grub and good times. The big menu starts with wings and bourbon butter shrimp that are perfect for sharing. Large salads will satisfy the veggie lovers while the meat eaters will head straight for the Southern fried chicken. Us? Our go-to is the jerk chicken breast sandwich topped with raspberry sauce, black beans, and rice. The bonus? A side of fried plantains.
VOTED BEST HOT DOG
SINCE 2000! the best hot dog i have ever had.
- Alton Brown
BACCO ITALIAN RESTAURANT
[ featuring ] true, regional Italian dishes, including panuozzi, pizza baked in our wood burning oven, roasted meats and seafood. Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm | Dinner Tue-Thu 5:30-9pm | Fri-Sat 5:30 - 10pm 976 Houston Northcutt Blvd. Suite O | Mt. Pleasant | 884-6969 | baccocharleston.com
THE BEST SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM ON THE WAY TO AND FROM THE BEACH!
2805 Hwy 17 N Mt. Pleasant | 843-884-7677 www.jackscosmicdogs.com
The Dish dining guide
Vintage Coffee & Cafe AMERICAN
Inexpensive Mt. Pleasant. 219 Simmons St. (843) 352-7552 vintagecoffeecafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
If you want kick-ass toast, this charming coffee shop off of Coleman is the place to go. Their proscuitto with brie and fig jam version is enough to get anyone up in the morning. Add the pleasant playground to the equation and you have the stuff of exhausted parents’ dreams. And Vintage got even better with the addition of Coastal Crust’s first brick and mortar at the back of the property. Now you can let your rug rats climb on the old truck play structure while you tuck into a wood-fired oyster mushroom pie.
Wood & Grain AMERICAN
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 778 S Shelmore Blvd. 102. (843) 971-6070 owensdininggroup.com Serving Dinner (daily)
Having previously tackled CaliforniaMediterranean and Lowcountry cuisine, Chef Patrick Owens’ menu for Wood & Grain is focused on a diverse mix of locally
sourced seafood, salads, and wood-fired pizzas. Chic and welcoming despite its strip mall location, the restaurant has a lively bar, plus private and communal tables centered around an open kitchen. In addition to the raw oysters and wood-fired ’za, highlights from the eclectic menu have included a kale salad, market ceviche, and roasted octopus.
The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene SEAFOOD
Moderate Mt. Pleasant. 106 Haddrell St. (843) 884-0052 wreckrc.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
As CP critic Robert Moss once wrote, “The Wreck is one of those places that locals either love or hate.” The Wreck is a Shem Creek institution and its “our way or the highway” attitude just adds to the charm. It’s open just a handful of hours each day, and the meals are served on paper plates with iced tea in clear plastic cups, soda in cans, and beer in bottles. You can’t make reservations. But what you will get is the freshest local seafood like grilled or fried fish, shrimp, and scallops along with fried oysters, deviled crab, and stone crab claws. Once a cash-only business, the Wreck in recent years started accepting credit cards,
but that’s the only visible concession to modern convenience.
SULLIVAN’S ISLAND and ISLE OF PALMS Acme Lowcountry Kitchen AMERICAN
Moderate Isle of Palms. 31 J.C. Long Blvd. (843) 886-3474 acmelowcountrykitchen.com Serving Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner (daily)
On weekends, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is one of the most visited brunch locations around, and it’s no surprise as they’ve got a menu with over 60 options, including a variety of benedicts — think crab cakes, fried oysters Rockefeller, and fried green tomatoes. But they’re also serving lunch and dinner with everything from American staples like burgers and wings to Lowcountry classics, a la succotash and shrimp and grits. Acme also serves one of the best fried shrimp baskets in town — medium-sized shrimp are covered in a powdery breading that’s fried extra crispy, and each bite reveals a crunch and a whole lot of flavor.
Binky’s Seaside Oyster & Liquor Bar SEAFOOD
Inexpensive Isle of Palms. 1130 Ocean Blvd. (843) 242-8470 binkysbar.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Lunch (Sat.)
Chef Ken Vedrinski, the brains behind popular upscale Italian restaurants Trattoria Lucca and Coda del Pesce, has opened the casual seaside Binky’s to serve as his fun, loud offspring. Sandy feet are welcome, TVs are on, and there are no mixologists in sight — grab a vodka soda if you’re feeling fancy. “The structure of the menu is pretty much ... it’s an oyster bar but not like The Ordinary or Darling Oyster Bar,” says Vedrinski. Order up bivalves plus “cheffy,” flavorful eats like a spaghetti sandwich, tuna salisbury, egg salad BLT, and soft pretzels with blue crab dip.
The Boathouse SEAFOOD
Expensive Isle of Palms. 101 Palm Blvd. (843) 886-8000 boathouserestaurants.com Serving Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
The Boathouse boasts one of the best dincontinued on page 62
CHARLESTON’S ORIGINAL PUBLIC HOUSE
LUNCH • DINNER • BRUNCH L AT E N I G H T
COLEMAN PUBLIC HOUSE
427 W Coleman Blvd • Mt Pleasant 843.416.8833 • colemanpublichouse.com
M AY B A N K P U B L I C H O U S E 1970 Maybank Hwy • James Island 843.203.6461 • maybankpublichouse.com
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ing views in the Lowcountry thanks to its perch at the edge of Breach Inlet on the Isle of Palms. Since 1997, its broad menu of fresh, local seafood has been drawing crowds of locals and vacationers alike. The daily “Fish Board” highlights a rotating selection of fresh, local catches, which you can have grilled, blackened, fried, or roasted, and there’s a generous array of house specialties, like crab cakes, pecan encrusted fried chicken, and sweet corn hushpuppies. On weekends, hearty eggs benedict and po’ boys provide brunch options that are almost as satisfying as the marsh view from the big rooftop deck.
High Thyme AMERICAN
Moderate Sullivan’s Island. 2213 C Middle St. (843) 883-3536 highthyme.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
High Thyme is one of Sullivan’s Island’s best kept secrets. The dining room is small and quaint, and the menu is as simple as it gets: think mussels, grilled tuna, and beef tenderloin. But simple is no problem, as the dishes are presented with a glimpse of elegance and the flavors that follow are quite good — consistency and execution at its finest. Head to the patio early Sunday morning and enjoy one of the best brunches in town. Start off with a mimosa and a basket of warm biscuits before diving into a plate of corned beef hash with two sunny side up eggs.
rooftop deck with partial ocean views. The menu features a handful of appetizers: chips and (three kinds of) salsa, nachos, Mexican street corn, tomato rice, and frijoles. But when you visit Papi’s it’s all about the tacos. A sure thing is the How Ya Durin, a fried shrimp taco by any other name. Enveloped in a five-inch handmade corn tortilla from Mitla Tortilleria, the lightly breaded prawns are accompanied by pickled chayote, crunchy cabbage, and red onions, plus a creamy remoulade. Rich, yet fresh and bright, this is the shrimp taco you expect, only a little better.
Poe’s Tavern PUBS + TAVERNS
Inexpensive Sullivan’s Island. 2210 Middle St. (843) 883-0083 poestavern.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Big, sloppy, house-ground cheeseburgers draw the crowds to Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island. By day, it’s a bustling beach lunch spot, by night a raucous bar and grill. The rustic walls are hung with Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia, and all the burgers are named after his tales. The fearsome Tell-Tale Heart is topped with fried egg, bacon, and cheddar cheese. For our money, though, the Hop Frog with barbecue sauce, bacon, and Monterey Jack is the real masterpiece, especially when combined with a side of thin, crispy hand-cut fries and a local draft beer. Poe’s fish tacos are rumored to be pretty good, too.
Cheap Isle of Palms. 1012 Ocean Blvd. (843) 926-7274 papisiop.com Serving Lunch (Sat. -Sun.), Dinner (daily)
The chic, beachy spot is set in a retrofitted blue and white beach house on Ocean Boulevard. Although Papi’s is small, it manages to squish in three options — a bright, white shiplap-clad room filled with dining tables, a small upstairs bar, and an outside
Ali Baba Mediterranean DELI & CATERING
Mediterranean Inexpensive Daniel Island. 186 Seven Farms Drive, Suite 500. (843) 377-8666 alibabacharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Ali Baba is a straight-up Mediterranean
The Dish dining guide
deli, featuring falafel, kebabs, beef shawarma, and a whole lot more. Owners Samir and Yasmeen Elzabidi are native Jordanians and have brought the f lavors of not just their home country but the entire region to this stylish venture on Daniel Island. There are a few more Western preparations like panini and wraps, but the traditional Levantine favorites are what really shine: fattoush (bread salad), foul madamas (a fava bean dip), and perhaps the brightest, most addictive hummus in the Lowcountry.
Dockery’s AMERICAN + BREWERY
Inexpensive Daniel Island. 880 Island Park Drive. (843) 471-1130 dockerysdi.com Serving Lunch, (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Grandeur seems to be a theme at Dockery’s. The space itself is ginormous, with high ceilings, copious bar and table seating, and a large stage with regular live music. There are also outdoor tables, including a badass communal high top with a firepit in the middle, and even a modular greenhouse from Vertical Roots located in a shipping container outside. The menu offerings, prepared by executive chef Andy McLeod, are expansive — choose from shareables, sandwiches, salads, large plates. McLeod, who has also held down the kitchen at The Lot and Indaco, makes it his mission to source local ingredients.
Laura Albert’s Tasteful Options Café CAFÉS
Moderate Daniel Island. 891 Island Park Drive (843) 881-4711 lauraalberts.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (Wed.), Sat. Brunch
Mpishi FUSION + ECLECTIC
Inexpensive Daniel Island. 162 Seven Farms Drive. (843) 867-6066 mpishirestaurant.com Serving Brunch (daily), Sun., Mon., & Thurs. (take-out), Fri. & Sat. (dinner pop-ups)
This eclectic DI newcomer offers a little bit
LEGENDARY FISH TACOS
Vespa Pizzeria PIZZA
Moderate Daniel Island. 224 Seven Farms Drive. (843) 881-0101 vespapizzeria.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Daily)
At Vespa Pizzeria, they bake their handtossed Neapolitan pies in a big Italian Mugiani oven until the thin crust is crisp and slightly charred. The BLT tops that delicious crust with Benton’s bacon, arugula, and sliced tomatoes, while the Athenian loads on shrimp, feta, kalamata olives, and artichokes. For starters, there are bowls of mussels in two f lavors and crisp arancini filled with mozzarella and prosciutto and fried a dark golden brown. There’s Peroni and the house’s Vespa IPA on tap and a small slate of salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes, too.
Wasabi D.I. SUSHI + JAPANESE
Expensive Daniel Island. 194 Seven Farms Drive. (843) 388-8828 wasabirestaurantgroup.com/di Serving Lunch (Mon.-Fri.), Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
The Daniel Island incarnation of Wasabi has hibachi favorites alongside upscale sushi offerings with plenty of extravagant f lourishes. On pleasant evenings, rollup doors convert the big bar in the front corner into an open-air happy-hour spot, and the white leather booths and elaborate lighting fixtures set a bold, stylish tone. The hibachi grill turns out a reliable selection of chicken, steak, and seafood, and the sushi bar sends out a parade of creative rolls, like the Diablo with its spicy tuna and cucumber topped with jalapeño and kimchi sauce.
LOCAL BEST CRAFT BURGER VOTED CHARLESTON’S
2018 AND 2019
CITY PAPER READER’S POLL OPEN DAILY 11AM - 10PM 2210 MIDDLE ST SULLIVAN’S ISLAND 843.883.0083 POESTAVERN.COM
charlestoncitypaper.com/dish || 63
Daniel Island professionals like Laura Albert’s lunches for their mix of sandwiches, salads, and specialities, like shrimp baba ganoush or the tarragon shallot salmon couscous. And if you don’t have to head back to the office try one of their suggested beer or wine pairings — and they’ve got a lot of suds and wine to offer since much of the space is dedicated to selling the sweet nectar. The restaurant even has a growler station.
of everything. Stop in for breakfast all day (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) with classic morning dishes like eggs benedict, omelets, pancakes, and house-made granola. Other daytime offerings incude a smattering of sandwiches, salads, and soup. Be sure to check their social media and website for updates on their dinner offerings; currently they have Sunday steak and salmon take-out, Monday fried chicken take-out, and Thursday fajita takeout. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for pop-up dinners.
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When we’re looking for a little something different, West Ashley is where we go. From old family-owned operations to barbecue, West of the Ashley continues to have some tricks up its sleeve. The restaurants are organized alphabetically.
Al Di La ITALIAN
Moderate West Ashley. 25 Magnolia Road. (843) 571-2321 aldilarestaurant.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Seasonally inspired Northern Italian fare is served in Al Di La’s bright, contemporary dining room. The West Ashley restaurant has a cheerful, expansive outdoor patio from which you can tuck into a plate of the duck confit tagliatelle with cremini mushrooms and crème fraiche. The risotto del giorno is made with cherry tomatoes, arugula, and a spicy saffron seafood broth then topped with pan-fried shrimp in a symphony of carb-y delights. Additional standby favorites include the pillowy soft ricotta gnocchi and cannoli siciliani.
Bessinger’s BBQ BARBECUE
Inexpensive West Ashley. 1602 Savannah Hwy. (843) 556-1354 bessingersbbq.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
If you want to sample the classic Midlands style of South Carolina barbecue without leaving the city limits, just head over to Bessinger’s on Savannah Highway. It’s the outpost established by Thomas Bessinger, one of a trio of brothers from Orangeburg County who came down to Charleston in the 1950s and ‘60s and opened drive-in barbecue joints. The savory hash and rice is a fine example of South Carolina’s classic barbecue side, and Bessinger’s signature yellow mustard sauce is one of the best around. You might not expect it from a barbecue joint, but the cheeseburger basket is the insider’s pick for a great old-school burger, too.
Jonathan Boncek file photo
The Buffalo Chicken sandwich at Boxcar Betty’s with blue cheese sauce, tomato, and Bibb lettuce
Boxcar Betty’s AMERICAN
Cheap West Ashley. 1922 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-7470 North Charleston. 7800 Rivers Ave. (843) 990-9804 Mt. Pleasant. 1701 Shoremeade Road. (854) 227-5198 boxcarbetty.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Somewhat hidden away on Savannah Highway is Boxcar Betty’s, a simple enough place that means to take a stand on the lack of good fried chicken sandwiches. Because owners Ian MacBryde and Roth Scott, formerly of Magnolias, staked their claim as a niche kind of joint, the menu confidently boasts only a few items. Despite serving only three sandwiches, it’s still hard to choose between the Boxcar with peach slaw and pimento cheese, the Chicken Not-So-Waffle with bacon jam and maple syrup, and the spicy Buffalo sandwich with blue cheese and farm-fresh tomatoes. They’re all pretty messy, the true sign of a good sammie. Sides include hand-cut sweet potato fries, fried pickles with ranch, and peach coleslaw.
DB’s Cheesesteaks, Hoagies, and More AMERICAN
Cheap West Ashley. 2 Avondale Ave. (843) 225-3231 dbscheesesteaks.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Avondale barflys now have another option to soak up all the booze they’ve downed at Voodoo, the Roost, and Gene’s with DB’s finely chopped cheesesteaks, chicken cheesesteaks, and pizza steaks. Why you would go to a cheesesteak shop and not get a cheesesteak is a mystery. But if that’s your thing, they have meatball hoagies, burgers, hot dogs, and cold subs, too. But let’s be real, you should get a cheesesteak.
Early Bird Diner AMERICAN
Inexpensive West Ashley. 1644 Savannah Hwy. (843) 277-2353 earlybirddiner.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Late Night (Fri.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
No proper decision on where to eat in West
Ashley is complete until you’ve considered Early Bird Diner. Cozy up with some friends in the booths or watch the magic happen from the counter. An Early Bird first-timer? Try the chicken-and-waffles. Besides that, the patty melt, fried green tomatoes, and the mac are all surefire choices. But before you place your order, be sure to check the board above the kitchen window for specials — there’s likely something there that will challenge your craving.
Fishnet Seafood SEAFOOD
Inexpensive West Ashley. 3832 Savannah Hwy. (843) 571-2423 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
Look for the Dodge’s Chicken sign as you head out Highway 17 South and hang a hard right into the Fishnet Seafood parking lot. This favorite of locals tucked in a weathered former filling station sports a plethora of fried seafood. Ladies wearing white shrimp boots patiently hand-bread full-bellied blue crab, load up fryers, and make chitchat with continued on page 66
2019 BEST MARGARITA
Ms. Rose's is the P lace to be... MORNING, NOON & NIGHT
10 90 S A M R I T T E N B E R G B LV D
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Weekday Breakfast I Lunch I Dinner Happy Hour I Weekend Brunch
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Neighborhood Essentials West Ashley from page 64
regulars. You can select your local catch of choice from the on-site fishmonger to have it fried up specially for you, from croaker to porgy to flounder.
The Gathering Café CAFÉS
WE KNOW YOUR TYPE
Inexpensive West Ashley. 1124 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 297-8380 gatheringwestashley.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Those living West of the Ashley have been enjoying the Gathering Café’s healthy, satisfying, made-from-scratch food since 2012 when chef and owner Nathan Conkle opened the neighborhood restaurant with a farm-to-table menu packed with hearty, modern eats. Dishes like panang curry with tofu or one of their daily specials, like the North Carolina pan-seared f lounder served with sweet potato gratin and sautéed greens in a brown butter sauce, keep diners coming back.
Gene’s Haufbrau PUBS + TAVERNS
Inexpensive West Ashley. 817 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-4363 genes.beer Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily)
This Avondale staple has served cold pints to thirsty Charleston bar hoppers for years. Maybe even forever. In addition to the varied draft selection, fun bar games, and late night hours, the food menu ain’t bad, either. Burgers, wings, salads, and apps like artichoke dip and corn dogs will keep you sipping all night. Their blue plate specials include Mon. pork chops, Tues. fried chicken, Wed. pot roast, Thurs. country fried steak, and Fri. fried flounder.
Ko Cha Korean KOREAN
Cheap West Ashley. 3515 Mary Ader Ave. (843) 766-0301 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
If you’re looking for a place to score bibimbap, gasoline, and lottery tickets, then Ko Cha is the spot for you. Tucked inside an ExxonMobil gas station, Ko Cha is serving a full menu of Asian treats, including bowls of fried rice and Mongolian beef. But Korean dishes like bibimbap keep people coming back for more. Each entree comes with a sampling of sides like curry potatoes, bitter greens with sesame, and kimchi. There are noodle bowls filled with shrimp, octopus, and mussels (jjambbong) and hammered deep fried cutlets of pork (donkkaseu), but our favorites are the beef
Jonathan Boncek file photo
DB’s Cheesesteaks serves up, you guessed it, solid cheesesteaks bulgogi and the kal bi.
Mex 1 Coastal Cantina MEXICAN
Inexpensive West Ashley. 817 St. Andrews Blvd. (843) 751-4001 Sullivan’s Island. 2205 Middle St. (843) 882-8172 Mt. Pleasant. 1109 Park West Blvd. (843) 352-4699 mex1coastalcantina.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Mex 1 Coastal Cantina was a welcome addition to the West Ashley dining scene. The original restaurant may not be near the water, but it’s got a huge surfer vibe (i.e. the kitchen is separated from the bar by a wall constructed of surf boards). The Baja-style eats beckon the hungry, and the impressive tequila list opens the door to a whole slew of fun. An array of tacos, quesadillas, and tortas make up the entrees, with the addition of tasty bites like guacamole and Mexican street corn. We’re partial to the Baja fish tacos and carnitas torta.
Nirlep Indian Restaurant INDIAN
Moderate West Ashley. 908 Savannah Hwy. (843) 763-9923 nirlepcharleston.us Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Like many of you, about the only time we swing by Nirlep is at lunch, and we do it because Nirlep has one of the most walletfriendly buffets around. Start with the naan; it’s always soft, warm, and if you’re looking,
The Dish dining guide
a little charred in spots. Then grab a little bit of the chopped salad; it’s a tangy combo of iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. After that move on to the entrees, making an effort to combine both vegetarian dishes and meat ones. On the veggie end, the saag paneer (a stewy, gooey batch of spinachy goodness) and the chana masala (an onion and tomato curry dish) are good bets. Carnivores can try the creamy lamb korma, curry chicken, and butter chicken (an ultra-creamy blast of spicy nirvana).
The Original Ms. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails AMERICAN
Moderate West Ashley. 1090 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 766-0223 msroses.com Serving Breakfast (Mon.-Fri.), Lunch & Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Ms. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails’ broad menu should have something to please anyone. Start with Johns Island fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and tomato ragout, warm pretzel sticks, or whole wings with a choice of three sauces. Their fried chicken sandwich is crispy and juicy and the 6 oz. house burger with Swiss cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and fried onions hits the spot. Brunch standouts include cinnamon rolls, poutine, and dirty rice fritters.
Red Orchids China Bistro CHINESE
Moderate West Ashley. 1401 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 573-8787 redorchids.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily)
G I L L
G R I L L
ANGUS BEEF SERVING CERTIFIED BURGERS & STEAKS
Spanglish Cocina + Bar CUBAN
Moderate West Ashley. 652 St. Andrews Blvd. spanglishcubankitchen.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Fri.), Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Owners Lynda and Tomas Prado secured a West Ashley brick and mortar not long after their successful year-long stint at exploratory food court Workshop. “We really want to cater to the neighborhood,” Lynda said at the time. “It will be a very approachable place, you can come once or twice a week — hopefully three times a week! We’re always going to be there, we want people to feel like they’ll always be able to connect with us.” And they are always there, serving up delectable empanadas and daiquiris behind the hot pink bar. The space is colorful and loud — Miami takes West Ashley. The Cuban dishes have a cult following of regulars, and the friendly staff makes you want to visit as often as Lynda hoped for. And, because they’ve had their fair share of popup experience, the Prados host pop-up guest chefs regularly.
1668 OLD TOWNE ROAD WEST ASHLEY, SC 29407 843-556-2478
80 NORTH MARKET STREET CHARLESTON, SC 29401 843-577-2511
Stones Throw Tavern PUBS + TAVERNS
Inexpensive West Ashley. 3417 Shelby Ray Ct. Ste. G (843) 793-1342 facebook.com/stonesthrowtavern Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
A 2019 addition to West Ashley’s dining options, Stones Throw Tavern is full of what makes every good sports bar great: TVs, beer on tap, and plenty of fried food. The menu offers standard pub fare — including a few fresh, creative salads — with sandwiches, wings, burgers, and country fried steak ready to help you soak up those game day beverages. Catch early weekend games with a hearty Stones Throw brunch. We think the breakfast bowl would pair really well with a Champagne carafe (just $12).
We’re rolling out favorites like Chicken ’n Waffles, Monte Cristo Sandwiches,Country Fried Steak & Shrimp ’n Grits + our regular menu.
BEST BEER SELECTION IN CHARLESTON
Slice Co. PIZZA
817 Savannah Hwy. 843-225-GENE Genes.Beer
Cheap West Ashley. 1662 Savannah Hwy. Suit 202 (843) 343-5827 slicecompany.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Todd Lucey’s Slice Co. was the first
OPEN DAILY 11AM - 7PM DAILY HAPPY HOUR 4PM
continued on page 68
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You’d never guess that some of the best Chinese food in Charleston is tucked in a nondescript West Ashley strip mall. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Inside you’ll find a sophisticated, minimalist aesthetic, where 1920s Singapore prints line the walls, and red paper lanterns cast a warm glow. Husband-and-wife owners Tony and Kelly Chu have been tantalizing our palates for more than a decade with sizzling chicken and shiitakes cupped in cool lettuce wraps, braised duck, finely spiced lamb chops, honey glazed walnut shrimp, spicy Korean steak, and Red Orchids’ succulent and crispy signature red snapper. Be sure to save room for Kelly’s housemade, seasonal ice creams.
Workshop business to have fully completed the model founder Michael Shemtov envisioned — the incubator food court was created to allow fledgling restaurants an opportunity to develop their brands while operating a small stall. Lucey and Slice Co. left Workshop in June 2018 and shortly after moved into a brick and mortar in West Ashley. They sell pizza by the slice and 18-inch pies, plus additonal items like salads, garlic knots, and meatballs.
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Neighborhood Essentials Taste of India
West Ashley from page 67
cloths and no one is gonna fuss if your tiny one makes some noise. The extensive menu is filled with plenty of sandwich options like a grouper BLT on a challah bun, but we’re happy that breakfast is served all day. Sweet potato benedict, huevos rancheros, and an array of omelets might satisfy your cravings. Plus they make an excellent baby breakfast — animal shaped pancakes with fresh fruit.
Swig & Swine
Inexpensive West Ashley. 1280 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 556-0772 tasteofindiacharleston.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Wed.-Mon.)
Moderate West Ashley. 1217 Savannah Hwy. (843) 225-3805 Mt. Pleasant. 2379 Hwy 41. (843) 416-7368 Summerville. 1990 Old Trolley Road. (843) 771-9688 swigandswinebbq.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
If you follow pitmaster and co-owner Anthony DiBernardo on social media, you’ll see that the man doesn’t sleep. He’s stoking his custom-built smokers at 2 a.m., tirelessly perfecting the art of woodsmoked barbecue, sometimes with his son in tow. Pull up a stool at the meat counter at this popular eatery, and DiBernardo himself might break from tending the fires to offer you a taste while you’re waiting for your order, be it tender pulled pork, sausage, turkey, wings, pork belly, or brisket. All come with your choice of four housemade sauces plus a bonus jalapeño sauce for heat seekers. Sides are plentiful and service swift and friendly. Wash it all down with a sweet tea if you so choose, but the swig list here might tempt you to hang out long after you’ve taken your last bite.
There is little doubt that Taste of India serves up the best naan in town. The reason: It’s fluffier than the other varieties you’ll find in the Lowcountry. There are no tough bites here; just pillowy yumminess. Like the other Indian joints in the area, Taste of India is best known as a lunch buffet spot, and rightfully so. However, Taste of India is just as good for dinner. The entrees are great — the chicken korma is a sweet and spicy fave and the lamb roghan josh is a comforting plate featuring tender chunks of lamb in a hearty brown sauce — while the tandoori chicken is sure to delight fans of backyard barbecues. There are solid seafood and veg-heavy options, too.
Three Little Birds CAFÉS
Cheap West Ashley. 65 Windermere Blvd. (843) 225-3065 threelittlebirdscafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
If you’re looking for family friendly fare you
Voodoo Tiki Bar & Lounge FUSION + ECLECTIC
Cheap West Ashley. 15 Magnolia Road. (843) 769-0228 voodootikibar.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Stop in to Spanglish for a bite or a sip at their hot-pink bar won’t find better than Three Little Birds. This vine-covered building is easy to miss, and it’s always packed. Kids are automatically given crayons to color on the paper table-
Voodoo and Polynesian may not be the first combo you think of, but the Avondale tiki-themed restaurant makes it work. They serve upscale bar food — think tacos filled with barbecue duck, red curry chicken, baja shrimp, and cashew-encrusted tuna. The cocktail list is where you’ll really find the tiki influences, with punches and cocktails served in kitschy tropical tumblers with as much flare as they can fit poking out of the top. Many of the concoctions are made with delicious in-house liquor infusions, like peach cobbler vodka, strawberry-jalapeño tequila, and watermelon-basil tequila.
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The Dish dining guide
YoBo Cantina Fresca MEXICAN
Cheap West Ashley. 10 Windermere Blvd. (843) 793-2824 North Charleston. 1067 E. Montague Ave. (843) 203-3381 yobocantinafresca.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
From their happy hour mason jar margs to monster quesadillas and fresh salads, YoBo is a weekday staple of ours. Yes, you can order queso galore and a burrito with chicken and steak, but after any meal at the cantina you will leave feeling happily full, not uncomfortably so. For our money (and waistlines) we tend to veer toward the Santa Fe salad topped with grilled veggies, black bean and corn salsa, jack cheese, and avocado. Add grilled fresh fish and you’ve got one hell of an affordable dinner spot to add to your rotation.
Zen Asian Fusion ASIAN FUSION
Moderate West Ashley. 2037 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 766-6331 zenasianrestaurant.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
At Zen Asian Fusion, it says “fusion” in
VOTED BEST BUFFET
neon out front, and it’s fusion that you’ll get. Low-hung globe lamps throw light around the subdued dark wood-panel walls and sparkling tiled bar. From fresh spring roll standards to creative handrolled sushi with touches of Chinese, Malaysian, and Japanese dishes, Zen turns out a quality culinary experience at the right price. Some might call the menu long, but we prefer “comprehensive,” with equal-parts traditional and family-fun mixed in.
Zombie Bob’s Pizza PIZZA
Cheap West Ashley. 1401 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 872-1075 zombiebobspizza.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The restaurant is called Zombie Bob’s but owner Ryan Dedrickson could have easily called it Monster Bob’s because his pizzas are freaking ginormous. We’re talking bigger than your head slices. Even better, the former food truck is smartly stationed inside Frothy Beard’s new tricked out HQ so you can drink some of the best beer in the city while you munch on a stupid big sourdoughcrusted slice.
8 YEARS AND RUNNING!
INCLUDES • • • •
Chopped Pork Fried Chicken Hash & Rice Mac ‘n Cheese
• • • •
Fried Okra Corn Fritters Hush Puppies Collards
• Slaw • Butter Beans • Banana Pudding and much more !
DAILY SPECIALS Tuesdays Pork Chops
Wednesdays Thursdays Meatloaf Livers & Gizzards
CATERING • DRIVE THRU TUES-SUN OPEN AT 11AM FOR LUNCH & DINNER
Fridays Fried Flounder
UBER EATS • TAKE-OUT
331 FOLLY RD JAMES ISLAND NEAR THE JI CONNECTOR
1734 Sam Rittenberg Blvd • 843.868.6288 • Sun-Thu 12pm – 10pm (bar close at 11pm) • Fri-Sat 12pm – 11pm (bar close at 12am)
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JUICINESS AWAITS YOU
70 || DISH || Winter 2020
The Western Islands Though it sometimes gets overlooked, we love our low-key island food scene. From ramen-serving fusion spots to a true blue Thai restaurant, a real deal Irish pub to barbecue, there’s plenty to be thankful for here.
JAMES ISLAND Baguette Magic
Moderate James Island. 792 Folly Road. (843) 471-5941 baguettemagic.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (Thurs.-Sun.)
Baguette Magic is truly magic. Mathieu, the original owner of the quaint French bakery, recently relocated; sisters Paula and Samantha Kramer now helm this James Island gem. You can still stop in for breakfast items like an egg sandwich on a baguette with pepper, onion, tomato, and cheddar. For lunch you’ll find sandwiches served on both baguettes and croissants, all baked in-house. The Kramers have also introduced a full coffee menu so you can pair your pain au chocolate with a cold brew or flavored latte.
Bohemian Bull AMERICAN
Moderate James Island. 1531 Folly Road. (843) 225-1817 bohemianbull.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch
Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t a restaurant serving up Czech dishes. Rather, this James Island beer garden offers the perfect spot for families to gather. The kind of place where mom and dad can enjoy a craft beer and a burger while the tots run free in the large outdoor patio space with wooden picnic tables. There are more than 30 beers on tap with a variety of styles, from stouts and IPAs to Belgians. The menu’s burger offerings include a traditional beef burger made from a brisket and chuck blend. Or, for those hankering for a morning flavor, there’s the breakfast burger with eggs over medium and hashbrowns.
The Kramer sisters, new owners at Baguette Magic, are bringing a fresh take to the menu with reinvented sandwiches and seasonal croissants
Crust Wood Fired Pizza PIZZA
Moderate James Island. 1956 Maybank Hwy. (843) 762-5500 Summerville. 1097 Main St. Suite 201. (843) 285-8819 crustwoodfiredpizza.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
The perfect cozy, laid-back restaurant for a weekday date night or pre-Terrace film screening, Crust has been slinging solid pies on James Island since 2013. The 12-inch pizzas are served on thin metal pans with a crust that is quite good: very thin, with just a touch of black char from the oven’s f lames. The toppings range from chicken and bacon to spicy shrimp and prosciutto. We almost always order the special pizza of the moment, which utilizes fresh, in-season ingredients.
Dukes BBQ BARBECUE
Cheap James Island. 331 Folly Road. (843) 789-4801 Serving Lunch (Tues.-Sun.), Dinner (Tues.- Sat.)
James Islanders love to load up at the buffet at Dukes BBQ , and for many the fried chicken is as much of a draw as the barbecue. You won’t find beef brisket or smoked chicken wings or any of that foreign stuff here, just classic chopped pork with a mustard-based sauce. The all-you-can-eat buf-
fet features that barbecue alongside hash and rice, fried chicken, and a mess of sides. If you’re lucky, fried chicken livers and gizzards will make an appearance, too.
Ellis Creek Fish Camp SOUTHERN
Moderate James Island. 1243 Harbor View Road. (843) 297-8878 elliscreekfishcamp.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Folks heading down Harbor View Road should veer off into this casual, friendly spot serving up fried oyster baskets, shrimp po’boys, crispy catfish, and blue corn hushpuppies, as well as non-fish camp fare like a fried chicken platter and an array of salads. The outside deck beneath a light-strung live oak is great for its proximity to the marsh.
Hen & the Goat CAFE
Inexpensive James Island. 869 Folly Road. (843) 410-1385 henandthegoat.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
This James Island cafe caters to the casual diner offering breakfast and lunch with plenty of options for your a.m. fuel. The ubiquitous avocado toast sits right beside its French cousin (complete with three pieces of challah topped with egg custard batter, and syrup) and there are plenty of kid-friendly
options in between — don’t miss the muffins. Lunch includes reasonable salads and sandwiches and a Reuben for good measure.
Jalisco Taqueria & Tequila MEXICAN
Inexpensive James Island. 1271 Folly Road. (843) 638-8844 jalisco-chs.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
New James Island Mexican eatery Jalisco was inspired by Queen Street Hospitality Group CEO Jonathan Kish’s time spent in Arizona and Jalisco, Mexico. The menu includes an array of snacks, tacos, and entrees like herb-roasted chicken poblano and chili relleno. Sip on a $22 tequila flight while catching a game of sportsball, or take your margarita outside and play a round of corn hole with your buds.
Maple Street Biscuit Company AMERICAN
Inexpensive James Island. 1739 Maybank Hwy. (843) 203-3889 maplestreetbiscuits.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (Mon.-Sat.)
When this Florida-based biscuit chain moved into the Harris Teeter-anchored shopping center on Maybank, we knew the breakfast continued on page 72
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1531 folly rd.
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Neighborhood Essentials Western Islands from page 70
game had officially changed on James Island. Stop in for breakfast, brunch, or lunch and try one of their signature biscuit sandwiches like the Squawking Goat made with fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly. They also have breakfast bowls, biscuits and gravy, sides, and big salads.
Maybank Public House AMERICAN
Moderate James Island. 1970 Maybank Hwy. (843) 203-6461 maybankpublichouse.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Paisano’s Pizza Grill
Mondo’s Italian Restaurant ITALIAN
Moderate James Island. 915 Folly Road. (843) 795-8400 eatatmondos.com Serving Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
If you’re looking for hearty fare in a cozy spot, look no further than the unassuming strip mall location of Mondo’s, a James Island Italian treasure that has been churning out Italian eats for more than two decades. Squeezed between a Sonic and a thrift store, Mondo’s makes the most of its space, including an outside bar and patio area. Mondo’s
Set amongst a jeweler, a seamstress, and a Brazilian wax spa, the cozy Yous Guys sandwich shop is brimming with Eagles and Penn State paraphernalia. Don’t waste your time thinking about what to get — order the classic. The star of the show and the likely reason one heads to Yous Guys is no doubt the classic cheesesteak. Filled with tons of shaved beef ribeye and layered with paperthin sauteed onions and provolone, this OG is like a Mummers Parade in your mouth. When an authentic taste of Philly beckons, this is about as close as one gets south of the Mason-Dixon.
Inexpensive James Island. 1962 Maybank Hwy. (843) 225-5877 paddockandwhisky.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, the popular whole-hog Tennessee-based ‘cue restaurant founded by pit master Pat Martin, opened their first South Carolina branch on James Island in May 2019. The uber family friendly joint which seats approximately 85 guests inside, and a smattering outside, is open daily for lunch and dinner. There’s also a fenced-in green space in front of the restaurant with picnic table seating, corn hole, and Jenga. You can even spy the whole hog cooking up in the back. Order a plate of smoked meat and fixins’ — you can’t beat the hoe cake — and sidle up to the bar for a local beer or craft cocktail.
Moderate James Island. 827 Folly Road. (843) 779-0145 yousguys.net Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Nearly identical to its Mt. Pleasant sister spot, Coleman Public House, MBH is the place to take a picky eater. From classic burgers to seafood linguini, shrimp and grits, and pan-seared chicken, the menu is expansive. There’s something for everyone. Rotating beers on tap feature both local and well-known selections (we’re looking at you, Delirium Tremens), and you can never go wrong with an order of crispy truffle fries to start.
Inexpensive James Island. 1622 Highland Ave. (843) 790-0838 martinsbbqjoint.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
DELIS + SANDWICHES
Paddock & Whisky
Primarily a whiskey bar, Paddock & Whisky is the newest restaurant to join the bustling Terrace Plaza. The star of the show is obviously the expansive list of brown water, ranging from familiar brands to the rare stuff. The food menu is small, with a ‘snacks’ and ‘sandwiches’ section (all sammies come with Zapps Voodoo chips and a pickle). From sweet potato hummus to a muffuletta with ham, turkey, pepperoni, salami, provolone, and olive tapenade on a baguette, this spot serves as a perfect postfilm pop-in to deconstruct the plot over a boulevardier with Bulleit Rye.
Yous Guys Sandwich Shop
has sizeable portions and quality dishes, from the simple marsala cream to the robust lasagna with pulled beef short rib. With a solid lineup of Italian-style apps like bruschetta and caprese, as well as a number of leafy greens, Mondo’s balances out its pasta-heavy menu.
Inexpensive James Island. 1246 Camp Road. (843) 762-1135 West Ashley. 1798 Ashley River Road. (843) 818-4969 Mt. Pleasant. 1151 Queensborough Blvd. (843) 972-8853 paisanosji.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
KinFolk brings the heat with Nashville-style hot chicken — cool off with the fresh cucumber and sweet corn salads traditional Thai menu — pad Thai, prik king, green curry — is prepared using locally sourced ingredients. We particularly like the red curry duck basil fried rice and the wonton soup, which just might be the best in town.
Smoky Oak Taproom BARBECUE
Moderate James Island. 1234 Camp Road. (843) 762-6268 smokyoak.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Zia Taqueria MEXICAN
Inexpensive James Island. 1956-A Maybank Hwy. (843) 406-8877 ziataco.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Late Night (Fri.-Sat.)
This is one of our go-tos for a little taco fare and a healthy gulp of one of Zia’s five different margarita varieties — pro tip, try the Más Margarita with the tequila of your choice, Cointreau, and fresh margarita mix, shaken and served on the rocks. Zia lures customers in with their salsa fresca and warm chips, but it’s their generous platos of beef barbacoa and chicken Yucatan served with corn on the cob that keeps us coming back time and again.
Who couldn’t love a pizza place with a pie named after our favorite hometown comedian? The Colbert (named after Stephen Colbert, of course) has blue cheese crumbles, chicken, and hot sauce. Meanwhile, a pie called the Wiggly Piggly is made with a hot honey mustard base and topped with pulled pork, red onions, pickle chips, cheddar cheese, and a barbecue drizzle. If that’s not enough you can always tuck into the Fat Boy, a doughy beast with a garlic-stuffed crust. The little dining room on James Island is a fine place to eat, but they also deliver lickety-split.
You’ve made it to the Smoky Oak when you smell the red oak and hickory smoke wafting across Camp Road. Beneath that wafting smoke lies a funhouse of pulled pork, brisket, wings, burgers, chicken, ribs, sausage, and 45 taps of ice-cold beer. Live music takes the stage at night, featuring artists as local as the native James Islanders.
With its wilderness of carved wood dining sets straight out of an Asian art museum, Thai Elephants aims to impress. The menu is far-reaching, offering an expansive selection of both sushi and Thai dishes. Selections from the Japanese side of the house include tuna tataki, dynamite rolls, two kinds of California rolls, and a rainbow of sushi and sashimi. Thai offerings feature som tum (papaya salad), pad see ew noodles, and soft-shell crab with black pepper, plus panang curry and pineapple fried rice.
Brothers Joe and Kevin Nierstedt opened their Johns Island hot chicken-and-ice cream outpost in the spring of 2019 with their own Michelin starred-experience and plans for a whimsical, family-friendly menu. The menu changes often, seemingly most influenced by the whims of nature and her bounty. But the Nashville style hot chicken prevails — served on a slice of white sandwich bread and accompanied by three lightly brined breadand-butter pickles, the chicken itself is at once crisp and juicy. Arguably, it’s at the hot level that the dish achieves true Nashville distinction. The melange of black pepper, smoked paprika, and sweet sugar hit first, followed by a slow burn at the back of the throat. The chicken’s inherent mildness helps to temper any real intensity, and the heat
THAI + VIETNAMESE
Moderate James Island. 1291 Folly Road. (843) 793-2258 pick-thai.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Pick Thai, a small and not-very-fancy Thai restaurant, sits at the corner of a strip mall on Folly Road. It looks pretty much just like the pizza joint it replaced but with a fresh coat of paint. However, it’s what the kitchen sends out that’s worth stopping in for. The
Inexpensive James Island. 915 Folly Road. (843) 619-0181 thaielephantsrestaurant.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Sat.), Dinner (daily)
Inexpensive Johns Island. 4430 Betsy Kerrison Pkwy. (843) 768-0006 Serving Lunch, Dinner (Wed.-Mon.)
The Dish dining guide
lingers for just a few seconds. In other words, order it this way if you can.
KISS CAFE CAFE
Inexpensive Johns Island. 1802 Crowne Commons Way. (843) 405-8808 kiss-cafe.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch (Tues.-Sun.)
Chef Tim Wickey makes his own hot sauce, pickles his own cucumbers, sources real maple syrup from Vermont and New Hampshire, grinds his own sausage, mixes his own pancake and waffle batter, and brines his own corned beef. This breakfast and lunch spot (with special monthly dinners) opened on the island in late 2019 under owners chef Wickey and wife Lesley Mastranunzio. They’re hoping it will quickly become a neighborhood favorite, especially since they live right down the street. Order up omelettes, Belgian waffles, and avocado toast in the morning. For lunch, try Wickey’s specialty, a ramen bowl, or a handful of tasty sandwiches and salads. Larger appetites can dig into a bowl of shrimp and grits (with bacon).
The Royal Tern SEAFOOD
Moderate Johns Island. 3005 Maybank Hwy. (843) 718-3434 theroyaltern.com Serving Dinner (Mon.–Sat.)
Set on Johns Island between Wild Olive and The Fat Hen, The Royal Tern is a well-positioned and welcome addition to that existing pair of successful Maybank Highway restaurants — the Tern also happens to be City Paper’s very own Best of 2019 New Restaurant winner. With a focus on fish, the menu offers an aquarium-full of options. Along with a raw bar, there are fried “and chips” platters, elegant small plates, and four variations of cooked oysters. Add to that a handful of sandwiches, a half-dozen seafood entrees, and a hat trick of wood-fired steaks, plus a solid cocktail list, local beers on tap, and thoughtful wine selections available by both the glass and bottle.
Seanachai ENGLISH + IRISH
Though it recently changed hands, Seanachai is still a true blue (green?) Irish pub. The specialty drinks use artisanal bitters, cherries pickled in-house, and plenty of true Irish whiskey. They have 11 beers on tap, plus house crafted ginger beer and tonic. Their nightly specials include a $10 Tues.
Simply Seafood SEAFOOD
Inexpensive Johns Island. 3406 Maybank Hwy. (843) 974-5881 simplyseafoodmarket.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Johns Island’s newest seafood market and restaurant serves fresh cuts of fish plus mussels, crabs, clams, and shrimp out of their small storefront. For hot and ready items, choose from seafood boils, garlic platters, fry baskets, and sandwiches. Owners Yeshia Carter and Jason Green usually see a line of customers out the door as 5 p.m. nears, so be ready for a bit of a wait.
NOW OPEN ON JOHNS ISLAND
The Southern General DELIS + SANDWICHES
Cheap Johns Island. 3157 Maybank Hwy. (843) 640-3778 thesoutherngeneral.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.–Sat.)
Destination diners may venture out to Johns Island seeking French or Italian, but locals know that a modest sandwich shop called The Southern General is just as much worth the drive. The Southern General divides its list of sandwich offerings between The General’s Sandwiches and a collection of craft sandwiches that amp up traditional offerings. Winners include the Cu-Bahn-Mi with candied pork belly and sweet potato garlic kimchi topped with a guavenerobanana mustard that deftly fuses habanero peppers with guava fruit.
Sunrise Bistro AMERICAN
Cheap Johns Island. 1797 Main Road. (843) 718-1858 Mt. Pleasant. 1039 Johnnie Dodds. Blvd. (843) 856-7796 Summerville. 110 Miles Jamison Road. (843) 225-6201 sunrise-bistro.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
For years Sunrise Bistro has been keeping Johns Island full. The casual cafe serves breakfast and lunch but its most loyal fans line up for brunch where they can get the most bang for their buck. We’re big fans of the Jessica Ann omelet, an eggy plate of fresh basil, red onions, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Or you can tank up on carbs with a grit bowl. It’s not fancy, it’s not pretentious, Sunrise Bistro is simply good. continued on page 74
OPEN TUES - SUN, 7AM - 3PM SERVING BREAKFAST ALL DAY & LUNCH 11AM - CLOSE 1802 CROWNE COMMONS WAY • JOHNS ISLAND 843.405.8808 • KISS-CAFE.COM
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Moderate Johns Island. 3157 Maybank Hwy. (843) 737-4221 seanachaiwhiskeyandcocktailbar.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (Mon.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
night burger and beer, $10 Thurs. meatloaf and mash, $10 Shepherd’s pie and stout, and more. When the weather’s nice, opt to sit outside and enjoy your heaping pile of fish and chips on the large back patio.
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Neighborhood Essentials Western Islands from page 73
Stono Market & Tomato Shed Café SOUTHERN
Cheap Johns Island. 842 Main Road. (843) 559-9999 stonofarmmarket.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (Thurs.-Sat.)
The folks at Ambrose Farm may be best known for local organic vegetables and the most beautiful strawberries in town, but all that seasonal goodness can be found alongside a menagerie of knickknacks, antiques, and down-home grub at the venerable old Tomato Shed Café on Johns Island. They serve up Lowcountry favorites like fried flounder, crab cakes, fried pork chop, pimento cheese with buttery crackers, and she-crab soup, with a plethora of sides chock full of seasonal ingredients straight from the farm.
Woodruff Wine Bar WINE BAR
Inexpensive Johns Island. 1802 Crowne Commons Way. (843) 737-4071 Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
This 1,200-square-foot wine bar seats around 40 people inside with another 400 square feet of patio space. The handful of
OUR JOINISKEY WH UB! CL
small plate offerings include boiled peanut hummus, littleneck clams, and pickled shrimp, and the cheese is both local — Burden Creek Dairy herb chevre — and imported, with semi-soft sheep’s milk from Spain and soft, triple cream cow milk from France. They have a nice mix of wine by the glass and bottle, plus a smattering of local beer and craft cocktails.
KIAWAH The Ocean Room at The Sanctuary MODERN AMERICAN
Very Expensive Kiawah Island. 1 Sanctuary Drive. (843) 768-6251 kiawahresort.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
The preeminent place for indulgence in the Lowcountry, The Ocean Room’s gorgeous oceanside dining room, exquisite food, and discerning service will swaddle you in luxury. This is the place to go for a special occasion. The menu typically offers five cuts of beef and a handful of additional entrees, and the 1,000-bottle wine list is exceptional. In the lounge, there’s a sushi menu for those who want a lighter meal without breaking the bank, but we heartily recommend dressing
up, getting a table in the dining room, and going all out.
Cheap Folly Beach. 122 E Ashley Ave. (843) 906-2710 chicofeos.com Serving Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (daily)
FOLLY BEACH BLU Beach Bar & Grill SEAFOOD
Moderate Folly Beach. 1 Center St. (843) 588-6658 blufollybeach.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (daily), Weekend Brunch
Oceanfront dining is a rare commodity around here, but BLU serves it up all day long. BLU offers beachgoers seafood that bucks the traditional seaside trend of fried and fast. In fact, the restaurant has garnered a Platinum Certification through the S.C. Aquarium’s Good Catch initiative, and has recently revamped their menu. Lunch and dinner menu items range from ceviche and coconut curry shrimp to start, to larger entrees like scallop risotto and lamb pappardelle. Choose “land,” “sea,” or “skewer” options from the grill. BLU has also added a new covered dining section separated from the tiki area.
Owner Hank Weed opened the Second Street and East Ashley Avenue spot as a taco luncheon counter, similar in vein to the Lunch Hook, a sandwich joint sporadically run out of the location in years prior. It’s since grown into a full-fledged mini restaurant complete with dishes like curry goat and Cuban beans and rice. Of course the tacos remain a menu staple. You can get three — mahi, house-smoked pork, and chicken — for $9. A cozy outdoor bar, complete with TV (when weather allows), ample picnic table seating, and a tiny stage on the back porch of the property’s adjoining cabin, make this the perfect spot for post-beach snacking.
Jack of Cups Saloon FUSION + ECLECTIC
Inexpensive Folly Beach. 34 Center St. (843) 633-0042 jackofcups.com Serving Lunch (Wed.-Sun.) dinner (daily)
Jack of Cups’s painstakingly crafted menu is made-from-scratch daily then prepared to
traditional Irish pub with a twist 175+ WHISKEYS CREATIVE COCKTAILS DELICIOUS FOOD GREAT CONVERSATION
Happy Hour Dinner Specials Sunday Brunch HUGE BEER GARDEN • PATIO • FIRE PIT • DARTS • OUTDOOR BAR • LIVE MUSIC
3157 Maybank Hwy • Johns Island • 843.737.4221 SeanachaiWhiskeyandCocktailBar.com •
The Dish dining guide
order during service, and each entry is truly interesting, from the rustic root soup to this little gem of a pasta dish called the Green Curry Mac, featuring al dente pasta shells in a spicy green curry cheese sauce, topped with pickle relish, fried garlic, and cilantro. Where else are you going to get green curry cheese sauce?
Lowlife Bar AMERICAN/BAR
Moderate Folly Beach. 106 E Hudson Ave. lowlifebar.com Serving Brunch, Dinner (daily)
Let’s start with the obvious: The name is magnificent. Along with beer and wine options, there are cocktails with cheeky names like the Toni Basil made with gin, fresh basil, and lemon juice or the Pluff Mudslide with rum, banana, and coconut milk, plus cold brew coffee. Chow down on Old Bay seasoned waffle fries with the Mother’s Double Cheeseburger — a serious mouthful. Made with a soft, seeded bun, the two patties are tender and juicy and loaded with the works. Consider a bib, because this is some messy business.
Lost Dog Cafe CAFÉS
Cheap Folly Beach. 106 W Huron Ave. (843) 588-9669 lostdogfollybeach.com Serving Breakfast, Lunch (daily)
You don’t have to love dogs to love this little place on Folly. But you do have to love hearty, well-prepared breakfast and lunch fare. Lost Dog’s large shaded patio invites a lazy, late breakfast, one that you can enjoy in the company of your favorite pooch. While Fido scarfs the free doggie biscuits, you can savor the huevos rancheros or oversized pancakes with maple syrup. There are few better places to enjoy a leisurely brunch or down a few hangover-curing mimosas, but come early on the weekends — Lost Dog is always bustling. Menu favorites include chicken salad croissants and the “fresh fish thing,” which cheekily relies on “what the cat caught today.”
Pier 101 AMERICAN
Moderate Folly Beach. 101 E Arctic Ave. (843) 633-0246 pier101folly.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
We didn’t realize how much we wanted to drink on Folly’s Edwin S. Taylor Fishing
Pier until the option became available to us. Thank you Pier 101 for making the stroll to the “Edge of America” just that much more pleasant with a Kokomo cocktail in hand. The drink, a Smirnoff Coconut, Disaronno, creme de cacoa, and cream of coconut blend, tastes like a White Russian on vacation. Top that sucker off with a seafood basket — shrimp, flounder, or oysters — and you’ve quite literally got it made in the shade.
Surf Bar PUBS + TAVERNS
Cheap Folly Beach. 103 W Cooper Ave. (843) 588-2009 surfbarfollybeach.com Serving Lunch (Sat.-Sun.), Dinner (Daily)
Just off the main drag on Folly, this beloved watering hole lures surfers and non-surfers alike with its laid-back, rustic vibe and groovy playlist from the 1960s and early ’70s. Rotating suds on tap include classics like Guinness and local favorites like Holy City Pluff Mud Porter. Requisite tropical stress relievers, like the popular Painkiller or muddled mint Mojito, enable you to leave your worries behind. Indulge in the Philly cheesesteaks, generous burgers, or ruby red Ahi tuna tacos with roasted corn and poblano salsa.
Wiki Wiki Sandbar HAWAIIAN
Moderate Folly Beach. 106 E Ashley Ave. (843) 588-9454 wikiwikisandbar.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Charleston restaurateur Karalee Fallert’s 6,500 square foot tiki-themed bar with Hawaiian eats opened on Folly Dec. 2018. The bar menu, curated by Xan McLaughlin with some help from national rum connoisseur Daniel Parks of San Francisco’s Pagan Idol, includes all the requisite tiki drinks like a Mai Tai, daiquiri, and Suffering Bastard. The menu features slow-cooked meats; sides like rice, macaroni salad, greens, and starchy root veggies; poke bowls; salads; and sandwiches like Kalua pork BBQ and an avocado, bacon, and crab sandwich.
DAILY/WEEKLY SPECIALS TUES-SAT • NOON-9PM • 807 FOLLY ROAD • 843.640.3624 • FOODFIGHT807.COM
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FRESH LOCAL CHEF OWNED & OPERATED
76 || DISH || Winter 2020
North Charleston’s restaurant scene continues to expand. From wine bars to Mexican, two breweries with full kitchens to a spot focused on New Orleans’ cuisine, the area is booming. But North Charleston also continues to be the best source in the Lowcountry for international cuisine, from Korean to Vietnamese. These restaurants are our favorites. The listings are organized alphabetically.
843 Korean KOREAN
Moderate North Charleston. 6601 Rivers Ave. (843) 764-9578 843koreanbbq.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily)
If you’ve never had Korean barbecue — or have been waiting for the opportunity to enjoy it locally — your time has come. Set in a disco-like, renovated space on Rivers Avenue, 843 Korean offers both traditional dining and in-table grills, with the latter featuring an expanded menu. The uninitiated can dip a toe in the waters with classics like bibimbap, marinated beef bulgogi, and haemul peon (seafood pancakes), while more adventurous palates may prefer the spicy rice cakes and ever-changing array of banchan (such as kimchi, fermented vegetables, or dried anchovies in chili paste).
Accent on Wine WINE BAR
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1056 E. Montague Ave. (843) 203-4536 Summerville. 132 S. Main St. (843) 832-1212 accentonwine.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Mon.-Sat.)
A favorite in downtown Summerville for some time, Accent on Wine set up shop on the growing East Montague strip in 2015. For Park Circle residents, a low-key alternative to sports bars and dives was a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Offering a wide selection of wines by the glass and bottle, the Accent staff is willing and able to guide you toward something suitable for your palate. Take your pick from the wide selection of meats and cheeses, or go all out with the “Whole Shebang” ($36 for six items) sampler.
Jonathan Boncek file photo
The Codfather’s fish and chips are about as close to the UK as you can get in the Lowcountry
The Codfather ENGLISH + IRISH
Cheap North Charleston. 4254 Spruill Ave. (843) 789-4649 thecodfatherchippy.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sun.)
Don’t let the name fool you, The Codfather is a proper chippy. Owner Adam Randall, a Brit by birth, earned his fried fish stripes by working at his father’s fish and chips shop in Pennsylvania. His idea for The Codfather was an old-school spot with hearty English food. And now, after a wildly successful go at his first location, he’s moved into a bigger and better spot on Spruill. At the handbuilt shop, Randall uses both cod and haddock with his own special recipe batter. Mushy peas can be ordered as a side with gravy. We suggest you order them.
Dashi ASIAN FUSION
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1262 Remount Road (843) 284-6804 dashichs.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Sun.), Dinner (Wed.-Sat.)
After years of rolling up at office parks and
farmers markets, one of Charleston’s favorite food trucks got its own restaurant, opening on Remount Road in July 2019. Service is minimal and laid back. Order at the counter, grab a number and a booth and wait for the grub to arrive. Owing to the enduring food truck model, that doesn’t take long. Bold, brash, and prone to multilingual flights of fancy, come with an appetite for irreverence. Yes, some of the cheeky mashups are weird, but others are surprisingly serendipitous. Thai curry with Chinese noodles, Indonesian sambal, and Mexican Cotija cheese? Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
Florie’s at Commonhouse Aleworks AMERICAN
Inexpensive North Charleston. 4831 O’Hear Ave. commonhousealeworks.com Serving Dinner (Tues.-Sat.), Lunch (Thurs.-Sat.), Sun. Brunch
Chef and restaurateur Brannon Florie is at it again. Florie’s at Commonhouse serves up damn good bar food — apps like the tot-chos and crab dip pair with any Commonhouse pint, though we’re partial to the Looking East IPA and Park Circle Pale.
There are a couple of salads for those looking to counteract their beer calories, plus filling sammies like the MC Fish, made with fried flounder, tartar sauce, American cheese, and sweet pickles, served on a brioche bun.
Holy City Brewing AMERICAN/BREWERY
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1021 Aragon Ave. (843) 459-2948 holycitybrewing.com Serving Lunch (Tues.-Sun.), Dinner (daily)
HCB has officially made moves to their new 10,000 square foot Park Circle adjacent taproom. Their kitchen cranks out food every day and night, and they have a full bar in addition to 40 Holy City hand-crafted brews on tap. You cannnot go wrong with the wings; eight pieces come out hot after being smoked, fried, and tossed in your sauce of choice. We recommend the honey sambal and hot garlic parmesan. If you’ve had a few too many Pluff Mud Porters, soak it all up with a soft pretzel dunked in pepperjack beer cheese. The expansive new digs feature ample indoor and outdoor seating, plus free Wifi and outlets to plug in your devices.
The Dish dining guide
The Junction Kitchen & Provisions AMERICAN
Inexpensive Park Circle. 4438 Spruill Ave. (843) 745-9189 thejunctionkitchen.com Breakfast, Lunch, (Tues.-Fri.), Weekend Brunch
Madra Rua ENGLISH + IRISH
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1034 E. Montague Ave. (843) 554-2522 Summerville. 2066 N. Main St. (843) 821-9434 madraruapub.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily), Sun. Brunch, Late Night
What upper Spruill Avenue lacks in beauty, The Junction makes up in taste. They serve up breakfast concoctions all day long such as the “buzzed doughnut” (over easy egg, coffee rubbed bacon slabs, fried dough, and a smoky dip, served on a heap of golden hashbrowns), plus fresh sammies and salads for the lunch crowd. A real neighborhood gem for the Park Circle area, The Junction is part eat-in, part grab-and-go, and always fresh, original, and affordable.
After a fire damaged the Park Circle Madra Rua in Feb. 2019, it is closed until further notice — but a remodel is in progresss. You can always find the Irish pub’s laid back atmosphere, friendly staff, and serious food at their Summerville location, though. Pub favorites like fish and chips are standard Madra fare, and be sure to stop by one Sunday for brunch, with classics like shrimp and grits and riffs like the Irish eggs benedict.
Inexpensive North Charleston. 6275 Rivers Ave. (843) 225-7055 lanortenamexican.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Ask any chef in Charleston where they go for authentic Mexican food in town and the answer is La Norteña. Hailing from the central region of Jalisco, the western-Pacific area in Mexico, the specialties here include numerous seafood dishes, including octopus ceviche, whole fried tilapia, shrimp veracruzano, and five house-made salsas and hot sauces brought to your table when you first sit down. Other recommended authentic items not to be found at your Americanized joints are Menudo, a honeycomb tripe soup, tortas, and tacos callejeros (street tacos served on corn tortillas with cilantro, onion, and a lime on the side).
Inexpensive North Charleston. 4830 O’Hear Ave. (843) 990-9416 lolaparkcircle.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
Inexpensive North Charleston. 1028 E Montague Ave. (843) 225-7275 parkpizzaparkcircle.com Serving Lunch (Mon.-Sat.), Dinner (daily)
“Wild child” is not a misnomer when it comes to the pies on Park Pizza’s menu. For example, the Eggscape from New York is made with baked eggs, American cheese, mozzarella, maple pork sausage, bacon, green onions, and an everything bagel seasoned crust. “We mess around a lot,” coowner Leigh-Ann Gobel has said. In addition to the inventive pies, this Park Circle gem also serves up calzones, salads, plus cold and toasted sandwiches.
s r M us c le F le x Yo u o te Fo r A n d V o ri te Yo u r Favts , B a rs , n Re s ta u rave r y th in g … a n d E twe e n In B e
Pho No. 1 Restaurant THAI + VIETNAMESE
Cheap North Charleston. 5300-1 Rivers Ave. (843) 745-9623 Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
If you’ve become bored with the takeout rotisserie chicken or subs from your neighborhood grocery, the deli counter at H&L Asian Market offers an exotic twist on supermarket convenience food. You can eat it right there in the pastel pink-and-blue booths or get a big order packaged up to-go. Pick up a few tubs of steaming pho with rare beef, brisket, meatballs, and even tripe or a couple of rice or noodle bowls topped with roasted pork, shrimp, or duck. The cool Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped in taut rice paper are delightful, too.
Expr Pe rs o e ss Yo u r na l St y le
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One of the first forays into Cajun cuisine in Charleston is thankfully the best we’ve seen so far. LoLA brings an unexpected and delicious fusion cuisine to a city that is awash with shrimp and grits. Serving New Orleans classics like etoufee and jambalaya is what keeps patrons coming. And the po’ boys are no slouch either, served on crusty baguettes and packed to the brim with fresh seafood. Between the po’boys, oysters, crawfish, and seafood mac and cheese, you’re bound to find something that satisfies that Cajun fix you’ve been looking to fulfill.
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Neighborhood Essentials North from page 77
Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant VIETNAMESE
Cheap North Charleston. 5634 Rivers Ave. (843) 718-3781 phuongrestaurant.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (Tues.-Sat.)
The original owners of Pho #1 in the H&L Supermarket now operate Phuong just down the street. It’s classic Vietnamese fare. Here, you’ll find traditional pho with tripe, meatballs, and rare beef or cool Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped in rice paper with peanut dipping sauce.
Pollo Loko Peruvian Cuisine MEXICAN
Inexpensive North Charleston. 5335 Dorchester Road. (843) 552-0015 Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Hidden away in a strip mall just outside I-526 on Dorchester Road, Pollo Loko serves up a mix of Peruvian and Mexican with other South American offerings. When you pull into the parking lot, you can smell the charcoal smoke of their signature dish —
Peruvian charcoal grilled chicken with crispy skin, smoky flavor, and perfectly tender meat. Served up with a tart vinegar cabbage and soft red rice, it’s a reasonably priced treat. Popular dishes like the Colombian meat buffet on a plate, Bandeja paisa, and Peruvian stir-fry lomo saltado offer other tasty options.
Sesame Burgers & Beer BURGERS
Inexpensive North Charleston. 4726 Spruill Ave. (843) 554-4903 West Ashley. 2070 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. Citadel Mall. (843) 766-7770 Mt. Pleasant. 675-E Johnnie Dodds Blvd. (843) 884-5553 sesameburgersandbeer.com Serving Lunch, Dinner (daily)
Sesame is not only known for its burgers, but its focus on quality local ingredients. The condiments are made in-house (ketchup, pickles, etc.) and most of the toppings come from nearby farms. You can order any burger with or without a bun, with your choice of beef, black bean patty, chicken, or turkey. Last we checked, they’ve got over 45 toppings to choose from, ranging from American cheese to fig and bacon jam. Burgers aside, they’ve also got some fresh
Ruta Smith file photo
Park Pizza’s McPark features special sauce, ground beef, and pickles salads and some killer onion rings. Let’s not forget the milkshakes. They’re incredible.
Stems & Skins WINE BAR
Moderate North Charleston. 1070 E. Montague Ave. (843) 805-4809 stemsandskins.com Serving Dinner, Late Night (daily)
Promising “fresh and freaky ferments,” Stems and Skins serves up just that. You’ll find owner and sommelier Matt Tunstall
behind the bar, serving the cozy banquettes, and even sabering select bottles of bubbly if you stop in at the right time. Stems’ fresh take on small plates, including a very Euro exploration of canned seafood snacks, make it unique compared to the rest of the growing and increasingly upscale neighborhood. Not in the mood for wine? House cocktails and brews are available too. Stems also has a chef-driven food menu including dishes like crispy red bliss potatoes with saffron aioli and chives, escargot with melted leeks, and a ricotta and garlic fermented honey.
“EVO was doing local before local was cool” —Eric Doksa, CCP Review Voted Best North Charleston Restaurant & Best Gourmet Pizza
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NEXT ISSUE ON STANDS AUG. 2020 Restaurant Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 12pm-9pm 1075 E Montague Ave. Park Circle • 843-225-1796 • www.evopizza.com
For more information contact 843-577-5304 x125 firstname.lastname@example.org
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PHOTOGRAPHY • VIDEO PRODUCTION
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A squid spotting in the rossejat negro at Malagon
index of restaurants by category
Bold page numbers denote advertisement
AMERICAN 1 Broad Street................................................. 36 60 Bull Cafe...................................................... 36 Acme Lowcountry Kitchen............................ 61 The Alley.............................................................37 Bay Street Biergarten......................................37 The Blind Tiger................................................. 38 Boxcar Betty’s................................................. 64 Bohemian Bull........................................... 70, 71 Coleman Public House............................ 52, 61 DB’s Cheesesteaks..........................................64 Dockery’s......................................................... 63 Early Bird Diner................................................64 Florie’s at Commonhouse Aleworks.............76 Grace & Grit...................................................... 54 Graze.................................................................. 54 High Thyme.......................................................72 Holy City Brewing..................................... 44, 76 The Junction Kitchen & Provisions...............77 Kickin’ Chicken................................................ 46 KinFolk................................................................72 Long Point Grill................................................ 56 Lowlife Bar.........................................................75 Mainland Container Co.................................. 56 Maple Street Biscuit Company..................... 70 Maybank Public House........................... 61, 72 Millers All Day .................................................. 47 The Original Ms. Rose’s Fine Food & Cocktails................................................. 65, 67 Paddock & Whisky....................................50, 72 Pier 101.............................................................. 75 Prohibition........................................................48 R Kitchen...........................................................48 Rarebit....................................................... 45, 48 Red’s Ice House .................................................3 The Royal American ....................................... 49 Rutledge Cab Co. ..................................... 49, 49 The Shelter................................................ 53, 59 Sunrise Bistro............................................ 54, 73 Uptown Social.................................................. 50 Vickery’s Bar and Grill..............................57, 60 Vintage Coffee & Cafe.....................................61 The Watch......................................................... 50 Wood & Grain....................................................61 ASIAN FUSION Dashi...................................................................76 Roti Rolls........................................................... 39 Xiao Bao Biscuit............................................... 34 Zen Asian Fusion............................................. 69 BARBECUE Bessinger’s BBQ...............................................64 Dukes BBQ..................................................69, 70 Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ..................18, 25 Lewis Barbecue............................................5, 28 Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint................................72 Poogan’s Smokehouse.................................. 48 Rodney Scott’s BBQ........................................ 32 Smoky Oak Taproom.......................................72 Swig & Swine.................................................... 68
BREAKFAST Vicious Biscuit..................................................60 Daps Breakfast and Imbibe ......................... 40 BURGERS Big Gun Burger Shop...................................... 38 HōM.................................................................... 45 Sesame Burgers & Beer.......................... 30, 78 CAFES Basic Kitchen.....................................................21 Babas on Cannon.............................................37 Caviar & Bananas............................................40 The Daily............................................................40 Five Loaves Cafe............................................. 42 The Gathering Cafe......................................... 66 goat.sheep.cow.north.................................... 26 The Harbinger..................................................44 Harken............................................................... 45 Hen & the Goat................................................ 70 Kaminsky’s................................................. 16, 46 KISS Cafe..................................................... 73, 73 Ladles................................................................ 46 Laura Alberts Tasteful Options Cafe........... 63 Lost Dog Cafe....................................................75 Queen Street Grocery and Cafe.................. 48 Three Little Birds............................................. 68 Twenty Six Divine............................................ 50 Verde.................................................................. 50 CAJUN LoLA....................................................................77 CARIBBEAN Cane Rhum Bar................................................ 38 Chico Feo...........................................................74 Fuel..................................................................... 42 CHINESE Jackrabbit Filly ................................................ 26 Kwei Fei ............................................................ 26 Red Orchids China Bistro................................67 COCKTAIL BARS Doar Bros. ........................................................40 CUBAN Spanglish Cocina + Bar ...................................67 DELIS + SANDWICHES Bon Bánh Mì..................................................... 38 East Bay Deli.............................................. 39, 42 The Southern General.....................................73 Tattooed Moose.............................................. 49 Ted’s Butcherblock......................................... 50 Yous Guys..........................................................72 ENGLISH + IRISH Madra Rua..........................................................77 Seanachai.................................................... 73, 74 The Codfather...................................................76
FRENCH 39 Rue de Jean................................................ 36 Baguette Magic............................................... 70 Bistro A Vin....................................................... 38 Bistro Toulouse..........................................52, 58 Breizh Pan Crepes........................................... 38 Cafe Framboise................................................ 42 Chez Nous..........................................................22 Fat Hen.............................................................. 25 Gaulart and Maliclet/Fast and French....... 44 Henrietta’s........................................................ 45 La Patisserie..................................................... 46 Maison............................................................... 28 Purlieu................................................................ 30 FUSION + ECLECTIC Cru Cafe........................................................... 40 Food Fight......................................................... 75 Jack of Cups Saloon.........................................74 Maui Tacos....................................................... 46 Mpishi............................................................... 63 Red Drum.......................................................... 58 Voodoo Tiki Bar and Lounge......................... 68 Workshop.......................................................... 51 GREEK Kairos Greek Kitchen......................................54 Stella’s.................................................................32
HAWAIIAN Poke Tea House............................................. 48 Wiki Wiki Sandbar............................................75 Poke Bros. ................................................ 55, 58 Poke-San ......................................................... 48 HOT DOG JOINTS Jack’s Cosmic Dog................................... 54, 60 Skoogies............................................................ 59 ICE CREAM + FROZEN YOGURT Off Track Ice Cream........................................ 47 INDIAN Nirlep.......................................................... 66, 68 Taste of India.................................................... 68 Tu........................................................................ 34 ITALIAN Al di La...............................................................64 Bacco...........................................................21, 60 Coda del Pesce.................................................22 Fulton Five................................................ 34, 42 Indaco................................................................ 46 La Pizzeria......................................................... 56 Le Farfalle.................................................. 25, 26 Melfi’s................................................................ 29 Mondo’s Italian Restaurant............................72 Savi Cucina + Wine Bar............................ 56, 58
Trattoria Lucca..................................................32 Vincent Chicco’s.............................................. 50 Wild Olive.......................................................... 34 KOREAN 843 Korean........................................................76 Ko Cha............................................................... 66 Mama Kim’s...................................................... 46 MEDITERRANEAN Ali Baba Mediterranean Food....................... 62 Butcher & Bee...................................................22 Kid Cashew....................................................... 54 Leyla................................................................... 46 MEXICAN Carmen y Juan’s Homestyle Mexican Food.............................. 52 El Pincho Taco...........................................38 , 42 Jalisco Taqueria & Tequila...................... 24, 70 Juanita Greenberg’s.......................................49 La Hacienda...................................................... 59 La Norteña.........................................................77 Mex 1 Coastal Cantina............................. 65, 66 Minero............................................................... 29 Pink Cactus................................................ 47, 48 Papi’s Taqueria................................................. 62 RuRu’s Tacos..................................................... 49 Santi’s......................................................... 49, 50 Taco Boy............................................................ 49 YoBo Cantina Fresca....................................... 69 Zia Taqueria..................................................... 72 MODERN AMERICAN 5Church Charleston........................................ 36 Butcher & The Boar......................................... 52 Charleston Grill.......................................... 19, 22 Circa 1886........................................................ 40 Edmund’s Oast................................................. 24 Eleve................................................................... 22 The Establishment.......................................... 24 FIG...................................................................... 25 Gabrielle......................................................17, 44 The Grocery..................................................... .26 Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails.................... .54 Harold’s Cabin................................................. 45 Herd Provisions.............................................. 45 Langdon’s.......................................................... 56 Little Jack’s Tavern......................................... 46 The Macintosh................................................. 28 McCrady’s........................................................ 29 The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary..............74 Opal.....................................................................57 The Park Cafe....................................................47 Salthouse Catering.........................................68 Sorghum & Salt.................................................32 Tavern & Table..............................................3, 59 Warehouse ........................................................51 Wild Common................................................... 51 Zero Restaurant + Bar................................... 34 NEW SOUTHERN 82 Queen.................................................... 24, 36 The Glass Onion.............................................. .26 High Cotton..................................................... 45 Husk Restaurant.............................................. 26 Magnolias.......................................................... 46 Parcel 32........................................................... 48 Peninsula Grill.................................................. 30 Slightly North of Broad.................................. 32
PIZZA Baker & Brewer..........................................37, 44 Crust Wood Fired Pizza................................. 70 D’Allesandro’s Pizza........................................40 EVO Pizzeria....................................... 25, 44, 78 Mellow Mushroom......................................... 46 Monza.................................................................47 Paisano’s Pizza Grill....................................... 72 Park Pizza Co.................................................. 77 Renzo ................................................................ 30 Slice Co. .............................................................67 Vespa Pizzeria.................................................. 63
Charlestidone’rs #1 Prov
PUBS + TAVERNS A.C.’s Bar & Grill............................................... 37 Art’s Bar & Grill................................................ 52 The Basement.................................................. 52 Gene’s Haufbrau....................................... 66, 67 The Griffon........................................................44 Moe’s Crosstown Tavern.......................... 47, 47 Poe’s Tavern.............................................. 62, 63 Stones Throw Tavern.......................................67 Surf Bar..............................................................75 SEAFOOD 167 Raw..............................................................21 Binky’s Seaside Oyster & Liquor Bar............61 BLU Beach Bar & Grill..................................... 74 The Boathouse at Breach Inlet......................61 Bowens Island Restaurant..............................22 Chubby Fish..................................................... 40 Coast................................................................. 40 The Darling Oyster Bar...................................40 Delaney Oyster House.................................... 24 Fishnet Seafood...............................................64 Fleet Landing................................................... 42 Hank’s Seafood Restaurant..........................44 Hooked Seafood.............................................. 46 King Claw.......................................................... 69 Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters....................... 26 NICO Oysters + Seafood..................................57 Obstinate Daughter........................................ 30 The Ordinary.................................................... 30 Pearlz Oyster Bar....................................... 6, 48 Pier 41.................................................................57 Rappahannock Oyster Bar........................... 48 The Royal Tern..................................................73 Saltwater Cowboys........................................ 58 Simply Seafood................................................ 73 Topsail............................................................... 60 The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene......................................................61
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SOUL FOOD Bertha’s Kitchen...............................................21 Dave’s Carryout............................................... 24 Martha Lou’s.................................................... .28 Nana’s Seafood and Soul............................... 29 SOUTHERN Anson..................................................................37 Ellis Creek Fish Camp..................................... 70 Page’s Okra Grill...............................................57, The Tomato Shed.............................................74 STEAKHOUSE Halls Chophouse..............................................44 Oak Steakhous................................................. 29 TBonz Gill & Grill....................................... 50, 67 SUSHI + JAPANESE Locals................................................................. 56 Kanpai................................................................ 54 O-Ku................................................................... 47 Shi Ki.................................................................. 49 Wasabi............................................................... 63 TAPAS Barsa Tapas Lounge and Bar.........................37 Estadio............................................................... 24 Malagon............................................................. 28 THAI + VIETNAMESE CO.......................................................................40 Little Miss Ha..............................................21, 56 Mi Xao.................................................................57 Pho No. 1 Restaurant.......................................77 Phuong Vietnamese Restaurant...................78 Pick Thai.............................................................72 Tasty Thai and Sushi....................................... 59 Thai Elephants..................................................72 WINE BARS Bin 152.............................................................. .38 Accent on Wine.................................................76 The Shellmore................................................. .58 Stems and Skins.............................................. 78 Vintage Lounge .............................................. 51 Woodruff .......................................................... 74
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PERUVIAN Mario’s Peruvian...............................................57 Pollo Loko Peruvian Cuisine...........................78
Zombie Bob’s Pizza........................................ 69
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ON THE WAY I WONDER An excerpt from All Ripe for Dreaming By Steve Seguin From the first moment I laid eyes on her, I knew I wanted to be here. Charleston. Delicious food, a sea of smiling and friendly people, and the calm, beach-time attitude put me at ease. Call it a soft seduction. After moving away from my Tennessee home and deciding to seek out my dream of becoming a big-time chef in Charleston, the reality of my situation set in fast. I had no job, I’d just wrung out my bank account on tuition, apartment fees, and more. I also didn’t know a soul. Once I dropped my dad at the airport, I began to feel very alone. The clock was ticking. I had to find work, and fast. I had a very good stage at one restaurant, but they weren’t going to be able to pay me what I needed to live. So, I went to another place, lied about knowing some of the chef ’s former employees, and BS’d my way into the job. What I didn’t realize at the time was that this chef knew I was lying to him. He played me like checkers. Going to work each day was nauseating. It seemed like the cooks and chefs all hated me. Wanted me to fail, break down and give in, but I wouldn’t. I wasn’t going to let those pricks push me around. I had talent! I had potential! These lowly cooks couldn’t tell me anything! I was gonna show this shrimp and grits town what real food was! Instead of swallowing my pride, I just puffed my chest out more. Finally, after an intense confrontation with the chef, with me laughing in his face as he was increasingly rankled, I knew I had to leave. In a battle of our wills, his won out. After all, the photographs and magazine article decorating the office were of him, not me. From there, I bounced around from kitchen to kitchen, and at each place I came up against more bad attitudes, more opposition. I couldn’t figure out why these people didn’t like me! I worked really hard. I made good food. I had been learning a lot, but my impatience would always pull me back just as soon as I would make progress somewhere. After going broke around Christmas 2017, unable to pay rent, and with a back seat full of orphaned presents, glittery bows and rolls of gift wrap, I felt hollow. My parents offered to help. I vowed to never let this happen again. But why had it happened? Why was I making the same mistakes again and again? Every job, every argument, every frustrated confrontation had a common thread. The common denominator in my tale of tragedy and triumph was not clear to me until about four or five years ago. When charged with disciplining an employee of mine at a now-
defunct fried chicken restaurant, I elected to sit and listen to him. Really listen. When he had the floor to vent his frustrations, his words struck a match in my mind, and a glowing realization came to me. His story was mine, too. It finally dawned on me the recurring theme in our shared tragicomedy: ourselves. We refused to believe that we might have been the problem. Our attitudes to where we were, all of our setbacks, were the products of our doing. No one else. We just didn’t want to face the truth. That’s when I knew I was on the right track. When I stopped waiting to talk and started to practice listening, I had a breakthrough. I had more in common with that man than I wanted to admit. The only thing that made us different is the fact that I recognized where I needed to make the change and he didn’t. With that new awareness, was I going to keep doing the same thing, or would I use this opportunity to make a new path? I went back and apologized to former employers for causing them undue stress and tension. You can imagine the surprise of these chefs with whom I had at once been at odds, nearly engaging one of them in fisticuffs, when I came back and said to them, “I get it now,” which could also be interpreted as “Yeah, you were right.” Most responded with a little smile and a nod, as
if to say, “Yeah, I was trying to tell you…” Learning to be grateful for little things each day has helped, too. The feeling of a full belly after a big dinner out on the town, the wine buzz in my head, the laptop I’m writing on now. I’m especially grateful to those people who have unflinchingly supported me and helped me to believe in myself. Knowing my worth and feeling brave enough to share my story with the world. I have a family that supports me, and we’re encouraging each other now more than ever. For me, that’s been the key. Sharing and owning these things — I came to this top food city to be a big time chef. Instead I’ve become a better brother, son, coworker, employer, and friend. I’m seeing a shift. Now that the shoe has been placed ever so slightly on the other foot, I feel tremendous pride in leading this team I have now. I am constantly learning from them, and I hope that I can reciprocate that wisdom. I’m not where I thought I’d be when I moved from Nashville nine years ago, but I am proud of the person I am becoming. Steve Seguin manages humans at Beech on Daniel Island. He’d like to dedicate this essay to his pup, the late Kassie Seguin. She was a very good girl.
434 King Street Charleston, SC 29403 843.727.0090 300 Nexton Drive Summerville, SC 29485 843.900.6000 HALLSCHOPHOUSE.COM
HALLS SIGNATURE EVENTS A private dining and event space in the heart of the historic French Quarter Weddings â€¢ Social Gatherings Corporate Meetings HALLMANAGEMENTGROUP.COM
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Let Experience Teach You Hands-on learning forms the foundation for the culinary and hospitality programs at the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College. Whether serving at a black-tie fundraiser or in one of the collegeâ€™s two student-run dining rooms, traveling to a global destination to study abroad, or touring some of Charlestonâ€™s best-loved destinations and restaurants, future culinary and hospitality professionals gain valuable hands-on experiences in and out of the classroom.
To find out more, call 843.820.5090 or visit www.CulinaryInstituteofCharleston.com.
Dish is Charleston's premier dining guide published by the Charleston City Paper. Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated Charlesto...
Published on Feb 25, 2020
Dish is Charleston's premier dining guide published by the Charleston City Paper. Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated Charlesto...