The following is a review of the restaurants we dined at while in the Charleston, SC area:
The Grocery (Dinner) – A very good farm-to-table restaurant. It is a very nice space, very open and inviting but not loud. We began with a charcuterie plate that featured all of their current offerings, which was 8 different meats, pates and mousses. It came with the usual accompaniments and was nice because it was perfect for 2 not too large but just a few bites of each offering. We also went with 2 smaller plates, a sliced squash salad with pecorino, preserved lemon vinaigrette, pine nuts, and tempura squash blossom and a beet salad with baby leek vinaigrette, arugula horseradish, and dill. Both were very good and you could tell the vegetables were fresh. For dinner we had wanted the whole wood roasted fish, which we saw when we walked into the restaurant but it was the last one for the night. Instead, my wife and I split the duck with sweet corn ‘farrotto’, pickled peaches and blackberry vinaigrette which was excellent. For dessert, we had a scoop of their homemade peach ice cream and a chocolate peanut butter dish, both were good, however, the peach ice cream was the better of the two. They have a nicely composed wine list and a very helpful individual to guide you through the list. If I lived in Charleston, The Grocery would be on regular rotation of restaurants.
Husk (Lunch) – Very stylish restaurant, we sat upstairs which was nice and very open. Before lunch, they served some of the best rolls I have had in a while, very light with great taste. We started with two appetizers: pig ear lettuce wraps with sweet marinated cucumbers and red onion and fried ciabatta with pimento cheese, pickle relish, and crispy country ham. Both were very good however the lettuce wraps could have used more pig ear. At lunch the menu is fairly limited, I had the fried chicken and my wife had shrimp and grits. The shrimp and grits were excellent; it came with a n’duja-tomato sauce, roasted peppers, fennel, and sausage. The fried chicken was well cooked and came with a tomato-corn relish and a wedge of cornbread. It was good but for $17 I would have expected more than just a leg and thigh. Finally, we split a very good rice pudding with fresh berries and a honey brittle. The food was good but nearly as inventive as I expected of a Sean Brock restaurant.
Minero (Dinner) – This is a relatively new Sean Brock restaurant and his take on Mexican food. This is certainly not Tex-Mex, but closer to Mexico City street food, not that there is anything wrong with that concept. It is a small shotgun style restaurant but in a nicely redone building, very lively and loud. It has a very good list of tequila based-drinks and a nice selection of tequila. We started with queso fundido with roasted poblano, chorizo, and very good tortillas and a very fresh yellowtail ceviche with freshly made tortilla chips. We then split a taco al pastor with marinated pork, pineapple, and avocado and a pork carnitas taco with pork confit, jowl, chicharron, and salsa verde. In addition we had something they call “Enmolada” which is tortillas dipped in their mole, and then made into a sort of enchilada with refried black beans, pickled red onion, chihuahua cheese, and cilantro. For dessert, we had the churros. I am a sucker for churros and these very excellent. These were more like “churrettes” because they were about 4-inches long but there were 6 in the order and served with a hot chocolate sauce, delicious.
Charleston’s Farmer’s Market (Breakfast) – We went to the farmer’s market on Saturday morning to see what it had to offer. We had some delicious pastries from EVO bakery to munch on as we walked around with our coffee. There are several food vendors at the market; we split a crepe from the Charleston Crepe Company. It was a very tasty ham, swiss, egg and Dijon mustard crepe. Additionally, we got an outstanding grapefruit and elderflower soda from the Cannonborough Beverage Company. I have to figure out a way to get this stuff to Texas, it is that good. It was fun to walk around the market and look at all the good local products that were being offered. We only wished that we had a kitchen to cook in while in town to take advantage of those products.
Two Boroughs Larder (Lunch) – We attempted to go to Dave’s Carry Out for some fried seafood but they were not open for lunch even though it was posted it was supposed to be open. Evidentially, Dave’s schedule is somewhat dependent on the owner’s mood. Luckily, Two Boroughs Larder is right next door and had been on my list to try while in Charleston. The restaurant is set in what I would describe as a little neighborhood market. You can buy items to go or eat in the restaurant which has excellent air conditioning, which was good because it was crazy hot while we were in town. I started with the beef tartare which was served with little wild onion pancakes. I felt the beef tartare was really flat; it needed something, a little salt or spice. I asked my server for some salt but it was never brought. Additionally, the wild onion pancakes were doughy and did not have any real taste. This dish was one of the few misses on our trip. My wife ordered the burger which was served with cheez whiz and was excellent. The burger was nicely cooked and very tasty. I order the noodle bowl with pork confit, soft egg, pork broth to which I added extra pork and sesame greens. This was one of the best noodle dishes I have had and I love pho and ramen. The broth was very flavorful and the noodles were tender and tasty. Overall a good place, the servers were a bit irritable but otherwise I would return.
FIG (Dinner) – We went to FIG for a late dinner on Saturday night after seeing a show. Got there at about 9:45 and the place was still packed. We did not have a reservation but they sat us at a community table that sat 7 people, there were 2 other couples there when we sat down. I like the community table concept and enjoyed visiting with the other people during dinner. My wife started with the peaches & rapini with buttermilk, nardello pepper, and chicken cracklin’, it was good with a nice balance between sweet peaches and bitter rapini. I started with the garganelli & razor clam dish with tomatoes and olive oil. A light pasta dish, it was good but could have used some additional razor clam in the dish but nicely cooked pasta and the tomatoes were amazing. For our entrees, I had the fish stew in cocotee with shrimp, squid and mussels and rice and served with a rouille. I love cioppino and this was a nice low country version. Even my wife who generally does not like fish stews said it was good. Very fresh and clean, not a hint of fishiness to the dish. While my dish was good, my wife’s dish was outstanding. She ordered the suckling pig served over rice, beans and peas. The pork was so tender and tasty, I hate getting out ordered. In researching FIG, I noticed a number of complaints about the cost versus the portion size. While I would say that the portions at FIG are smaller than other places; however, the money is definitely going into the quality of the ingredients. Anyway, smaller dishes were good because we were eating well at every meal. Also, outstanding service at FIG.
Poogan’s Porch (Brunch) – We headed here on Sunday morning for brunch before heading out to the beach. We started with a couple of appetizers, pimento cheese fritters and biscuits and gravy. The pimento cheese fritters were very good, basically a very thin crust of breading containing molten pimento cheese. The biscuits and gravy were just okay. The biscuits could have used a couple more minutes in the oven and the sausage gravy was on the sweet side. My wife and I split an entrée which was a chicken-fried pork chop with eggs and potatoes. The pork chop was tasty, if not a bit over cooked. The eggs and potatoes were fine but not stood out about them. Overall, there was nothing wrong with Poogan’s Porch but there was nothing that would make me want to return to this restaurant. In comparison to the restaurants we dined at in Charleston, this would be at the bottom of the list.
The Ryder Cup Bar, Kiawah Island, Ocean Golf Course (Late Lunch) – After going to the beach and checking out Kiawah Island we ended up at the Ocean Golf Course which is at the far end of Kiawah Island. The scenery here is amazing. We sat outside, enjoying the ocean breeze and looked out over the golf course and ocean. If nothing else, come he for a drink and the view. We had the crispy shrimp with a sweet chili sauce and they were excellent. We also split a pimento cheese, fried green tomato, country ham and served on jalapeno cornbread. It too was a tasty sandwich. The food is good for a golf course/resort type setting.
Edmund’s Oast (Late Night Snack) – After a full day exploring the various beaches and barrier islands, we came back into Charleston. It was late and while not starving we wanted a little something. We ended up at Edmund’s Oast which is on the north end of the Charleston peninsula. This area is undergoing revitalization and is very cool. The building itself is like a large stylish barn and very comfortable. They brew their own beer here and serve it along with about 45 other local beers on tap. They also have their own in-house charcuterie program and you can see all the meats hanging in a cooler over the kitchen. We went with the aged charcuterie plate which had 5 different types of aged sausages, very tasty. We also tried roasted pole beans, peanuts, bacon, nuoc-cham, and thai basil. This was an interesting dish. If you just had a bean it was nothing special but when you got a little bit of everything in a bite it was outstanding.
Artisan Meat Share (Lunch) – After looking at the menu online, I knew I had to try Artisan Meat Share and it did not disappoint. This place is not very big but it is very friendly and accommodating. We came in an ordered and then took a seat at the counter. We started with the pork rinds and pimento cheese. They make the pork rinds to order so they were still popping when they were placed in front of us. The pork rinds were good and so was the pimento cheese, but I liked putting their homemade Korean mustard on the pork rinds. My wife went with the Chef salad with greens, chopped egg, cheddar cheese, ham, turkey, roast beef, sweet onion and parmesan vinaigrette. This is no ordinary Chef salad. They use mainly baby greens like arugula and other peppery greens. Also they do all of their meats in house and they are incredible. Best salad I have tasted in a long time. Also the meat to greens ratio was about 2 to 1 which is nice. I went with Porchetta sandwich which came with 'nduja, pork cracklins, watercress, caramelized onions, mayo, and served on ciabatta. The sandwich was placed on a panini press. What an outstanding sandwich, very well balanced and the caramelized onions really made the sandwich special. I also tried one of the sides which was a pea and peanut salad with green goddess dressing, very light and refreshing. Baby green peas with roasted peanuts for crunch and just a hint of dressing made for a nice side. You can tell these guys really have a passion for what they do. If I lived in Charleston, I would be in here for lunch every week. Parking in this area is a bear, so either walk or take a cab.
Wild Olive, John’s Island (Dinner) – We drove out of the city to go to Wild Olive and were not disappointed. Wild Olive is an Italian restaurant which makes its own pasta. We went on a Monday night and as a bonus they have 5 white and 5 red wines that are $19 a bottle. We selected a very drinkable Nero d’avola. My wife started with a soup of charred corn and tomatoes with country ham, it was very good. I started with some “Clammer Dave’s” clams, it a nice spicy white wine broth. The clams were tasty and very clean. They have a selection of about 10 different pasta dishes in both appetizer and dinner sizes. We decided to have 3 appetizer size dishes so we could taste a variety. We had Agnolotti stuffed with orange braised duck, ricotta, natural braising sugo, parmesan, and scallion. Great thin pasta and a delicious duck filling and very light sauce, I was worried that it might be too sweet but it was not. We also had Bucatini with shrimp, nduja, tomato, red onion, and parsley. Perfectly cooked pasta and shrimp and the nduja gave it a great smoky flavor. The third pasta was long-corkscrew pasta with a heavier red sauce and pancetta; it was good but too heavy for the heat of the summer would have been better in the winter. Great place with a very attentive wait staff.
Glaze Gourmet Donuts (Breakfast) – I stopped by this donut shop while on an early morning bike ride because I am a sucker for donuts. I got a small selection of maple-bacon, raspberry jelly, cinnamon sugar and dark chocolate filled to share with the wife. All yeast donuts which were very light. The maple-bacon was good, but how can you mess up a maple-bacon donut. The star was the raspberry filled jelly donut, usually I do not like jelly donuts but this one was outstanding with great fresh raspberry filling.
Hominy Grill (Lunch) – We went here for lunch before heading to the airport. They serve breakfast until 11:30 and then lunch after 11:30. We arrived at 11:20 and opted for lunch instead of breakfast. We each got the 3 veggie plate. I selected stewed tomatoes and okra, lima beans and mac and cheese. My wife ordered collard greens, field peas and rice and applesauce. Each plate came with a hunk of delicious cornbread. We also order a small basket of fried chicken which contained a leg, wing, thigh and half a breast. It also came with an awesome pepper jelly dipping sauce. Fried chicken was good, not the best I have ever had but a solid fried chicken. We each tasted all the veggies and they were all good, nothing mind blowing up good solid southern comfort food at excellent prices. Desserts looked good but we had to run to the airport for our flight.
The Gin Joint/The Belmont (Drinks) – We went to a couple of great bars while in town, The Gin Joint and The Belmont. Both are smaller bars but serve nice cocktails. The Gin Joint, as the name applies, specializes in Gin cocktail. The Belmont has wide array of cocktails, I had a great Manhattan here which was the perfect after dinner drink. Both had great staffs and were very accommodating.