I first learned about Halls Chophouse in my Seminar in Entrepreneurship class where they came to speak to us. I admire that it’s a family run business that is based mainly on quality of service and building and cultivating relationships with their customers. A lot of places talk a lot about customer service, but for many, it’s just that—talk. Halls actually delivers on its promises. They give you great service and great food. Seriously good food. I’ve said before that Husk is my favorite restaurant, but if I’m craving steak, there is not even a competition. Halls would win out every time. Literally the best steak I’ve ever eaten. And this is coming from a girl who doesn’t actually like steak. (Ditto salad. I’ll talk more about the chopped salad later, but trust me—it’s as close to divine as a salad will ever get). I’ve ordered steaks at other restaurants in Charleston before—Peninsula Grill, Husk, Red Drum, 82 Queen, and Grill 225—and there’s no comparison. I haven’t been to Oak yet, and I have a feeling I probably won’t go anytime soon, either. I just can’t imagine they’d be better than Halls.
I’ve been to Halls for dinner five times or so. The first time was with my dad and Shay to spend the gift certificate they gave out to my class (that’s good marketing right there. I saved $25 but probably spent 3 times that on the meal for the three of us. And trust me, it was worth every penny). We started off with the she-crab soup which was really good. I hate it when restaurants add too much sherry to their she-crab soup, but Halls does it right. The dominant flavor is the crab, with only a hint of sherry—exactly how a good she-crab soup should be.
I then got the Halls Chopped salad, which is Uh- May-Zing. I live for chopped salad. If more restaurants had them, I’d eat salad way more often, and if they all tasted like Halls, I’d actually enjoy eating them. It has lettuce and tomato and celery and black-eyed peas, peppers and bacon and a whole bunch of other stuff in a buttermilk dressing. But it’s perfectly balanced with the dressing. I hate it when my salad is drowning in salad dressing, but the Halls salad is perfect in every sense of the word. I’d say I’d go there just for the salad, but I know there’s no way I’d go there for food and not get a steak.
Shay got the filet mignon, while my dad opted for the prime rib. This being my first time at Halls (not realizing how amazing their steaks are), I opted for the lobster. The lobster was about 4 pounds and it was taken out of the shell and arranged in the lobster shape when they serve it to you, so basically all you have to do is dip it in butter and shove it in your face (which I did approximately 3.5 seconds after they set it down). I do love me some lobstah.
Shay offered me a bite of her filet (which she’d gotten butterflied and cooked to medium well) and as soon as it touched my tongue, I knew I’d ordered the wrong thing. Don’t get me wrong, the lobster is delicious, but it’s nothing compared to the filet. Did I mention it’s the best filet I’ve ever had? Because it’s the best filet I’ve ever had. The prime rib was top notch as well. I’m pretty sure none of us spoke after the entrées had been delivered; we were too busy enjoying the food to carry on a conversation.
They serve their sides family style, meaning that one side serves 2-4 people. They’re pretty big. For sides we got the asparagus with hollandaise and the pepper jack grits. Now, as a southerner, I am particular about my grits. Quaker sells this instant crap that says “Grits” on it, but trust me—those are not grits. Halls serves real grits. Thick and creamy and delicious. Not cheesy enough so that you lose the flavor of the grits themselves, but just cheesy enough to make the dish feel complete. They are all about balance Halls. It just works perfectly. The asparagus is a side that you might have a harder time stretching out amongst four people. It is perfectly cooked. Not mushy like that crap that comes out of a can (which is the reason I thought I hated asparagus for the first 20 years of my life. Thanks mom). I usually don’t like hollandaise partly because I don’t really like eggs (see my Husk review for more info), but mostly because when I had to make it in class, I got a blister from whisking so much that took 2 weeks to heal. It was painful. Plus my hollandaise tasted terrible, so then I was mad that I got a blister making nasty crap that I didn’t even enjoy eating. Hollandaise is a douche bag. But the hollandaise from Halls is perfect. It tastes exactly how hollandaise should. Not too eggy, not too buttery, but creamy and perfect. It’s delicious, and a perfect complement to the asparagus.
The second time I went to Halls was for my mom’s birthday. It was my parents and me, and we went all out. We got spicy shrimp and tempura lobster as starters. I didn’t really care for the lobster, but my parents loved it. The spicy shrimp were pretty good, but I was expecting them to be boiled shrimp, like you’d find in a Creole or jambalaya, but they were just fried shrimp tossed in a spicy sauce. They were still good, I’d just had my heart set on non-fried shrimp. I once again got the chopped salad while Tina opted for the roasted beet salad (who orders things like that? Really, Tina? Really?). The chopped salad is better. I almost stabbed Tina for trying to steal a forkful of my salad. I don’t play around. For our entrées, I chose the filet (did I mention it’s the best filet I’ve ever had? I did? Ok, well I just want you to understand that it’s THE BEST FILET I’VE EVER HAD). You can get sauces on the side with your steak, like Gorgonzola sauce, or béarnaise, but trust me—you don’t need any sauce. The meat tastes amazing all on its own (that’s what she said!). I can’t remember what Tina and Russ got, because I was too focused on my own food to take the time to care about their choices. All I know is that there was meat, there was a lot of it, and we ate it all. Ron Swanson would be proud.
For sides this time, we got the asparagus again, and the macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is one of my weaknesses. It’s the one thing I seem to be unable to resist. It’s my kryptonite. Even when I’m dieting, if there’s mac and cheese within reach, I won’t even hesitate. I just start devouring it without giving myself time to think about it. The mac and cheese at Halls is good. It’s not great, but it’s good. It’s more creamy than cheesy, and I prefer my mac and cheese to be extra cheesy. The waitress was raving about the mac and cheese (she loves it. It’s her favorite), so I guess it’s all a matter of personal preference. I do have to say that I’m a fan of the squiggly noodles. I’d just prefer more cheesy in the saucey pleasey! Next time, I’d just stick with the grits.
You may have noticed that I clarified both of my visits by saying “The first/second time I went for dinner.” This is because Halls has an amazing bar. Rather, they have one drink that I’m obsessed with called the 434 martini. It’s pineapple infused vodka that’s served ice cold and frothy. It’s not overly fruity, but it definitely tastes nothing like alcohol. Except for the fact that it’s straight alcohol. So you don’t realize how much you’ve actually had until you stand up to go to the bathroom after the 5th one and you almost fall on your face (that’s actually a true story about my dad the night I graduated). The first time I had one was at a party hosted at Halls for my entrepreneurship class after our final exam. It was a 2 hour reception with free food and drinks courtesy of Tommy Baker (anytime there are free drinks involved, you can guarantee I’m going to make an appearance). I made Lily come with me and we started drinking martinis, excited for some free Halls food. We found out, about 3 martinis in, that the “free food” was actually a veggie tray. Don’t get me wrong, I love carrot sticks, but if I’d known that’s all the food I was going to be having, I would have eaten something hearty before I starting downing liquor. Needless to say, Lily and I had a great time.
I took my mom and Jenn to Halls for drinks before we went to Pantheon for the drag show, and we sat at one of the community bar tables drinking and hanging out. One of the Hall family members, usually Billy or Tommy, came by a number of times to make sure we had everything we needed and that we were enjoying ourselves (we were). We stayed for about an hour, and we getting ready to head out to go across the street to O-Ku (they make these habanero-infused vodka martinis with sugared rims that my mother is obsessed with) when Tommy Hall stopped us to ask why we were leaving so soon. My mother, being my mother, told him “We’re going over to O-Ku to get sugar and spice martinis. They’re my favorite.” Tommy Hall replied “O-Ku is great, but did you know we actually invented those? Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll bring you one.” So we sat back down and he brought us a round on the house. Tina was skeptical that they would be as good as O-Ku’s, so she was quite surprised to find out that she actually liked these more. Apparently the ones that Halls makes are spicier. I don’t really do spicy. I took one sip and then had to chug a gallon of water to be able to feel my lips again.
I’ve literally never had a bad experience at Halls. Every time we leave, Billy is there to shake our hands, or give us a hug and thank us for coming. Once he even chased us down the street, to make sure he thanked us properly. The service continues, even when you’re not at the restaurant. They sent my mom a hand-written thank you note, telling her how much they appreciated her coming into the restaurant on her birthday. They even wished me a happy birthday on Facebook, even though I hadn’t been to Halls in over 2 months. They’re all about the relationships that they build with their customers. Pairing their outstanding customer service with their delectable food (did I mention the filet is the best I ever had??) and you have a recipe for an unforgettable night out.
Summary: Get the steak and the grits. Avoid the macaroni. Drink the 434. Tip your server.
Charleston, SC 29403