I recently had the pleasure of trying out 1Kept, the new restaurant taking the place of Barony Tavern (RIP) at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Charleston. I’d been able to attend the grand opening party (where I met Andrew Zimmern, nbd), but hadn’t really gotten a chance to try any of the food, so I was excited to experience Charleston’s trendiest new restaurant with my friend and fellow food blogger Elise (aka Cookin’ With Booze).
We started with some of their signature Black Truffle Popcorn with grated parmesan cheese ($6). The popcorn was nice and crispy and the black truffle element was subtle enough to not be overpowering, and also complemented the parmesan really nicely. Basically, put enough parmesan on anything and I’ll eat it.
Next up, we were really intrigued by the Duck Fat Cornbread, which was served with a red pepper jelly ($6). The flavor of the duck fat came through pretty strongly in the cornbread, but the pepper jelly was nice to cut the flavor and make it all come together really well. The cornbread itself had a nice moisture content; it wasn’t too dry or too wet, which was nice. We also saved the pepper jelly and used it to flavor some of the other things we ordered. It’s a wonder condiment!
Because I’m addicted to Brussels sprouts, we ordered the Fried Brussels (roasted red peppers, apple gastrique, salt & vinegar, $9) and I was seriously impressed. I’m not sure if they boiled the sprouts before they fried them or what, but the stem of the sprouts (which tend to be the toughest, chewiest part of the veggie) was like butter. The outer leaves were nice and crispy, meaning I could eat them by the bushel.
The Pork Meatballs (roasted pickled fennel, carrot, balsamic reduction, $10) were really nice. They had more of a Swedish meatball consistency than an Italian meatball, with a nice springiness and a more compact mouthfeel. The addition of the pickled fennel, carrots, and cilantro gave them a nice Asian flair. Pro tip: they also taste amazing when dipped in the pepper jelly.
For a main course, we opted to split 2 entrees, which they graciously pre-cut and served to us so that we didn’t have to do all the dirty work ourselves, which was awesome. The first entrée we split was their signature Chicken Schnitzel (with herb späetzle, braised red cabbage, kale, caramelized onion cream sauce, $19). The panko breading on the outside was fried to a nice crisp, while the chicken inside was still super thin and juicy. The true star of the dish, however, was the caramelized onion gravy, which probably would be delicious on anything. It was creamy and thick without that weird congealyness (a word I totally didn’t just make up) that gravy can sometimes get, and had a nice depth of flavor that really went amazingly with the chicken. The spaetzle noodles had some kind of lemon zest on them which really helped to brighten up the dish and trick my brain into thinking I was eating something light and summery.
The second entrée was the Shrimp & Grits (Pimento cheese, scallions, arrabbiata sauce, $22), which are served quite differently than the typical option you’ll find around town. The arrabbiata sauce was smoky and a little spicy and complemented the pimento cheesiness of the grits really excellently. I liked that it was a nice twist on a traditional Southern recipe so that you get something that is at once different and familiar.
Update so it’s been a while since I wrote about 1Kept, but I actually tend to visit the restaurant about once a month because it’s so delicious. I’ve been for lunch, dinner, and happy hour and had a great time at each. Let’s talk about the pimento cheese board (Grilled sourdough, tomato jam, grain mustard, bacon jam, pickled veg, $13), which is one of my favorite starters. The cheese is lightly smoked so it has a little bit more smokiness than your typical pimento cheese. Also, the pickled veggies, especially chef’s secret pickle recipe, are fantastic. Idk what he does to those pickles, but I would eat them by themselves. They’re so good.
Another favorite appetizer is the fried okra (house hot sauce, remoulade, $9). They slice the okra lengthwise before breading and frying, which gets rid of a lot of that token sliminess that a lot of people find so offputting about okra. The breading is super light and crispy, and it’s lightly fried so the whole thing practically melts in your mouth. Also, the homemade hot sauce is fantastic. I’m not usually a fan of hot sauce, but I’m totally on board for this.
As someone who’s kind of obsessed with heirloom tomatoes, I’m pretty critical when it comes to HT dishes. But the Heirloom Tomato Salad (Local tomatoes, pomegranate, crusted mozzarella, assorted lettuces, balsamic, $12) exceeded my very high expectations. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe and tasted like summer sunshine. The crusted mozzarella was a perfect complement to the tomatoes, and I loved the little crunch from the sprinkled pomegranate seeds. I didn’t want this dish to end!
For lunch, I tried their house burger (Smoked pimento, Benton’s bacon, peach BBQ, Cement Pickle Relish®) with Togarashi Spicy fries, and was not disappointed. The burger was perfectly cooked, and the smoked pimento added a great extra layer of flavor that complemented the bacon perfectly. The addition of the cement pickle relish (which I want to put on everything, BTW) gave the burger a level of freshness and crunch. The fries were thin and crispy, and the Togarashi spice added a real subtle layer of heat.
Other entrees that I’ve loved have been the Kurobuta Pork Porterhouse (Sea Island red peas, sweet corn chow-chow, garlic mojo, cracklin, $25), which is so unique and delicious. First, the pork is cooked like a steak, and is so flavorful, I had to double check that they hadn’t switched out the meat by accident. The cracklin on top was kind of like a shrimp chip from a chinese restaurant and I really enjoyed listening to it crackle as I ate the pork. The chow-chow with the red peas was perfectly balanced in flavors. The whole dish is a winner!
I’m not usually a huge fan of fish (except on sushi), but the Prosciutto-Wrapped Scamp Grouper (Truffled Charleston Gold rice cake, local shrimp beurre monté, shishito peppers, asparagus, $27) is on a whole different level. The combination of the beurre monte and the truffle from the rice cake make this dish so rich and decadent. The fish was perfectly cooked and fork tender, and the rice cake gave a nice variety of textures in the dish. Every bite was like an explosion of flavor.
The Cacio e Pepe (House-made pasta, black pepper, Grana Padano, Pecorino Romano, soft egg, basil, $20) is another solid entree, especially if you’re a fan of cheesy pasta like me. The noodles are cooked al dente and I like that they definitely didn’t skimp out on the cheese. A lot of times when I get this dish, the sauce is too buttery and doesn’t really hold up, but 1Kept’s definitely doesn’t have this problem. My only complaint is that I would’ve preferred a poached egg so that I could’ve mixed it into the sauce instead of having to cut up the egg.
Let’s talk cocktails! So 1Kept does this awesome thing where the cold brew their drinks to give them extra flavor without having to add anything artificial. Cold brew here doesn’t refer to coffee, it’s about a slow-drip-infusion process (that looks like a science experiment happening behind the bar) that takes 36 hours to complete. My favorite of the cold-brew cocktails is the Summer White Negroni (Distillery no. 209 sauvignon blanc barrel aged gin, aperol, raspberry, vanilla, coriander, Dolin Blanc vermouth), which is so smooth, it’s dangerous.
I am also a fan of the Charleston Tea Old Fashioned (Hillbilly bourbon, Charleston Tea Plantation earl grey tea, black cherry, clementine peels), which is a great play on the classic cocktail. If you’re a fan of dark liquors, you’ll love this!
If you haven’t been to 1Kept yet, please go! You will not be disappointed!