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Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Screen Door

May 26, 2015

[Update: Chef Blake Joyal is no longer heading the kitchen at Screen Door and they’ve changed the menu significantly since this post was written.]

In Charleston, it seems like new restaurants are popping up every other week. You’d think that would mean that I’d be bored or jaded by restaurant openings; but you’d be wrong. One new restaurant that I’ve been really excited for is Chef Blake Joyal’s new venture, The Screen Door on James Island.

I love the open kitchen!

I love the open kitchen!

 

It’s taking over kind of a cursed location (I think it’s been 2 or 3 different restaurants in the time that I’ve lived here). I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview party for Screen Door to taste some of the dishes and drinks that might make the menu and see the newly remodeled space.

And also take some bathroom selfies, because I do what I want.

And also take some bathroom selfies, because I do what I want.

Everyone was super friendly from the moment we walked through the door until the moment we tapped out, too full for even one more delicious morsel. When we first walked in, I was struck by how open the space is. I loved the way the pizza and grill area were viewable from basically anywhere in the restaurant, as it immerses you in the whole experience.

screen-door-charleston

 

I also am a huge fan of the ambience. They really went all out with the “screen door” theme, from the giant screen door hanging from the ceiling, to the many screen doors that make up the patio area.

I can see myself spending lots of time out here.

I can see myself spending lots of time out here.

Because the menu wasn’t completely finalized when we were there, there is a chance that not everything I tried will end up on the menu when they actually open, which will be a shame, because it was all delicious.

Pizza ovens are my favorite type of oven.

Pizza ovens are my favorite type of oven.

I’ll go in order of my favorites:

Lettuce Wraps

There are mushrooms in it and I still listed it as #1, so that should tell you how good it is.

There are mushrooms in it and I still listed it as #1, so that should tell you how good it is.

Slow cooked pork butt, housemade curry, daikon radish, sumac, roasted peanuts. When I first bit into the lettuce wrap, it actually took my breath away with how good it was. I loved that it was kind of peanut-y and the curry was actually a great complement to the pork. I could eat these all day long.

Oysters

I could've eaten a whole plate of these, but I managed to rein it in.

I could’ve eaten a whole plate of these, but I managed to rein it in.

Local Ace blades with toasted curry, fennel butter with borate & fennel pollen. These might be my new favorite oysters anywhere, including Leon’s.

Lamb Ribs

Yes, I did just say the words "lamb ribs."

Yes, I did just say the words “lamb ribs.”

Dry rubbed lamb ribs, braised in duck fat with chimmichuri. These melted in your mouth. I had no idea they were lamb until I asked about them. I highly recommend these.

Roasted Chicken

There's a little chicken left on that plate. Sorry, I am a Hoover when it comes to delicious food.

There’s a little chicken left on that plate. Sorry, I am a Hoover when it comes to delicious food.

Fresh turmeric, garlic, chili rubbed and brined sous vide for 36 hours. The chicken was wonderfully juicy and had a great smoky taste from the grill. It was awesome.

Beef Sliders

These were so simple and so yummy.

These were so simple and so yummy.

House-ground wagyu chuck brisket and short rib with grayson grease, caper aioli, and bacon. These were like an amped up burger. Perfectly juicy with an element unlike any other burger I’ve ever had, likely from the caper aioli.

Shrimp Skewers

There used to be many more skewers on this plate.

There used to be many more skewers on this plate.

Blackened shrimp with compressed, pickled watermelon, black olive tapenade, fava beans, pistachio vinaigrette, and toasted pistachio. The pickled watermelon had a crazy consistency; I actually thought it was tuna at first. I think this one was the craziest mixture of flavors, but they combined really well. I never would’ve thought to put these things together, but I guess that’s why I’m not a chef.

Soft Shell Crab

Still not sure I love softshell crab.

Still not sure I love softshell crab.

Tempura fried with papaya noodle salad, toasted rice, fish sauce, lime, chili, and cilantro. This probably would’ve ranked higher if I was a bigger fan of soft shell crabs. The flavor of the dish as a whole was great—I loved the tangy sweetness of the papaya salad—was great. It’s just the crab that I’m kind of weird about. However, I think if softies are your thing, you would’ve been very happy!

Pizza

And just the right size for me to not share with anyone!

And just the right size for me to not share with anyone!

White anchovies, fulian oregano, buffalo mozzarella, poached farm egg. I think I would’ve liked this a lot more if it was sans anchovies. The anchovies made the pizza really salty, which wasn’t my favorite. But everything about the pizza other than that was great, so I’m really looking forward to what other pizzas they’re going to have.

The bar area. How comfy!

The bar area. How comfy!

There are 5 signature cocktails at Screen Door which were created by their head bartender, Matthew McGarry. Because I’m nothing if not thorough, I decided to try each one of them FOR SCIENCE and I’ll rank them below:

Mother of Dragons

These are dangerously good.

These are dangerously good.

Ingredients: Pineapple, jalapeno rum, orange blossom water, strawberry calamansi syrup, aromatic bitters, with a grilled pineapple skewer.
My favorite of the 5 cocktails. It was just a little sweet and had just the right amount of kick on the back end. I was expecting it to be a lot spicier, but it was very subtle, which I appreciated because I am a wimp when it comes to that sort of thing. This I will definitely be ordering again.

Zinfandel Wine Punch

My knight in glowy armor.

My knight in glowy armor.

Ingredients: aperol, lemon juice, cava, zinfandel agave, orange zest,
This drink tasted like summertime to me. Had a little bit of a wine taste, but there was more of a fresh fruitiness to it that made me wish I was lounging poolside somewhere. Bring your own drink umbrella for this one.

Pacific Rim Coyote

I will only drink cocktails with leaves in them from now on.

I will only drink cocktails with leaves in them from now on.

Ingredients: Blanco tequila, lime juice, hibiscus agave, kaffir lime tincture, lime zest, kaffir leaf garnish
This drink tasted kind of like a margarita on steroids. None of that syrupy sweet & sour mix (thank goodness), instead focusing on the natural sweet & sour taste of the hibiscus agave and lime juice. So good.

Folly Fog

Just look at that rim!

Just look at that rim!

Ingredients: Earl Grey infused vodka, Orchard Pear, Pernod, Ground Early Grey, Orange half moon
This one was so unique. If you like Earl Grey tea, you’re going to love this one. I liked that it was atypical and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. Who knew tea and vodka paired so well together?

Old Friend

Ingredients: Willet Rye, barolo chinato, aperol, cocchi di torino vermouth, kumquat bitters, expressed orange peel
I think this was probably my least favorite. It tasted not unlike an old fashioned (hence the name), which I tend to not really care for.

They rolled out the yellow carpet, just for me!

They rolled out the yellow carpet, just for me!

Now that Screen Door officially opened this weekend, I’m looking forward to stopping by and making this one of my regular haunts!

Screen Door
1271 Folly Road
Charleston, SC 29412
843-573-7200

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Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Wild Wing Cafe Giveaway

May 11, 2015

Charleston is a city with thousands of food options, and when it comes to choosing a meal, there are endless & unique possibilities. But sometimes, all I crave is some high quality, unassuming bar food. Wild Wing Cafe is a great place for that. It’s a regional chain, so the food is consistent from location to location, and they’re a great spot to catch a sports event, or some live music at night. Lily and I decided to congratulate ourselves on making it through a particularly terrible Monday without killing anyone by loading up on something fried. We started with the Super Snacker Sampler (House chips, buffalo chicken rolls, hot shots, loaded skins, and mozzarella sticks. Served with dipping sauces, $12.99).

My favorite foods are all shades of brown.

My favorite foods are all shades of brown.

My favorites were the buffalo chicken rolls and the hot shots, as they were definitely the most unique things on the plate. The buffalo chicken rolls consisted of “chopped chicken in a creamy and spicy sauce with a hint of bleu cheese, wrapped up into a flour tortilla and lightly fried golden brown,” aka deep fried buffalo chicken dip. The hot shots are sausage and cheese fritters served with honey mustard and were literally bursting with flavor. They were nice and crispy on the outside and soft and oozing with cheese on the inside.

More things need to ooze cheese, please.

More things need to ooze cheese, please.

I also couldn’t resist the call of the Steel Town Spuds (Topped with ranch dressing, bacon, scallions & melted cheese. Choose big fat fries, crispy chips OR tater tots, $6.29) with tater tots, obviously. My only complaint is that there was very little ranch dressing on the tots. I asked for a side of ranch, which I dumped over the plate and that improved things immensely.

But dumping ranch dressing on an old gym shoe would make it edible, so...

But dumping ranch dressing on an old gym shoe would make it edible, so…

We debated for a long time over what flavor of wings to get since Wild Wing has so many different flavors to choose from. We tried to pick really unique sounding ones that we couldn’t get anywhere else and ended up with 6 honey lime sriracha wings and 6 ranchilada boneless wings (two flavors. one dip & celery, $10.49). I was surprised by how much I liked the honey lime sriracha sauce because I don’t typically like sriracha, but it was tangy and spicy and sweet all at the same time. The boneless wings were nice and crispy and the ranchilada sauce was yummy even though it didn’t really taste like I expected it to taste. It was a little spicier than I expected, so I ended up downing like a gallon of water, but they were still yummy enough to make it worth it.

Next time, I think I'm just going to only order wings with different sauces, because these were just too good.

Next time, I think I’m just going to only order wings with different sauces, because these were just too good.

One of my coworkers orders the burger from Wild Wing like once a week (that’s not a joke), so I decided to try it to see what all the fuss was about and ordered the Ultimate Bacon Cheeseburger (Cheddar and pepper jack cheese, 3 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion & mayo, $10.49). It came out really thick, and cooked to medium well without being overdone, and the cheeses were nice and melty. The bacon was crispy but not hard, which is just how I like it. The fries are cut really uniquely, kind of like a mix between waffle and crinkle cut. They’re delicious.

This photo came from Yelp because my phone died mid-meal.

This photo came from Yelp because my phone died mid-meal.

As a thank you to all of my readers, I’m giving away a $25 gift certificate to one of the Wild Wing Cafes in the Charleston area. Simply enter your info below & comment with your favorite Wild Wing wing sauce flavor to be entered to win! I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, 5/20.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wild Wing Cafe
36 N. Market St.
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 722-9464

Wild Wing Cafe on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Rita’s Seaside Grille, Folly Beach, SC

March 20, 2015

Ok, so a couple weeks ago, I was invited to try Rita’s out on Folly. Never one to turn my nose up at free food, I gladly made the jaunt out to Folly Beach (although I did feel a bit like a traitor for not eating at Lost Dog Cafe). Rita’s is owned by the Halls family of Halls Chophouse, but could not be more different. It’s a very casual, laid-back, beachy kind of atmosphere with food that is both inventive and traditional at the same time.

Read: affordable

Read: affordable

We started with an order of the tuna nachos (crispy corn tortillas, queso, jack, jalapenos, black beans, peppers, onions, watermelon pico, choice of blackened tuna, grilled chicken, pulled pork, $11). They were good, but I thought the tuna was a little overcooked and chewy. I came back the next week with my mom and we got them with chicken instead and they were awesome. The one really great thing about this dish is that they top it with a housemade watermelon pico de gallo, which adds a layer of freshness to a traditionally uninventive dish.

Those aren't tomatoes; that's watermelon! I highly recommend this dish.

Those aren’t tomatoes; that’s watermelon! I highly recommend this dish.

We also got an order of their house smoked wings (house smoked jumbo wings, served with celery, ranch & blue cheese, tossed with choice of sweet & spicy, dry rub, BBQ, buffalo, 6 for $9 or 12 for $15), tossed in the sweet & spicy sauce. I really liked the sauce and the touch of smokiness that was in every bite. The second time I went, we got them in the dry rub, and I didn’t like them as much, so I definitely recommend the sweet & spicy sauce. Tina thought they were a little too smoky, so if you aren’t a fan of things tasting smoky, then I wouldn’t recommend these.

smoked-wings-ritas

I do like that you don’t have to choose between ranch and blue cheese… although I definitely only ever choose ranch. But I like not having to choose.

I also tried their beet & goat cheese salad (ruby & golden beets, arugula, pickled red onion, crumbled goat cheese, lemon thyme vinaigrette, $13). I’m not a huge fan of beets, but I thought this salad was pretty good. Then again, I tend to like anything with chunks of goat cheese in it. The vinaigrette was really light and citrusy, and I think it went really well with the tanginess of the pickled onions and the creaminess of the goat cheese.

Before you comment, I know you like beets, Christine, but you are a weirdo.

Before you comment, I know you like beets, Christine, but you are a weirdo. You’d really like this salad.

For the main course (like I needed more food, right?), I tried the Barnyard burger (fried egg, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, seasoned fries, $12). I really liked this burger despite the fact that it had egg on it… I think I’m starting to not dislike eggs as much as I used to. As long as they’re either covered in cheese or on a cheeseburger, at least. The burger was seasoned really well and it was pretty big. I also liked the bun and thought it had a nice bread-to-burger ratio. The fries were also really unique and delicious. They’re nice and crispy and topped with a good mix of seasonings. It tasted like there might have been brown sugar or something, because there’s a little bit of sweetness, which I really enjoyed.

From this angle, that pickle looks ginormous

From this angle, that pickle looks ginormous

I had inquired about the drink menu, because there’s nothing like a daiquiri on the beach. I was presented with a couple of different drinks to try because their cocktail menu is super unique, especially when it comes to frozen drinks. The first one I tried was the Key Lime martini (vodka, coconut liqueur, cream of coconut, fresh lime juice, graham cracker rim, $8), which was super yummy. It actually tasted like key lime pie in a glass and I absolutely loved the graham cracker rim.

I'll have 5 of these, please.

I’ll have 5 of these, please.

The next drink I tried was their signature “frizzle” (frozen light rum, dark rum, amaretto, ginger beer, orange and pineapple juices, mango & strawberry puree, $9). If there was ever a drink to embody “summertime” this is it. Take one sip and close your eyes and you’d feel like you were in the bahamas. It’s not a cocktail, it’s a mini-vacation in a glass.

frizzle-ritas

Miss Frizzle ain’t got nothin’ on this drink.

After the meal was over, the chef came out to thank me for dining. She was very friendly and happily posed for a picture for me.

She's so happy!

Peekaboo, Rita sees you.

Rant Alert: My second visit to Rita’s with my mom was not as smooth as the first. We sat out on the patio since it’s dog-friendly and she had Penny with her. Our waitress was nice, but forgetful. We ordered a plain chicken breast for the dog when we put in our appetizer orders and it still hadn’t arrived 20 minutes after we finished our entrees. Chicken breasts take no more than 15 minutes to grill, usually, so there’s no reason that it should’ve taken over an hour. Additionally, my mom had ordered ribs as her entree and asked for the bbq sauce on the side which also didn’t happen. When my mom asked to replace the 2 sides that came with the rib platter with 2 other sides, the waitress happily obliged, and then charged her for additional sides when the check came (without telling us that there was going to be an up charge. AND after forgetting part of our order).  When we asked for the check and told her to just forget about the chicken (which she mentioned still hadn’t even been put on the grill), the waitress didn’t apologize and in fact tried to get us to order dessert, which really annoyed me. She didn’t offer to comp the dessert or anything for her mistakes, but instead was trying to get us to up our order, despite the fact that she hadn’t even been able to deliver the rest of our meal properly. I’m hoping that the issue was with our particular server and not with the usual level of service that they offer. I guess my advice here is that if you sit out on the patio for dinner, don’t be in a rush and be prepared for things to take a lot longer.

The patio looks friendly and invited, but in fact is not.

Also, go during the daytime when it’s so pretty you’ll forget that your food still hasn’t arrived.

Sorry about that rant. I’m still annoyed, as you can tell, but I don’t want to let that discolor my entire experience. The food was really good and the first time I went, the service was great. I would want to go back for brunch (did someone say “Captain Crunch French Toast?!”), but I won’t be sitting out on the patio, that’s for sure. But if you’re looking for a restaurant out on Folly Beach that offers more than just fish and chips, and you don’t want to wait an hour for a table at Lost Dog, I think Rita’s is a pretty solid choice. The food is a tasty and can make up for the fact that the service doesn’t always hit the mark.

Plus, it's so close to the beach!

Plus, it’s so close to the beach!

Rita’s Seaside Grille
2 Center Street
Folly Beach, SC 29439
(843) 588-2525

Rita's Seaside Grille on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

R Kitchen

February 13, 2015

Ok, so I’m torn about writing this post because I want R Kitchen to stay a hidden secret, but at the same time I want to shout my love for this wonderful restaurant from the rooftops.

Can you tell?

Can you tell?

The first time I came to R Kitchen, it was for Lauren’s birthday in December and we were both a little unprepared for what was about to happen. To begin with, it’s less of a restaurant and more of a place where you just hang out while a friend cooks you dinner. The space is super small, we’re talking like 12 people can fit into the restaurant tops. Chef Ross Webb offers up a stellar 5ish-course prix fixe meal for $25, and you sit at the counter and watch him cook. It’s like dinner and a show!

Chef Ross, hard at work being awesome.

Chef Ross, hard at work being awesome.

The first meal, our culinary adventure began with a delicious local corn succotash made with shrimp and a bunch of other delicious vegetables. Chef was also nice enough to make Lauren’s without shrimp since she doesn’t eat it (although that really would’ve just meant more for me).

Corn Succotash = Amazing

I’m not complaining.

I was hooked after the 1st course, but it took Lauren until the second course, the wilted kale and chick peas, to really fall in love. I’m always afraid of kale, because 90% of the times I order it, I receive bitter, chewy, shrubbery. Chef Ross’s kale was something else entirely. Garlicky and tomato-y and In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t have known it was kale.

Because that's the best way to eat kale.

Because that’s the best way to eat kale.

He also did a special surprise course of smoked salmon and bacon deviled egg, which was pretty delicious. And I hate eggs. So that’s really saying something.

Or is it?

Or is it?

Our first main course was the steak and potato hash. My steak was prepared perfectly and went really well with the potatoes, which were soft and crispy and wonderful.

I love steak

Can someone please teach me how to cook a steak kthxbye.

The final (and best) main course was the fried pork chop with dirty rice. I can’t remember what made the rice dirty, but I do remember that I loved it. The pork was awesome; the breading was crispy, and whatever the sauce was was nice and tangy and tied the whole dish together perfectly.

Because fried pork.

Because fried pork.

Our “dessert” course was brie and honey with some grapes. Lauren was crying at this point because she was so full, so I ate both hers and mine and it was glorious. I love brie.

I can eat cheese at any time of the day.

I can eat cheese at any time of the day.

The second time I went was with my mom. We had early reservations and were the first people in the restaurant. We were very excited.

Especially Tina.

Especially Tina.

Our first course for the evening was smoky mac and cheese. It was amazing and I loved it. I especially loved when they got out the blowtorch to burn the cheese and breadcrumb topping a bit and give it that extra smoky flavor.

Is this the best restaurant ever, or what??

Is this the best restaurant ever, or what??

The second course was a take on a thai coconut soup using a traditional coconut broth, which Chef Ross added crab to. I thought it was really yummy without being overly “seafood” tasting, which I was a little worried about. It also had this cracker thing in it, which gave it a really nice texture.

I love soups that look like gravy.

I love soups that look like gravy.

After this course, we had a little meat plate with some salami and prosciutto. It was good, but not spectacular. I did really like the mustard that accompanied it.

Because meat.

Because meat.

The next course was a really fresh salad made with local Johns Island beans and pieces of ham. Normally I’m not a huge fan of ham, but if this salad had a fan club, I’d run for president.

The greatest salad ever.

The greatest salad ever.

The first main course was a “pork & mole” that Chef Ross served over a bed of angel hair pasta and topped with avocado. Tina doesn’t really like meat sauces, but I thought the pasta was really good. It had a different flavor than what I was expecting because of the mole sauce, but it was very hearty and homey tasting.

lol

Like a warm blanket in a bowl.

Our final course was steak and risotto’d potato. Tina was freaking out about asking to get her steak cooked well done, but Chef Ross was more than happy to do it for her. He laughed and agreed that he doesn’t understand why chefs get so irritable about serving steaks at anything above a medium. I think that’s when Tina officially fell in love.

I, however, like my meat to bleed. It reminds me that I'm on top of the food chain.

I, however, like my meat to bleed. It reminds me that I’m on top of the food chain.

Chef Ross was nice enough to pose with us for a picture in between all of his cooking. What a great guy. Thanks for having us, we can’t wait to come back!

Chef Ross and the peanut gallery.

Chef Ross and the peanut gallery.

R Kitchen
212 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 789-4342

R Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Swig & Swine

January 16, 2015

One of my favorite new restaurants to open in West Ashley recently was definitely Swig & Swine. I love me some good pork and boy, does Swig & Swine have some good pork!

I mean, basically.

Also, your body weight in pulled pork seems to do the trick.

The first time I went with friends, we couldn’t decide what we wanted, so we ordered the Family Platter (Smoked Chicken Wings, Ribs, Smoked Turkey, Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Smoked Pork Belly, Homemade Sausage, w/ 3 sides, $38), since it had basically everything on the menu.

Seriously. Everything but the kitchen sink.

Seriously. Everything but the kitchen sink.

All of their meat is amazing. The ribs and the chicken wings are something else entirely, and the brisket is so flavorful. I’m not as crazy about the pork belly, but that’s more of a texture thing for me.

Talk about a successful before and after pic.

Talk about a successful before and after pic.

The pulled pork is smoky and yummy all on its own, but that’s unnecessary because Swig and Swine has 4 different sauces you can use, a sweet red, Carolina mustard, vinegar, Alabama white, and they’re all delicious. My favorite is the mustard and it might be one of the best mustard sauces I’ve ever had. Their sweet red is also great, and you’ll like the Alabama white if you like that white sauce at Japanese restaurants (which I do).

If you love BBQ sauce, this is the place to be. Photo via Swig & Swine's Website

If you love BBQ sauce, this is the place to be. Photo via Swig & Swine’s Website

For the sides, we chose Mac & Cheese (obviously), Beans w/ Brisket, and Pickled Vegetables. The mac and cheese is awesome, I highly recommend it if you like a classic shells-and-cheese-style macaroni.

Seriously good macaroni.

Seriously good macaroni.

The baked beans are tangy and meaty (from the brisket) and smoky, and just great all around.

Beans, beans, the magical fruit...

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

 

The pickled vegetables are the perfect texture, not too soft, not too crisp and I love the taste of the vinegar they’re soaked in.

And what an array of veggies!

And what an array of veggies!

On a follow-up visit, we got the same family platter, which we split between 4 of us, so we managed to have some room leftover for dessert (Banana Pudding or Mini Pies, $5). I went with the chocolate pecan pie, which was served as a mini-pie-for-one with homemade whipped cream on top, which was nice and fluffy and just a touch sweet. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's so cute and miniature!

It’s so cute and miniature!

Lily got the banana pudding, which I’m normally not a fan of, but this was pretty darn good. It tasted like real bananas and not banana flavoring, and was nice and creamy and topped with something that had the consistency of meringue.

It tastes much better than it looks, I promise.

It tastes much better than it looks, I promise.

Ben May got a blueberry cream pie (I think that’s what it was), and it was thick and creamy with fresh blueberries on the bottom. We were all very quiet as we ate our desserts, which is very unlike us, so that’s how you know it was good.

This definitely had a different name than "blueberry cream pie" but I can't for the life of me think of what it was.

This definitely had a different name than “blueberry cream pie” but I can’t for the life of me think of what it was.

If you get a chance to go to Swig & Swine, you definitely should. Get the family platter and let me know what your favorite meat or side is!

This is exactly how a classy roadside BBQ joint should look.

This is exactly how a roadside BBQ joint should look. Photo via Swig & Swine’s Website

Swig & Swine
1217 Savannah Hwy
Charleston, SC 29407
843-225-3805

Swig & Swine on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

The Rarebit

December 5, 2014

Most nights in Charleston when I end up going out for a drink, I’ll either end up at Rec Room or Rarebit (or realistically, both). Their menu is delicious (and designed by my newest chef obsession, Brannon Florie). Their drinks are creative and tasty and the atmosphere is usually pretty fun. Plus I’m a sucker for their Moscow Mule (Smirnoff vodka, Sweatman’s ginger beer, limeade, $8), which uses the best ginger beer in town.

I'm a sucker for a good mule.

I’m a sucker for a good mule.

But mostly I go there for the mac and cheese ($3.50 as a side). (Prepare yourself. There will be lots of pictures of mac and cheese in this post). This is probably my second favorite mac and cheese in Charleston. It’s creamy and cheesy and just so delicious.

I mean, just look at it.

I mean, just look at it.

All their food is flavorful and fresh, and I’ve never had a bad meal. The Country Fried Steak (skillet fried, battered steak with buttermilk pepper gravy served with creamy mashed potatoes & green beans, $15) is my standby favorite. I order it 9 times out of ten and I’m never disappointed. It’s served hot and crispy, topped with a flavorful pepper gravy…the whole thing just comes together perfectly.

And of course I get it with the mac and cheese. I mean, are you even surprised?

And of course I get it with the mac and cheese. I mean, are you even surprised?

Lily has ordered the Southern Fried Catfish (local farm raised catfish served with mac & cheese and sauteed spinach, $14) is good, too. It’s also served hot and crispy and perfectly seasoned. I’m not usually one to order fish, but I’d definitely order this again.

Oh, hey, look. More mac and cheese!

Oh, hey, look. More mac and cheese!

They even have food for vegans! The Vegetable Rarebit (baked squash, zucchini, seasonal vegetables, spinach & portabella saute served over a chili pepper chutney garnished with a glazed baby carrot, $11), which is awesome. Just make sure they don’t put honey on it like they do their “vegan” burger. Someone in the kitchen is not vegan enough for the vegans I know.

When Naomi ordered this, she definitely thought that carrot was a hot dog and almost passed out.

When Naomi ordered this, she definitely thought that carrot was a hot dog and almost passed out.

After 10, they only serve their breakfast menu, which is ok with me, because they consider a Patty Melt (two pressed flat Angus patties topped with American cheese & caramelized onions on rye toast) to be breakfast food. And it’s a great burger (better than their actual burger, in my opinion). Especially at midnight after one too many Moscow Mules.

via Yelp

If there even is such a thing. Photo via Yelp

Speaking of catfish, the Catfish Po Boy (fried catfish with lettuce, tomato & housemade mustard remoulade on a New Orleans French roll, $9) is just awesome. You get the same piece of catfish as pictured above, served on a freshly baked N’awlins roll, with their sweet and tangy mustard remoulade. What’s not to love? We got it was a side of the breakfast potatoes which are also really great. They’re cubed and fried so that they’re nice and crispy on the outside and soft and potato-y on the inside. Exactly what you’d want.

Did I mention that I'm usually here at night?

Did I mention that I’m usually here at night?

As far as their sides go, they’re delicious. Here are a few of my favorites (other than the mac & cheese, obviously). The Succotash Salad (lime beans with fresh corn & sundried tomatoes, $3.50 as a side) is healthy food disguised as a treat because it tastes so darn good. A great option if you’re dieting (like me) but don’t want to feel like you’re missing out on all the good food.

Or just don't even try to pretend like you're being good and order it with the mac and cheese, which is what I'd do.

Or just don’t even try to pretend like you’re being good and order it with the mac and cheese, which is what I’d do.

The Bacon Lentil Salad (exactly what you’d expect, $3.50 as a side) is also a good “healthy” alternative. Lentils are healthy, right? These guys are delicious and just a little smoky from the bacon. Not your typical southern comfort food, but it gets the job done. Ok, the one thing I’ve been disappointed by in all of my visits, was the Track Burger (pressed flat steak burger with ketchup, mustard, and pickles on a Cuban bun. Single, $4, Double, $6, Cheese, $1). The meat is absolutely perfect, very flavorful and yummy, but the problem is that the patty is just so flat compared to the bun. There’s really no point in even ordering it unless you get a double.

Pictured here with the Track Burger and (you guessed it), mac and cheese.

Are you bored with all the mac and cheese pictures yet?

I went with Lala one time when she ordered the Tomato Soup (roasted tomato and basil puree, $5), which I really enjoyed. I’m a little iffy about tomato soups, but this one tasted homemade and not like it came out of a can. It also had a bit of creaminess to it that I really appreciated. She ordered it with a side of grits ($3.50 as a side), which came out really dense and a bit dry, still in the shape of the scoop they portioned it with. They were a little disappointing, but not bad. She also got bacon (because hey, why not) which tasted like bacon.

I love it when food keeps the shape of the thing it was in before it was on your plate. Love. It.

I love it when food keeps the shape of the thing it was in before it was on your plate. Love. It.

It can get a little crowded on a weekend night, but I love the atmosphere of the place. The wait staff is dressed in like a modern take on a 1950’s diner, and the decor is fun and modern as well. It’s usually pretty dark inside, and seating is a bit limited, but I still love it.

I'm obsessed with the decor in here. How cute is that light??| Photo via Acacia Falzone Photography

I’m obsessed with the decor in here. How cute is that light??| Photo via Acacia Falzone Photography

The Rarebit
474 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 974-5483

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Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

McCrady’s

November 7, 2014
*Note, I received a free meal at McCrady's as part of a luncheon I was 
invited to on behalf of Wines of Provence*

Last week I was invited to a wine-pairing lunch at McCrady’s. Since that sentence contains some of my all-time favorite words, I was quick to respond “yes!” (that should come as no surprise, since you should be aware of my obsession with Sean Brock by now). Upon arrival at the McCrady’s banquet room, I was given a glass of M Rose by Minuty ($19.99/bottle), and it was delicious. Fruity and light and basically everything I wanted in a rose. We all took our seats and were treated to a short presentation about rose Wines of Provence, which I found very informative. Afterward, we got a 5-course lunch, prepared by Lucas Weir, the banquet chef at McCrady’s.

I have a love/hate relationship with prix fixe menus

I have a love/hate relationship with prix fixe menus

I have personally always preferred rose wine to red or white because I think it’s a perfect balance. One of the diners at our table who’s been in the wine business for a number of years remarked that rose is “the only wine [he] knew of that really goes well with BBQ.” And if that isn’t a good enough reason to drink rose wine, then I don’t know what is. #PinkWineMakesMeHappy

Especially 5 bottles of pink wine.

And 4 bottles of pink wine makes me sing horrible renditions of 80’s songs. But that’s a bit long for a hashtag.

Course 1 – Grilled Shrimp with Persimmon, Peanut and Benne paired with Hecht & Bannier Cotes de Provence Rose ($17.99) and Mâitres Vignerons de la Vidaubanaise Le Provençal ($14.99). I loved this dish. It was fruity, but much more savory than sweet. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and served with the perfect amount of persimmon sauce, with a little bit of crunch from the benne seeds. Both of the wines paired perfectly, but I preferred the Hecht & Bannier with the food (but the le provençal was better on its own).

I wish all shrimp tasted like this.

I wish all shrimp tasted like this.

Course 2 – Steamed Sea Trout with Turnips and Carolina Gold Rice paired with Gassier en Provence Sables d’Azur and Maison Saint Aix, AIX. I’m usually not a fan of trout, and I never would’ve ordered this on my own, but it was absolutely delicious. Very mild, citrusy, and creamy. The citrus and creaminess went really well with the AIX Rose, which I really enjoyed. It had a nice hint of grapefruit and was absolutely perfect with this meal. The Sables d’Azur I found to be a little blander and although it was still good, I preferred the AIX.

You can eat the skin, I'm told. But I never eat the skin.

You can eat the skin, I’m told. But I never eat the skin.

Course 3 – Ember Roasted Pork with Chestnuts, Grapefruit, and Truffle paired with Chateau la Gordonne La Chapelle Gordonne ($29) and Chateau de Bernes Terres de Berne ($19.99). The pork was superb. It melted in your mouth and was bursting with flavor. I wasn’t as big a fan of the chestnuts, as they had the same consistency as undercooked beans. But maybe that’s the way chestnuts are supposed to be eaten? I’m not sure. In terms of the wines, I preferred the terres de berne for sipping on its own, but the la chapelle gordonne was absolutely perfect with the pork (and now I totally understand what he meant about roses pairing well with BBQ).

Now I'm going to be really bougie and only order rose with my BBQ.

Now I’m going to be really bougie and only order rose with my BBQ.

Course 4 – Green Hill Camembert, Honeycrisp Apple, and Appalachian Red Corn paired with Chateau d’Esclans Les Clans ($65). This was one of my favorite courses. I loved the cheese with the apple and the mustard sauce that came with it. They made the Appalachian red corn into little crisps that tasted like cornflakes and were just a little sweet. Everything about this dish, from the taste to the preparation, was absolutely delicious. The wine that was paired with this dish was my least favorite of all the ones we tasted (and it’s a good thing too, since it was also the most expensive). It was very acidic and oaky and had a distinctly bitter and smoky taste. Just not my cup of tea.

I think all meals should have a cheese course.

I think all meals should have a cheese course.

Course 5 – Banana Cake with Coffee and Black Walnut paired with Chateau Paradis Rouge ($17.99). This was probably my least favorite course. The banana cake was dry and bitter from the coffee. The wine was nice and fruity and I opted to make that my dessert and gave up on the cake.

A sad ending to an otherwise perfect meal.

A sad ending to an otherwise perfect meal.

All in all I had a wonderful meal at McCrady’s (like every other meal I’ve had there), and I appreciate Wines of Provence for inviting me and helping open my eyes to the wonders of rose wines. Now that I know how well they pair with pork, and how inexpensive they are, I’ll definitely be having a few glasses of these roses in the future!

And I'd like to sit right here while I drink them, please and thank you.

And I’d like to sit right here while I drink them, please and thank you. Photo via Facebook

McCrady’s
2 Unity Alley
Charleston, SC 29401
(843)577-0025
McCrady's on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Sweeney’s (Johns Island, SC)

October 25, 2014

Sweeney’s has been on my list for a while now, but for some reason, whenever I found myself on Johns Island, I’d end up eating at Wild Olive or JB’s BBQ (because I’m a creature of habit). This restaurant week, however, I convinced Becca to join me at Sweeney’s for dinner. The atmosphere is cozy and quiet, but we were one of only 3 tables of people in the whole restaurant.

And I am OBSESSED with this patio.

And I am OBSESSED with this patio (via Facebook)

It had been a tough day at the office, so I felt like I was justified in ordering a cocktail. I went with the Appalachian Trail (Midnight Moon Blueberry Moonshine, Lemon and Mint, $9) and it was sooo good.

blueberry-moonshine-cocktail

Dangerously so.

For my appetizer, I opted for the Kale and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad (Apples Walnuts Bleu Cheese and Creamy Citrus Vinaigrette, $9), which was really great. I loved the sweetness of the apples, paired with the tanginess of the blue cheese & kale. This is a winner.

I would definitely order this again.

I would definitely order this again.

Becca decided to try the Tempura Broccolini (Chili Aioli, $7). I’m not a huge fan of tempura in general, but these weren’t bad. I probably wouldn’t order them again, but that’s more of a personal preference. I will say that Sweeney’s version was far less greasy than I’ve had elsewhere, which I appreciated.

And that sauce was pretty yummy, too.

But that chili aioli, though.

For some reason I was also hankering for a bowl of soup, and decided to try the vegetable beef soup ($6). I’m pretty picky when it comes to tomato-based soups, but this one surpassed my expectations with flying colors! It was very fresh tasting and bursting with flavor, and I could tell it was homemade and not from a can.

The only thing Campbell's Soup is good for is pop art.

The only thing Campbell’s Soup is good for is pop art.

For my entree, I opted for the Braised Beef Short Rib (with whipped potato, collard greens, heirloom tomato jam, $25) and it was out of this world. The beef was literally falling apart and the heirloom tomato jam added a nice bit of sweetness to it. I don’t usually like mashed potatoes, because my mother’s have spoiled me, but these were probably just as good as my mom’s (just don’t tell her that).

I want to crawl into that bowl and live there.

I want to crawl into that bowl and live there.

Becca went with the Pan Seared Chicken Breast (Tasso Ham, English Peas, Roasted Mushroom, Angel Hair Pasta and Brown Butter Cream, $20). I stole a bite (or 3), and I have to say, it was pretty dang good. The noodles were cooked perfectly, and the sauce was indulgent without being too heavy.

A big bowl of happiness.

A big bowl of happiness.

For dessert, I ordered the Chocolate Pie (Chocolate Ice Cream and Toasted Marshmallow, $8). It was good, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it the way I was with the rest of the meal.

Note: Don't order this if you don't like marshmallows.

Note: Don’t order this if you don’t like marshmallows.

The only part of the whole meal I have to complain about is that as we were waiting for our dessert to come out, we noticed that the table next to use (who came in right as we received our entrees), received a plate of cornbread after they ordered their meal. After looking around, we noticed that all the other tables in the restaurant had gotten cornbread, but we seemed to have missed the cornbread train. As we were paying our checks, we brought the cornbread situation up to our waiter who apologized profusely for forgetting to bring our cornbread out and happily packed us up some cornbread to go. I was stuffed, so I waited until I got home to try it, and I have to say, it was some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten. Ever. It was sweet, but not too much, and it had a consistency that was almost cakey. It was perfect.

 

I couldn't find a picture of the cornbread, so here's another picture of the patio! via Sweeney's.com

I couldn’t find a picture of the cornbread, so here’s another picture of the patio! via Sweeney’s Website.

Sweeney’s
3157 Maybank Hwy
Johns Island, SC 29455
(843) 559-5633

Sweeney's on Urbanspoon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Minero

October 10, 2014

I’ve been waiting for Minero to open for what feels like my whole life. From the minute I heard that my culinary obsession, Chef Sean Brock, was opening a Mexican restaurant, I knew that was a place I was going to enjoy.

Be still my corazon!

Be still my corazon!

So when I got word that last Friday would be Minero’s official first day, I grabbed Lily and Sheena and forced them to wait 45 minutes for a table in order to try and be one of the first people to try it out. Considering all the hype around the opening, I was surprised the wait was only 45 minutes. While we were sitting outside patiently (and by that I mean “the opposite of patiently”), an older gentleman (who looked not unlike a retired sea captain) who’d just finished his meal stopped to tell us that “it’s defintiely worth the wait. And order el Satánico! Blended!” So when it was finally our turn to be invited in, that was the first thing we did.

As well as the Titán and Dragón Rojo

As well as the Titán and Dragón Rojo

The space is super cool and very inviting. I’m obsessed with the exposed brick, soft lighting, and general earthy feel of the whole place. It’s a little narrow, but the ambiance was spot on for a Friday night dinner. While I was trying to figure out what to order, I noticed Chef Brock walk past our table and let out an audible, involuntary gasp. My hero! In the flesh! Right there! I’m embarrassed that I acted like a 12-year old fan girl, but honestly no one was surprised.

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Full house for the night.

View on Instagram

The menu is relatively short, which I think is a good thing because I was already having a hard enough time deciding on an entree. To start, we ordered the guacamole ($8), which was topped with radish, mexican chili powder, and plenty of cilantro. It was super flavorful and fresh, but a bit on the small side. The tortilla chips were perfect and served in a warm mitten (I don’t know what to call it) and were seasoned well enough to be delicious all on their own. And they better be since he sampled over 40 kinds of corn to perfect them.

guaca-guaca-guaca, mole mole mole. A dip! A dip, dip!

guaca-guaca-guaca, mole mole mole. A dip! A dip, dip!

We also ordered the queso fundido ($9), which is the opposite of the kind of queso that immediately springs to mind (thanks, Moe’s. You’ve ruined me forever). It’s thick and melty and made with smokey roasted poblano, spicy chorizo and meant to be eaten with soft corn tortillas, rather than crispy chips. It was delicious and I think we polished it off mere minutes after it was brought to our table.

You can't go wrong with melted cheese, though, really.

You can’t go wrong with melted cheese, though, really.

Because we had trouble deciding which tacos to order (despite there only being 6 varieties on their menu), we decided to each order 2 and share them so we could get an idea of how each one tasted. Lily picked the fried whiting (pickled green tomato tartar, cabbage, red onion, $4) and the pork carnitas taco (confit, jowl, chicharron, salsa verde ,chilmole, $3.5). They were both delicious, fresh, and flavorful, although if I had to pick a favorite of the two, the carnitas would win hands down.

I don't know if I've ever met a taco I didn't like...

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a taco I didn’t like…

Sheena opted for the grilled steak taco (charred onions and peppers, queso fresco, garlic-amarillo, $4), and the tacos al pastor (marinated and grilled pork, pineapple, avocado, $3.5). The tacos al pastor were awesome with the pineapple, giving a tart and savory flavor to the spiced meat. The steak tacos, though, were out of this world. They were so full of flavor and the meat was tender and juicy…

Dat steak though...

Dat steak though…

I got the final two options, the chargrilled chicken taco (mango, cotija, lime pickled red onion, pasilla de Oaxaca, $3) and the green chorizo taco with potatoes and grilled onions ($4). The chicken tacos had a nice smokey taste from the chargrilling and were very good. However, the chorizo tacos made me stop and close my eyes, chewing slowly so as to really savor the flavor. Each of us had the same reaction. If you’re debating, I definitely recommend the green chorizo taco over all the others.

I'm glad I tried the chicken taco first, or else I would've been super disappointed.

I’m glad I tried the chicken taco first, or else I would’ve been super disappointed.

After our taco feast, we were still a little peckish, so we decided to try the Hotdog confit and deli ham torta (avocado, tomato and chipotle mayo, $9.5), because we were way too intrigued to not try a confit hot dog. I’m so glad we did. The sandwich was huge, but it was unlike anything I’ve ever had. It was topped with some kind of shredded greens (cabbage, I think?), which gave an extra hint of freshness to the salty pork.

Do you see how big this sandwich is??

Do you see how big this sandwich is??

Basically, I want to live in this restaurant. The prices were really reasonable for everything and the quality was top-notch. The service was absolutely awesome, some of the best I’ve ever had. I left feeling like I was best friends with our server by the time we left. In fact, let’s just put a little plaque under table 13 that says “Reserved For The Queen.”

Or just add my name to the sign, that works, too.

Or just add my name to the sign, that works, too.

Minero
155 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 789-2241

Minero on Urbanspoon

 

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Twenty Six Divine

September 26, 2014

One of the best parts of Restaurant week in Charleston is that it always falls on my birthday week, so I end up going out like 4 or 5 times with different friends to celebrate. This year, I had 4 great meals, but my favorite of all the places I tried was Twenty Six Divine! I hadn’t ever even heard of it prior to RW, but I’m officially a fan. Walking up, Sheena and I were delighted by the courtyard, and the interior was small and cozy and felt like we were eating dinner at a friend’s house.

It's like eating dinner in somebody's living room!

Photo Bomb!

When we first sat down, we were greeted by Jennifer Parezo, co-owner & pastry chef (with her husband Enan, who’s the chef). She sat down 2 different kinds of rolls for us to enjoy, and enjoy we did. I loved the hawaiian bread, it tasted similar to the kind you buy in the store, but amplified by about a thousand. So fresh and warm. Mmm… The multigrain roll was also super flavorful and I loved the sunflower seeds on top.

I'll just cancel my entree and eat more bread, please!

I’ll just cancel my entree and eat more bread, please!

For my first course, I went with the Bacon & Avocado Salad (mixed greens, baby tomatoes, goat cheese, avocado, radish, smokey tomato vinaigrette). It was awesome. I love pretty much any salad with bacon or goat cheese in it, and this one had BOTH. The veggies in this salad tasted so fresh, I wonder if they picked them from the garden that morning!

So yummy

I could totally eat this every day.

Sheena got the White Bean Zucchini Cakes, which came with red pepper coulis and more fresh baby tomatoes. They came out looking like mini crab cakes and had similar consistency, but the flavor was totally unique. I wish I could figure out how to make them because they were so simple, but also so full of taste.

And that sauce!

And that sauce! I’m in heaven.

After they cleared out our appetizers, we were each given an amuse bouche of a little cheesy pastry, and it was soooo good. I could’ve eaten a whole basket of those. And they served it on one of those individual soup spoons and it was just too cute.

But 20 in a basket would be even better! #Addicted

But 20 in a basket would be even better! #Addicted

For my entree, I debated furiously between the pork dish and the lamb dish. In the end, my southern side won out and no one was surprised when I ordered the Slow Cooked BBQ Pulled Pork (pork shoulder, collards, petite jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins, smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese). The pulled pork was served wrapped in the collard greens like a paleo burrito, and it was unique and totally delicious. I loved the tanginess of the BBQ sauce paired with the collard greens. And that macaroni…. So good.

And who doesn't love a tower of jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins??

And who doesn’t love a tower of jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins??

Sheena opted to be a little healthier than I, and chose the Cilantro-Lime Seared Mahi Mahi (roasted chayote squash, Carolina gold rice cake, mango buerre blanc). I’m not crazy about fish, but I loved this mahi. It was so full of flavor and was cooked perfectly and cilantro-lime of the fish struck the perfect balance with the mango buerre blanc.

Meals like these make me wish I'd continued on with culinary school.

Meals like these make me wish I’d continued on with culinary school.

For dessert, I was lured into ordering the Chocolate Mousse Cake by the promise of Salted caramel that accompanied the buttermilk chocolate cake and the dark chocolate mousse filling. It was super rich, but super delicious. Everything you want from chocolate cake.

With the added bonus of salted caramel!

With the added bonus of salted caramel!

Sheena, being a pastry chef herself, was ready to judge the crap out of the Mixed Berry Ricotta Tart she ordered for dessert, but ended up singing its praises. The light fluffy vanilla tart was the perfect counterpoint to my rich chocolate cake.

And how cute is that plate?!

And how cute is that plate?!

Once we were stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable, we were given a tiny 2nd dessert of mini apple tartlets which Sheena and I couldn’t stop raving about. She loved that they used nutmeg, rather than cinnamon which gave it a really unique taste and differentiated it from a standard apple pie. I hope these are on the regular menu, because they were so yummy!

And so cute and mini!

And so cute and mini!

I can’t wait to come back and try them out for brunch when I can sit out on this little terrace they have out back. Thanks for the great meal Jenn & Enan!

I can already see myself sitting right there, drinking a cup of coffee, lamenting my hangover.

I can already see myself sitting right there, drinking a cup of coffee, lamenting my hangover.

Twenty Six Divine
682 King St
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 297-8118
Twenty Six Divine on Urbanspoon

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