Archive for Restaurant Reviews

Desano Pizza Bakery

Recently, I met up with Laura and Lauren from Blue Ion for lunch. I picked Desano because I’d been wanting to try it, and boy, am I glad we did. The place was relatively empty when we first got there, but we were impressed with the size of the space and how immaculately clean and inviting it was. It had a very interesting feel about it; it felt at once brand new and years old, which was strangely calming.

Then again, we were 2 beers deep, so that could've had something to do with it...

Then again, we were 2 beers deep, so that could’ve had something to do with it…Photo from Urbanspoon

When you first arrive, you order at the counter and then wait for your food in the dining room. The lady who was working the counter (whose name I’m sad to say that I don’t remember) was really funny and helped us make the perpetually difficult decision of which pizza to order. She also let us know that all of the ingredients they use to make their pizza–from the flour they use to make the dough, the salt they use to season it, and the buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes that top their pizzas are all flown in fresh from Italy. And their pizza dough is made fresh daily in small batches. And their three pizza ovens (which were also imported from Italy) can cook your pizza in under 90 seconds. Like, whoa. What is this place?

It's blurry because this place really is like a dream. A delicious, pizza dream.

It’s blurry because eating at Desano is like a dream. A delicious, pizza dream.

Some of the ingredients, like Peppadew, we’d never heard of, and she patiently explained to us exactly what everything was (a peppadew is like if “a sweet pepper and a cherry tomato had a baby that was kind of sweet and spicy all at the same time”), and made some genius recommendations.

For reference. Sidenote: They sell these at Whole Foods stuffed with goat cheese, and they are positively sinful.

For reference. Sidenote: They sell these at Whole Foods stuffed with goat cheese, and they are positively sinful.

We started with the San Gennaro pizza (sausage, peppadew, garlic, buffalo mozzarella, caramelized onions, $15), which also shares a name with one of their 3 pizza ovens. The crust is Napoletana-style, which means thin crusts and a nice char, which is refreshin and different. The pizza was so good, I can’t even explain it accurately. It had a great mixture of spicy (from the sausage) and sweet (from the peppadew and onions) and cheesy (from the mozzarella and garlic). It was perfection.

I might actually go eat this for lunch today #noshame

I might actually go eat this for lunch today #noshame

The other pizza we ordered was the Bianca (Mozzarella, ricotta, buffalo mozzarella, garlic, pecorino romano, $13). I’m a little obsessed with white pizzas and have yet to find one in Charleston that lives up to the amazing white pizza I’ve had in Boston. This one definitely came the closest. It is freaking delicious. La, you might even convert from the Gourmet White at Mellow (although, you never really will, let’s be serious). I can’t wait til my mom is off of her HCG diet so I can take her here and have her try it. She’s also a white pizza snob. It was cheesy, garlicky, and delicious and I would even go so far as to say that it’s the best white pizza in Charleston.

I changed my mind. I might go eat this for lunch. #CantMakeDecisions

I changed my mind. I might go eat this for lunch. #CantMakeDecisions

After eating a bunch of pizza and drinking beer, you’d think our gluttony would be satisfied, but you’d be wrong. Did I mention that Desano hand fills cannoli? Because they do. And they let you choose from a variety of toppings and it is glorious. Since we were practically the only people in there, the counter girl made us a custom cannoli based on her favorite toppings. I don’t remember what it was, except that it was delicious and had I not been disgustingly full, I would’ve ordered another.

She's like a magical cannoli wizard.

She’s like a magical cannoli wizard.

The level of service at Desano was also exceptional. From the moment we walked in, we felt like they actually cared about us having a positive experience. While we were waiting for our pizzas to come out, one of the guys from the kitchen came out to apologize and say that they’d overcooked one of our pizzas and were making us a whole new pizza. They brought out the overcooked one anyway, so we essentially got a whole pizza for free (and we didn’t even ask or complain or anything!). Plus, even though they sell alcohol, they’re totally fine with you BYOB and don’t even charge you a corkage fee! That’s some excellent customer service right there.

These ovens are serious business. Photo from the Charleston City Paper

These ovens are serious business. Photo from the Charleston City Paper

DeSano Pizza Bakery
94 Stuart St.
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 637-4225
DeSano Pizza Bakery on Urbanspoon

Rutledge Cab Company

I was really excited for Rutledge Cab Company. I really wanted to like it. I mean, how could you go wrong? Chef Bob Carter! Old gas station! Good reviews! Unfortunately, despite the fact that I was desperately hoping to love it, it just didn’t really turn out well.

Yeah, basically this.

Yeah, basically this.

First of all, I’ll go with something positive. The service was spot on. Our waitress was really awesome and very patient with us, and made lots of recommendations (which we ignored). We started with an order of the Chicken Fried Sweetbreads (Alabama white sauce, $11). We were trying to be adventurous since neither of us had had sweetbreads before. I think I would’ve liked them a lot more had they not totally covered it in this overpowering smoked paprika.

Chicken fried sweetbreads

Turns out sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread.

Our second appetizer was the Fried Cheese Curd (Green goddess-horseradish dressing, $9). Again with the paprika. Seriously. I would’ve loved these if not for that. They weren’t very cheesy flavored as you’d expect because they’re just the curd (I was expecting it to taste like fried white cheddar bites. Definitely did not). The ones that I had that weren’t covered in paprika were delicious.

I mean, fried cheese is going to be good no matter what it's made of.

I mean, fried cheese is going to be good no matter what it’s made of.

For her entree, Tina got the BLT Benedict (Smoked bacon, English muffin, wilted spinach and tomato-bacon hollandaise, $13). She liked it ok, but wasn’t a fan of the hollandaise. I thought it tasted almost licorice-y, which was a really strange combo.

Oh look! The potatoes have some paprika on them in case you hadn't already gotten enough paprika with your paprika.

Oh look! The potatoes have some paprika on them in case you hadn’t already gotten enough paprika with your paprika.

I got the Roasted Lamb Sandwich (Havarti cheese, pickled cabbage and toasted hoagie, $13.50), which I actually really enjoyed. I thought it was really good. My only complaint was that I think they either over toasted the hoagie, or that it was stale before they toasted it. You know how when you over toast bread it gets that same consistency as styrofoam? Not my favorite. But other than that, the sandwich was delicious. The lamb was tender and flavorful, and I loved the pickled cabbage. I wasn’t a huge fan of the fries, which tasted like they’d been batter dipped before they were fried. Which seems kind of unnecessary.

It was almost like a lamb &

It was almost like a lamb & pickled cabbage philly cheesesteak. Delish

Overall we were pretty disappointed. Thinking maybe we just ordered the wrong things, we decided to try one of the things our waitress originally recommended, the Grilled Vegetable Flatbread (Smoked onion aioli, olive tapenade, parmesan and fresh herbs, $9). I thought it was just ok, but then again, I don’t really like olive tapenade. Tina wasn’t into it at all.

And it was just about as delicious as it looks.

And it was just about as delicious as it looks.

The space is super cool, so I wouldn’t mind going just to hang out & drink, but I’m definitely not in a hurry to eat there again.

From the Rutledge Cab Co. website

From the Rutledge Cab Co. website

Rutledge Cab Co.
1300 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC ‎
(843) 720-1440

Rutledge Cab Company on Urbanspoon

Leaf Café

So this is going to be a shorter review. I’m just getting over bronchitis, so I’ve been pretty housebound and not inspired to write much. But I feel indebted to you guys since I didn’t do a quote this week or a review last week. So, enjoy! I went to Leaf last week with Laura because I hadn’t seen her in a million bajillion years and we’ve both undergone some changes recently, so it was a good time to dish and commiserate.

snarksnarksnark

snarksnarksnark

We decided on Leaf because it was close, and cheap, and I really wanted a sandwich. The space at Leaf is really cool, and I like it more than when it was Vickery’s (plus it’s lacking that weird smell that the bar area always seemed to have). It was a nice day, so we decided to sit on the patio.

Look how pretty! Thanks for the picture, Susan Lucas!

Look how pretty! Thanks for the picture, Susan Lucas!

Laura got the Southern Fried Chicken sandwich (potato fried chicken, tomato, greens, creole aioli on whole wheat roll, $9) with a side of parmesan truffle fries and a sweet tea. The I tried a piece of her chicken, and it was really yummy; nice and crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside. The sandwich was a monster, and she had a hard time eating it, but she liked it a lot.

I mean, look at how tall it is. Like a chicken wearing a hat.

I mean, look at how tall it is. Like a chicken wearing a hat.

I got the Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese ( burgundy braised beef, manchego and gruyere cheeses served on tuscan sourdough, with a delicious jus of mushroom tea and beef demi glacé for dipping, $11). I also got it with a side of parmesan truffle fries. I loved this sandwich. It was everything I wanted it to be. The jus was the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich and I enjoyed every bite. The parmesan truffle fries were good as well, although not out of the norm for Charleston.

I promise there's a sandwich buried under all those fries.

I promise there’s a sandwich buried under all those fries.

All in all, I enjoyed my lunch at Leaf. The service left a little something to be desired, but the food made up for that. I’d definitely eat here again!

From the Leaf website

From the Leaf website

Leaf Cafe
15 Beaufain St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 793-2230
Leaf on Urbanspoon

Oak Steakhouse

My final restaurant week visit was with my roommate, Regina, to Oak Steakhouse. I’ve been wanting to try Oak for a while now, curious to see if it could beat out my beloved Halls Chophouse (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).  I know that most people say that you shouldn’t judge a restaurant based on Restaurant Week, but I think that’s just BS. If they can’t produce quality food during RW, then they just shouldn’t participate.

Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

We started off with the spicy strawberry margarita, which definitely lived up to its name. So. Spicy. It was good, but we had to have them tone it down a little bit because we’re wimps. My mother would’ve loved it though.

More like StrawBURNy margarita.

More like StrawBURNy margarita.

After we placed our orders, we were brought some bread and butter. It was good bread, I have to say. Nice and warm, and salty, very similar to the benne seed rolls at Husk. And the butter tasted like butter..so there’s that.

Bread and butter are my bread and butter.

Bread and butter are my bread and butter.

For my starter, I got the wedge of Kurios Farms Bibb Lettuce Salad (local grape tomatoes, bacon lardons, creamy danish bleu dressing, regularly $10). Bibb wedge salads are not actually anything like your typical wedge salad (it’s just the nature of the beast), so I’ve learned not to be disappointed when I order a Bibb “wedge” salad and it comes out as basically just a bunch of lettuce leaves stacked on top of each other. But it tastes delicious!

Kind of like Lincoln Logs, but with lettuce and bacon.

Kind of like Lincoln Logs, but with lettuce and bacon and significantly less fiber.

Regina got the Vidalia onion bisque (lump crab, bacon crumble), which apparently was a special restaurant week thing. It was weird. Neither of us particularly cared for it. I get that vidalia onions are sweet, but this was ridiculous. It was overly sweet for a savory dish and I didn’t think that the flavors melded well together. Glad it’s not on the regular menu, because I would not order that again.

It seems like a lot of soup until you realize that the bowl is only like half an inch in depth.

It seems like a lot of soup until you realize that the bowl is only like half an inch in depth.

For entrees, I got the Certified Angus Beef Filet Mignon with whipped potatoes, spinach, petite carrots, and Oak’s housemade steak sauce. Being a renowned steakhouse, I was really looking forward to it. I even ordered it medium because everyone gets mad when I order it medium well (because apparently there’s some rule leftover from caveman days where your meat still has to be bleeding when you eat it, or you’re an uncultured swine). When it came out, I was upset to see that they’d precut my filet. Part of the satisfaction of ordering a steak is cutting it at the table and watching the juices ooze out onto your plate. Because they’d precut it, when I went to eat it, my steak was already cold, like it had been sitting out for a while, and not under a heat lamp. This was only emphasized by the fact that Regina’s food came out steaming for a good 5 minutes. I was also bothered by the “smear” of potatoes I got on my plate. I’m all about good plating, but this was ridiculous.

I think they really took that "Lincoln log" comment to heart with those carrots.

I think they really took that “Lincoln log” comment to heart with those carrots.

Regina got the pork shank served with sweet potato puree, braised greens, sweet apple and peach chutney. She replaced the sweet potato puree with roasted corn maque choux, by telling them she had an allergy, because they didn’t allow substitutions, which again, just bothers me. (I hate chefs that get so hoity toity about their food that they don’t let you substitute stuff. Yes, I get that some people like to make like 15 substitutions, and those people suck, but if you’re like me and you abhor mushrooms, AND you’re paying upwards of $40 dollars a plate, you shouldn’t be forced to eat them. I think this might have been another RW thing, where they already had everything premade and didn’t want to have to make real food for people who were only paying the RW price. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox for real now, I promise.) The pork shank was awesome and fell right off the bone. The maque choux was super tasty and I’d definitely order this dish again. Basically, I was really jealous of Regina’s meal.

Plus, she got like 100% more food than I did.

Plus, she got like 100% more food than I did.

I also couldn’t resist ordering a side of the smokey bacon macaroni and cheese, $8.50. I mean, smoked bacon macaroni and cheese sounds delicious. I thought it was pretty good, but was a little disappointed in the cheese sauce. It was a little too creamy and not quite cheesy enough, but that didn’t stop me from devouring it. I’d probably still order that again. I like it better than Halls Chophouse’s mac & cheese and that’s about the only leg up that Oak got over Halls during this meal.

I'm really bad at Mac & Cheese photography. What's up with that.

I’m really bad at Mac & Cheese photography. What’s up with that.

The dessert that came with the RW menu was “S’mores” with dark chocolate mousse, graham crackers, taosted marshmallow, and salted caramel. It was weird, but I liked it. The graham cracker wasn’t like normal graham cracker, I’d say it was more like a nilla wafer (but like a rock hard version). I thought the combination was really interesting. Regina wasn’t a huge fan of the dessert, and although I can’t say it’s my new favorite thing, I thought it was pretty good.

Now this is pretty plating.

Now this is pretty plating.

Oak definitely didn’t live up to my expectations, but it had enough potential that I might be willing to give them another chance (on someone else’s dime, of course, that place is expensive).

Does anyone else think that tree looks more like a mushroom than an oak?

Does anyone else think that tree looks more like a mushroom than an oak? (photo: from Oak Steakhouse)

Oak Steakhouse
17 Broad St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 722-4220
Oak Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Lana Restaurant & Bar

Another one of my restaurant week stops was with my Irish friend Sheena at Lana Restaurant & Bar, a mediterranean and southern-style restaurant downtown. The space is pretty small, and we were tightly packed in. Like, really tightly.

Basically the seating arrangement version of this.

Basically the seating arrangement version of this.

After placing our orders, our waitress brought us some bread served with probably the best olive oil I’ve ever had. I don’t know what made it so good, but you could definitely taste the quality.

Apparently the greener, the tastier.

Apparently the greener, the tastier.

To start, I ordered the lamb spanikopita (ground lamb, spinach, goat and feta cheese, wrapped in phyllo, tzatziki, tomato–mint relish, $10.00), even though it wasn’t on the restaurant week menu. It came out more like a Greek-inspired lamb egg roll, but it was still pretty freaking delicious. I would definitely order that again.

I like most things in egg roll form.

I like most things in egg roll form.

For the RW appetizer, Sheena and I both opted for the gnocchi amatriciana (spicy tomato ragu, pancetta, caramelized onions). Not sure if this is on the regular menu, or if it was special for RW, but this was some of the best  gnocchi I’ve had in Charleston. The sauce was perfect, and the gnocchi were nice and light–they practically melted in your mouth. Mmmm…

Yes. They consider this an appetizer.

Yes. They consider this an appetizer.

The menu was really nice at Lana. They didn’t limit you to just the restaurant week main courses–you basically got to choose any main course you wanted. I stuck to the RW-specific offerings, as I wanted to try something new. I opted for the braised short ribs with roasted potatoes, roasted vidalia onions, and arugula romesco sauce. The ribs were a little dry, and it weirded me out that there wasn’t actually a bone, but they were delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed my main course.

Except I'm still not sure how I feel about romesco sauce.

Except I’m still not sure how I feel about Romesco sauce.

Sheena ordered off the regular menu and got the duck (seared duck breast, leg confit, corn, summer beans, leeks, peach glaze, $24.50). The confit was a little salty for my liking, but that breast was out of this world (that’s what she said??). I would recommend this dish for the duck breast alone. I also was a huge fan of the summer bean succotash thing they did.

The breast is the part that's all cut up, in case you were confused.

The breast is the part that’s all cut up, in case you were confused.

For dessert, I got the chocolate cake (devilish chocolate cake, espresso gelato). It was ok. Nothing special.

Yep. Looks like chocolate cake.

Yep. Looks like chocolate cake.

Sheena got the olive oil cake (lemon olive oil cake, warm berry compote). Now that’s a dessert. I don’t know if it was just because they used that awesome olive oil, or what, but I loved this cake. It was sooo yummy. The berry compote was a great accompaniment and the flavors did a great job of complementing each other.

And plus it looks like a little castle!

And plus it looks like a little castle!

I was really impressed with Lana, especially given the fact that it was Restaurant Week. That makes me want to go back again to see how they do on a normal night. I think when I go back I’ll try the pork (scaloppini pork tenderloin, tomato-caper butter, parmesan risotto, $20.00), which I think sounds outstanding. I love pork scaloppini.

Brought to you by Google Maps and ADT

Brought to you by Google Maps and ADT

Lana Restaurant & Bar
210 Rutledge Ave
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 720-8899

Lana Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Carter’s Kitchen

For restaurant week, Lily and I decided to try out Carter’s Kitchen out in I’on in Mount Pleasant. I’d tried Peninsula Grill a couple years back right before Chef Robert Carter left and was not super impressed with the food that we got. I’ve heard such good things about Carter’s Kitchen, however, that I was willing to give it a try. It took a lot of driving around Stepford I’on before we finally found the restaurant, and then it took some more driving around before we finally found parking.

Those two guys are most definitely robots.

Those two guys are most definitely robots.

The restaurant is located within the Inn at I’On, and is relatively small, but still has a very homey feel about it. Idk, maybe it’s the tan walls.

Hmm... now that I'm looking at it, those walls are a little too skin colored for my taste.

Hmm… now that I’m looking at it, those walls are kind of skin colored (image: Dining Around Charleston)

I had been all excited to try the apple-pumpkin bisque they had listed on their restaurant week menu online, but when we got there we saw that they’d replaced it with a boring tomato bisque, which I thought it tasted like Campbell’s Soup (i.e. not was I was paying $40 to eat). Lily said I was being judgy and that I always think tomato soups taste like Campbell’s, but then I saw another lady on OpenTable said the same exact thing, so now I feel validated.

Pictured: disappointment soup.

Pictured: disappointment soup.

For Lily’s appetizer, she got the “Country Ham Crumb Crusted Seared Scallops with Melted Leeks and Orange Butter,” which she raved and raved about. She only got three on the plate, and although they were decently sized, that’s still not a ton of food. Luckily, she cut me off a bite so I could try it (it was delicious).

Not the best photo, I know, but beggars can't be choosers!

Not the best photo, I know, but beggars can’t be choosers!

For my entree, I opted for the braised short rib with truffle grits and spinach pie. The short rib was awesome, the meat fell off the bone and was super juicy. The spinach pie was probably the weirdest thing I’ve eaten in a while and was unlike any spinach pie I’ve ever had. I really don’t know how to describe it. Those grits, man. Those were the ticket. I’d go back again just for those (but, joke’s on me, because they’re not on the regular menu).

You can tell from this picture just how weird that pie is. Delicious, but weird all the same.

You can tell from this picture just how weird that pie is. Delicious, but weird all the same.

Lily opted for the stuffed quail served on fresh pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms. I thought the portions were pretty good, and the quail tasted great. I even liked the noodles in the mushroom sauce. All in all, I was very impressed with our entrees.

Is it just me, or do they kind of look like the old Muppet guys?

Is it just me, or do they kind of look like the old Muppet guys in the theater?

For dessert, I got the coconut cake (I mean, it’s Bob Carter. Of course I get the coconut cake). And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Not in the least. The cake was moist and flavorful and deliciously coconut-ty, and the frosting was perfect–not too sweet. This made the whole trip worth it.

And, obviously, the cake was the best picture I took...

And, obviously, the cake was the best picture I took…

Lily got the other dessert, just so we could try it. It was a lemon tart topped with lots of meringue (and I mean lots), served with a side of strawberry compote. It was really good. I loved the tanginess contrasted with the sweetness…although I could’ve gone for a little less meringue.

It really should read "meringue, served with a side of lemon tart"

It really should read “meringue, served with a side of lemon tart”

Overall, I’d say I had a pleasant experience at Carter’s Kitchen. I think I’d be willing to go back and give it another shot to blow my socks off (for the coconut cake, if nothing else). If you’re in the Mount Pleasant area, looking for a good dinner spot, I’d recommend looking into Carter’s Kitchen.

Just remember to watch for robots. (image: Carter's Kitchen)

Just remember to watch for robots. (image: Carter’s Kitchen)

Carter’s Kitchen
148 Civitas St
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 284-0840

Carter's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Persimmon Cafe

I had the pleasure of getting lunch with some of my old work colleagues, Lauren and Laura this week. I’d been wanting to try Persimmon for a while now, and this seemed like a golden opportunity. The space is kind of off-beat–I mean, who would think to put a cafe inside of a laundromat? But for some reason, it works. It really does.

It would never really work the other way around, though.

Although, it would never really work the other way around.

The menu is simple and contains just the right number of choices so as not to leave you overwhelmed. That being said, I still debated what I was going to get for a good 5 minutes before finally opting for the Adult Grilled Cheese (smoke Gouda, green apple, prosciutto & cheddar, $6.75). When you pulled the sandwich apart it was nice and melty and cheesy. I really liked the apple in the sandwich, it added a level of freshness that I never would’ve thought of. My only complaint was that the Gouda could have been melted a little more. But other than that, it was perfect.

Melted cheese is my kryptonite.

Melted cheese is my kryptonite.

For $2.25 extra, you can get a side item and a drink with your sandwich. So obviously I did that.  There were only three choices for a side–carrot ginger coleslaw, pasta salad, or chips. Even though I don’t usually like pasta salad I decided to go with that just to see how it was. And I’m so glad I did, because it was outstanding. I don’t think it was mayo based like some pasta salads, and it had (what I’m pretty sure was) fresh feta cheese. So yummy.

Not-melted cheese is also my kryptonite.

Not-melted cheese is also my kryptonite.

They have a really interesting selection of homemade drinks, like vanilla lemonade, basil limeade, and rosemary lemon tea. I went with the tea, which was surprisingly delicious and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I wish I knew how to make it at home. It was so good.

I like it when you put stuff into tea to make it taste less like tea.

I like it when you put stuff into tea to make it taste less like tea.

Lauren got the Summertime Ham and Cheese sandwich (peach-ginger marmalade, dijon, ham, and havarti cheese, $6.75). She let me have a bite (how nice!), and I really liked it, which surprised me because ham isn’t usually my favorite. But something about that marmalade just made that sandwich. She also got the combo with the pasta salad, but she got the basil limeade. It was super sweet, but also super delicious.

Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong

Ham-a-lam-a-ding-dong

Laura’s sandwich was my favorite of the three, I think. She got the curry chicken sandwich (red onions, curry chicken salad, and golden raisins, $7.50). I’m a sucker for curry chicken, so that’s probably why I liked this one the best. I’d probably get that again if I went back.

Mo' curry, mo' better.

Mo’ curry, mo’ better.

I can’t wait to go back. I really want to try the vanilla lemonade and their selection of custards (burnt marshmallow and Nutella, anyone??). I highly recommend you check this place out if you haven’t already.

It almost makes me want to start going to the laundromat... almost.

It almost makes me want to start going to the laundromat… almost.

Persimmon Cafe
226 Calhoun Street
Charleston, SC
843.937.5399

Persimmon Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cru Cafe

Cru is in a little historic house off of Market Street downtown Charleston. The house is really cute, but when you come in the front door, they only have one room for seating, so they have as many tables and chairs shoved in there as possible. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to eat when crammed into a tiny space with a bunch of strangers, sitting so close that you can’t help but overhear everything that everyone is saying in the whole restaurant, then Cru is definitely the place for you.

Basically this.

Basically this. Minus the dog.

But enough about the atmosphere, let’s move on to the food. We got some bread before our appetizers, which was very good. I would’ve liked it a if they’d toasted it a bit, but it was still good.

Yup. Looks like bread.

Yup. Looks like bread.

We started with the fried green tomatoes with smoked pork belly and feta cheese ($10.50). Phenomenal. Seriously, probably the best FGT I’ve ever had. And the smoked pork belly was out of this world. Seriously, I’d go back just for these puppies.

That smoked pork belly might actually be ambrosia.

That smoked pork belly might actually be ambrosia.

We also got the pecan fried brie with fig compote and local honey ($10.25). I managed to get one bite of it before he demolished it all. That one bite was quite tasty, and judging from the way he “forgot” to share, he really enjoyed it as well.

Ben ate it so fast I didn't get a picture. Picture courtesy of Loo on Urbanspoon.

He ate it so fast I didn’t get a picture. Picture courtesy of Loo on Urbanspoon.

For my entree, I got the center cut Tuna steak, medium rare ($28). I thought it was good (not great), but that was probably my own fault. Everyone says you should get it rare, but I’m one of those weird people who like it more on the “well-done” side. I got it medium rare because the waiter insisted that any higher is blasphemy. I think I would’ve loved it had I gotten it cooked the way I wanted it to. The lady at the table next to us loved hers though, so I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference.

It looks so good, though.

It looks so good, though.

The person I was with got the BBQ Berkshire Pork Osso Bucco with Mepkin Oyster Mushrooms and Haricot Vert, Mash Potato, Smoked Tomato Demi ($23.95). It was really delicious. The pork literally fell off the bone and the mashed potato tasted homemade. He loved it and he had enough to take home extras.

Pork shoulder never looked so good.

Pork shoulder never looked so good.

We also ordered some sides to split. The first was Cru’s famous four cheese macaroni ($8.50). Made with orecchiette, cheddar, pepper jack, fontina, and mozzarella. It was killer. Really, really good.

Cheesy goodness.

Cheesy goodness.

The only thing we were disappointed with during the whole meal was the truffle parmesan fries ($6). Shoestring fries with truffle and parmesan were just not on par with the rest of the meal. Something about the shoestring fries felt cheap, definitely not worth $6.

They neglect to tell you that they bring you a mountain-sized portion of fries.

They neglect to tell you that they bring you a mountain-sized portion of fries.

If you haven’t been to Cru Cafe yet, I highly recommend you go. I for one, can’t wait to go back.

Photo courtesy of dilwyne designs

Photo courtesy of Dilwyne Designs

Cru Cafe
18 Pinckney St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 534-2434

Cru Cafe on Urbanspoon

Happy Dog, Cleveland, OH

While staying in Cleveland in July, we were sitting in our hotel room watching Food Network (because we’re a bunch of lardo’s) when a commercial came on for “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” We were about to turn off the tv and walk out the door, when Michael Symon came on and said the best thing he ever ate was a hot dog from Happy Dog in Cleveland. Sean and I immediately looked at each other as a plan quickly formed in our brains.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of "good" ideas, though.

We have lots of ideas. Not a lot of “good” ideas, though.

The space is very divey. You can tell this is more of a place to go at night (they have a stage setup for live music), so it looked kind of empty in the daylight. When you sit down, there are long, thin sheets of paper with all the toppings and sauces you can get on your hot dog. Their housemade quarter pound hot dog costs $5, but you get unlimited toppings, so I think that totally makes up for it. When you flip the paper over, you have a choice between fries and tater tots, and the list of all the toppings you can get on those. Basically it was my dream restaurant.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

So. Many. Delicious. Choices.

I was a little overwhelmed at first, because there are so many choices. I ended up ordering my hot dog with pimento mac and cheese (of course), bleu cheese coleslaw, caramelized onions, bacon, and roasted garlic aioli. I was a little worried that it was going to be too many flavors for one hot dog, but the chef managed to balance the distribution of everything really well. I loved it.

There's macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

There’s macaroni and cheese on my hot dog. Did I mention that this is my dream restaurant??

I stayed pretty basic with my tater tots (because you know I love me some tater tots) and just got them with nacho cheese sauce and bacon.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Sorry for the poor quality. I was trying to eat and take pictures at the same time.

Ben was brave and ordered the Michael Symon “Best Thing I Ever Ate” dog which has alien relish, chunky peanut butter, and sriracha hot sauce. As weird as it sounds, it was actually delicious. The peanut butter was not sweet at all, so it really complemented the other flavors of the dog.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben is slightly better at eating and taking pictures at the same time.

Ben, longing for his homeland, also got the “poutine” fries, which are fries topped with bacon, feta cheese, and beef gravy. Though it wasn’t authentic Canadian poutine, it was still pretty darn good, so no complaints here.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

I could eat like 3 of those right now.

Sean built his own dog and topped it with bourbon baked beens, pimento mac and cheese, and bacon spiked southern style greens. It was very much a southern hot dog. The bite I had was delish. He also got fries, but kept them pretty basic with cheese and bacon.

Bourbon baked beans are my friend.

I promise there’s a hot dog under all that macaroni

Christine got a very Christine hot dog, topped with cucumbers, caramelized onions, and brazilian chimichurri.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I'm not sure.

Christine is kind of strange. But I love her anyway. Or maybe because of that. I’m not sure.

The one thing I thought was kind of weird was that instead of putting the sauces onto your hot dog, they brought them all out at once on a tray, so you can put it on yourself depending on how much you want. So we ended up getting 4 people’s worth of sauces brought out at once, without any idea which sauce belonged to which person (especially since we all had short term memory loss and forgot which sauces we all ordered once they took our papers away).

Saucepacalypse!

Saucepacalypse!

They also have a ton of beers on tap, including a few that they brew in-house. We got a pint of the chocolate peanut butter cup porter, and it was really yummy.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

Mac and cheese hot dogs?Peanut butter cup beer? This place is heaven.

All in all I really enjoyed this place and would totally go back again next time I’m in Cleveland. Thanks for the recommendation, Mr. Symon!

I definitely left happy.

I definitely left happy.

Happy Dog
5801 Detroit Ave
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 651-9474

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

Lucky’s Cafe, Cleveland, OH

In honor of my cousin Dalton’s graduation, I drove up to Cleveland with Ben, Sean, and Christine (a relationship hasn’t been truly tested until you spend 11 hours in a car with them). Before we left, I did a lot of research on what restaurants in the Cleveland area Guy Fieri has been to on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and found Lucky’s Cafe. After watching a clip from the episode where Guy tries their biscuits and gravy, I was set on going.

Just call me "Queen Fieri"

Just call me “Queen Fieri”

The space is really cute. It’s a little cafe in a house in Tremont, and our waitress informed us that all of their food is locally sourced. I got coffee, which was served in this big, colorful mug. It was all very homey feeling. To start, I also got a bowl of curry cauliflower soup, which was very yummy. My only complaint was that it came out lukewarm, when I was hoping for it to be hot.

It's still yummy though.

It’s still yummy though.

For my entree, I chose to go with the Baked Mac-n-Cheese (cheddar, brie, parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses baked with pasta and cream topped with brioche bread crumbs served with house-made applesauce, $11.25). I added bacon for an extra $1.50, bringing the total for this dish to $12.75, which is kind of crazy. But the portion was big, and I ended up eating it for 2 meals, so I guess that makes it less bad. The waiter recommended mixing the applesauce with the macaroni, and at first I was hesitant, but let me tell you it was amazing. I highly recommend you try it.

Definitely the best Applesauce Mac and Cheese I've ever had.

Definitely the best Applesauce Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had.

The rest of the group ordered the Biscuits (cheddar scallion biscuits topped with soft scrambled eggs and sausage gravy served with hash brown potatoes and grapes). Thanks to Lost Dog Cafe, I hold all biscuits and gravy to a very high standard, and although these weren’t better than Lost Dog, they were really good. I liked that the biscuits were cheddar and scallion, which was a nice twist on the usual buttermilk style. The sausage gravy was outstanding, and the eggs were perfectly cooked. The hash browns were definitely more like home fries, but they were delicious, especially with the gravy.

I've never really met a plate of Biscuits I didn't like.

I’ve never really met a plate of Biscuits I didn’t like.

Despite the fact that my meal ended up being $27, I still really enjoyed this cafe and would definitely stop by again.

It's much prettier on the inside, I promise.

It’s much prettier on the inside, I promise.

Lucky’s Cafe
777 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 622-7773

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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