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Queen on the Road Restaurant Reviews

Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee Part 2: Georgia’s

June 23, 2017

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a 4-day stay at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. This is part 2 of a 3-part series. For more about my experience, read my review of Gaby’s By The Lake.

Keep in mind that this meal was complimentary and that for official review purposes, I tasted smaller portions of the menu. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Georgia’s

A slightly more upscale, but still casual offering is Georgia’s. They just brought in a new chef (Shaun Thomas) and did a rebrand of their menu and the restaurant itself, so I was one of the first to try everything the new restaurant had to offer. I visited for dinner and for breakfast and both meals were fantastic.

Dinner

As soon as I sat down for dinner, I was greeted with an adorable bread basket, which consisted of a salted yeast roll, cheddar bacon biscuit, and cornbread with whipped butter and jam. They were all delicious in their own right, but my favorite was probably the cornbread, which had just a hint of sweetness to it and practically melted in your mouth.

Although it’s rare for me to meet a bread basket I don’t like.

For dinner, I tried a number of things, but my favorite–by far–was the She Crab Soup (Lemon Yogurt, Chives, normal portion: $12). I sometimes tend to be wary of she crab soups, because people can be a little heavy handed with the sherry, which is not my favorite flavor, but this was perfection. It was creamy and had a nice depth of flavor that was balanced out by the lemon. A perfect cup of soup.

More like “ME crab soup,” amirite??

Because I was officially receiving tasting sizes of the different menu items, they brought out this adorable wooden board of appetizers, which consisted of the tomato salad (Duke’s Mayo, Red Wine Vinegar, Cucumber, Red Onion and Basil, Georgia Olive Oil, normal portion: $9), and Southern spreads with grilled bread (Tomme Pimento, Peanut Hummus, Georgia Olive Oil, normal portion: $10). The

I’ll take 3 more of these please.

The Seafood Purloo (Carolina Gold Rice, Local Oysters, Shrimp and Crab, Shellfish Stock, normal portion: $26) was absolutely fantastic. I was worried it was going to be overly fishy, but it was really well-balanced without being overwhelming. Plus, the rice was cooked perfectly!

Rice is the best because it basically just becomes whatever you cook it with.

The Meatloaf (Sparta Mushroom Gravy, Spicy Ketchup Glaze, Whipped Mash, normal portion: $18) was good also. My portion had crispy bacon wrapped around the outside, which gave a little smokiness to the meat, which harmonized well with the sweet and spiciness of the ketchup glaze.

Idk why meatloaf gets such a bad rep when it’s so delicious!

One dish that really surprised me was the Charred Okra (tomato jam, lemon, $5). I tend to think that okra is best either pickled or fried, so I had kind of low expectations for this dish. But in reality, it was exceptional! Charring the okra took out a lot of that signature sliminess, while adding in just the right amount of smoky flavor from the char. Plus, the tomato jam is my new jam (pun intended); I wish I could put it on everything!

Because you’re not truly a Southerner if you don’t like okra!

Their take on sort of a baked bean dish is the Sea Island Red Peas (with cornbread crumbs, $5). They were cooked almost al dente, and the thing I love about the Sea Island Red Peas are just how much more flavorful they are than other types of peas. Plus, the cornbread added a nice touch of sweetness to the dish that was nice and unexpected.

The best peas there are!

The Collard Greens (with ham hock, $5) were pretty standard. I like that they go ahead and bring out some pepper vinegar (house made) without having to ask, which saves us all some time. If you like collards, you’ll love these!

Vegetarians beware.

The Seasonal veggie (local squash, $5) was a local squash with a ricotta and squash topping and fresh roasted tomatoes. I kind of OD’d on yellow squash a couple of years ago with a CSA I’d signed up for, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this, but it absolutely blew me away! The homemade ricotta with the squash folded in was exceptional, and the squash itself tasted like it came straight out of the garden right before it was put on my plate.

One of the only times in my life that I’ve actually enjoyed yellow squash.

The Fried green tomatoes (Poached Lobster, Herb Aioli, Blackened Butter, full portion: $14) were really unique in that they were topped with a little bite of poached lobster. It was almost like a lobster roll + FGT all rolled into one. I love the cornmeal breading they used on the tomato, which was really light and still allowed you to get the full flavor of the tomato.

Like a little lobster nugget.

My favorite dessert (and the only one I took photos of) was Mary Beth’s Heath Bar Custard (tahitian vanilla, butter shortbread crumble, whipped cream, chopped heath bar, $10). The recipe comes from Chef Thomas’s grandmother, and he says it’s “the only thing I remember her ever cooking.” I love heath bar, so I thought this was fantastic (even though each bite made me feel like my stomach might explode, since I’d already eaten so much). It’s sweet without being cloying and the crunch of the heath bar was a perfect counterbalance to the creaminess of the vanilla custard.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I kept it simple and easy by ordering the Eggs Benedict (Two Poached Eggs, English Muffin, Choice of Canadian Bacon or Smoked Salmon, Hollandaise, Breakfast Potatoes, $18). It was your typical eggs benny, and my eggs were perfectly poached and runny. The hollandaise was really tasty, and was the perfect condiment for me to dip my home fries in!

Sometimes simple is best!

Since they had also just released their new breakfast cocktail menu, I tried a few of those as well. The first was their Bloody Mary (bacon-washed vodka, house made spicy Bloody Mary mix, garnished with heirloom cherry tomatoes, house pickled veggies, lemon, bacon, and purple kale straight out of the Georgia’s garden, $15). I don’t normally like Bloody Mary’s, but I have to say that this was pretty tasty!

And when it matches the backdrop this perfectly, how can you say no?!

Next up was The Motivator (Kahlua, Godiva, Disaronno, Iced Coffee, with Irish Cream Finish, $15), which was their take on an Irish coffee. I don’t usually like to mix coffee and liquor, but this was nice and refreshing. I especially liked that it was served over ice, which made it feel a lot lighter than normal.

Coffee with a kick!

Another option is the Sunrise to Sundown (Skyy Vodka, Orange Juice, House-Made Raspberry Syrup Drizzle, $12), similar to a Screwdriver with the added touch of raspberry syrup drizzle. It was the ideal drink for sitting out on the patio with the lake as a backdrop.

A drink that really says “good morning!”

All in all, I would highly recommend this for a casual breakfast or dinner, especially when the weather is nice because the patio is awesome!

Georgia's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Queen on the Road Restaurant Reviews

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee Part 1: Gaby’s By The Lake

June 16, 2017

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a 4-day stay at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee as a representative of The Daily Meal. Having never stayed at a Ritz Carlton before, I was expecting it to be luxurious, but my visit managed to surpass my already high expectations, not an easy feat to accomplish! I dined in all three of the resort’s signature restaurants, spent a ridiculously long time in the heated infinity pool, and even tried my hand at kayaking on the lake, something I haven’t done since college.

That’s Gaby’s right there to the far right (next to the infinity pool)

While the activities and amenities of the resort were luxurious and amazing (don’t even get me started on how much I loved the spa), the on-site restaurants really blew me away. Originally I was going to do 1 post about the entire stay, but I thought it would be more valuable to break it up by restaurant, because I ate a lot (like, an embarrassing amount of food) and want to make sure I do each restaurant justice.

The whole resort campus was a dreamscape.

For more of my Ritz Carlton adventures, read my review of Georgia’s.

Gaby’s By The Lake

Gaby’s is definitely the most casual of theThe Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee restaurants, and for good reason.The Chef at Gaby’s, Brandon Peterson, does an amazing job of keeping food approachable, while also still ensuring that it’s delicious and not something you’ll find anywhere else. The atmosphere might be super casual, but their food is anything but. It’s located adjacent to the pool and has the tagline, “no shirt, no shoes, our pleasure;” Basically, that means you can get out of the pool and walk straight in to order something for lunch or dinner (which I may have done).

And I encourage you to do it as well. After all, you’re on vacation!

I started with a cocktail, the Strawberry Fields, which was basically a strawberry lemonade with Tito’s vodka ($15) and the perfect cocktail to sip poolside on a warm sunny day. It was sweet and tart and refreshing.

It’s glowing because it floated straight from heaven into my hand.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the brussels sprouts (Korean chili aioli, pickled shitakes, crispy onions, shaved radish, $8). Oh. Em. Gee. They were so yummy. I came back and ordered them a second time for dinner, they were that good. The korean chili aioli was just a little spicy, and a very creamy, while the pickled shitakes added a nice tang, making the whole dish an explosion of flavor.

I’ll take 100 orders of brussels sprouts, please.

My favorite entree that I tried was the ribs platter. I’m not usually excited about ribs, but these were some of the best I’ve ever had. Apparently, they’re glazed with a Coca-Cola sauce, and they have just a nice hint of smoky and sweet… you gotta try them. And the biscuit and pickled vegetables are awesome side dishes, and offer very different, yet harmonious, flavors.

And just look at how colorful the platter is!

One of the things they’re most known for is the lobster grilled cheese (Havarti Cheese, Parker House Bread, $21): holy decadence, Batman. This bad boy had lots of butter, lots of havarti cheese, and lots of lobster. It’s like a lobster roll, but taken to a whole different level. I could (but probably shouldn’t) eat this every day.

I mean is it really a trip to the Ritz Carlton if you don’t eat lobster at least once?!

If you like fried fish tacos (marinated catfish, chipotle slaw, fresh cilantro, lime sour cream, $17), the ones at Gaby’s are very tasty. They’re also nice and light so you can eat them in your bathing suit and not feel gross and bloated afterward.

Is there a more appropriate pool-side food than fish tacos?

At one of the meals that I visited, we started with the Southern Hummus (boiled peanuts, black-eyed peas, Lebanese salad, Greek yogurt, warm pita and tortilla chips, $12), which was a fun play on regular hummus. I like that it had a sharper flavor than traditional hummus, and the Lebanese salad paired really well. If you like hummus, you’ll love this!

These veggies definitely negate all the cheesy, buttery lobster I ate earlier, right?

Sour Cream and Onion Baked Pretzel with local beer cheese ($12) were just ok. The beer cheese was really delicious (can I please dip some fries in this??), but the pretzels were a little on the dry side. They had good flavor, they just didn’t taste as fresh and soft as I would’ve liked.

Beer cheese is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

For my dinner entree, I ordered the grilled swordfish (cumin-spiced carrot puree, Israeli couscous with grilled veggies, cucumber and fresh herb salad, basil oil, $29), which was spectacular. The fish was cooked perfectly and paired really well with the grilled veggies and couscous. I love Israeli couscous because it’s so pearly, and each bite was sheer perfection.

I barely edited this photo. It was naturally this vibrant.

My mom ordered the 12 oz Prime NY strip (garlic and herb smashed potatoes, melted leeks and mushrooms, roasted garlic butter, smokey house steak sauce, $45) and absolutely loved it. It was cooked perfectly to her medium-well request, and was a high quality steak. The real winner of the plate in my opinion, however, was the garlic and herb smashed potatoes. We’re both pretty particular when it comes to mashed potatoes because my mother thinks she makes the best mashed potatoes in the world, so we were both blown away by how good these were.

You get the Tina Gallimore seal of approval, Chef Brandon. A truly rare occurrence.

Whether you’re staying at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds or just visiting Lake Oconee, I recommend giving Gaby’s a visit for lunch or dinner!

Gaby's by the Lake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Sorghum and Salt

May 26, 2017

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dining with my friend Becca at the newly-opened Sorghum and Salt on Coming Street. Although I was sad to see its predecessor, Two Boroughs Larder bid adieu, I couldn’t have picked a better restaurant to replace it. The concept of S&S is locally sourced small plates with a heavy emphasis on vegetables (mom would be so proud!). The restaurant’s atmosphere is an appropriate reflection of the menu itself: earthy, humble, and refreshing.

And also it’s a restaurant, just FYI.

Because we got so much food, I’m going to go in order of my favorites, rather than in chronological order of what food we got (although I truly enjoyed everything we ordered; they were all winners!). Keep in mind that because they source locally, some of the menu items I mention might not be on the menu when you visit. I recommend differing to the expertise of the wait-staff, because they definitely did not steer us wrong when we were ordering!

Behold, the mighty sprout!

Crispy Brussels

with raisin, local buttermilk, and chili, $12

I’m obsessed with Brussels sprouts lately, and I definitely have my favorite sprout hot spots. But after trying Sorghum & Salt’s Brussels, I think I might have to move them to the top of my list. They were perfectly crispy and the buttermilk sauce they were tossed in had the perfect amount of spice. There was a great mix of textures and flavors. I’ll be back for these alone!

Essentially a bowl full of veggies with a beef dust.

Charred Cabbage and Snap Peas

with crispy braised short rib, kimchi yogurt and mint, $14

So I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this dish, so I was completely taken aback and blown away by how delicious and packed full of flavor it was. The char on the cabbage added a nice level of smokiness and the snap peas were perfect for a brightness and some crunch. The short rib managed to be crispy without being overly dry, truly a miracle.

Queen of the tarts.

Key Lime and Yuzu Tart

with Chantilly, blackberries, graham cracker crust, $varies

So this was the dessert of the day on the day we visited, but I really hope it makes its way into the regular rotation. Yuzu, FYI, is a Japanese citrus fruit that’s pretty similar to a lemon, so it works awesome in conjunction with a key lime pie-type dish. The graham cracker crust was one of the best crusts on a pie that I’ve eaten in recent memory. I feel like a lot of times, people treat crust as an afterthought; a mere vehicle for transporting custard and fruit. But Sorghum and Salt put a lot of TLC into their graham cracker crust, and it was the perfect crunchy, salty complement to the tartness of the yuzu and Key Lime.

Pork Punch! Sounds like an alt-rock band.

Bread Service

brown sugar bread with Berkshire pork butter, $5

So a lot of places use pork fat to make their butter, but Sorghum & Salt actually puts some shreds of pork into their butter to add that extra pork punch to each hunk of bread you eat. The brown sugar in the bread was very subtle, and together the combo of the salt + pork + sugar was just short of heaven.

These sweet potatoes make me feel like I need to go to church.

Crispy Fried Chicken

with fermented collards, chili sweet potato ginger honey, $23

The fried chicken was really very tasty. Served hot and boneless (which is good for those of us who make a mess when doing battle with bone-in chicken) with a cornmeal breading and drizzled with ginger and honey, Sorghum and Salt really find a way for this southern staple to stand out amid a sea of fried chicken. But my absolute favorite part of this dish was the sweet potatoes. They practically melted in your mouth, and with the chicken grease and honey dripping onto them, felt decadent and downright sinful.

Still awaiting my conversion to beetdom.

Lavender Roasted Beets

blackberry, olive dirt, flowers, and herbs, $13

So beets aren’t my favorite food, but I let myself be talked into ordering these because the waitress loved them so much. I will say that they were absolutely gorgeous to look at and felt like a work of art. And I don’t really know what olive dirt is, but I want it on more things. The cooking technique they used on the beets, which I understood to involve packing them in salt and lavender and then slow roasting them, took a lot of the tart earthiness typically found in beets away, making them much more mild and easily palatable. I quite enjoyed these (although I’m not sure if I’m a beet convert quite yet).

Perfectly pleasant.

House Made Cheese

with tomato and zucchini, olive oil, and crostini, $13

The house made cheese was just slightly disappointing in that it was the mildest in terms of flavor. Even with the zucchini and tomato, it didn’t really pack the punch of flavor that the other dishes did. The cheese on its own didn’t really have any flavor. The crostini were baked just a minute too long, giving them the consistency of croutons. They were still a good complement to the creaminess of the cheese, but would’ve been much more enjoyable had they been slightly less done. The dish was unoffensive, but didn’t knock our socks off.

All in all, I will definitely be visiting Sorghum and Salt again (for the Brussels sprouts alone), because we had an amazing first visit. Everything from the service to the plating to the flavor of the food was exceptional, and I hope they stick around for a long, long time!
Sorghum and Salt Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Read Sydney G.‘s review of Sorghum & Salt on Yelp

Restaurant Reviews

Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill

February 8, 2017

I’ve been to Burwell’s about 4 times now and have had an amazing meal each time. I find that people often overlook this hidden gem (especially locals) simply because it’s located on Market Street, but don’t let that deter you! This isn’t standard tourist fare; this is on par with your favorite Charleston restaurants, as both the bar and the food scene are both on point.

Bartender, pour me another!

The main attraction for coming to Burwell’s is (of course) the hot rocks ($16 – $18). Aka mini grilling at your table. I love this for a number of reasons: 1. It’s super fun 2. You can choose how long you want to leave your steak on (perfect for when I want it medium and my mom wants it weller-than-well-done). How often do you get to go to a fancy restaurant and be encouraged to play with your food??

DO YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN’?!

One of my favorite parts of dining at Burwell’s is the complimentary bread you get with your meal. This isn’t your standard sourdough, ohhhh no. This asiago brioche is heavy on the asiago and seemingly light as air. It’s super buttery so you almost don’t need the whipped butter accompaniment (but I’m a Southerner, so I slather it on anyway). Best part: they portion it out to have a the same number of rolls as people sitting at the table. No more fighting over who gets the last piece!

I don’t fight, I just take what I want. And what I want is another one of these cheesy breads.

I’ve tried a good portion of the menu, but I always come back to the deviled eggs (candied bacon, pickled vegetable, gastrique, $10). I’m not sure what they do to them, but they’re bursting with flavor and ridiculously tasty. I could eat 100 of these. I also like they cut them into squares so they don’t wobble all over the plate and make a mess. Plus, they’re easier to eat that way!

Plus, this way they can fit more on the plate.

The Lobster Bisque (when they have it) was one of the best I’ve ever had anywhere, and Lobster isn’t really even a thing in Charleston. It’s the perfect balance of creaminess and lobster flavor that doesn’t overwhelm you with richness.

I confess I may have licked the bowl.

Our waiter recommended that if you like filet mignon (which I do) to try the Wagyu flat iron steak (8 oz, $37), as it’s just as tender but even more flavorful. I was skeptical, but willing to give it a shot and I have to say: he was totally right. My dad ordered the Wagyu Gold Kobe Style Zabuton (8 oz, $38), and kept stealing bites of mine because it was just that good.

Reaching your hand over to my plate is a good way to lose a finger.

Another thing we tried was a new play on the classic pork belly that they were doing the night we visited, which they called the Pork Belly Banana Split (not sure if it’s on the menu, but their classic pork belly runs about $15). It was, in a word, amazeballs. The banana wasn’t too sweet, and the pork belly completely melted in your mouth. It was so tasty. I highly recommend it!

Who knew pork and banana would pair so well together?

My grandmother, being from Massachusetts, had her heart set on a lobster tail (especially after that amazing aforementioned lobster bisque), so she opted for the 2 lobster tails with asparagus, zucchini, peas, and local potato mash ($market price). When the waiter set the plate down in front of her, she exclaimed “there’s no way I’ll be able to eat all of this!” before devouring the entire plate. It was really something to watch. The lobster was perfectly cooked (although she did have to request drawn butter for dipping), and the local potato mash was super creamy and exquisitely savory.

Like all good potatoes are.

One thing that wasn’t my favorite was the breakfast sandwich mac & cheese ($8). Although I appreciate the creativity, I think it’s trying to accomplish too much. They focus so much on the fried poached egg (which is delicious on its own) that the actual cheese sauce in the mac is very much overlooked. Give it a try and judge for yourself.

I’m something of a mac purist.

Those of you with a sweet tooth: rejoice! For Burwell’s also excels in the dessert department. My favorite is the banana bread pudding. It takes all the things you love about banana bread and combines all the things you love about bread pudding, and even if you don’t love either of those things, you will love this, I promise.

It’s served with cinnamon toast crunch. I mean, how can you go wrong with that?!

Also a note about service: The service here is outstanding! The waiters are always super friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and more than happy to make recommendations. I highly recommend Burwell’s!

Hopefully this lets Burwell’s become less of a hidden gem and more of a neighborhood hot spot!

Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill
14 N Market St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 737-8700

Read Sydney G.‘s review of Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill on Yelp

Burwell's Stone Fire Gill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurant Reviews

Bar Mash

January 12, 2017

Ok, so I’ve been debating whether or not to actually post this review because I’m torn between wanting to keep Bar Mash all to myself and shouting my love from the not-that-tall rooftops downtown. I finally decided to not be so selfish and go ahead and let you in on a little secret. Bar Mash is amazing. If you follow me on Instagram or Yelp, you’ll see that I’m there all the time (I have a problem). Their cocktails are fantastic, the staff is super cool, the food is tasty, and the atmosphere is comfortable and chill.

Also it’s dark enough that you can get away with not wearing makeup notthativedonethatimjustsaying

If you’ve read my Thrillist article, you already know that I’m mildly obsessed (understatement) with bar manager and mad cocktail scientist Teddy Nixon (and of course I mean that in a fun, adorable, pleasedontgetarestrainingorder kind of way). I could go on and on, but the gist of it is Teddy is awesome and you should have him make some drinks for you.

Like a boss.

The cocktail menu changes with the season, but I’ll showcase some of my favorites below. First up is the Arboretum with Hophead vodka, sage liquor, ginger, lemon, rosemary tincture ($12). It was fresh and refreshing and super delicious. I highly recommend it!

Thanks Caty Cain for the photography skills.

Here’s the Heavy on the Vine (St. George Chili Vodka, Blanco Tequila, lime, Watermelon-Basil shrub, soda, $12), which has a happy little kick to it. Definitely more of a savory cocktail (but in a good way).

I have no idea what watermelon-basil shrub is, but it’s delicious.

So normally when I come into Mash, I tend to just chat with Teddy or Elliot or whoever’s behind the bar and have them freestyle something for me mostly because I don’t understand half the ingredients in their drinks anyway. I just tell them what I like, and before I can say “this isn’t considered stalking is it?” BAM a tasty and refreshing cocktail appears in front of my face. It’s magical.

Accio cocktail!

Here’s a mystery cocktail that I don’t know what it is, but I’m really proud of my photo (and I’m confident that I enjoyed it), so I’m going to showcase it here.

Say, what’s in this drink?

Food is also a great option at Mash. Below, I’ll highlight some of my favorite options. My first favorite is the tater tot poutine ($12), which was just added to the menu this fall. They’re topped with mozzarella curd, smoked pork, roasted tomato gravy, and It’s happiness in a bowl.

Tots + roasted tomato gravy + smoked pork = heaven

Next up, pretzel bites with beer cheese ($7). Super soft, chewy pretzels, and a thick, creamy cheese sauce makes for a picture perfect bar snack.

And they taste pretty good, too.

If you’re trying to err on the side of being healthy, the fried brussels sprouts are a pretty tasty option, too. Topped with a grilled scallion vinaigrette, and parmesan cheese ($10), it’s hard not to scarf these down like popcorn.

They should serve fried brussels at the movie theatre.

A recent find of mine was the fried pickles ($8). These house made pickles are done a little differently from normal, as they’re sliced long ways, before being breaded and fried. They’re also served with black garlic ranch dressing, which is the perfect accompaniment IMO.

And my opinion is clearly the only one that matters.

I’ve also tried the ricotta toast (duck ham, poached egg, oyster mushrooms, persimmon vinaigrette, $12). It’s good, but probably my least favorite of everything I’ve tried. Something about the duck ham just isn’t my cup of tea, but the poached egg on the toast with the creamy ricotta is pretty good on its own!

At least it photographs well!

In addition to their normally great atmosphere, food, and drinks, they often have live music, a killer late night menu, rotating food trucks on Saturday nights, artisan jello shots, daiquiris, bocce, shuffleboard, a huge TV for watching sports games, and probably more stuff that I’m forgetting. *sigh* It’s just the best.

Just go. But make sure you save me a seat at the bar!

Mash
701 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29403
843-793-2636
Read Sydney G.‘s review of Mash on Yelp
Bar Mash Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Zero Restaurant + Bar

December 15, 2016

I want to start off this post by saying that Zero Restaurant + Bar is probably my favorite restaurant in Charleston. I’ve been 3 times now and each visit was even better than the last (and I didn’t even think that was possible). I’m not sure what Chef Vinson Petrillo is doing back in that kitchen, but it is magical. Recently, they changed up the way they present the menu, with the focus being on more of a pre-fixe, Chef’s tasting menu, which is honestly what I would have ordered anyway. It’s a bit pricy at $125 a person, but for 6 courses and beverage pairings, I think you’re getting a pretty good deal.

Then again, I’m always willing to spend more on something delicious.

Even if you don’t want to stay for dinner or order off the a la carte menu (but you really should), you should definitely stop by the bar and try one of their fantastic cocktails. My favorites are The Red Scare (Agavales Tequila, PAMA, Jack Rudy Grenadine, Habanero Simple Cilantro, Lemon, Lime, $13), which has a great little kick to it, and the Alter Ego (Hendrink’s Gin, Lavender, Lime, Habanero Citrus Foam (Egg White), Burlesque Bitters, $13), which also has a kick to it, but is also so fresh and bright. But you can’t go wrong with pretty much anything on the menu.

My Alter Ego likes to pretend she’s constantly being filmed like in The Truman Show.

When I visited recently, I was joined by my friend (and one of my favorite local foodie bloggers) Marianne of Basil and Bubbly. It’s nice going to eat with a fellow food blogger, as you don’t get the same annoyed stares and sighs as people wait for you to take 15 pictures of 1 dish.

Marianne knows what’s up.

Our first course was the Snacks plate, which consisted of Chef Petrillo’s world famous (or at least they should be) deviled eggs with caviar, a foie gras macaron, a lobster roll bite, and a potted “plant.” Each item was about 2 bites (unless you have a big mouth like me). My favorite was definitely the deviled eggs (which I’ve had before and are always a crowd-pleaser), but the potted plant (puffed red quinoa, housemade butter & heirloom radish) was one of the coolest and most unique things I’ve ever eaten. This course was served with a glass of champagne, which gave the whole thing a very whimsical, Alice in Wonderland-type vibe.

And the presentation can’t be beat!

Course #2 was the Beet Tartare (with encapsulated carrot “yolk,” sorrel, yogurt, warm multigrain), which also caught us by surprise. First of all, who’d have ever thought you could make an egg yolk out of a carrot?! Granted it didn’t taste much like an egg yolk, but it sure looked like one. I’m not usually a fan of beets, but Chef Petrillo smoked them on the Zero grill before serving them to us, which gave the whole dish a touch of smokiness, which completely changed the flavor of the beets that I had been expecting. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you might not have even noticed that this dish was meatless. It was that good.

My brain auto-corrected it to “beef” on the menu anyway, so I was really thrown off when it came out and was purple.

Course #3–probably my favorite of the entire meal–consisted of liquid parmesan tortellini (chanterelle mushroom ragout, late peas, spruce tips). They poured a nice broth over the tortellini at the table, which made the dish an entire experience in and of itself. I love any combination of cheese and noodle, but these soft parmesan pillows were out of this world.

Lord, please let them serve liquid parmesan tortellini in heaven.

Course #4, in contrast, was probably my least favorite dish: roasted snapper with potatoes cooked in seaweed and mussels cooked in whey. It was a perfectly pleasant dish, but nothing about it knocked my socks off (although that could’ve just been because I hadn’t had a chance to put them back on after the tortellini…who’s to say).

Socks are such fickle creatures.

The final of our entree courses was something I’m surprised to say that I’ve never had the pleasure of eating before: Beef Wellington (I know, I know…and I call myself a foodie) with foie gras, caramelized onion, wild mushrooms, and aerated potato. Every bite I took of this dish made me stop and say “wow;” the beef practically melted in your mouth, and the potatoes were so light and airy, they didn’t even seem real. When my plate was finally empty, I went into a bit of a depression that still lingers on to this day.

Beef Wellington, where have you been all my life??

For our dessert course, we were treated to tres leches in Chef Petrillo’s classic style. Young coconut, spongy cake, and honeycomb provided 3 completely different tastes and textures, with an understated sweetness that was very satisfying to the palate. I would 110% order this again.

How many milks do I need to recreate this dish at home.

From the impeccable service to the ambiance of the gorgeous outdoor patio to the expectation-shattering culinary prowess of Chef Vinson Petrillo, Zero Restaurant + Bar will forever hold a special place in my heart. If you ever get a chance to dine here, you should jump on that opportunity posthaste!

Posthaste I say!

Zero Restaurant + Bar
0 George Street
Charleston, SC 29401
843-817-7900

Zero Restaurant + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato < ignore this rating because these people are insane & not to be trusted.

 

Restaurant Reviews

Virginia’s On King

November 29, 2016

Update 8/24: Today Virginia’s on King’s Chef, Shane Whiddon lost his life to a disgruntled employee. In respect to his legacy, I will not change this post. You can read my thoughts on this tragic loss here.

At the end of the summer, Virginia’s on King introduced a revamped breakfast menu (served Monday – Friday from 7 – 11 am) that I was lucky enough to sample and review for your pleasure. First of all, I will say that it’s been a good 4 years since I last dined at Virginia’s on King. My last experience was subpar (hence the fact that it took me so long for a repeat visit).

They trick you into thinking you're dining on the waterfront.

They trick you into thinking you’re dining on the waterfront.

During that time, they got a new head chef, Shane Whiddon, who’s really turned the kitchen around and assured me that my present experience would completely change my perception of the cozy King Street restaurant (spoiler alert: he was right).

Don't tell him I said that, though.

I was pretty hungry, so I ordered the Fried Chicken & Eggs with white onion gravy ($13) served with your choice of homefries or grits (I chose homefries, because…potatoes); toast or biscuit (biscuit, duh); and 2 eggs of my choice. The fried chicken was amazing–perfectly crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The gravy was a perfect consistency (not too thin, not too thick), and was bursting with flavor without overwhelming the flavor of the chicken itself.

Nap

What it should have also come with was a nap for after I was

The biscuit was so buttery and flaky, I almost didn’t even need to add any more butter to it (but I did anyway, because YOLO). I also really enjoyed the seasonal jam, for a tangy and sweet complement to the biscuit’s savory base.

"Biscuit's savory base" - New band name. Called it!

“Biscuit’s savory base” – New band name. Called it!

My dining partner ordered “The Scone” ($8), and although I don’t typically enjoy sweets for breakfast, I thought this dish was pretty great. It lacked that cloying sweetness that many breakfast pastries have and I loved the complementary flavors offered up by the fresh peaches (fruit changes seasonally).

I used to think scones were lame, but now they're my fave.

I used to think scones were lame, but now they’re my fave.

All in all, I am happy to recommend you try breakfast at Virginia’s on King. I think you’ll be surprised at how delicious everything is!

Virginia’s on King
412 King St,
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 735-5800

Virginia's on King Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Chicken Salad Chick

November 23, 2016

I’ve always been a huge fan of chicken salad. It was pretty much my go-to lunch when I was in high school and I enjoy when restaurants take a little creative leeway with its classic recipe to create something fun and delicious. One of my new favorite spots that does just that is Chicken Salad Chick in Mount Pleasant. I went recently with a friend to give their different offerings a try, and boy were we in for a treat!

Or a whole lot of treats, as it were.

Or a whole lot of treats, as it were.

I really wanted to get an accurate feel of the different flavor combos and unique offerings that CSC provides, so we went a little crazy. I’ll break down each dish one-by-one. First up: the Classic Carol, because I wanted to see how their signature original compares with other chicken salads I’ve had. The verdict? It was pretty tasty! A very good consistency, with an impressive amount of flavor, considering its simplicity.

I don't know who you are, Carol, but you done good.

I don’t know who you are, Carol, but you done good.

I personally like a little mixture of flavors and textures in my chicken salad, so we decided to try the Cranberry Kelli (A mixture of dried, sweetened cranberries
& slivered almonds) next. We opted for the “Original Chick” combo, which included a side (we opted for the seasonal salad, made with strawberries and feta cheese. So simple and refreshing!) and a cookie of the day (which was white chocolate macadamia nut on the day we were visiting). I loved the tartness of the cranberry as it complemented the creaminess of the chicken salad, and the almonds added a nice texture change.

cranberry-kelli

Seriously loving these names!

My dining partner took advantage of the Chicken Trio, which comes with (you guessed it) 3 scoops of chicken salads / sides. She opted for the Fancy Nancy (Fuji apples, pecans & seedless grapes), the Sassy Scotty (A zesty blend of ranch, bacon & shredded cheddar cheese), and a scoop of the pimento cheese. Of the two chicken salads, I was most impressed with the Sassy Scotty. I just really loved the combination of flavors and slight smokiness of the bacon. The Fancy Nancy was also fun, and had a nice refreshing note to it, due to the apples and grapes mixed in. The pimento cheese was also pretty tasty, especially with the buttery crackers.

nancy-pimento-cheese-scotty

Why try 1 when you can try 3!

For something a little different, we decided to try a sandwich combo with Olivia’s Old South (A southern tradition combining sweet pickles & egg). I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, as I’m definitely not an egg salad fan, but this was surprisingly enjoyable! The pickles gave it a subtle sweetness and tanginess, and the egg made it extra creamy.

olivias-old-south

Never thought I’d say that!

Finally, we tried the Jazzy Julie (A spicy mixture of cayenne pepper, bacon & shredded cheddar cheese) on croissant. I thought the Jazzy Julie tasted a lot like the buffalo chicken dip my mom makes for tailgate. It had a nice little kick to it, and I loved the combination of flavors on the flaky croissant. We tried the broccoli salad (seen in the back), which I thought was just ok. Nothing to write home about.

placeholder text

But I rarely write home about broccoli.

Finally, I wanted to try a cup of their soup of the day, which was loaded baked potato. It was super creamy and cheesy, just the way I like it. I would come back for this on its own, it was that good.

loaded-potato-soup

Do they sell this by the gallon?

All in all, I was super impressed with the food at Chicken Salad Chick. The service was also on point, and the next time I crave chicken salad, you can bet your britches I’ll stop by their Mount Pleasant location. Also, if you’re a chicken salad lover like me, be sure to sign up for their Craving Credits mobile app to earn fun rewards, like free chicken salad!

chicken-salad-chick-exterior

Chicken Salad Chick
280 West Coleman Blvd., Suites F&G,
Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
(843) 352-2130

 

Restaurant Reviews

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits

November 17, 2016

I love that Charleston has had a resurgence in hotel restaurants lately. When I travel, I generally try to avoid hotel restaurants, as I find the food to usually be subpar and overpriced. The hotel restaurants downtown Charleston, however, are a totally different beast, and as a local, I’m more than happy to check in for dinner for the night.

I love The Watch because its rooftop is one of the best in Charleston. On a clear night you get breathtaking sunset views and you also get to look into the residential sector of the city and see all the steeples dotting the horizon (hence the moniker The Holy City).

the-watch-sunset

Surprisingly not because we’re full of pot holes (although that’s also true).

It was raining when we visited, so we had to dine inside rather than out on one of their beautiful patios, but the space was still bright and airy, with lots of khakis, whites, and blues throughout. We started with cocktails. I opted for the Hugo’s Punch (Striped Pig Rum, blueberry, lemonade, $12), which was fantastic. It was fruity without being overwhelming, and sweet without being cloyingly so. I would 100% order this again.

hugos-punch

Even if it turns my teeth purple.

Caty got the The Copper Still (High Wire Vodka, brandied cherry syrup, ginger beer, $12) which was fantastic. It was basically a twist on a classic Moscow Mule, but the brandied cherry syrup gave it a nice warm feeling.

Warms you up from the inside.

Warms you up from the inside.

Our first course was the grilled oysters (with fermented garlic butter, lemon, grana padano, and house hot sauce, $ market price), which were fantastic. If you’re not a huge fan of garlic, you won’t care for these, as they don’t hold back (seriously, my breath alone after eating them could kill a vampire). I, however, love garlic and thought they were so tasty. Even Caty who hates oysters thought they were good enough to eat 2.

Meanwhile, I ate the other 10

Meanwhile, I ate the other 10

Up next, we tried the falafel (tzatziki, cucumber, radish, feta, pickled onion, $11), which I was a huge fan of. I loved that the feta was a bit on the milder side, which helped harmonize with the other flavors of the dish. It was super fresh tasting, thanks to the cucumber and radish, and the little tanginess of the pickled onion paired really well with the creaminess of the tzatziki.

This is way more greenery than I usually order with my falafel, but it really works!

This is way more greenery than I usually order with my falafel, but it really works!

We paused on the food here to get another couple of drinks. I opted for the Greyhound Cadet (Citaddelle Gin, Grapefruit. St. Germaine, $12) which was a bit sweeter than my previous drink. I liked that it was still nice and summery, and I could see myself sipping this out on the rooftop while watching the sun set over the city.

I prefer all my drinks have straws in them.

I prefer all my drinks have straws in them.

Caty got The Spoleto (Virgil Kaine Ginger Bourbon, Fernet Rinse, Lemon Shrub, $12) which was probably our least favorite of the night. It was so much stronger tasting than the beautiful and light cocktails we’d gotten earlier, and it just didn’t mesh with our main courses.

Caty likes all her cocktails in old timey champagne glasses.

And also I just don’t really like Fernet.

Speaking of main courses, I have to confess something to you: I’ve never ordered shrimp and grits in Charleston. I’ve eaten a number of them before, but on principle, I refuse to order this quintessential dish because it just feels so played out to me. If you’ve had it once, you’ve had it 1,000 times, I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion. Well let me tell you: the shrimp and grits at The Watch (local shrimp, Geechie Boy Mill grits, caramelized Vidalias, tomato and bacon gravy, $27) were the best I’ve ever had. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, the grits were cheesy and creamy, and the tomato bacon gravy was out of this world.

Life-changing shrimp and grits.

Life-changing shrimp and grits.

You’d think because Caty’s shrimp & grits were so delicious that I’d have been disappointed in my dinner, but you’d be wrong. I opted for the fish of the moment (grilled local fish, jumbo lump crab succotash, lemon beurre fondue, $29). I’m a sucker for succotash, so I thought it was a great accompaniment, to the perfectly cooked and seasoned tilefish. But what made this dish truly amazing was the lemon beurre fondue, which was truly delectable. It had just a hint of citrus, with a depth of flavor that made me want to slurp it up by the spoonful.

I've never been so excited about fish before.

I’ve never been so excited about fish before.

For dessert, we capped off with the Sticky Toffee Pudding (pecan crumble, ice cream, toffee sauce, $8). It was just about as sweet as it looked, but I’m glad we had the vanilla ice cream to tone it down a bit. I still thought it was delicious, and we managed to devour pretty much the entire thing, despite being extremely full from our large meal.

"Sticky toffee pudding" makes me think of Christmas for some reason

“Sticky toffee pudding” makes me think of Christmas for some reason

All in all, I would recommend trying The Watch out for dinner. Get the shrimp and grits, and try to come on a clear day right around sunset. You won’t regret it!

Just watch what happens!

Just watch what happens! Did you see what I did there??

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits
75 Wentworth St,
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 518-5115

The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Coda del Pesce

October 26, 2016

There aren’t a lot of things that will convince me to drive 40 minutes out to Isle of Palms in the offseason, but I’m about to add Coda del Pesce to the list of things that make the cut. The adorable and artfully designed restaurant is cozy without feeling cramped and OMG those views of the ocean. It doesn’t get any better than this.

**Heaven**

**Heaven**

I’ve recently started to get a lot more into seafood, and seafood lovers will definitely be pleased with anything they order at Coda. Coda del Pesce (which translates to “tail of the fish” in Italian) is helmed by Chef Ken Vedrinski (also of Trattoria Lucca downtown), and you can rest assured that everything coming out of this kitchen will be fresh, flavorful, and perfectly done.

So pretty and blue and pretty!

So pretty and blue and pretty!

Being an adventurous and indecisive eater, I decided to go with chef’s 4-course tasting menu, which features dishes both on and off the menu and offers a truly unique dining experience. I love ordering this way, as it forces me out of my comfort zone and helps me expand my culinary horizons. The first course was a crudo quartet, featuring 4 different cuts of fish prepared completely differently. Crudo is one of Chef Vedrinski’s specialties, so it was unsurprising that it was completely delicious.

4 fish are better than 3 fish.

4 fish are better than 3 fish.

Next up, a shrimp spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, fresh artichokes, and lemon in an anchovy sauce. I was concerned that the anchovy sauce would make it super fishy and salty tasting, but instead it was like a really deeply flavored garlic-butter-lemon sauce. It was a dream.

I usually avoid things with anchovies in them, but this was too tasty to pass up.

I usually avoid things with anchovies  in them, but this was too tasty to pass up.

For the main entrée, Chef prepared a triggerfish scallopini with potato and onion. I loved how the fish was wonderfully crispy on the outside and perfectly moist and flaky on the inside. Basically exactly how you want a piece of fried fish to taste. The accompainaments were also delightful, and the potatoes practically melted in your mouth. The lemon sauce was perfect with the fish and I kind of wish they’d bottle it and let me put it on more things. It’s that good.

That sauce, tho.

That sauce, tho.

For dessert, I had just enough room in my stomach for Chef’s butterscotch budino with dark chocolate shavings. It was decadent but I was very thankful it was on the lighter side after such a heavy meal. I highly recommend this dessert!

I mean, as light as can be with a dessert.

I mean, as light as can be with a dessert.

TL;DR: If you love Italian food and seafood, it really doesn’t get any better than Coda del Pesce. Plus, you really can’t beat the gorgeous views of the Atlantic ocean right from the dining room. It’s totally worth the drive to IOP.

Coda Del Pesce
1130 Ocean Blvd
Isle of Palms, SC 29451
(843) 242-8570
Coda del Pesce Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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