I first learned about Spero in April when the City Paper wrote an article titled “Spero May Be The Best Under-The-Radar Restaurant in Town.” I didn’t read any of the article (I have a bad habit of only reading headlines), but added Spero to my list of restaurants to try right then. On my first visit, in the spring, I went 3 friends, which was a great choice because we were all willing to share dishes, so I got a great variety of what Spero had to offer. We started with the “Pickles and Pate” (chicken liver, half sour pickles, bread and butter pickles, mustard, $5.5), which was pretty delicious if you like pate. I thought it was great with the buttery bread and vinegary pickles, with a little tanginess from the mustard. The pate itself was a great consistency and had a nice subtle smokiness to it.
Our second starter was the bread flight (yes, you read that right. A flight of bread). It consisted of the sourdough pretzel bread with ham and mustard butter, beef tallow biscuits with horseradish cream, and cornbread with burnt honey miso butter ($6.50). It was divine. Each bread had a totally different flavor profile and paired perfectly with the condiment to which they were assigned. I would go back for the bread alone.
We split a few of the small plates, including the Roasted Beet Salad (beets, berries, bleu cheese, buttermilk, battlestar galactica, $7.5), which was pretty good. Beets aren’t my favorite, so I only tried a bite, but it was absolutely gorgeous to look at!
I, of course, opted to try the Lamb Barbacoa Sammich (pulled lamb, lemon pickled jalapeno, mayo, queso fresco with a seasonal side, $9), which had my name all over it (not actually, but it may as well have). It was awesome. The lemon pickled jalapeno took away any gaminess the lamb might have had, leaving it perfectly tender and packed with flavor. The bread was nice and soft and the sandwich was a great size for sharing.
Someone lame at the table (whom we’ll call Voldemort) ordered the Red Russian Kale Salad (strawberry vinaigrette, candied local pecans, $6.50), which was tasty for a salad. I mostly just at the candied pecans.
Another person at the table ordered the Braised Beef Sammich (pickled carrots, whipped bleu cheese, $10), which was also really tasty. The beef was packed full of flavor that literally dripped down your chin after you took a bite (in a good way). The pickled carrots gave it almost a banh mi kind of flavor, and the whipped bleu cheese was creamy and a great complement to the beef & carrots.
We got 2 of the oatmeal cookies for dessert, which were served with ice cold glasses of milk. The cookies are baked to order, so they take about 12 minutes or so from when you order them. We were so enthralled with our company that we didn’t notice that our cookies were taking forever until the chef / owner came out to apologize to us for “technical difficulties.” I was confused because technical difficulties + cookies didn’t really equate for me. But he explained “first there were cookies on a tray, then there were cookies on the ground. But we’re starting all over… it just might take a few more minutes.” It was definitely worth the wait, as there are few things in this world better than a fresh baked cookie and ice cold glass of milk.
The second time I visited was in the summer (technically “sautumn” or “summer into Autumn” as they called it) with Lauren. We sat at the bar, which I highly recommend, because it gives you a much more inclusionary experience and makes you feel as if you’re a part of the restaurant (for example, they do their “safety meeting” at 9:30 every night, where the whole kitchen staff shotguns a beer together. I’ve never worked in food & bev, but if I did, I hope I would’ve worked in a place like this). We started with the Chilled Acorn Squash Soup (herbed goat cheese, pickled onions, $5.50). The goat cheese was amazing and totally sold the whole dish. It was velvety and smooth and super flavorful.
After the soup was the Marinated H2Omelon Salad (beef tataki, thai basil, mint, $6.25). Big, thick pieces of watermelon with a little spicy kick, served with thinly sliced steak. Looking at the description, I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together and if the flavors were going to mesh well together, but after my first bite all my worries disappeared. I loved the contrast of the spicy watermelon with the mint and seared steak and would highly recommend it if it’s on the menu again.
Next, we got the Roasted Okra (jalapeno honey, bleu cheese, peanuts, $6.75
After the okra came the delicata squash (Vietnamese caramel, sour yellow curry, brown butter breadcrumbs, $7) which perfectly cooked and caramelized on one side, with a great mixture of spicy and sweet. Probably my favorite thing we ordered. Also, can I please get brown butter breadcrumbs on everything I order in the future? kthx.
To finish, we decided to go with 2 of their Pigerdoodle (I think that was the name) cookies (like snickerdoodles, but made with rendered pig fat). They were great. Super rich, and melty…just the way I like a cookie: “warm, sweet, and directly in front of my face.”
All in all, the prices for the small plates are more than reasonable, and if you haven’t stopped by this neighborhood gem yet, then I feel like you’re missing out on an essential part of Charleston. What are you even doing with your life.
616 Meeting St,
Charleston, SC 29403