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filet mignon

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Oak Steakhouse

October 4, 2013

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 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

Halls Chophouse

October 23, 2011

I first learned about Halls Chophouse in my Seminar in Entrepreneurship class where they came to speak to us. I admire that it’s a family run business that is based mainly on quality of service and building and cultivating relationships with their customers. A lot of places talk a lot about customer service, but for many, it’s just that—talk. Halls actually delivers on its promises. They give you great service and great food. Seriously good food. I’ve said before that Husk is my favorite restaurant, but if I’m craving steak, there is not even a competition. Halls would win out every time. Literally the best steak I’ve ever eaten. And this is coming from a girl who doesn’t actually like steak. (Ditto salad. I’ll talk more about the chopped salad later, but trust me—it’s as close to divine as a salad will ever get). I’ve ordered steaks at other restaurants in Charleston before—Peninsula Grill, Husk, Red Drum, 82 Queen, and Grill 225—and there’s no comparison. I haven’t been to Oak yet, and I have a feeling I probably won’t go anytime soon, either. I just can’t imagine they’d be better than Halls.

They’re better than you, Oak, and they know it.

I’ve been to Halls for dinner five times or so. The first time was with my dad and Shay to spend the gift certificate they gave out to my class (that’s good marketing right there. I saved $25 but probably spent 3 times that on the meal for the three of us. And trust me, it was worth every penny). We started off with the she-crab soup which was really good. I hate it when restaurants add too much sherry to their she-crab soup, but Halls does it right. The dominant flavor is the crab, with only a hint of sherry—exactly how a good she-crab soup should be.

Does this qualify as pornography? I hope so.

I then got the Halls Chopped salad, which is Uh- May-Zing. I live for chopped salad. If more restaurants had them, I’d eat salad way more often, and if they all tasted like Halls, I’d actually enjoy eating them. It has lettuce and tomato and celery and black-eyed peas, peppers and bacon and a whole bunch of other stuff in a buttermilk dressing. But it’s perfectly balanced with the dressing. I hate it when my salad is drowning in salad dressing, but the Halls salad is perfect in every sense of the word. I’d say I’d go there just for the salad, but I know there’s no way I’d go there for food and not get a steak.

Touch my salad, and you lose a finger.

Touch my salad, and you lose a finger.

Shay got the filet mignon, while my dad opted for the prime rib. This being my first time at Halls (not realizing how amazing their steaks are), I opted for the lobster. The lobster was about 4 pounds and served with plenty of butter.

As it should be.

As it should be.

 Shay offered me a bite of her filet (which she’d gotten butterflied and cooked to medium well) and as soon as it touched my tongue, I knew I’d ordered the wrong thing. Don’t get me wrong, the lobster is delicious, but it’s nothing compared to the filet. Did I mention it’s the best filet I’ve ever had? Because it’s the best filet I’ve ever had. The prime rib was top notch as well. I’m pretty sure none of us spoke after the entrées had been delivered; we were too busy enjoying the food to carry on a conversation.

I'm gonna eat you, sucka!

I’m gonna eat you, sucka!

They serve their sides family style, meaning that one side serves 2-4 people. They’re pretty big. For sides we got the asparagus with hollandaise and the pepper jack grits. Now, as a southerner, I am particular about my grits. Quaker sells this instant crap that says “Grits” on it, but trust me—those are not grits. Halls serves real grits. Thick and creamy and delicious. Not cheesy enough so that you lose the flavor of the grits themselves, but just cheesy enough to make the dish feel complete. They are all about balance at Halls. It just works perfectly.

How could you not want to eat that whole skillet?

How could you not want to eat that whole skillet?

The second time I went to Halls was for my mom’s birthday. It was my parents and me, and we went all out. We got spicy shrimp and tempura lobster as starters. I didn’t really care for the lobster, but my parents loved it. The spicy shrimp were pretty good, but I was expecting them to be boiled shrimp, like you’d find in a Creole or jambalaya, but they were just fried shrimp tossed in a spicy sauce. They were still good, I’d just had my heart set on non-fried shrimp. I once again got the chopped salad while Tina opted for the roasted beet salad (who orders things like that? Really, Tina? Really?). The chopped salad is better. I almost stabbed Tina for trying to steal a forkful of my salad. I don’t play around. For our entrées, I chose the filet.

Did I mention it’s the best filet I’ve ever had? I did? Ok, well I just want you to understand that it’s THE BEST FILET I’VE EVER HAD.

Did I mention it’s the best filet I’ve ever had? I did? Ok, well I just want you to understand that it’s THE BEST FILET I’VE EVER HAD.

You can get sauces on the side with your steak, like Gorgonzola sauce, or béarnaise, but trust me—you don’t need any sauce. The meat tastes amazing all on its own (that’s what she said!). I can’t remember what Tina and Russ got, because I was too focused on my own food to take the time to care about their choices. All I know is that there was meat, there was a lot of it, and we ate it all. Ron Swanson would be proud.

MEAT TORNADO

For sides this time, we got the asparagus again, and the macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese is one of my weaknesses. It’s the one thing I seem to be unable to resist. It’s my kryptonite. Even when I’m dieting, if there’s mac and cheese within reach, I won’t even hesitate. I just start devouring it without giving myself time to think about it. The mac and cheese at Halls is good. It’s not great, but it’s good. It’s more creamy than cheesy, and I prefer my mac and cheese to be extra cheesy. The waitress was raving about the mac and cheese (she loves it. It’s her favorite), so I guess it’s all a matter of personal preference. I do have to say that I’m a fan of the squiggly noodles. I’d just prefer more cheesy in the saucey pleasey! Next time, I’d just stick with the grits.

Macaroni skillets are what I dream about at night.

Macaroni skillets are what I dream about at night.

You may have noticed that I clarified both of my visits by saying “The first/second time I went for dinner.” This is because Halls has an amazing bar. Rather, they have one drink that I’m obsessed with called the 434 martini. It’s pineapple infused vodka that’s served ice cold and frothy. It’s not overly fruity, but it definitely tastes nothing like alcohol. Except for the fact that it’s straight alcohol. So you don’t realize how much you’ve actually had until you stand up to go to the bathroom after the 5th one and you almost fall on your face (that’s actually a true story about my dad the night I graduated). The first time I had one was at a party hosted at Halls for my entrepreneurship class after our final exam. It was a 2 hour reception with free food and drinks courtesy of Tommy Baker (anytime there are free drinks involved, you can guarantee I’m going to make an appearance). I made Lily come with me and we started drinking martinis, excited for some free Halls food. We found out, about 3 martinis in, that the “free food” was actually a veggie tray. Don’t get me wrong, I love carrot sticks, but if I’d known that’s all the food I was going to be having, I would have eaten something hearty before I starting downing liquor. Needless to say, Lily and I had a great time.

Don't be fooled by how pretty it looks. It's deadly. And delicious

Don’t be fooled by how pretty it looks. It’s deadly. And delicious

I took my mom to Halls for drinks before we went to Pantheon for the drag show, and we sat at one of the community bar tables drinking and hanging out. One of the Hall family members, usually Billy or Tommy, came by a number of times to make sure we had everything we needed and that we were enjoying ourselves (we were). We stayed for about an hour, and we getting ready to head out to go across the street to O-Ku (they make these habanero-infused vodka martinis with sugared rims that my mother is obsessed with) when Tommy Hall stopped us to ask why we were leaving so soon. My mother, being my mother, told him “We’re going over to O-Ku to get sugar and spice martinis. They’re my favorite.” Tommy Hall replied “O-Ku is great, but did you know we actually invented those? Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll bring you one.” So we sat back down and he brought us a round on the house. Tina was skeptical that they would be as good as O-Ku’s, so she was quite surprised to find out that she actually liked these more. Apparently the ones that Halls makes are spicier. I don’t really do spicy. I took one sip and then had to chug a gallon of water to be able to feel my lips again.

It's easy to confuse this with the 434. But, you will know you made a mistake IMMEDIATELY after taking a sip.

It’s easy to confuse this with the 434. But, you will know you made a mistake IMMEDIATELY after taking a sip.

I’ve literally never had a bad experience at Halls. Every time we leave, Billy is there to shake our hands, or give us a hug and thank us for coming. Once he even chased us down the street, to make sure he thanked us properly. The service continues, even when you’re not at the restaurant. They sent my mom a hand-written thank you note, telling her how much they appreciated her coming into the restaurant on her birthday. They even wished me a happy birthday on Facebook, even though I hadn’t been to Halls in over 2 months. They’re all about the relationships that they build with their customers. Pairing their outstanding customer service with their delectable food (did I mention the filet is the best I ever had??) and you have a recipe for an unforgettable night out.

I may have forgotten to mention the tray of meat.

I may have forgotten to mention the tray of meat.

 Summary: Get the steak and the grits. Drink the 434. Tip your server.

halls-chophouse-storefront

Halls Chophouse
434 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 727-0090
Halls Chophouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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