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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!