Charleston, SC Restaurant Reviews

The Darling Oyster Bar

April 1, 2016

The Darling is King Street’s newest seafood offering, taking over the former Union Provisions space. The one time I visited Union Provisions, I was very disappointed; so when I walked into The Darling, I was a little wary and curious to see if they could succeed where UP so clearly failed. I’ve been twice now and I have to say, The Darling is a huge improvement, and a great option for affordable seafood on King Street.

Love those lights above the bar!

Love those lights above the bar!

The first time I visited was with TQuizzle  for their media dinner. We went all out and tried a little bit of everything on the menu. First, the drinks: Syd had the Basil Daisy (Wodka Vodka, Aperol, Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Sugar, Fresh Basil, $9) which was light and refreshing.

How could it not be with a name like "Basil Daisy?!"

How could it not be with a name like “Basil Daisy?!”

I went the more Caribbean route with the Bermuda Swizzle (Goslings Gold Rum, Falernum, Ginger, Fresh Squeezed Pineapples and Oranges, $9). It tasted just like a drink I’d want to sip on while lounging on the beach in the Bahamas.

Like summertime in a glass!

Like summertime in a glass!

Next, the food. We wanted to get a good idea of all the different things on the menu, so we kind of went all over the place. From the raw bar, we started with the Tuna Poke (White Grapes, Shoyu, Sesame Seed, $13). Having been to Hawaii a bunch, TQuizzle was not super impressed with this version of a poke bowl; she wasn’t a huge fan of the grapes. I, however, thought the grapes were a really cool contrast to the big ole chunks of tuna. Granted, this was my first poke experience.

Not to be confused with a Pokeball, which is not food.

Not to be confused with a Pokeball, which is not food.

Also from the raw bar, we tried the King Crab Parfait (Avocado, Grapefruit, Sourdough Crumble,
Herb Pistou, $15), which I was a little underwhelmed by. The dish relied heavily on avocado and grapefruit, and it was served as more of a dip than what I was expecting. The flavor was lacking a little bit of depth for the price point.

Do not order this if you don't like Grapefruit.

Do not order this if you don’t like Grapefruit.

From the regular menu, we decided to be adventurous and try the Snapper Toast (Potato, Pickled Red Onion, Country Ham, Sourdough, $7), which ended up being one of our favorite things we tried. The bread was buttery and had a nice crunch to it. The pickled red onion gave a bit of acidity and complemented the creaminess of the potato and snapper. Definitely not something I would normally order, but I’m really glad I tried it!

Plus, it's so colorful and pretty!

Plus, it’s so colorful and pretty! Also, this picture came from my second visit because I ordered it twice.

TQuizzle isn’t much of an oyster person, but I am, so I ordered the Baked Oysters with Pimento & Sourdough Soppers ($9 for 3 oysters). If pimento isn’t your thing, the baked oysters also come with maitre’d butter & breadcrumbs for a more traditional offering. I really enjoyed the pimento oysters; they were decadent and very flavorful.

Served on a bed of salt and in the shape of a Palmetto Tree, which I thought was adorable (although I'm not sure if they did that on purpose or not).

Served on a bed of salt and in the shape of a Palmetto Tree, which I thought was adorable (although I’m not sure if they did that on purpose or not).

Speaking of decadent and flavorful, we couldn’t resist trying The Darling’s take on a poutine: the Clam Chowder over house cut fries (Local Clams, Vegetables, Sourdough, $9 for just the chowder, $10 over fries). Wow. These were exceptional. They bring a little gravy bowl of clam chowder to the table and pour it over your fries right in front of you (watch the video here), which I really appreciate because it prevents the fries from getting soggy before they’re even served to you.

There are few foods that aren't improved by putting them over french fries.

There are few foods that aren’t improved by putting them over french fries.

To finish, we decided to try a couple of the options on the dessert menu. TQuizzle opted for the Bombolini (Doughnut, Lemon Curd, Fruit Preserves, $8), which she really enjoyed. They were light and fluffy little donut balls and I really liked the fruit preserves that came with them.

And "bombolini" is such a fun word to say.

And “bombolini” is such a fun word to say.

Since I can never say no to anything chocolate, I opted for the Chocolate Cake Bowl (Buttermilk Anglaise, Toasted Peanuts, Chocolate Sauce, $8). If you like chocolate and cake, you’ll like this. My only complaint was that the cake was a little dry.

I love chocolate, but I don't love cake. I'm an enigma.

I love chocolate, but I don’t love cake. I’m an enigma.

On my second visit, I met my friend Basil & Bubbly for happy hour. We sat at the bar and annoyed the bartenders with our constant photography. I started with the  Shoulder Monkey (Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Grilled Pineapple and Sage Syrup, Orgeat, Lemon, $9), which was so tasty. I loved the how the tartness of the pineapple cancelled out any of the alcoholic taste from the scotch. I could drink this all night long.

And the devil monkey on my shoulder tried to convince me to.

And the devil monkey on my shoulder tried to convince me to.

We split an order of the Creole Shrimp (Anson Mills Rice Cakes, Mustard, Bacon, $11), which was fantastic. I’m not sure what they put in those rice cakes, but I want that secret recipe. I’ve never had shrimp that tasted so good. Definitely give this dish a try!

For the rice cakes alone.

For the rice cakes alone.

For our second round of drinks, B&B got the Sherry-Colada (Lustau Cream Sherry, Coconut Cream, Fresh Pineapple, Angostura Bitters, $9), which I was a little afraid to try since a drink with Sherry as the base sounded a little strange to me. As it turns out, I was a silly goose because that drink was really delicious. It was light and also tasted like something you’d want to drink while on a beach somewhere.

"If you like Sherry Coladas..."

“If you like Sherry Coladas…”

My second cocktail was the Smoke on the Harbor (Goslings Gold Rum, Lime, Sugar, Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch Rinse, $9), which was a self-proclaimed unique twist on a classic daiquiri. I loved it. It was totally unique and unlike any other daiquiri I’ve had before. Not sweet, but not savory. I highly recommend giving it a try. The cocktails at The Darling are legit. I haven’t had a single one I didn’t like.

Looks can be deceiving, because this puppy is strong.

Looks can be deceiving, because this puppy is strong.

To go with our second round of drinks, we decided to split the Lobster Cocktail (Mango, Endive, Lemon Herb Vinaigrette, $14), which was a huge success. The lobster was very tender and not chewy at all. The lemon herb vinaigrette was fresh and with the mango, offered just the perfect amount of citrus to complement the shellfish.

ice not salt

This time, it was served on a bed of ice (not salt. even though they look the same).

The bartender was really talking up the Warm Date Oat Cake (Coconut Ice Cream, Caramel, $7), as “the dessert people come here to try. It’s what everyone orders,” so we decided to give it a try. Considering that most oat-based desserts tend to not be as sweet, I was really taken aback by how cloyingly sweet this was. I liked the caramel, but it packs a punch. It had the consistency of a really fat sugar cookie, with a firm outer shell and a nice chewy inside, which I really liked (see my aforementioned cake comment). The coconut ice cream was really subtle, and was not nearly as sweet as the caramel, which I was glad for. Overall, a very pleasant dessert if you’re in the mood for something very sweet!

Coconut ice cream is bae.

Coconut ice cream is bae.

Both of my experiences at The Darling were very positive and I can see this becoming a very popular hangout space for everyone from young professionals to older tourists. Give it a try!

Smile, TQuizzle!

Smile, TQuizzle!

The Darling
513 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 641-0821

The Darling Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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  • Marianne | Basil and Bubbly April 6, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I had such a great time, and the pictures turned out amazingly, even if we were tormenting the poor bartenders! That Shrimp Creole was sooooo good. I am dying to go back and have it again.

  • Gillian April 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    So glad you reviewed this restaurant as I’ve wanted to go in. I definitely need to get my hands on the bombolini!

  • Kelley April 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    I can’t eat oysters, so I’ve been waiting for some friends to go and let me know if the non-oyster items are worth me trying it out. Good to know I should! Their branding alone makes me excited to visit

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