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Apr 5, 2008 08:40 PM

The Glass Onion in Charleston: bad first impression

So all week I was looking forward to having Saturday brunch at the newly-opened Glass Onion in West Ashely. I like their concept -- pan-Southern cuisine focusing on local produce at reasonable prices. And their owners seem really passionate about what they are doing. But do they respect their customers? I had to wonder when we got to the restaurant, having driven 20+ minutes from the other side of town, only to find they had closed their doors an hour and a half (maybe more) before their posted time of closing. The note on the door only poured salt on the wound: "Brunch was a hit, but we had to close early!" Don't tell us how great brunch was when you closed too early for us to enjoy it!

I'm trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were swamped and ran out of food. If so, say so; don't be cryptic. Bottom line, Charleston is a serious restaurant town, and if the The Glass Onion continues to do this kind of thing, it won't be open for long. Treat your customers with respect, maybe even try staying open later, rather than closing early, novel idea! The Glass Onion lists EVO as a like-minded restaurant on their website. Well, regulars at EVO know they often open earlier than their posted hours on Saturdays. There's an example to emulate.

I will go back to The Glass Onion. The place seems too promising to write off based on this one strike against it. I hope this was an isolated incident and can just be chalked up to a new restaurant working out its kinks. If so, I will be the first to give them the kudos they deserve, once they earn it.

But for now, I am putting them on notice!

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  1. We are headed to Charleston on the 18th. Glass Onion is on my list. I will wait to hear the reviews at this point before deciding to go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: crazyspice

      Glass Onion disapointing -- Today, I took 3 friends (two visiting from North Carolina, one from Colorado) for brunch at The Glass Onion.
      I had told them how great the food and service were and they were very excited to try it. One friend ordered the quiche Lorraine, only to be told later that the quiche was not ready and was forced to make another choice. Another friend and I ordered the gumbo, which was served without rice since apparently someone had forgotten to make rice. At the register, we were offered about $1 off the gumbo since it came with no rice. I'm not from New Orleans, but is riceless gumbo really traditional gumbo?

      Wikipedia has the correct definition of gumbo. Perhaps the owners and staff of this purportedly cajun eatery should visit this article to be brought up to date:

    2. Jon, for what it is worth, the Bridge run was Saturday and brought hundreds of thousands of people to town for the race. I'm sure they were simply swamped and overwhelmed by the amount of people trying to dine there.

      Give them another chance, I'll bet they will make it up to you and by all means tell them what happened to you. I'm sure they'd like to fix your bad impression.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BlueHerons

        Yes, do give them another chance. The last time we were in there, we told them we would not tell any of our friends about how much we enjoyed our food. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to get in the door!! Well, looks like the word is out. But we will go back. Food and service were great.

      2. Please do try the Glass Onion again. I went Sat around 1:45 and they were sold out of almost everything. They hadn't closed up yet so they went ahead and served me because I wasn't picky. I believe strongly that due to the fact that they had only been open for two weeks and they've been SLAMMIN they just hadn't prepared for such heavy business. I assure you that if you try it again you won't be disappointed. It is DELICIOUS! I loved it!

        1. I ate there for the eighth time today since it opened. I never eat at the same restaurant twice in the same month. It is close to my house and they don't close between lunch and dinner (which is when I eat lunch). Plus the food is really good. And by really good I mean amazing. The texture of the crust on everything that is fried is perfection. The salty smoky goodness of the pork belly is going to cause me health problems. I like their collards quite a bit though I think mine are better. Today I had the soft-shell crab for the second time. If there is a food heaven it is paved with fried soft-shell crabs. Two thumbs up.

          2 Replies
          1. re: CharlestonChow

            Jon, the food and service at Glass Onion is excellent. Maybe you should actually eat there before you give a scathing headline like that! As you stated the owners are passionate about what they do, give them credit for having the guts to start up a small business in the time of cheap big box food chains. And they may run out of stuff, but they stay open later than posted hours to accommodate customers. I doubt they wanted to close early.

            1. re: penny35

              My "headline" was entirely accurate. When you drive 20 minutes to eat at a restaurant only to find they closed 90 minutes or more before their scheduled closing time, it leaves a bad first impression. I'm a passionate "localvore" and I'm pulling for places like the Glass Onion to find success and longevity, but that doesn't mean I'm going to pull punches when they engage in business practices that turn off customers and enventually will probably hurt their draw. I continue to hear reports that they run out of food, even as you state, so it seems they need to adjust their business model to accomodate the number of customers they are pulling in. There are lots of popular restaurants, even ones that focus on local ingredients, that manage not to run out of food on a regular basis. I'm not going to give the Glass Onion a pass just because I happen to agree with their "localvore" philosophy.

              All that being said, I am planning a return visit very soon, so I will hopefully be able to report good things about their food and service at that time. That's all I wanted to do in the first place, but I was denied the opportunity, and I won't pretend it didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak.

          2. Since my original post, I've visited The Glass Onion a few more times, and while it's not my favorite restaurant, I'm pleased to recommend the place and I'm glad to say they seem to have carved a niche out for themselves in the local food scene. Despite continued heavy business, they don't seem to be experiencing the earlier problems of running out of food anymore (or closing early), at least based on my limited number of visits.

            My biggest problem here is I always seem to order the wrong thing and end up liking my wife's choices better than my own. Nothing I've ordered has been bad but neither have the dishes blown me away, including boudin balls (I suspect this is just not a dish for me), eggs with grits and fried chicken (why, oh why do restaurants these days, especially ones like this that purport to serve soul food, foist BONELESS fried chicken on customers without any clarification on the menu?), and a roast chicken salad po boy that was served in such a manner that it took me awhile to figure out how to a) assemble it and b) fit it in my mouth. On the other hand, I've enjoyed samples of my wife's fried catfish with grits and meuniere sauce, catfish po boy, and fried catfish with grits and tomato curry sauce. The lesson seems to be to order the fried catfish! Actually, notwithstanding the disppointment of the boneless chicken, The Glass Onion does a masterful job of frying--I've had side dishes of fried quail and fried local shrimp and both were excellent as well.

            Our luck with stuff in bowls has not been as good--the sweet potato soup was too bland while the gumbo was too salty. For a southern place, both the sweet tea and the lemonade seem woefully undersweetened. However, their desserts have impressed--the banana pudding was good, the derby pie was great, and the bread pudding was one of the better ones I've tried (very custardy).

            Menu-wise, I think my biggest complaint would be that I'd like to see more Lowcountry dishes featured. While not available on my last visit, a positive development I've noticed lately is the appearance of Country Captain on their online menu. In fact, I am 99% certain the sweet tomato curry that came with my wife's catfish was actually the Country Captain stew base without the chicken. Very tasty.

            All in all, I like this restaurant and love its local foods concept. While there is still room for improvement, The Glass Onion has definitely earned my repeat business.