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Granville's Cafe - Charleston

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This review should be especially relevant to those hounds who make posts looking for Charleston restaurants who have good food, but don't have the obscene prices or long lines of many of the places down by the market. Last week I had the chance to eat at Granville's so I could review it for CofC's student paper. I really liked it. Here's what I had to say for those that are interested:

"In the past, if I was looking for something to eat north of the Crosstown, I thought my options were pretty much limited to Moe's Crosstown Tavern, grease-bomb style soul food dives, and perhaps a sketchy Chinese restaurant or two. With all due respect to Moe's (which serves up some of the best bar food in town), these choices never gave me much incentive to search for more gastronomic offerings in the peninsula's culinary nether region. That changed a few nights ago when I had the chance to dine at Granville's Cafe and Catering, an establishment I had heard of but never really given much thought.

Granville's, located just a block from Moe's at the corner of Rutledge Avenue and Grove Street, features a covered patio perfectly suited for a comfortable meal on a temperate fall evening. The inside of the restaurant is equally inviting. It is simultaneously warm and minimalist, and the windows, which take up almost all of the front wall, give the dining room a modern feel. Where Moe's succeeds by serving good food in an atmosphere that distinctly matches its location, Granville's takes the opposite route and offers diners an experience that they wouldn't expect to find in this part of town.

The common complaint about Granville's is that, while the food is usually very good, the service is poor. In fact, Jeff Allen of the Charleston City Paper went so far as to describe Granville's service as "inept" and "glaringly obtuse" in an April 2007 review. Ouch. From my visit, however, it would appear that I either caught them on an exceptionally good night or they have taken the criticism of the past to heart and really turned things around. Our service was well paced and noninvasive, our water glasses were consistently filled and our server was available whenever her presence was needed.

Granville's cuisine is eclectic, with menu items ranging from Jamaican jerk style chicken ($12) to beef bourguigno ($16). They even have burgers, pizzas, and an array of tapas style small plates on their economical menu.

We chose to start with two of their small plates. The chili rubbed shrimp ($6) sat atop slices of cool avocado and alongside a romesco sauce and red pepper relish. The tender shrimp served as perfect vessels for the contrasting flavors of the chili's smokey heat and the cool tangy romesco. The blended roasted red pepper and eggplant ($5) is accompanied by crunchy crostinis. I enjoyed the dish because I love eggplant, but agreed with my partner that it needs a bit more red pepper if they want to avoid that flavor being overwhelmed. Other interesting small plate options include the red curry coconut milk mussels ($6) and the Asian salmon tartar ($6).

For my entree, I chose the bourbon glazed and panko coated salmon ($16). The salmon was perfectly cooked and I loved the contrasting textures as I bit through the crispy exterior breading and into the tender, flaky fish. The glaze was light and subtle, just barely making its presence known without interfering with the salmon's natural flavor.

My partner, who was disappointed to learn that they were out of the house made Chorizo-style sausage that was the main component of the pasta dish she had her heart set on, settled for the Asian braised coconut milk short ribs ($17). Her disappointment was quickly erased when she bit into the tender, flavorful beef, accented by a distinctively Oriental note of ginger. The short ribs sat on a bed of fragrant jasmine rice and stir fried red and green bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms, all of which she loved.

Entrees are accompanied by two sides. I opted for the Dijon and cheddar cheese topped cauliflower and the double fried french fries. The cauliflower was tender yet firm, and the sharp bite of the mustard and warm melted cheddar provided a nice twist on one of my childhood's least favorite vegetables. The french fries were also exceptional. Both light and crisp, they are exactly how God intended french fries to be. In addition, they came paired with an olive oil and Parmesan dipping sauce, an interesting combination I haven't seen elsewhere.

I was glad we saved a bit of room for dessert, because Granville's almond brown butter cake was truly exceptional. Baked individually and topped with whip cream and strawberries, its warm interior and nutty flavor will invariably produce a "Wow" from your lips.

Granville's is, without a doubt, the finest restaurant north of the Crosstown. That isn't saying a whole lot, but I also think that they could certainly hold their own if they ever decided to move a mile or two south. The current location does offer some benefits, however; there are absolutely no tourists, parking is easy to find, and they aren't charging the exoribitant prices that are necessitated by an address with a 29401 zip code attached. So, if you're willing to venture a few blocks out of your comfort zone, you won't find the occasionally snooty atmosphere of some of the nicer places downtown, but you will find the perfect place for a reasonably priced, quality meal, any day of the week. "

Hope this helps!
- DH
http://www.DavidGHeiser.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

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