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Virginia's on King - Charleston

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Hey all, I recently had the opportunity to dine at Virginia's on King (the latest from the people behind Coast and Rue de Jean) and wrote up a review for my blog and CofC's student paper, thought I'd come here and share my thoughts with you all.

"When most visitors come to Charleston, they're usually looking for two things when it comes to food, seafood and traditional home-style southern fare. This is the reason why Hyman's and Jestine's, two decidedly uninspiring restaurants, in my opinion, consistently have hour-and-a-half waits.

While anyone who has spent more than a few days in Charleston could point you to many restaurants in this town with better seafood than Hyman's, until recently, they may have struggled to identify establishments that represent a step up from Jestine's, within that same genre of cuisine.

Since opening in December 2007, Virginia's on King, the latest offering from Holy City Hospitality (Coast Bar & Grill, 39 Rue de Jean), has solidified itself, alongside Hominy Grill, as one of Charleston's leaders in traditional Southern food.

Even before starting our meal, my partner and I were impressed with Virginia's dining room. The dark panel and worn brick walls give the space an air of sophistication that I imagine must be reminiscent of the dinner parties thrown by the restaurant's namesake, Virginia Bennett.

For our appetizers, we opted for one dish we can't get enough of, and another that we had never tried before. The traditional tomato pie ($7) was wonderful, with balsamic vinegar adding a tangy twist to this late summer-early fall classic. The pan-fried chicken livers ($6) were a first for both of us, and we enjoyed them more than we expected to. The soft, almost chewy texture may not be for everyone, but combined with caramelized onions and bacon, the flavor more than made up for it.

On the other hand, we found the she-crab soup ($4 cup / $8 bowl), which is supposed to be one of Virginia's specialties, to be almost completely inedible. The flavor wasn't awful, but I really felt like I was eating a bowl of straight heavy cream and sherry with little bits of crab meat. I know that she-crab is never described as a light soup, but I couldn't manage to eat more than a few bites of Virginia's version.

After struggling to choose our entrees (almost all of Virginia's offerings looked enticing), I settled on the hazelnut marinated venison ($19). Cooked perfectly medium-rare and served on top of a tremendous earthy and flavorful mushroom gravy, the meat was so juicy and tender that I felt it just might melt in my mouth. My partner went for the aged ribeye ($24), which came topped with homemade pimento cheese. I was skeptical about how well this would work, given pimento cheese's tendency to overpower any other flavor it encounters, but it ended up being the highlight of the evening. The bold tastes of both components of the dish played equal roles with the spice of the peppers serving as an unusual but delicious compliment to the steak.

As for, side dishes, I was surprisingly fond of the creamed corn and the corn bread with broccoli, but was underwhelmed by the baked macaroni and cheese, which came out of the kitchen lukewarm. It's worth noting, however, that my partner said it was better when she reheated it so the cheese was warm and gooey the next day.

For dessert, we chose the pecan pie ($6). Drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and served with vanilla ice cream, this warm, decadent pie was a perfect way to end the evening.

All-in-all, our meal at Virginia's on King was definitely a success. Besides my disappointment with the soup, my only other complaint would be that the food at Virginia's was simply too rich for me to dine there on a regular basis. Still, the quality of the product is more than enough to justify the fact that you're likely to leave the restaurant discussing your plans to eat nothing but salads for the next week. So, next time you're missing home cooked meals and are distressed at the thought of microwaving another box of Easy Mac for dinner, consider heading to Virginia's; it's only a block from campus, but can transport you to wherever home is. "

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

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