Review of the Grocery in Charleston
We enjoyed a very nice dinner at the Grocery. There were 4 of us in our group, and our reservation was set for 8:45pm on a Friday night. I arrived first, and went to the bar to wait. The bar area is very small, and also allows for bar top dining. I was lucky to find a seat however. Bar emphasis is on cocktails rather than an extensive wine or liquor selection. I ordered my usual drink and struck up a conversation with the couple next to me. They were eating at the bar and had chosen the “Piggy Plate”- Charcuterie Selection as their first choice. It looked very appealing and I hoped that my dinner companions would like to try it.
Our table was ready exactly at our reserved time. The restaurant was busy so this is a service item I appreciated. 2 of our group had read other reviews (from professional critics, bloggers and individuals), so we knew to pay attention to the appetizers as well as the main courses. Our server gave us an overview of the menu and mentioned a few specials. We decided to split 3 “small bites”- Fried Oyster Sliders, Piggy Plate (charcuterie platter) and pimento cheese bites. The Oyster Sliders were impressive, 5 large and fresh oysters that were flash fried and served on an oyster shell with remoulade and a salad pickle. The Oysters were fresh and delivered to the table hot but not sizzling. The pimento cheese bites were just that: bite sized pieces of pimento cheese, lightly coated and quick fried. A crunchy exterior gave way to a gooey and tasty pimento cheese interior. The Piggy Platter was a nice slab of wood that contained a wonderful assortment of cured meats; salumi, a house made prosciutto, speck, headcheese. It was served with a small patter of pickled vegetables- okra, cauliflower, beets, a dab of whole grained mustard and a separate plate of fresh crostini. All choices were excellent and quickly devoured.
For entrees, we ordered Seared Scallops and Pork Belly, Bacon Wrapped Duck Roulade- stuffed with apples, cipolinni onions and pecans, and 2 orders of Short Ribs. The Cauliflower Casserole had been recommended to us, so we ordered it, along with roasted Brussels Sprouts for the table. We ordered a bottle of J Christopher Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. My wife deemed the Scallops excellent, perfectly cooked and nicely countered by the earthy richness of the pork belly. The duck was slightly dry, but flavorful. The bacon wrap was not as crispy as I expected, nor was its flavor as prominent as I expected. The bacon added a slightly smoky depth, contrasting with the sweetness of the roasted onion and apple stuffing. The duck, as mentioned, was a bit dry, but not overwhelmed by the other flavors. The short ribs were served off of the bone, and were both moist and fork tender. The underlying sauce was made of faro, turnips, mushrooms and red wine. The taste was like a rustic version of a classic red wine mushroom reduction. The Cauliflower Casserole was as described- cheesy crispy topping with nicely caramelized cauliflower, tossed with a bit of cream and grated pecorino. The Brussels Sprouts were roasted to have a char on the outside, combined with bacon apples, pecans and sherry vinegar. I could not really taste the apples or pecans, but the bacon and sherry vinegar complimented the roasted sprouts. The wine was reasonably priced and very drinkable out of the bottle, not needing much aeration to open up in the glass, and delivering a dry, slightly spicy flavor with a small hint of cherry.
For desert were ordered Key Lime Semifrado, and Banana Pudding Parfait, with 4 spoons for the table. Both were excellent. The Banana pudding was covered with a layer of meringue and had been put under the broiler for a moment to caramelize and crisp the exterior. The filling was smooth, creamy and very rich. The Key Lime Semifrado was a generous serving of Key Lime custard on top of a ginger shortbread, topped with a bit of whipped cream. The custard was silky smooth, with sweet tart flavor. The shortbread had a nice bite. I could only have a bit or 2 of the parfait due to its richness, but I consumed a good portion of the semifrado.
We were allowed to eat at our own pace, without feeling rushed by the staff. Service was excellent. Our server was available when needed, but otherwise did not intrude on our meal. The bill was less than I expected, even including several drinks at the table and a bottle of wine. Previous reviewers had mentioned that portion sizes were on the small side, but when combined with appetizers, overall food quantity was perfectly fine. And as mentioned, the total price was less than expected. One oddity however: while at the bar before dinner, I ordered a drink, which was delivered to me in a highball glass. While at the table, I ordered a second identical drink. It was delivered to the table in a smaller glass than what was used at the bar, and the cost of the drink was a dollar less than what I was charged at the bar for the same drink. Odd.
Overall a solid 4 out of 5. We completely enjoyed our meal and the evening. I recommend the Grocery for both a quiet meal for 2 as well as a convivial evening with friends. We WILL return.