Eating in Charleston: trip report
I’ve already reported on our wonderful meal at Wild Olive, but I thought I’d like to share my thoughts on other Charleston eating on a recent short trip. This was probably my 5th or 6th time in Charleston, but I have little recollection of where I’ve eaten before—usually I had little input into dining choices, but also the restaurant scene seems to have changed so much in the past decade. I saw lots of places I’d like to try next time: a banh mi stand we drove by, The Gin Joint, FIG, Husk, and many others.
We opted for lunch at Magnolia’s partly on a strong rec from a friend, partly because we happened to be right nearby as it began to rain. I ordered a glass of prosecco and was instantly seduced by the flounder. Although I never order flounder, I know it’s a local specialty and, as the daily special, it was offered with pirloo, which I was dying to try. The (lightly) parmesan-crusted fish fillet was indeed as fresh and delicious and topped with lumps of crab as our server promised, but the thick pool of creamy pirloo, studded with plump shrimp and topped with a little mound of bright, crisp, chopped fresh vegetables (asparagus, corn, cherry tomatoes) made me swoon. I was expecting something more akin to jambalaya, but found, quite happily, something much closer to a great risotto. My husband ordered BBQ pork sliders with slaw though I and the waiter tried to steer him elsewhere: they were ok, nothing special—but, really, I think BBQ is best ordered from a BBQ joint.
When we couldn’t get into FIG, we chose the Ordinary for dinner. I’d read good reviews and (thought) I felt like eating light. We started with cocktails and raw littlenecks. Served with three sauces, they were fabulous--icy, briny, sweet, and tiny. We could easily have eaten four dozen to whet our appetites, but at $1.50 a pop, we had to stop at 1 ½ dozen. We also ordered the clam cake with coriander crème fraiche, which a server declared the best thing she’d ever eaten. I didn’t feel the same way; I wanted a more clam-forward taste but there seemed to be a lot of flavor competition in this miniscule portion. We felt similarly about the baked oysters. But we loved the riff on Caesar, with kale standing in for the romaine—and up to the white anchovies and garlicky dressing. I’m going to try that at home. Our favorite bite was, surprisingly, probably the porchetta with tonnato sauce, a much more vibrantly flavored tonnato sauce than I’ve ever had. The small plates here are really small, and we could have eaten more (and dropped a lot more cash!), but we resisted though I was sorely tempted to order the lobster roll after seeing one at the next table. It looked pretty spectacular. Next time.
As soon as we arrived at Hominy Grill, I realized I’d been there for breakfast once before; since breakfast is never my thing, it’s rarely memorable, but this was a very nice breakfast in a pleasant setting. We both opted for the country breakfast, one with the delicious housemade sausage and one with bacon—and since we were at HG, we ordered the famous High-rise Biscuits, which were very good (though we had to ask twice for preserves). A bonus was that we got to chatting with a couple at the next table, long-time residents who gave us several dining tips (for the next trip as we were on our way out of town).