DavidHeiser's Profile

Title Last Reply

Jacob's Kitchen - I'On (Mount Pleasant/Charleston)

Always glad to hear I can be of assistance!

Charleston, SC Recommendations

Yea, Chef Brock has been moving away from the "molecular gastronomy" side of things for the past year or so. They still do some really cool stuff, but these days he's more of a farmer than a scientist.

Jacob's Kitchen - I'On (Mount Pleasant/Charleston)

The restaurant is open now, but I recently had an opportunity to attend the media dinner at Jacob's Kitchen, the new restaurant attached to a small inn in I'On.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it does. Here were my thoughts:

Though I had never been to Mt. Pleasant's I'On neighborhood before, I certainly had some preconceptions about the type of restaurant I'd find there. I assumed that, amid the fancy homes and equally fancy people, I'd find a stuffy, overpriced, country club-style dining room where I'd feel a little uncomfortable and out of place. After all, the general vibe I've gathered about I'On is that it has a sort of Stepford feel to it.

I'm happy to report, however, that I'On's newest restaurant, Jacob's Kitchen, is much more inviting than I would have ever expected (and no, they didn't even attempt to turn my girlfriend into a cyborg). The restaurant is a part of the brand spanking new Inn at I'On, which features seven rooms with features like, "fireplaces, hi-def televisions, and jet soaking tubs...wireless Internet access, a full complimentary membership to the I’On Club,...and breakfast for two." The girlfriend and I were thoroughly impressed; the rooms are certainly much nicer than most places we've stayed.

I know you didn't come here for my thoughts on the rooms, so let's get down to business. Jacob's Kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Jonathan Languell, whose name you may recognize from his days at Sal Parco's popular Boulevard Diner. Languell describes the cuisine as "New South" which, not surprisingly, is all about modern interpretations of classic Southern dishes and flavors. The comfortable 60-seat dining room reminds me quite a bit of those found at Hominy Grill and Fat Hen with a slightly more modernized faux-country home feel. It also features several very cool paintings by local artist Nancy Valelly.

Starters:

The evening began with a really nice take on one of my favorite Southern side dishes, the hushpuppy. Jacob's Kitchen's version ($7) had the perfect, light interior texture, and were boosted in flavor by tiny pieces of shrimp and corn.

The Peach Spiked Crabcakes ($9) were the highlight of both my and my girlfriend's evening. They were, as all crabcakes should be, filled almost entirely with crab meat. There is nothing more frustrating than excitedly ordering a crabcake, only to bite into it and come away with mostly breading. The subtle peach flavor provided a unique accent to a dish that I imagine will be one of their most popular appetizers, if the crowd's reaction was any indication.

The BBQ Duck Spring Roll ($6.50), wasn't bad, but it didn't particularly impress me. In general, I wish people would just give up on BBQ duck. It may sound great in theory, but the flavor of the bird always seems to get lost in the mix.

Other intriguing starter items featured on the menu but not at the tasting include a drool-inducing Fried Green Tomato Tower with a cajun crawfish corn salad and roasted red pepper coulis ($7) and Southern Fried Quail over cheddar grit cakes, maple pecan brown butter, and caramelized Granny Smith apples ($10).

Entrees:

One of Jacob's Kitchen's most appealing features is the very reasonable pricing of their entrees. Ranging from an $11-$19 with most items settling in around $15, you'd be hard pressed to find most of these items for less than $20-25 downtown.

Braised in a double chocolate stout and served on a piece of cornbread and grilled asparagus spear, the Short Ribs ($15) were another high point. I'm a sucker for braised short ribs in general, but for a man who loves dark beer, this was a match made in heaven. The aroma of this dish was enough to make my mouth water.

The sampling included two dishes featuring everyone's favorite pricey ground chuck replacement, Kobe beef--Jacob's Kobe Beef Meatloaf ($13.50) and a Kobe Beef Burger ($11). The meatloaf was served as a "shooter" in a little glass with red eye gravy. I've never been a meatloaf lover, but I did enjoy Chef Languell's version. The meat was juicy and full of flavor, pretty much everything you want from your meatloaf. Served in slider form and topped with creamy pimento cheese, the burger was tasty, if not a bit too well-done. I have to say, however, I feel the same way about these dishes that I do about BBQ duck. I think using Kobe in these types of dishes may be a bit of overkill. Sure, it looks fantastic on the menu, but it's the culinary equivalent of going to the grocery store in a Rolls Royce. Meatloaf and hamburgers can be done perfectly well (and significantly cheaper) with regular fresh ground beef.

The Carolina Gold BBQ Pork Ribs ($15) were wonderfully tender and flavorful. The only downside was that I had such trouble resisting their call that I very nearly burned my mouth biting into one as soon as it was in front of me. When ordered off the menu they will be served "over a warm potato salad and southern corn cole slaw." Mmmm.

Dishes I'm looking forward to trying in the future include the Roasted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin filled with pear and goat cheese and rolled in honey panko herb crumbs ($15.50) and Lowcountry Paella with mussels, shrimp, scallops, and fish for a crazy $15.50 price tag.

--

Overall, I think Jacob's Kitchen (set to open February 17th) is going to do very well. The product is high quality, the prices are very reasonable, and the menu is simultaneously both familiar and fresh. It's a little bit off the beaten path, but, in my opinion, well worth the trip."

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

Poogan's Porch - Charleston, SC

I usually share my reviews with you all here, but I've been MIA a little recently so I'll post this and a couple others to get caught up.

Anyhow, recently decided to give Poogan's Porch another shot after being unimpressed my last time out. Liked it, didn't love it. Had a bad experience with a Honey Dijon glaze.

Here were my thoughts:

"Living in Charleston, it would be pretty easy to dine out on a regular basis and never eat in the same place twice. That makes first impressions all the more important. After all, when you've got seemingly unlimited options, why would you go back to a restaurant that left you unimpressed?

I came away from my only previous experience at Poogan's Porch a little baffled by its popularity. The food wasn't bad, but I felt like there were any number of other establishments offering a better product for equal or less money. The fact that Poogan's is a regular stop on the local ghost tours doesn't do anything to deter the perception that it's just another tourist trap like Hyman's and Jestine's (although, I'll admit that I have been thinking of giving the latter a second chance as well).

One possible reason to return: an obscenely good deal that's almost impossible to resist. Such is currently the case at Poogan's, where they are currently featuring a rollback to 1978 menu prices from Sunday-Thursday every week. Since that may be an abstract concept to some of us who were still a good eight years away from being born, it translates to entree prices in the $7-$10 range. Sounds good with economy the way it is, huh?

So, last week I decided to take advantage of the deal and see if things were different the second time around.

To start our meal, we opted for two Charleston favorites--she-crab soup ($3) and fried green tomatoes ($3). While Poogan's F.G.T. certainly aren't Earth-shatteringly unique, they are definitely pretty damn good. What makes this particular version so great is batter. Poogan's F.G.T. are fried to absolute perfection--golden brown, crisp, and not too greasy. I've ordered this Southern staple at about a million restaurants in my lifetime, but Poogan's variety is easily among my all-time favorites. The Cajun remoulade that accompanies the tomatoes was wonderful, but I enjoy them just as much by themselves.

The she-crab soup, while above average, is a bit heavy for my taste. The right flavors were all there, but after a few spoonfuls I could actually feel my BMI rising. I wish more local restaurants would make an attempt at poaching Chef Frank McMahon's she-crab recipe over at Hank's. McMahon's version has the perfect consistency and just the right amount of sherry.

For my entree, I opted for the Pecan-crusted Fried Flounder ($9). Every halfway-decent restaurant excels at something, and after my first bite of flounder it became obvious that Poogan's expertise is its staff's unbelievable knack for frying things. The crust was crisp and crunchy without being too heavy. The subtle nutty flavor of the pecans also added a really nice base note. It was just really pleasant to bite into. Unfortunately, the second bite wasn't quite as pleasant.

One of the reasons I was drawn to the dish was the mention of the honey-Dijon glaze. Now, let it be known that I'm a full blown mustard addict. At any one time, I have at least three different varieties in my refrigerator (most importantly a bottle of Bertman's Ballpark Mustard--a Cleveland tradition--which I import from Ohio). Suffice it to say, I was expecting good things. When I excitedly dipped my next bite of flounder into the sauce and popped it into my mouth, however, I got a strange feeling that I've only previously had while eating sushi. It was that sinus clearing burning sensation that happens when you unexpectedly catch a chunk of wasabi with your chopsticks. Seriously, the sauce was just a little absurd. The Dijon completely overpowered the taste of the fish, crust, and may have possibly permanently melted a few of my taste buds. It wasn't all bad though. After a few bites I managed to get a grip on the maximum amount of sauce I could use without smothering the other flavors. Once I got to this point and could taste a bit of the sweetness of the honey, it was smooth sailing.

My partner opted for the Pan Fried Porkchop ($8). Topped with sun-dried tomatoes and a country ham gravy, the porkchop was tender, juicy, and free of burning sensations. I wish the flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes would have come through a little more clearly, but, still, the gravy was tasty and it was a successful dish.

Overall, while Poogan's Porch isn't likely to blow anyone away, it's certainly more serviceable than I remembered. If you have an opportunity to make it out before the current promotion is done, I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. Apart from the items we ordered, there were several other intriguing (and incredibly priced) options. Shrimp & Grits, steak, and pork tenderloin could each be had for under $10. You can't beat that. After the current promotion is over and prices return to normal, it's your call as to whether Poogan's is a worthy investment. If you do go, however, be sure to tip well, my roommate works there and we can always use the beer money. "

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

Charleston Food + Wine Festival

I understand people's concerns about the prices at the Festival (as a college student I can't afford to go to any of the events either), but you have to remember that the Festival is a nonprofit event (the main charity this year was the MUSC Children's Hospital with a focus on diabetes). The prices are what they are because it's an expensive event to run (Bobby Flay don't come cheap).

As someone who has interned for the Festival in the past, I can attest to the fact that Angel Postell and the two other full-time festival employees aren't driving Rolls Royces and working in lavish office space over Broad St.

Still, I'd love to see more official Festival events with a similar idea and price point to the 100-mile Dinner at Fish. That sounds great. I think it's a great way to show off what Charleston has to offer the culinary community as a whole, as well.

Where do local foodies eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Charleston, SC

It's rare that I agree with every comment that someone makes in a post but this is definitely one of them. Great recommendations all around.

A bit sorry I missed out on this thread while it was relevant.

To be fair, a lot of people like Hyman's because they're from different regions and don't know what really good, fresh seafood tastes like. Before I came to Charleston for school, my family came down from Ohio for vacations when I was a kid. We ate at Hyman's because of the "Voted Best Seafood in SC!" sign in the airport and thought it was pretty good. Then again, what did we know? Lake Erie isn't exactly a world class source of fish. Once I moved down here full time a few years ago I understood that I was horribly mistaken. Mediocre fried seafood is mediocre fried seafood. Hyman's isn't any worse than any of the other places down on the Market, but it's certainly not good.

It wasn't until I tried the grouper and snapper at FIG that I really understood how great fresh fish can be.

Charleston, SC Recommendations

Pemma -

I happen to be a senior at the College and the restaurant critic for CofC's student paper. I'd definitely encourage him to strongly consider the school. Most young guys get sold on the fact that CofC is roughly 70% female, but it's also a really good school. If you ever have any questions about the school or city feel free to shoot me an e-mail (click on the link to my site below and you'll find it on there).

As for Southern food, Virginia's on King (just a block or two from campus) does a nice job with traditional Southern dishes. It's more upscale than Jestine's, but not too much and the prices aren't that bad.

Hominy Grill is solid, their shrimp & grits recently got written up in GQ as one of the best breakfasts in America. It gets some flack for being a bit of a tourist trap these days, but Robert Stehling won a James Beard award for a reason (about 15 minute walk north of campus and actually about a block from my apartment, lucky me).

If you're down by the Market, our new (not obnoxiously) pirate themed restaurant, The Buccaneer, has a pretty good selection of local options and the prices are very reasonable.

If you want to have one really nice meal while you're in town but don't want to break the bank, SNOB and FIG are my two recommendations. I'd be hard pressed to choose between them, but Mike Lata (FIG's chef) could very well be a James Beard winner this year (he's a semi-finalist and was a finalist last year) and is about to get hugely popular (two recent major magazine features). If you go there, you'll have something to brag to your friends back home about. Both places have entrees in the low to mid-20s. FIG uses a lot of very simple preparations/presentations. Lets the ingredients speak for themselves. SNOB is a little more typical fine dining, but very very good.

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

Coco's Cafe, Mt. Pleasant

Had an opportunity to eat at Coco's last week and wrote a review for CofC's student paper. Was really pleasantly surprised. Here's what I had to say:

"I'm admittedly a little biased against restaurants in strip malls. There is just something about those cookie-cutter neon signs that make me skeptical about the uniqueness and quality of the food. Still, every once in a while one of these inconspicuous eateries ends up being a nice surprise. Tucked away in the Harris Teeter / Whole Foods plaza off Houston Northcutt Boulevard, Mount Pleasant's Coco's Cafe represents one of the best such finds in the area.

Further belied by the establishment's nondescript exterior is the romantic atmosphere which lies inside. The interior is comfortable and low lit. French accents adorn the walls and tables, including one three-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower. Our server (who was authentically French herself) was knowledgeable and polite; she had an answer for any question I had, without more than a moment's thought.

Coco's menu features traditional French dishes at prices that seem very reasonable if you've spent much time dining downtown. In my opinion, the 10-minute drive out to Mount Pleasant seems well worth the $4-5 you will save on each entree.

Though I was tempted to start my meal with the Moules Avec de la Biere Francaise ($8 - steamed mussels in andouille and Jenlain beer), it was impossible for me to resist the call of Langoustine Risotto de Crevette ($12 - shrimp and lobster risotto).

Coco's risotto was expertly prepared. With textbook texture and the wonderful flavors of shrimp and lobster permeating through the rice, I can easily say that this was one of the best risottos I have come across.

My partner chose the Ris de Veau ($12 - chili-orange glazed veal sweetbreads), a dish that reminded me quite a bit of the General Tso's style sweetbreads at McCrady's. The sweet and subtle heat of the sauce excellently complimented the natural spice of the sweetbreads.

For my entree, I opted for the Bouillabaise ($20). Chock full of mussels, scallops, shrimp, and fish in a light saffron and tomato broth, a few bites will fulfill even the strongest seafood cravings. While I really enjoyed all the seafood, I do wish there would have been a bit more flavor in the broth. This may just be a matter of preference, but I prefer versions of bouillabaise that feature a somewhat stronger tomato flavor (like that at Hank's Seafood down by the Market).

On my next visit to Coco's (and I do plan to go back) I don't think I'll have any choice but to order the entree my partner chose, the jealousy inducing Navarin d'Agneau ($18 - lamb shank navarin). The unbelievably tender meat is accompanied by green beans, shallots, and mashed potatoes and served in a delicious tomato, herb, and white wine sauce. The dish was truly an event for the senses; not only did it look and taste amazing, but the aroma was more than enough to make every mouth water within a five-foot radius.

The profiteroles (cream puffs filled with sweet cream ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce) were a nice, but perhaps unecessary way to end the evening (I'm a restaurant critic, I've got to try a little of everything, right?). Coco's other dessert options that evening were chocolate mousse, caramel cream, and a chocolate terrine. Though I didn't sample any of those, I think it's a safe assumption that you can't go wrong.

All-in-all, while Coco's has flown under my radar for quite a while, it has now firmly established itself as one of my go-to recommendations in Mount Pleasant. If you're looking for a less crowded option for a romantic meal for two, head on over the bridge and seek out this diamond in the rough."

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

Hank's Seafood in Charleston??

Hank's is middle of the road for Charleston in terms of quality and price. As long as you don't order a fried platter or the scallops (they give you way too few for the price), you're likely to be happy with your purchase. I think the quality has gone down a bit over the last few years, but it's still a better option than the Hyman's and A.W. Shucks of the world and worse than those you mentioned. Still I think you're better off spending a few extra dollars and going to one of the nicer places (SNOB or FIG are similar in price to Hank's and make significantly better food).

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

Amuse - Charleston / West Ashley, SC

My girlfriend and I are looking for a nice weeknight meal on a budget tonight and have heard lots of positive things about Amuse out in West Ashley. Has anyone here been? If so, what were your thoughts and what dishes do you recommend?

Charleston SC Super Fresh Seafood Rec's

Noisy Oyster = Bubba Gump / Hyman's / A.W. Shucks. Not good.

Heading to Charleston this week

McCrady's and Charleston Grill are all going to be out of your dress code.

FIG is really excellent and fits the bill.

If you don't mind taking a taxi, Granville's (about a mile north of the Crosstown on Rutledge Ave.) has high quality food at really decent prices.

Virginia's on King is just north of Calhoun and is a nice place to go for traditional down home Southern fare. Prices aren't too bad and casual works fine there too.

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

Breakfast in Charleston

Sunflower Cafe on Ashley River Rd. in West Ashley is pretty excellent. Very casual, but delicious. I had a spicy sausage benedict. Awesome.

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

Charleston SC Super Fresh Seafood Rec's

Great to hear! How did your NYE meal at FIG go?

- DH
http://www.davidgheiser.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Charleston SC Super Fresh Seafood Rec's

FIG always has some of the best, freshest ingredients in town. I wasn't a fan of fish in general until I tried their grouper a few years ago. Really top notch.

Also, it's more expensive, but the staff at McCrady's, is damn near obsessive about their ingredients.

Looking for great food in Charleston...

Charleston Grill is definitely great, but my top three are:

1. McCrady's - Cutting edge food made with produce from their own farm
2. SNOB - Just went for the first time recently, was OUTSTANDING. Consistently mentioned in these type of threads as one of the best in the city.
3. FIG - Simply prepared, excellent, excellent food. High quality local ingredients.

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

Dec 21, 2008
DavidHeiser in Southeast

Charleston Special Anniversary Dinner

I wouldn't discount McCrady's. It's new American, but it's not cold or impersonal. They grow a major portion of their produce on their farm (and their chef is the main laborer there). If you really consider yourself "foodie types" that is where you should be headed. If I had the money to spend, that would be my pick.

Charleston Grill would be a very close second for me. Probably has the best ambiance/service of anywhere in the city. Food is excellent too.

I've heard some negative things about Tristan. The Rotten Oysters blog compared eating there to "listening to Dreamtheater, while throwing up." What he meant was that they have so much skill and knowledge, but just a weak sense of what makes a great dining experience.

I also have had some of the best meals I've ever eaten at FIG and SNOB, but I don't think their dining rooms are as conducive to a 30th anniversary dinner as McCrady's or Charleston Grill.

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

Charleston--Alluette's, delurking to rave

I recently had a chance to review Alluette's Cafe for the George Street Observer. Like many here have stated, my general impression was that the food was excellent, but the prices were simply unreasonable. Here's the full review if you're interested in a more detailed breakdown:

"From the outside, Alluette's Cafe isn't much to look at. It's in a pretty nondescript strip mall on the border of the sketchy side of town. The inside continues the low key theme. Alluette's, named for its proprietor Alluette Jones, only has about a half dozen tables, none of which adhere to any recognizable pattern. The walls are covered in paintings by local Gullah artists and the book shelves are filled with titles promising "natural cures."

The menu, which makes Alluette's commitment to fresh, local, and organic ingredients abundantly clear, is fairly small, but complemented by a sizable list of daily specials. It's important to choose something you're pretty sure you'll like, however, because the prices at Alluette's are way higher than you would suspect in that location.

We chose to start with a cup of the fish stew ($7 for what appeared to be about 6 oz.). Warm and hearty with loads of delicious vegetables and wild-caught salmon, it would be the perfect cure for a cold winter night. The tomato basil-based stew wonderfully combines flavors from the farm and the ocean.

From there, we moved on to entrees. Relying on the recommendations of just about everyone who has ever been to Alluette's Cafe, I went with the fried local shrimp ($19). I've always thought that all fried were roughly the same, but boy was I wrong.

Alluette's fried shrimp have a light, crispy exterior that doesn't drown out the taste of the shrimp. They are seasoned with a healthy dose of dill and served with a spicy cayenne mayonnaise. I have to agree with Robert Moss of the City Paper's assertion that Alluette's is dishing out the best fried shrimp in the city.

My partner opted for the chicken salad ($15). Served over a bed of some the freshest, tastiest local veggies I've tasted in quite a while, this dish would be an absolutely ideal light meal if the price tag wasn't so absurd. Fifteen dollars for a single, albeit delicious, scoop of chicken salad and some greens just isn't a reasonable purchase for anyone living on a budget.

For dessert, we were tempted by Alluette's giant cookies ($3) but ended up selecting the bread pudding ($6). The pudding was full of raisins and nice, crunchy apples. The flavors were all right, but I found it to be a little on the dry side.

Another interesting item to note is Alluette's sweet tea, which is sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar. On the day we went, they were serving a pineapple tea which I really enjoyed. It's a particularly attractive option for those of us who get turned off by the amount of sugar many restaurants around these parts put in their tea.

Overall, the food at Alluette's was excellent, but I don't know how highly I can recommend it, given the cost. I can't really blame Alluette for that, though. It's got to be difficult enough to turn a profit in a restaurant that small, but I imagine it gets significantly harder when you commit to the quality of ingredients she does.

So, if you've got money to burn, by all means move Alluette's toward the top of your "must-try" list. However, if you're like me and $30 dinners are a substantial investment, you might be better off heading down to your neighborhood vegetable stand and trying to recreate some of Alluette's dishes yourself."

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

Virginia's on King - Charleston

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

Trattoria Lucca in Charleston

If tennreb says he saw a group of 15 in there then I guess they must be able to accommodate large parties once they move the tables around. I think it would be a pretty good pick. You could have some fun passing the different dishes around. I didn't really look at the wine list because I've got a tight budget, but one of the women at the PR firm I intern for commented to me that there wasn't much in the way of budget wine (read under $40 a bottle).

Their appetizer selections would be especially great for a group. There were definitely plenty of choices.

If anyone is particularly interested in seeing a menu, shoot me an email (address is on my blog), their manager sent me one to help with my review because they don't have a web site yet.

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

Trattoria Lucca in Charleston

So I finally had the opportunity to try Lucca last week and finished my review for the paper this weekend. Here's what I had to say:

"For as long as I've been interested in Charleston's culinary scene, I have continually heard people rave about Sienna, Chef Ken Vedrinski's Daniel Island standout. It has been on my "to-go" list for quite a while, but the 30-minute drive time and rather steep entrée prices have prevented me from ever actually making the trip.

Needless to say, when I read in June that Chef Vedrinski was planning to open a new restaurant downtown with a more college student friendly price point, I was more than a little excited. Vedrinski told City Paper that his plan is for Trattoria Lucca to be a place where Charleston's extensive community of food and beverage workers could enjoy "a good bowl of pasta at 1:30 a.m." My anticipation built over a few months as Lucca's opening was delayed multiple times from the original goal of July, before finally opening on Sept. 23.

Trattoria Lucca sits on the corner of Bogard St. and Ashe St., on the frontier of the peninsula's current wave of gentrification. If you walk past the establishment at night, you can't help but be instantly intrigued. Its large front windows are reminiscent of Mercato, the recent Italian addition to Hank Holliday's ever expanding empire, and they reveal a low lit romantic atmosphere that just begs you to come back with a date.

The menu, as planned, is reasonably priced. They certainly aren't giving anything away (a $16 plate of fresh made cavatelli is still a $16 plate of pasta at the end of the day), but none of the entrées top $20 and the appetizers peak at $9 as well.

The appetizers are divided into three sections, verdure, formaggi and salumi (vegetables, cheeses and meats). We chose to start with the golden beets with pickled garlic, tangerine, pine nuts and white balsamic vinegar ($7). Light, refreshing and bursting with flavor, this dish is a great way to start a meal. The acidity of the vinegar and citrus, pungent garlic and mild beet mingled on my tongue, forming a wonderful flavor profile that made me think of summer.

From there we moved on to formaggi. The Robiola ($8), made from a blend of cow and sheep's milk, is smooth and creamy with a slightly sour flavor. It is accompanied by organic pear, hazlenuts and squares of crispy asiago cheese. The tangy pear and luxuriant cheese contrast in flavor but work exceptionally well together.

Other intriguing starter options include the prosciutto di Parma, which has been cured for 36 months ($9), roasted fall mushrooms ($7) and grilled baby artichokes ($7).

Main courses are split between primi (pasta dishes) and secondi (entrées), with four choices in each section. I went with the sheep's milk ricotta gnudi served in a tomato ragu with house made duck sausage and scamorza cheese ($17). Gnudi, which is indeed Italian for "naked," are best described as what you would be left with if you stripped the pasta exterior from ravioli, leaving only the filling; tender pieces with a soft, pillowy texture and delicate ricotta flavor. The tomato ragu was bold and flavorful, the pieces of mildly spicy pieces of duck sausage added a nice gourmet touch. Still, for the $17 price tag I was a little unimpressed, particularly in the portion department. My entrée was good, but at that cost I'd expect more of a "wow" factor from a pasta dish.

My partner went with the Berkshire pork chop "milanese" ($18). The pork was lightly breaded and topped with heirloom tomatoes, arugula and provolone cheese. The pieces I tried of this dish were far and away the highlight of the evening. The meat was tender and juicy, and the tomatoes made an ideal compliment. Perhaps my disappointment with my entrée's size was partially because I couldn't help but compare it to this dish. The pork chop was enormous. Even after she ate what she wanted and I mooched as much as I could, we were left with enough food to make two more meals for her or one good sized meal for me (what can I say, I eat like a fat kid). If you decide to dine at Lucca, this would be my top recommendation.

Next time I make it to Lucca, I plan on going with one of the other entrée choices, most likely the grilled Painted Hills hanger steak ($19), which is served along side fall mushrooms and an olive oil potato puree.

Beyond the food, the service was solid. The staff seemed very knowledgeable, an accomplishment for a restaurant this new. One thing I did have a problem with is the layout of the dining room. It really seemed a bit overcrowded. We were seated near the corner of the restaurant in an area where servers continually had to get past me to get to two other tables. I'm not a huge person-I'm only 5'11" and about 160 lbs-but once the restaurant got busy it seemed like I was always in someones way. I had to scoot my chair in and out about 10 times and had servers bump into me on multiple occasions. I also found the dining area to be a little excessively loud when most of the tables were filled. My partner and I had a very difficult time hearing each other across the table while speaking at a conversational level.

Other than that, however, my first meal at Trattoria Lucca was a very enjoyable experience. The food ranged from good to excellent, and the prices are sure to make Lucca a favorite among students and residents looking for an affordable option for a date. Lucca is a welcome addition to what is a rapidly growing area of downtown's culinary scene and I encourage everyone to check it out. "

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

Coast Restaurant in Charleston

I've only been to Coast once, but enjoyed it. It's kind of a "see and be seen" sort of place, rather than a purely fine dining experience. I've heard good things about FISH as well but haven't yet been.

FIG is one of the very best restaurants in the city, Mike Lata has a commitment to slow food, local food, fresh food, basically very good food.

McCrady's is regarded as one of the best in the country (if you watch Food Network on Wednesday at 7PM you can watch their chef win the Food Network Challenge: "The Next Great Chef" competition).

You'll also hear a lot of people on here recommend SNOB (Slightly North of Broad). I haven't ever really heard a negative comment about the place. I'm going to be eating there in the next couple weeks, I'll report back on how it goes.

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

Granville's Cafe - Charleston

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

Trattoria Lucca in Charleston

I haven't been yet. But I'm going soon. It's only a couple blocks from my apartment and I've walked by at night. The space looks VERY cool. I've never made it out to Sienna either, but I've heard nothing but great things about that place, so I can only assume that Lucca will be a great addition to the neighborhood. This is one of the positives of the Cannonborough/Elliotborough gentrification.

I should be reviewing Lucca for C of C's student paper sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be sure to post it here once I do. Prices are supposed to be pretty reasonable because it's supposed to be catering to the food & beverage industry crowd. I'd suspect that it'll be mostly pasta in the mid-teens and entrees bordering on $20, but that's just speculation.

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

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ - Charleston

I still disagree with you about Home Team, but I decided to try out the guys on King St. you suggested this weekend and you were right!

I got mine from a guy named Lawrence Frazier, "The Rib Man"...$14 for a half rack with his home made sauce...great stuff. Any Charleston locals who haven't been up King Street for ribs on a Saturday need to get on that!

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

Breakfast recs in Charleston

I had a really good spicy sausage benedict at Sunflower Cafe in West Ashley a couple weeks ago.

Also, people on here like to complain about the prices, but Hominy Grill does a great brunch and it's not expensive, compared to a lot of other places down town.

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

Charleston (a week with group with vegetarian friendly options)

I would recommend Daily Dose in James Island, just off Folly Rd. They have lots of great vegetarian options. It is mainly wraps and pitas and the like, but quality ingredients and very tasty too. They also have a good beer list.

Three Little Birds Cafe on James Island (behind the South Windemere shopping center) only does breakfast and lunch, but they've earned a lot of praise for their organic options and have lots of vegetarian items.

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

Low country/local cuisine in Charleston

winegeek/penny...i encourage you to take jimmy's comments with a grain of salt...i live here and have barely ever heard anyone having anything less than glowing to say about FIG...if I had to recommend one restaurant with an average entree price below $30 in Charleston it would be FIG...

Hominy gets some flack because it gets lots of national attention and has started becoming more touristy...but the dude one best chef in the region for a reason...the vast majority of the time their food is very, very good

- DH
http://www.davidgheiser.com - One Charleston College Student's Guide to Food and Film

Low country/local cuisine in Charleston

Jimmy, I'm not sure you can call Hominy spotty at best. It's not my favorite place in town, but their chef did just win the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southeast.

There have been plenty of debates on this board as to what exactly qualifies as local cuisine, which places are authentic, yada, yada, yada.

When most people think of local cuisine they're probably thinking of shrimp and grits and she crab soup. That's fine and there are plenty of places in this city that can deliver (Hank's does very well at both of those, I've heard Hominy's shrimp and grits is top notch too).

That being said, as Jimmy said in his other post, a lot of the best food around here isn't stereotypically "lowcountry" food. There are some great chefs here that use a lot of great local ingredients, but it's not the traditional southern food you're thinking of.

FIG uses almost exclusively local ingredients. It's one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

McCrady's grows a good amount of their produce at their farm on Wadamalaw Island and try to use as much local food as they can.

Slightly North of Broad (SNOB as you'll hear it frequently called around here) gets rave reviews every time someone mentions the best places in charleston.

Bowen's Island is a good spot for fried seafood and fresh oysters. They have a very good Frogmore Stew which is decidedly Lowcountry. Like he said, it's low rent, but it has a great view and a nice laid back atmosphere.

Another place to try would be Fat Hen on Johns Island. It's Lowcountry meets French. Lots of good selections there.

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

Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ - Charleston

I didn't attend the Festival, but I know that a lot of restaurants' catering food doesn't live up to the expectations you've established eating in their actual building. I think people like Jimmy Hagood, who does mainly catering, have the advantage because they are in that setting all the time.

I was skeptical about the wrap myself, but it ended up being my favorite thing on the menu. The ribs are a close second.

I thought Hickory Hawg's ribs were good, but they didn't blow me away enough to justify me driving all the way out to Johns Island for them. Momma Brown's just didn't click with me at all. I thought the mustard sauce tasted too much like straight French's and overpowered the meat. I'll have to give them another shot on catfish night though.