Tuesday, March 21, 2017

After a series of Gullah restaurant closures, a new one emerges in the most unexpected place

Welcome back, Charlotte

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 12:55 PM

Charlotte Jenkins will be Gentry Bar & Room's Gullah specialist - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Charlotte Jenkins will be Gentry Bar & Room's Gullah specialist
When we published our Gullah Geechee Dish issue in 2015, it was following the closure of a handful of Gullah Geechee restaurants. In fact, it was the shuttering of Charlotte Jenkins' 17-year-old Gullah Cuisine that gave me the idea to focus the entire issue of Dish on Charleston's dwindling Gullah restaurant scene. Jenkin's restaurant in Mt. Pleasant closed that fall and seemed to be a harbinger of things to come — the loss of one of the Lowcountry's most important culinary legacies.

Jenkins told us at the time that she was contemplating a Gullah Cooking school, but that never materialized and I was beginning to think the woman who quite literally wrote the book on Gullah food — Gullah Cuisine: By Land & Sea — might vanish into retirement. But thanks to the wisdom of Chef Marvin Woods, Chef/Partner of JD Madison's forthcoming Gentry Bar (276 King St.), Charlotte Jenkins has returned to the kitchen.

"I said 'Listen, I want to bring you out retirement,'" says Woods. According to the chef and former Turner South Home Plate host, Jenkins was the first person he called after he agreed to join Madison's new restaurant. And after some convincing, Jenkins said yes. Jenkins' title will be Gullah specialist and chef consultant.

"Charlotte's going to be my right hand," says Woods. "I'm not so much into the title thing. But that being said, she's a certified chef and an expert on Gullah cuisine. What we came up with was calling her the Gullah expert, but her hands are gonna be all over everything. Just this week we visited farms and fishmongers, people she knows and that she's dealt with. She is helping me in every way, not just in the kitchen. She's really acclimating me to a deeper education and understanding of Gullah and Geechee."

So will the Gentry Bar & Room be a Gullah restaurant?

"That's exactly what it will be," says Woods.

After the closure of so many Gullah restaurants — Huger's, Ike's Hot Chicken & Fish, Ernie's, Ellen Bright Hall, and Gullah Cuisine — Charleston is about to get a new Gullah restaurant smack dab in the center of King Street. Not what we expected from one of the cast members of Southern Charm.

"We're doing a dish on the menu that's directly from Charlotte called 10 Mile Awendaw Stew. In layman's terms, it's straight up Frogmore Stew or Lowcountry Boil, but there will be some added ingredients to that that makes it more modern. It's gonna have the flavor profile of Charlotte, but I'll tweak the presentation," says Woods.

The chef could not be more giddy to get started cooking with the Charleston legend. "I wrote a book on Lowcountry cooking and I thought I knew a bit," says Woods. "But I'm not fourth and fifth generation. Charlotte knows it all. It's not just the cooking aspect or her palate, it's all that wisdom."

Wisdom worth saving. And so it is, in some karmic shift only the gastronomic gods could manufacture, it turns out that Charleston's most controversial television show may actually be the medium through which Gullah cuisine gets overdue national exposure. Woods confirms that he'll likely be on Southern Charm, which means his and Charlotte's food can't be far behind. How about that for a plot twist?

Gentry Bar & Room is slated to open late spring.

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Chef Justin Pfau departs Harold's Cabin

Cabin fever?

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 10:42 AM

Chef Justin Pfau won critic Vanessa Wolf's heart with his bison burger - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Chef Justin Pfau won critic Vanessa Wolf's heart with his bison burger

The chef responsible for one of the more creative restaurants to open last year has decided to head north. Chef Justin Pfau is leaving Harold's Cabin for North Carolina.

"At once hip, homey, experimental, and exciting, Harold's Cabin is carving out its own corner of the Charleston food scene," restaurant critic Vanessa Wolf wrote of Pfau's work at the restaurant last year.

Rave reviews apparently weren't enough to tether him to Charleston, however. Now the chef is looking to open his own restaurant says Harold's Cabin owner John Schumacher.

"Justin is moving on back to N.C. to start a family and move towards opening his own place," says Schumacher. "We're excited for his dreams and grateful for his time with us."

Harold's Cabin is currently interviewing for a new executive chef and hopes to have that position filled soon.

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S.C. farmers lost 90 percent of peach crop last week

Cruel Summer

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:52 AM

Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, S.C. - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, S.C.
There's nothing peachy about it, last week's freeze did a number on South Carolina's peach crop. According to a statement from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, our state peach farmers "face the worst crop damage they have seen in 10 years."

Due to our wack weather, the unseasonably warm winter meant peach trees were in early bloom. Then wham, last week records lows smacked those blossoms in the face. The South Carolina Peach Council says farmers have lost up to 90 percent of this year's crop.

“Peaches are a signature South Carolina crop, and this weather anomaly has devastated peach farmers,” said Hugh Weathers, SC Commissioner of Agriculture in a SCDA statement. “However, as South Carolina farmers have shown time and again, they are resilient and with the help of allied-industry partners, they will survive this devastating blow.”

Sadly, it's not just a loss for cobblers and jams, the cold snap could hurt the 1,500 people who work in the peach industry statewide. S.C. is the second largest peach growing state in the nation with an annual value of $90 million and a statewide economic impact of $300 million.

According to SCDA, "Farmers are still assessing the damage and do not expect to know the total impact of the freeze for at least three weeks."

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8 taco places we found on our North Charleston taco crawl

6 hours + 7 friends + 8 stops = 101 tacos

Posted by Eric Doksa on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Tacos were eaten. - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Tacos were eaten.
Neither of my parents are fans of tacos, so I really can’t blame them for the eight years of my life in which I thought that every taco was served in a either a hard yellow corn or soft white flour shell filled with greasy ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, and bright orange shredded cheese. If I was lucky, there would be a big dollop of sour cream on one side and some fire sauce dripping out of the corners. But, hey, maybe my parents were misinformed as well. They did take me to Chi-Chis once.

It wasn’t until my early twenties, when I spent several weeks in Hermosillo, Mexico, that I realized that we, as Americans, had completely dropped the ball on recreating the quintessential food item of Mexico. It was eye opening — the fresh corn tortillas, char-grilled meats, pickled radishes and charred peppers, the endless amounts of bold flavors. It was something I had never experienced before.

Now, I’d be lying if I were to say I’ve never set foot near a Taco Bell since then. I think we can all agree it happens to the best of us. You know, that time you asked your Uber driver to make a run for the border to get a chicken Chalupa fix or that time you went through the drive-thru and acted like you were on the phone placing an order for all your friends when really you just didn’t want it to look like you were ordering six tacos, a Crunch Wrap Supreme, two 7-layer burritos, and a Nacho Bell Grande all for yourself. Nope. Never happened.

It’s no longer convenient for me to make the trip to Mexico every other week, but I’ve found solace knowing there are some legit, authentic tacos right here in the Lowcountry. With the help of Paul Cheney, in 2013 Stephanie Barna hit some of the hot taco joints around town, but four years later, it was time for us to revive our list by seeing how many taco joints we could hit on a Friday afternoon.

For the sake of this venture, we focused on an area known for its diverse culture, and more importantly, for having a plethora of taquerias: North Charleston.

So, what do you do if you have six hours to kill with seven of your closest friends? The answer is obvious: hit the streets of North Charleston in an attempt to eat over 100 tacos. Here’s our route:

Lengua tacos at Pollo Loko - ERIC DOKSA
  • Eric Doksa
  • Lengua tacos at Pollo Loko

Pollo Loko Peruvian
5335 Dorchester Road, Unit 3
North Charleston

If you’re in need of some masa, Pollo Loko (a.k.a Pollo Tropical) is located right next door to one of our go-to Mexican markets. It’s also known for the char-grilled chicken, alone, but when it comes to tacos ($2.50), you want the lengua (beef tongue). Unlike other versions we’ve had, the lengua here gets cooked on the grill, giving it an extra char and crispiness. I’d argue it’s the best lengua taco in the area. You be the judge.

Mi Pequeño Hidalgo - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Mi Pequeño Hidalgo
Mi Pequeño Hidalgo
6565 Dorchester Road, Suites 204-205
North Charleston

The first thing you’ll notice at Mi Pequeño Hidalgo is the bright orange salsa. It hits the table before you have time to look at the menu and it’s a beautiful sight — and a tasty one at that. For tacos ($2), they’ve got all the standards like pollo (chicken), lengua, and carnitas (shredded pork), but the standout is the longaniza. The vibrant sausage has subtle bite with a lingering sweetness. It’s a winner for sure.
Taqueria Espres posts up next to a gas station on Ashley Phosphate Road - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Taqueria Espres posts up next to a gas station on Ashley Phosphate Road
Taqueria Espres
2704 Ashley Phosphate Road
North Charleston

It’s not a taco crawl without a stop at a taco truck. Taqueria Espres sits alongside a gas station on busy Ashley Phosphate Road and it’s gained a loyal following by locals. With only a couple picnic tables outside, most taco hunters place their order and get on their way. The service is faster than Taco Bell, but the quality is beyond comparison. And at a $1.25 each, you’ll likely not find a better deal around town. We recommend the cabeza (beef cheeks) — tender as can be.

Los Parados tacos are $1.50 a piece - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Los Parados tacos are $1.50 a piece
Los Parados
2625 Ashley Phosphate Road
North Charleston

If you want to brush up on your Spanish, Los Parados is for you. Sit back and watch CNN in Español. Now, do yourself a favor and forget everything you know about tripa (intestines). Generally, they tend to have a distinct mineral flavor that can be gritty if not cleaned properly. But at Los Parados, they’re fried crispy, served hot, and pop in your mouth like a pork cracklin’ — superb. This is the taco ($1.50) you want. Follow up each bite with a picked cucumber and you’re set.
Is a hotdog taco a sandwich? - ERIK DOKSA
  • Erik Doksa
  • Is a hotdog taco a sandwich?
Tiki Taco
7089 Rivers Avenue
North Charleston

The fact that Tiki Taco has both hot dogs and tacos on the menu is what got us in the door. The fact that they allowed us to combine a taco with a hot dog to create the taco dog is what will bring us back. But, really, the differentiator here is the taco cecina (thinly sliced, salted, dried beef; $1.75). It’s a jerky loving, taco craving dream come true.
Al Pastor is the money at La Nortena - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Al Pastor is the money at La Nortena
La Nortena
6275 Rivers Avenue Suite A
North Charleston

La Nortena has long been one of our favorite Mexican joints and it still is. It helps that they serve some of the best tacos around. We’ve gotta go with the Al Pastor here, with bits of sweet pineapple highlighting the tender chunks of marinated pork. Pair it with a house margarita and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

Look for the Taqueria La Joracha on Remount Road - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Look for the Taqueria La Joracha on Remount Road
Taqueria La Jarocha
1354 Remount Road
North Charleston

This little orange truck sets up shop on Remount Road next to a nice little farmers market. Get there early, as the options are slim pickings late in the day. At $2 each, these tacos tiptoed over the border and got topped with tomatoes and shredded Chihuahua cheese.

Don't forget Las Lupitas gorgeous Serrano topped taco plate - RYAN JOHNSON
  • Ryan Johnson
  • Don't forget Las Lupitas gorgeous Serrano topped taco plate
Las Lupitas
1754 Remount Road
North Charleston
Lunch and Dinner (Tues. thru Sat. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.)

The award for best presentation goes to Las Lupitas. Served with charred Serrano peppers, strips of cactus, limes, and a spring onion on the side, the taco plate is a thing of beauty. This brick and mortar sits in an old ice cream shop and sports a massive menu. Try the barbacoa — it’s contender for sure ($2).

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Opening Alert: Rappahannock Oyster Bar swings open its doors tonight

Bivalve replacement

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 10:49 AM

Rappahannock features a large circular bar inside the old Cigar Factory building - EVA SELLERS
  • Eva Sellers
  • Rappahannock features a large circular bar inside the old Cigar Factory building
The copper bar has been shined, the bar shelves stocked, Rappahannock Oyster Bar (701 E Bay St.) is ready to roll out the red carpet. The latest location of Richmond-based Rappahannock Oyster Co., owned by cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton, unlocks its doors tonight, and with it comes a taste of the Chesapeake.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar Charleston makes for the sixth restaurant for the Croxtons. The cousins got their start in 2001 when their fathers asked them to take over the family's 200-acre oyster leases. With no aquaculture knowledge at the time, the two jumped in. According to their origin story, the two planted their first crop of 3,000 oysters in March of 2002. Then, taking a wild shot, they pitched their 2004 harvest to celebrity chef Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin and whether thanks to luck or timing, managed to secure a tasting. Next thing you know they were shipping 200 oysters a week to the restaurant.

Now the winners of Food & Wine magazine’s 2004 “Tastemakers Award” have brought their bounty to Charleston.

Four varieties of Virginia oysters are currently on the menu, but they haven't excluded South Carolina's catch. Bull's Bay Blades are also available for $2.50 each. A variety of plates including grilled oysters, pan-seared barrelfish, and, of course, shrimp and grits, are included as well.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar begins serving dinner at 5 p.m. tonight. The restaurant will be open until 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight on weekends. Lunch is expected to begin next week and be open at 11:30 a.m.
  • Eva Sellers
  • Eva Sellers
Seafood platter - EVA SELLERS
  • Eva Sellers
  • Seafood platter
Charred octopus - EVA SELLERS
  • Eva Sellers
  • Charred octopus
Crab cake - EVA SELLERS
  • Eva Sellers
  • Crab cake

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