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Now that you've schooled yourself in classic Charleston fare, you can explore the delicious frontiers of food that have expanded out from downtown into the far reaches of the 'burbs. These are a collection of our favorites, from risotto and mussels to duck fat fries and coddled eggs, in no particular order.
Oyster Shot at Pearlz
The ultimate way to kick off any food tour of Charleston is by slurping down a peppery oyster shot at Pearlz. Brace yourself.
Mussels at 39 Rue de Jean
I tend to tear through the mussels in order to get to the real prize of this dish: a hot bath of pistou and a big chunk of French bread for dipping. They've got five other sauces too, and each is worthy of being a personal favorite. Add some frites for a classic bistro combo.
Chicken Liver Paté at FIG
I've been trying to figure out all of the secrets to Mike Lata's famously delicious chicken liver pâté for some time, and I'm still not even close. No one is quite sure how he does it, but the velvety slab, served up ice cold, will make lovers out of even the most liver-averse.
Asparagus Risotto at Al di La
This classic West Ashley trattoria pairs fresh, buttery scallops with creamy risotto and the earthy bite of asparagus for a dish that will have you licking your plate.
Seafood Tower at Hank's Seafood Restaurant
It's a statement piece, proclaiming to the dining room that you like your fish raw and cold. Impressively layered with icy mussels, clams, claws, and oysters, this is a treat for the eyes and the mouth.
Insalata di Polpo at Bacco Italian Restaurant
The grilled braised octopus on this salad will wow you with its tenderness and convert those who believe that the eight-legged beasty must be tough and chewy. The smoky, fresh grilled flavor is an added bonus.
Fried Brussels at Big Gun Burger Shop
Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that you either love or you hate. If you only ate Big Gun's fried version, you'd love them. Guaranteed. An interesting, tasty snack.
Basil Duck at Basil
A tender half of boneless duck comes fried and topped with mushrooms, peppers, and onions, whose crunchy-sweet pop are the biggest treat of the dish. It all swims in "Basil" sauce, a strong, spicy broth that you'll want to soak up with the bowl of white rice that comes on the side. Split it or not; it makes for great leftovers.
Oven-Roasted Turkey Plate at Boulevard Diner
We wish every day could be Thanksgiving. At Boulevard Diner it is. The oven-roasted turkey plate comes with all of your Turkey Day faves: cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, smashed potatoes, and gravy.
Cheese Biscuits at Jim 'n Nick's Barbecue
$1.99/half dozen $3.99/dozen
Hot, sweet, and cheesy, these little delights will cause a fight to break out at the table. Get a basket and save yourself from the drama.
BBQ Duck Hash at High Cotton
At High Cotton's inimitable Sunday brunch, roasted duck is served with red onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes, with two sunny-side-up eggs and a sweet mustard-based barbecue sauce — the ultimate combination of savory and sweet.
Pommes Frites a la Graisse de Canard at La Fourchette
That's potatoes double fried in duck fat, by the way. The taters are cured at room temperature for three days, then double fried — first at 275 degrees for a quick blanch, and then, after drying, for a few minutes more at high heat — until they are dark and sensuously brown. Crisp outside, tender inside: There are no better fries to be found.
The Coddled Egg at FIG
The first time I dipped a fork into a ramekin of Sea Island egg baked with celeriac cream and brown butter, I gobbled it up before my date could get a fork in. Chef Mike Lata has a way with eggs, and this little dish proves it.
Pear & Gorgonzola Salad at Lana Restaurant
Mixed field greens and poached pears tossed with gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts may not sound like much, but it's a sublime little salad that has earned a legion of fans.
Chicken and Ribs Combo at Pollo Tropical
Dusted in spices and grilled till crispy and just slightly charred, the chicken at Pollo Tropical is phenomenal. Pair it with fall-off-the-bone pork ribs for a knockout plate.
Oysters Rockefeller Pasta at Long Point Grill
Take a proven flavor combination — bacon, onion, spinach, and parmesan — and toss them with linguine in a rich Pernod cream sauce, and you have a tantalizing new take on an old classic.
Shepherd's Pie at Madra Rua
Side $3.95, Lunch $7.95, Dinner $9.95
There's no better place to get this classic Irish dish than at Madra Rua. The meaty pie comes in three sizes and is served with fresh Irish soda bread that can be used to mop up every last drop of savory goodness. Kick it up a notch by adding melted cheese.
Butter Bean Salad at Monza
$6, $8/tuna, $10/local white shrimp
A Southern take on a simple Italian salad. A big bowl of beautiful beans lightly tossed with dressing and dotted with plump shrimp or shards of tuna. Light but remarkably hearty.
Sumac-Rubbed Duck Breast at Muse
Seared duck breast is a dime a dozen. Muse's duck breast is a treasure: it's cooked on a grill, not in a pan, and it's rubbed with sumac — a tart, fruity spice that imparts an exotic flavor to the rich, dark meat. Add in sweet medjool dates and tender madeira-braised onions and you have a brilliant combination of sweet, smoky, and tart.
Fried Lobster at Oak Steakhouse
The creature looks frozen. Twisted up in hot batter, the fried lobster at Oak comes to the table waving its claws at you and begging to be liberated of its toothsome meat. A great presentation and a delicious critter.
Extraordinary BLT at Moe's Tavern
The original fried green tomato BLT (all others are impostors). This one comes stacked with fresh mozzarella, crispy bacon, red tomatoes, fresh mixed greens, and pesto mayo.
The RiverDog at The Joe
Some would argue that the Homewrecker — foot-long, half-a-pound, and topped with an array of gut-busters like chili and jalapeños — is the top dog at the Joe Riley ballpark, but insiders know the true signature Lowcountry wiener is the franchise's eponymous RiverDog: coleslaw, mustard-based barbecue sauce, and — the coup de grace — a slice of pickled okra laid over the top.
Yellowtail Carpaccio at O-Ku
At O-Ku it's a bit hard to decide, but the yellowtail carpaccio might be valedictorian of the class. Each of the six oblong slices of yellowtail are topped with a thin slice of serrano pepper and sprinkled with tangy, earthy yuzu truffle soy sauce. Sublime.
Quail and Venison Sausage at Red Drum
Any fish, meat, or protein that's been flame-kissed by Chef Ben Berryhill's big wood-fired grill is bound to be rave-worthy, but the grilled quail stands out even from that notable pack. Totally deboned so it's easy to slice and savor, the meat is dark, smoky, and flavorful, and with just enough crispy char to add a little boost of texture.
Crispy Red Snapper at Red Orchids
The crispy red snapper, big enough to feed two, is a pair of cross-hatched and deep fried snapper fillets drenched in a sweet and sour bell pepper concoction with an ample kick of hot pepper. For the money, it's one of the best Asian dishes in town.
Buffalo Kickin' Chicken at Kickin' Chicken
Chicken sandwiches might seem pedestrian, but when the mothercluckers at the Kickin' Chicken have their way with them, they become something rather extraordinary. The Buffalo takes fried chicken (and you should definitely get it fried), melts some provolone on top, and serves it with a side of blue cheese (or ranch) dressing for an extra layer of tastiness.
Mike's Famous Duck Club at Tattooed Moose
The price may be a bit higher than your typical sandwich, but we've got two good reasons why you shouldn't let this bother you. One, the duck club can easily be divided between two people. Two, packed with duck confit, applewood-smoked bacon, smoked cheddar, lettuce, onion, and tomato, this is one decadent and tasty treat. It deserves every ounce of fame bestowed upon it.
Duck Club Sliders at Voodoo Lounge
3 for $6, 6 for $9.
Similar to Mike's Famous Duck Club (see above), these sliders are digest size and come on gooey soft King's Hawaiian dinner rolls. The silky duck confit, smoked cheddar, and bacon are topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli. It's a heavenly blend of sweet, soft, salty, crispy, and chewy all in a single bite.
The Galactic Dog at Jack's Cosmic Dogs
Cosmically different than your average dog, the Galactic piles chili, cheese, slaw, and spicy mustard on top of a wiener nestled inside a sweet bun. Out of this world.
Clammer Dave's Clams
available via clammerdave.com
If you eat at fine dining places about town, you will run into some stellar dishes using Dave Belanger's clams, but why not get them yourself from the source? His CSA operation will have you swimming in clams (and the best oysters in town as well). All you need is a pan, some white wine, garlic, herbs, and a delivery from clammerdave.com.
Pork Slap at Closed for Business
A crispy fried pork cutlet, house-smoked ham, and swiss cheese are layered inside a challah bread bun. It used to be topped with Benton's bacon and pickled okra, and more recently has green tomato chutney on top, but in all formulations it's a legendary local sandwich.
Filet & Boursin Omelet at Sunflower Café
Creamy, savory cheese and tender, meaty filet mignon, and some fresh mushrooms, too, all come encased in a fluffy omelet and served with home-fried potatoes and a flaky biscuit. And it's less than 10 bucks, too!
Three-Year Gouda Mac and Cheese at Ted's Butcherblock
Unlike typical versions, Ted's gouda mac and cheese is served chilled, making it perfect for a hot summer side. It's more of a Southern salad than anything else.
Crudo at Trattoria Lucca
Chef Ken Vedrinski gets fresh fish straight from the local waters delivered right to his back door. Certain species get the crudo treatment: sliced thin, served raw, and drizzled with fragrant olive oil and tart citrus juice and then topped with a tiny slice of hot pepper. Sushi, Italian-style.
Rio Bertolini Pasta
available at select Piggly Wigglys and the Charleston Farmers Market
Sweet pear and gorgonzola, butter bean and shrimp, collards and ham. The flavor combinations of Brian Bertolini's ravioli are endless, and the best part is you can do them up at home. Simply boil, add a favorite sauce (we like browned butter), and enjoy.
Duck Confit Sandwich at Caviar & Bananas
Succulent duck, smoky aged gouda, pickled red onion, sweet fig preserves, and spicy black pepper mayo mingle with sourdough bread to create an irresistible sandwich.
Asian-Glazed Ribs at Coleman Public House
These sticky, meaty baby-back ribs are sweet with a touch of heat. They come topped with a delicate enoki mushroom and daikon sprout salad, providing a perfect Asian complement. There's a reason why hungry diners make the trip to Coleman Public House just for this dish.