A LA CARTE 

JAMES BEARD AWARD WINNER
The award-winning Bowens Island Restaurant? Unless it's for most graffiti per square foot, or, of course, Best Oysters in City Paper's Best Of Charleston readers' survey, the idea seems a little highfalutin. We've always recognized Bowens as one of the most authentic pieces of Lowcountry culinary heritage, but being awarded the America's Classics Award in the annual James Beard Foundation Awards has now made it official. The Foundation's mission is "to celebrate, preserve, and nurture America's culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence." Well how-dee! When asked if this national acclaim was going to alter the atmosphere at Bowens, owner and Lt. Governor candidate Robert Barber said, "It hasn't changed much in all the time we have been there. We are proud to be seen as trustees for this great tradition and we are honored that the James Beard Foundation has recognized us, but we are planning to stay the course." When Mr. Barber attended the black-tie awards banquet in New York two weeks ago he sported white shrimper boots with his tuxedo to honor all of the Lowcountry shrimpers that make this community and its food great. You and your restaurant are true American originals, Mr. Barber. Congratulations. —Elle Lien

CHAI'S GOES OUTDOORS
Remember the days when college students with fake IDs could guzzle $3 pitchers of cheap beer on Portside Café's outdoor patio? Well, those days are long gone. Since then, the college favorite has been replaced by the more refined tapas eatery Chai's Lounge, located at 462 King St., right next to Basil. Both Chai's and Basil are run by brothers Henry and Chai Eang, who have skillfully tapped into Charleston's insatiable craving for ethnic tastes. Now, just in time for summer, Chai's is transforming the old outdoor hangout area into an upscale patio. The patio is currently under construction and will open in time for Spoleto. The new pad will sport a 15-foot bar with open-air seating along with a lounge area under a protective covering. So the next time Basil's no-reservation policy sends you next door, enjoy the evening outside at Chai's. ­â€”Sarah Grasmick

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