AMERICAN/ECLECTIC — CASUAL 

Angelfish Cake
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $5-$10
James Island. 915 Folly Road. 795-4091
Lunch, Mon.-Fri.
This is the tiniest little dining room in town. One comfy couch and a bistro table furnish the lobby of this mainly take-out restaurant. In the fine tradition of previous restaurant AngelFish, the approach is natural and loose, the sandwiches and cakes are delicious but not overworked, and the staff is friendly and helpful. Call ahead to order a cake, or just drop in for a yummy, fat sandwich full of chicken salad, turkey and brie, or some other delicious concoction.

Boulevard Diner
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $5-$10
Mt. Pleasant. 409 Coleman Blvd. 216-2611
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Unfailingly delicious and surprising, Sal Parco's Boulevard Diner serves up honest, inexpensive twists on diner food that always satisfy. The crab cake sliders are a hit every time, and the daily special is always worth trying. The burgers are delicious and accompanied by abundant piles of fries, and there's always a good salad for those who want to take a healthier approach. The open kitchen, friendly wait staff, and unassuming but gaily put-together dining room pull you in and make you really want to leave the diet behind.

Bookstore Cafe
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 412 King St. 720-8843
Breakfast and Lunch
Any restaurant that offers a dish called the 'Edisto' must be worth at least one visit. The 'Edisto' is only one of a series of potato plates on the Bookstore Cafe's menu, piling up a day's worth of calories in the form of black beans and pulled pork piled high on sliced fried potatoes and covered in cheese and poached or scrambled eggs. Add to this temptation the blueberry pancakes, the cozy, old-fashioned atmosphere, and hot coffee being run back and forth at all times, and it's no wonder that the cushy outdoor chairs in front are always full of hungry folks waiting impatiently for a table on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

click to enlarge Executive Chef Matthew Dibble presides over the big-city style of Central in Mt. Pleasant
  • Executive Chef Matthew Dibble presides over the big-city style of Central in Mt. Pleasant

Central Restaurant
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $15-$20
Mt. Pleasant. 1136 Hungry Neck Blvd. 216-7272
Dinner
It's big-city style off the IOP connector as the inimitable Andy Fallen (former managing partner of Rue de Jean) spins off another winner in Central with the help of business partner Billy Frankel. The scale of the dining room is shocking for a shopping center location, with extremely high ceilings and larger-than-life murals of chefs in action looming over the open kitchen. The dining style is slightly Americana, with standbys like shrimp cocktail with fat, tender shrimp and perfectly charred sliders on grilled bread, balanced by vast selections of pastas and pizzas. Main courses like steak frites and a pork rib chop provide ballast for the hungry. The servers, clad in blue jeans, crisp white shirts, and snazzy ties, are attentive and knowledgeable, and the menu layout, complete with daily specials, is easy to navigate for those faithful to the downtown bistro.

Cru Cafe
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 18 Pinckney St. 534-2434
Lunch and Dinner
Chef Zucker of Cru Catering morphed his successful catering business into this single-house cafe on Pinckney Street. Exotic Asian touches like duck salad on Napa cabbage coexist beautifully with down-home dishes like cheeseburgers and mac and cheese. The result is sophisticated but comfortable, and Caesar salads with an array of topping options polish off the choices beautifully.

click to enlarge Freshly tossed greens and roasted beets adorn the table at FIG
  • Freshly tossed greens and roasted beets adorn the table at FIG

FIG
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 232 Meeting St. 805-5900
Dinner
Chef Mike Lata's renovation of the old Vincenzo's restaurant on the corner of Meeting and Wentworth streets is a snazzy combination of retro accessories and thoroughly modern design that houses a lovely bar and open dining room. The menu is an interesting mix of old South and new big city, with sophisticated appetizers and complex entrées that shine against simpler menu items like roasted chicken, asparagus, and sweet corn, and a peanut butter chocolate cake that is destructively rich. The menu does change regularly, though, so we can find a new FIG again and again. And as is the case with so many new, smaller restaurants, the bar is a great way to experience Lata's food and a relaxed, grown-up glass of wine or cocktail.

High Thyme
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
Sullivan's Island. 2213-C Middle St. 883-3536
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch
High Thyme is a nice little bistro on Sullivan's Island with a particularly good salad, pleasant atmosphere, and competent service. The food is simple, but the flavors will surprise you. There's plenty of seafood on the menu, and a good steak for the carnivores as well. and-three menu at lunch. Dinner's the thing, though, with delicious braised lamb shank, piles and piles of beef tartare, and an avocado and crabmeat salad accompanied by crusty bread and shoestring potatoes and finished off with decadently sweet desserts.

Mimi's Creekside
American/Eclectic -- Casual
Entrées $10-$15
James Island. 1241 Harborview Road. 795-4090
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch
Over the last half-decade or so Mimi's has quietly established itself as the go-to restaurant for countless James Islanders looking for a good meal at reasonable prices. The menu is simple with just enough variety. The setting is quaint and picturesque, with a screened-in porch that overlooks Ellis Creek and a back deck that juts out over the marsh. Run by sisters Monique and Mimi Duffy, the cafe has a welcoming and cozy feel about it, and features an ever-changing specials board of seafood, steaks, pork, and pasta dishes.

The Mustard Seed
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
Mt. Pleasant. 1220 Ben Sawyer Blvd. 849-0050; James Island. 1978 Maybank Hwy. 762-0072; Summerville. 101 N. Main St. 821-7101
Lunch and Dinner
The Mustard Seed is the original Sal Parco restaurant, and it is truly blessed. The honest, creative, reasonably-priced dishes, many of which are vegetarian, never fail to surprise and delight. The original Sea Island location in Mt. Pleasant has moved across the street to a free-standing building, and the second location at Maybank Highway has become a James Island favorite as well with a new location that's surely taking over Summerville.

The Old Firehouse Pizza and Restaurant
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $15-$20
Hollywood. 6350 Highway 162. 889-9512
Dinner
What a lovely surprise little old Hollywood, S.C., has to offer. Bill Twaler and his wife have made the firehouse-turned-pizza-place into a nice little restaurant. It's got a hometown feel and sophisticated food that comes from a wide-open, smoothly run kitchen. The pizzas are probably the best part, but if Twaler gets his

The Kickin' Chicken
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $5-$10
Downtown. 337 King St. 805-5020; James Island. 1175 Folly Road, 225-6996; Mt. Pleasant. 1119 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. 881-8734; Summerville. 800 N. Main St. 875-6998
Lunch and Dinner
The Kickin' Chicken is no place for a food snob, but for the days when 'just eatin'' is in order, this spot is right on the money. Lots of wings, big cheese-dripping sandwiches, fried chicken finger baskets, and cold beer are the modus operandi for this three-location joint. The salads clearly don't fit in this shrine to junk food, so don't even bother.

Marina Variety Store Restaurant
American/Eclectic -- Casual
Entrees $5-$10
Downtown.17 Lockwood Blvd. 723-6325
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
MVSR is one of those places that quietly does just what it's supposed to do. It's on the water, above Salty Mike's at the top of the City Marina. It promises breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with reasonable prices and water views, and delivers exactly that. The menu is huge and family-priced, and the service is fast and friendly. We prefer breakfast, actually, where you're going to get more than you can eat and an extra cup of coffee while you read your Sunday paper, unmolested, and gaze out at the Ashley River meandering by.

Mia's Cafe
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
West Ashley. 3669 Savannah Hwy. 769-7433
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch
Mia's is the creation of Thierry and Kathy Goulard, and it's totally worth the trip past West Ashley's auto mile to enjoy their bistro fare in a cute little dining room that serves a meat-hands on any sheephead, order it immediately, no questions asked. He knows how to treat the white-flaked, tender fish that is one of my favorite things to eat on earth.

Park Circle Grill
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $10-$15
N. Charleston. 4726 Spruill Ave. 554-6003
Lunch and Dinner
Don't be put off by Park Circle Grill's unimpressive address. N. Charleston's burgeoning renaissance has turned this little spot into a gateway to the rapidly revitalizing neighborhood. It joins Madra Rua as one of Park Circle's best gathering places, and it's always full at lunch. The atmosphere is Southern and funky, with art from the little studios in the East Montague old village and an antique stove that serves as a service station.

Poe's Tavern
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $5-$10
Sullivan's Island. 2210 Middle St. 883-0083
Lunch and Dinner
Poe's Tavern is the center of cool people drinking cocktails on Sullivan's Island, but the food manages to be good too. It's a favorite place for getting away in the middle of the week, and the big fat burgers, huge fish tacos, and wonderful beachy atmosphere never disappoint. There's a little something for everyone, and a slightly off-kilter note of pathos in the Edgar Allan Poe movie posters and story of his military time in the Lowcountry and his connection to nearby Gold Bug Island.

Rooftop at Vendue Inn
American/Eclectic - Casual
Entrées $5-$10
Downtown. 23 Vendue Range. 723-0485
Dinner
This is a gorgeous place to drink and watch other people as well as the sunset. It's grown over the years from a tiny, splintered-floor bar with one inadequate restroom to a beautifully nautical hangout with lots of polished wood and a second level that looks out over a breathtaking view of downtown as well as the water. The food is fairly simple, but the cheese-stuffed fried olives go beautifully with an after-work cocktail.


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