AMERICAN/ECLECTIC — UPSCALE 

Atlanticville
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $15-$20
Sullivan's Island. 2063 Middle St. 883-9452
Dinner and Sunday brunch
It's always nice to eat on Sullivan's Island — it's like a little vacation in the middle of the week. Atlanticville is a favorite for the mini-getaway with a casual but sophisticated dining room, great open porch overlooking Middle Street, and sea breezes blowing through. Sometimes there are no-see-ums, but that's just part of the beach experience, and the friendly staff will always provide repellent for afflicted customers. There are also occasionally creative little surprises like Thai Tuesdays — you never know when the chef will decide to throw something new at you.

Charleston Grill
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. Charleston Place, 224 King St. 577-4522
Dinner
Charleston Grill is one of the most famous restaurants in Charleston, and Chef Bob Waggoner's celebrity continues to grow with his appearances on Turner South. But for us, Charleston Grill will forever be simply the site of the best crabcake we've ever tasted. The dark, elegant dining room, perfectly executed dishes that combine Waggoner's polished, delicate touch with substantial, upscale ingredients, and utterly well-trained, reserved service staff come together to provide a dining experience that fully lives up to one of the loftiest promises in town.

click to enlarge A pretty plate of tuna tartare at Cypress tempts the tastebuds
  • A pretty plate of tuna tartare at Cypress tempts the tastebuds

Cypress: A Lowcountry Grille
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 167 East Bay St. 720-8504
Dinner
Cypress has been, for a long time, one of our favorite places to have a drink and an appetizer. The bar crosses Star Trek with a '50s supper club and manages to make the whole mix look contemporary and stylish, largely due to a great view of the state-of-the-art kitchen and 'wall of wine' that shows off the 4,000-bottle selection to its best advantage and awes diners at the same time. The lobster bisque is a favorite starter (pictured on the cover of this issue), and Cypress is still serving a tableside Caesar that will knock your socks off and provide the perfect accessory to a menu of steaks and other substantial dishes that are sure to satisfy.

Grill 225
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 225 E. Bay St. 266-4204
Lunch and Dinner
Chef Demetre Castanas joined the Palassis family in 2002 and put together Grill 225, creating the foundation of one of the best possible combinations of lodging, dining, and drinking on the whole peninsula. The lobby of the Market Pavilion Hotel is hardly noticeable, since the hotel's entrance opens straight into the gorgeous, clubby dining room where some of the prettiest and most delicious food you'd ever want to eat appears on a menu that is at least three feet high to include all the options in print large enough for anyone to read. You'll want to read them, too, or you might miss the Kobe beef tartare, gorgeous chops of veal, steak topped with foie gras, or delicately seared tuna au poivre. You'll also want to make sure to quaff a cocktail on the rooftop bar of the Market Pavilion on a pretty day and enjoy a fantastic view and completely decadent, expensive array of fruity martinis.

High Cotton
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 199 E. Bay St. 724-3815
Dinner, Saturday Lunch, Sunday Brunch
The Maverick restaurant is at the epicenter of downtown dining on East Bay Street, and the hunt-club elegance calls for excellent food, good wines, and sophisticated cocktails. High Cotton delivers on them all, with frisée salad with bacon and a Mepkin Abbey egg on top, nice cuts of venison and other meats, a minimalist but delicious cheese plate, and a bar atmosphere that attracts a stylish crowd of professionals for happy hour and late night.

J. Bistro
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $10-$15
Mt. Pleasant. 819 Coleman Blvd. 971-7778
Dinner and Sunday brunch
J. Bistro is a good example of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' The Mt. P. hotspot combines a touch of Asian appetizers like spring rolls with a hefty chunk of Southern fish and meat dishes plus a happenin' bar and community table to create an enduring independent restaurant with a faithful clientele. The champagne brunch is a standby too, with excellent grits, dependable eggs Benedict, and fluffy omelets.

Langdon's Restaurant and Wine Bar
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $15-$20
Mt. Pleasant. 778 South Shelmore Blvd. Ste. 105. 388-9200
A recent return to Langdon's confirmed what we already knew -- that the humble strip mall location still houses a handsome restaurant making delicious food. Wine is a focus here, with a list that has nice depth and breadth -- think Caymus Cab by the glass -- and a menu that forms a happy alliance. Slump into a cushy booth and sink your teeth into the Crispy Day-Boat Sea Scallops or any of the other impeccably-prepared and presented fish and meat dishes. Great food, wines, and service tell you that the Four-Diamond AAA award is on the wall for a reason.

McCrady's
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 2 Unity Alley, between E. Bay and State streets. 577-0025
Dinner
One of this last year's bigger food stories was that Chef Michael Kramer would be leaving McCrady's. After more than five years of stupendous cooking, Kramer has popped off to Chicago, leaving Steve Musolf to hold down the fort until a new executive chef can be found. Under Kramer, the restaurant had been serving refined, delicious, and beautiful dishes featuring all sorts of meats and seafood in a swanky space just off East Bay Street -- we can only hope that new talent in the back of the house leaves that tradition intact. The recent renovation of the wine bar likewise finds McCrady's still accessible for more than just dinner and continues to be a spot for a very happy happy hour.

The Ocean Room at The Sanctuary
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Kiawah Island. 1 Sanctuary Dr. 768-6000
Dinner
The crowning glory of Kiawah's newest resort hotel is The Ocean Room. Aptly named for its beautiful view of the sea, the restaurant is doing a wonderful job with upscale seafood -- the seared tuna is particularly delicious. But it's not just a gorgeous seafood-monger; foie gras, antelope, and a host of other delicious dishes round out Chef Chris Brandt's high-style menu. Fancy sofas offer cushy spots for honeymooners to cuddle while they eat, and the servers know exactly when to be friendly and when to go unnoticed. The wine list is extensive and the staff knows it well, giving good advice without trying to upsell unnecessarily.

click to enlarge Palmetto Cafs calamari trio
  • Palmetto Cafs calamari trio

Palmetto Café
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $15-20
Downtown. Charleston Place, 224 King St. 722-4900
Breakfast and Lunch
The glassed-in, tropical-feeling dining room of Palmetto Café combines with excellent service and fancy grub to create the perfect place to ignore prices and indulge, to while away an afternoon after the spa but before your tennis lesson. Everything is tasty, a bit over-the-top ("Reuben en Croute", $15), and fetching on the plate. Look at the pretty people and have a glass of wine before tucking into a Salmon Stack or a frisée and shrimp salad -- it's not an everyday sort of place, but if you want to really treat yourself, it's head and shoulders above most others.

Peninsula Grill
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 112 N. Market St. 723-0700
Dinner
Peninsula Grill has been around now for several years, and Chef Robert Carter is still turning out some of Charleston's best food in a stylish dining room that is holding its own and still filling up nightly. Carter's famous coconut cake and banana panna cotta are not to be missed, nor are the elegantly Southern-themed appetizers and entrées that feature sawmill gravy alongside bourbon shrimp and steaks with foie gras butter that are consistently entertaining and deliciously executed and served by a professionally lovable staff.

Red Drum Gastropub
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $15-$20
Mt. Pleasant. 803 Coleman Blvd. 849-0313
Dinner
Red Drum, the gorgeous brainchild of Ben Berryhill, former chef of the famous Houston restaurant Cafe Annie, manages to offer white tablecloths, casual happy hour, and clubby pub atmosphere all in the same building, along with a comfortable outdoor courtyard. Cafe Annie's southwestern influence treats our seafood-based cuisine well, with treats like grouper ceviche and a truly delicious concoction of shrimp and crabmeat in chipotle ketchup with fresh diced tomato on a base of perfect guacamole, served with house-made tortilla chips. There's a pub menu and a long list of delicious entrée choices that have already made Red Drum a Mt. Pleasant standby.

Tristan
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 55 Market St. 534-2155
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch
Looks like after a couple of strikes, Tristan has finally hit a home run. The dining room hasn't changed a bit, but new chef Ciaran Duffy, who spent a bit of time at the Harbour Club before the new owners lured him to the much more interesting dining room on the Market, has hit the ball out of the park with the food. Amazing foie gras with brioche, lamb ribs with chocolate barbecue sauce, and tuna carpaccio with shredded daikon radish and red curry sauce provide intriguing starters and give the promise of many wonderful dinners in a dining room that has always been unusual and exciting.

Woodlands Resort & Inn
American/Eclectic - Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Summerville. 125 Parsons Road. 875-2600
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
The AAA five-diamond Dining Room at Woodlands recently announced the departure of Chef Scott Crawford, less than two years after he arrived. We are sure The Woodlands is scrambling to find anyone who can fill his shoes, and we can't wait to return to the luxe dining room to test the waters. No doubt, the Dining Room will keep up its impeccably high standards while the search is on, but we're holding out until the next virtuoso is found and ordained in Summerville. Stay tuned.


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