Downtown Charleston is full of restaurants — big, small, fancy, casual, and all with delicious menus to make visitors' and natives' mouths water. The views and people watching are hard to beat, and the energy of the city is invigorating. But for a little change of scenery this holiday weekend, a lot of us will be heading to the beaches, where there are plenty of restaurants offering seasonal summertime dishes that will impress your out-of-town visitors and satisfy your cravings.
At Opal, Patrick Owens' new restaurant located in Seaside Farms, there are a couple summer dishes available. The first is their local grouper, which is served with soft goat cheese polenta and wilted spinach and is topped with local tomatoes and sauce vierge. They also have seared diver scallops with brown butter served with local tomatoes, corn, and zucchini over a bed of Israeli couscous. The local shrimp chitarra is another good choice here — a dish that chef and owner Patrick Owens calls "super simple, healthy, and light." The whole-wheat pasta is topped with a light local tomato sauce, shrimp, basil, and Pecorino Romano.
Rosebank Farms Café also makes good use of local and fresh ingredients. One of their four shrimp and grits dishes, the most popular item on the menu according to Head Chef John Cuff, makes use of local shrimp from Cherry Point. They are pan seared with island tomatoes and shoepeg corn, and then they are served with a white wine butter sauce and homemade grits. Another good seasonal dish is the mahi mahi, which they also get from Cherry Point. It is pan roasted and served with a Firefly Vodka white wine butter sauce, blue crab, Yukon gold potato mash from Edisto Island, and then whatever vegetable is in season, which can be anything from corn to green tomatoes. "This dish is very light," says Cuff. "The vodka and wine are reduced into a nice butter sauce. It sells like you wouldn't believe."
Hucks Lowcountry Table is also offering a mahi mahi special. They prepare it blackened and serve it with corn puree, andouille sausage, and shrimp fricassee. They are also offering a seared rare yellow fin tuna with a vanilla bean lobster pancake and a corn ginger cream topped off with pickled watermelon. "It gets a nice height, almost looks like a real cake," says Chef JJ Kern.
High Thyme is another good choice in the quest for fresh, seasonal food this summer. A good starter, although without seafood, is their beet salad. They use local beets and pair them with crispy baked prosciutto and goat cheese, which is served with a truffle lemon vinaigrette and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. For an entrée, try the large scallops with jalapeño creamed corn and arugula with an apple smoked bacon gastric. "We're grilling the scallops so you have the char and smokiness of the grill and the sweetness of the scallop," says Chef Taylor Still. "And then the bacon gastric is rich and smoky with a little bit of tang to it."
Brick House Kitchen on Folly Road has two dishes that are both fresh and simple. First is their fresh fried flounder with dijon mustard where the flounder filets are battered with a layer of mustard and then fried on the stove top. Guests have their choices of sides with this entree. The seared red grouper is another excellent seasonal dish offered. It is prepared on the flat grill with salt, pepper, and herbs. Then South Carolina peaches and organic jalapeños are boiled down and poured over the grouper. "It is really sweet and a little spicy with the jalapeno," says Chef Jennifer Thomas. "The grouper is a hearty fish. It's a really nice dish."