A few weeks ago I posted a picture of a long wooden cutting board displaying an array of delectable treats, including shavings of the always tasty Benton's country ham. On the right side of the board the ham was nestled between a mound of crostini, a honeycomb, and blue cheese. To the left: a medley of pickled vegetables, chutney, and a ramekin filled to the brim with thick pimiento cheese. A spoonful of mustard made an appearance, too. The board sat on a clean, dark wooden table with sleek modern placemats, glistening white plates, and pristine silverware. It was a hunger-inducing photo that caught the eyes of inquisitive followers in the Twitter world.
A couple of people immediately suggested that I was at the Macintosh. There were mentions of Husk and the Granary, followed by, "OK, now I'm curious." It wasn't until the next day that someone finally figured out I was at Egan & Sons, the six-month-old Irish public house that took over the old Moe's location on Cumberland Street.
The ham and its accompaniments were every bit as good as they looked. The creamy, pungent blue cheese was from an Irish farmhouse, Cashel, and the pimentos melded with sharp Dubliner Irish cheddar. The chutney — a traditional Irish rendition called Ballymaloe, consisting of tomatoes, raisins, and pepper — was a sweet and spicy treat.
Some may grouse about pimento cheese not being Irish, but that's what I like about the place. At Egan & Sons the flavors of the South bump into those of Ireland — a fusion we don't often see. Amid the veal shanks and pot pies you'll find chicken stew ($16) with Carolina gold rice, mushy peas replaced with mashed butter beans, and collards instead of cabbage in their version of cál ceannann.
Commanding the kitchen is Kyle Yarbrough, the former chef of the late La Fourchette, who brought the restaurant's wickedly good duck fat fries with him. The fries appear on many dishes, including the fish and chips. An ample portion of fries share a plate with the aforementioned butter beans, a large crispy golden cod filet, tartar sauce, and a couple of lemon wedges ($14). Once broken, the crispy crust of the fish reveals a flavorful, moist center.
Unfortunately, the confit of rabbit leg was not as tender as I would've liked, but it was crisp and full of flavor. To the side was a sad pile of dressed bibb lettuce that seemed out of place, but since the leg was perched on top of a pile of those sinful duck fat fries, all was good in the world ($15).
Another winning board consists of house-made venison paté with pistachios and tangy cranberry chutney ($12). Mild and delicate, it played against expectations of a strong gamey component. The spicy mustard offered a sinus-clearing kick.
The space that was once a dark, grimy sports bar has been transformed into a clean, modern environment. The décor is a little over the top with wainscoting, topiaries, and booths lined with pillows, but it's much cozier than it was before. Rather than high tops, the main room is divided with a row of booths. There's still a wooden bar along the back wall that houses multiple beer taps, including some local favorites and, naturally, Guinness.
The sophisticated diner might choose to sit at the classy new granite bar near the front door and enjoy the special of the day. Recently, that was steak frites at its finest: a filet of beef dressed with foie gras and an ample portion of black truffle shavings ($30) sided by a bed of greens and those decadent duck fat fries.
The burger is worth every bit of 12 bucks. A juicy half-pound patty of brisket comes on a toasted brioche, topped with sharp Irish cheddar, pickled red onion, and a tangy herbal spread. It's big, tender, and easily one of the best deals in town, especially considering those addictive duck fat fries make an appearance here too.
That burger solidified my view of Egan & Sons. I'll be honest, I walked into the place a week after the Charleston Wine + Food Festival with moderate to low expectations. "Another Irish pub?" I thought to myself. But ever since that beautiful board of country ham and pimento cheese hit the table, my preconceived notions were out the door. The food is good — really good. And it doesn't hurt that you can order a pint of Guinness with the perfect pour.