From wood-fire grills to the Ordinary, it was a big year in food 

Top Food Stories of 2012

While lots of kitchens use live fire, the trend grew super hot in 2012

Jonathan Boncek

While lots of kitchens use live fire, the trend grew super hot in 2012

1. The Ordinary finally opens
They closed the deal on the building a year ago, and last week Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow opened the Ordinary oyster hall. We spent the year getting details in bits and pieces, and Charleston is finally getting a taste. The first week of business has been a good one for the guys behind FIG, and we expect it will only get better as the tourists discover the joys of Upper King Street.

2. Nathan Thurston moves downtown
The first chef attached to the Keith Jones' Stars project was Brett McKee, but before long he was out and a new hotshot was in. This time, the chef came from a four-star restaurant (The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary), helping raise the bar in downtown's robust dining scene. Stars has been impressing guests since it opened in the fall (see review on p. 80).

3. Louis Osteen returns to the Lowcountry
After a high stakes failure in Las Vegas, Louis Osteen knocked around the Southeast for several years before finally heading back to his hometown of Pawley's Island, where he's working at Sanford's Southern Fried Smokehouse. In the meantime, Bob Waggoner, formerly of Charleston Grill, took a position at the Watermark Grill in Nashville. Is Nashville where Charleston chefs go to retire or what?

4. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives brings out the old folks
After Guy Fieri blazed through town in his hot red Ferrari, the ripples were felt for months on end as several local restaurants got their turn on the show. Suddenly the Tattooed Moose was full of old Ohioans in bad clothes (grumbling about the loud music) instead of longshoremen, hipsters, and downtown workers, and we had to wait in line for a duck club to go. We don't begrudge our favorite joints their time in the spotlight, but — jeez — it does suck when a locals-only secret becomes a national destination for food TV fans.

5. Charleston gets fired up
This was the year of wood-fire grills. The trend caught on with Heart Woodfire Grill on James Island, the Grocery, and most dramatically with Stars on King Street. Nathan Thurston is calling his custom-made beast the Grates of Hell, and the heat coming off that thing can be felt all the way to the front door.

6. Alan Richman hates Husk
Alan Richman wrote a blistering takedown of Sean Brock and everything he stands for in GQ last winter. Ultimately, it seemed like Richman just doesn't like Southern food. I mean, how else do you explain a guy who doesn't get New Orleans and seems surprised that country cooking is unsophisticated? Charleston did sophisticated Southern fare two decades ago and that's just not what Husk is about. Duh.

7. Asian invasion
For years, we suffered a dearth of ethnic fare. Then suddenly in 2012 we were awash in ramen noodles, banh mi, and pho. CO, Bon Banh Mi, Fire Street Food, Izakaya Ramen (now closed), and Xiao Bao Biscuit hit the scene, while Butcher & Bee began hosting the Nguyen family's pop-up Vietnamese dinners. Suddenly you couldn't swing a housecat by the tail without hitting a bowl of noodles. And we can't say that we minded.

8. Fatal wreck brings the hammer down
After Husk was sued by the father of a young man killed by a drunk driver who worked at the restaurant, establishments all over town started changing — or simply enforcing — no-drinking-on-the-job policies, notoriously lax in our F&B town. Husk ultimately settled the lawsuit for $1.1 million, Adam Burnell awaits trial for felony DUI, and Quentin Miller's family faced its second Christmas in a row without their son.



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