Jacob's Kitchen is not your typical hotel food. The restaurant is part of the Inn at I'On, a brand new boutique hotel located just inside Mt. Pleasant's I'On neighborhood that describes its offerings as upscale New South cuisine. With just seven rooms in the inn and 100 seats in the restaurant, Jacob's Kitchen is clearly trying to reach beyond Inn guests.
The dining room is on the ground floor of the Inn. It's a new building (completed earlier this year), and, like I'On itself, it has that feel of a very-new execution of traditional styles. The ceiling is extremely high and supported by tall white columns, and there's a lot of brown woodwork, including a big bar along one end that looks into the small open kitchen. It's a simple, elegant, and comfortable setting. The dining room is rather small — a dozen tables or so — but there's a lot more seating out on the broad wraparound porch, which should make for pleasant outdoor dining once we get through the current summer swelter.
Like the architecture and the surrounding neighborhood, the food has a sort of New Urbanist vibe, taking a lot of traditional Southern favorites and recreating them with contemporary twists.
Jacob's Kitchen has an ambitious starter menu with plenty of items that catch your attention, such as the Southern fried quail ($10) and tempura-fried asparagus with Cajun aioli ($6). The peach-spiked crabcakes ($9) come two to an order, as big as hockey pucks and perched amid beautiful yellow, white, and green concentric swirls of sweet corn sauce, crème fraîche, and some sort of green herbed oil. The presentation is dramatic, but overall the flavor is pretty muted. The peach-spiking in the name is what had caught my attention, but I didn't detect even a hint of peach in the patties (though there's plenty of diced red pepper). The crab cakes have a nice moist texture, but apart from a little brown crustiness from the griddle, there really isn't much flavor to them. The sweet corn sauce is subtly delicious, though it doesn't do much to spice up a pretty low-key appetizer.
The BBQ duck egg rolls ($6.50) have more spirit. Two crispy, brown triangles are filled with strips of carrot and cabbage, goat cheese, and some very savory duck. They're served with a spicy sweet and sour pepper relish that plays off nicely against the richness of the duck, and they're the kind of thing you're bound to share with your fellow dinner guest.
On the entrée menu, there are a few Charleston prerequisites such as shrimp and grits (served over goat cheese grits for $14), but a lot of the choices take traditional fare and add a few twists that catch your attention.
The Kobe beef meatloaf ($10.50 for a half order, $13.50 full) is one example. Kobe beef ... in a meatloaf? Well, you've just got to try that. It's a pretty good meatloaf. I'm not sure how much is due to Kobe beef, since I've had similar tasting meatloaf with regular beef, but Jacob's version definitely has a tender texture and a fine-ground consistency. The half order is more than enough for a filling meal. It comes with creamy mashed potatoes on the side. The smoked tomato relish that's served over the top is extraneous and, since it comes out at room temperature, blends poorly with the much warmer meatloaf. But the brightly-flavored succotash with fresh sweet corn, limas, and a smattering of diced bacon more than makes up for it.
The grilled pork chop ($15) also grabs your attention, since it's brined with maple syrup. The chop itself is very juicy and tender. It's accompanied by long strips of zucchini that are sliced lengthwise and grilled — a fresh summery accompaniment that works beautifully. I can't say as much for the baked green apples which — like the other areas where Jacob's Kitchen missteps — suffer not from being bad but rather from being just plain and uninspiring. But, the pork chop is good.
The more exotic flourishes on the menu — the intriguing ingredients and preparations — are teasers that really don't follow through, but that's OK. In the end, Jacob's Kitchen is really just serving up good, solid cooking with a few Southern fusion flairs. The portions are big and the prices reasonable. It's a good place to go for a reliable semi-casual meal. If the rapid service we received remains par for the course, it's an apt option for a quick dinner before heading out for a movie or a night on the town. Being tucked away inside I'On, Jacob's Kitchen might find it tough to grab much attention except from neighborhood residents, but I predict it will attract a core loyal following and make a name for itself in Mt. Pleasant.