Dutch street food?
Sounds bizarre, but Phillis Kalisky Mair is absolutely, 100 percent passionate about this food and can't wait to introduce it to Charleston. "My mom is Dutch," says the novice restaurateur, "and I was born and raised in Charleston, but lived in Holland from ages nine to 11, and what I miss so much about it is the food."
Mair is in the midst of opening a new restaurant with her husband Jeff on George Street — Patat Spot Friet & Falafel — which will sell friets and falafels, the type of food you'll find on every street corner in Holland.
Mair makes the unabashed claim that the Dutch have perfected the fried potato. They use an heirloom potato variety called bintje, which has a creamy, yellow flesh (think Yukon Gold). "It's a delicious potato with a slightly nutty flavor," says Mair. The friets (fries) are cut thick and then twice fried. Once at a lower temperature, and then deep-fried to order and served hot and crispy.
Don't expect to find plain old ketchup, though. The Dutch top their friets with sauces. Mair describes her favorite as being like mayo with a lemony zing. The other is a saté sauce with spicy peanuts. "The two together are phenomenally delicious," she says.
A small fry with one sauce will cost you $4.25.
Mair, a food and beverage veteran who worked as a server at Cypress for the last nine years, knows how to sell some food. Just talking to her on the food had me dreaming about the falafel, which is made from a recipe she tracked down via Facebook.
Mair says she always ate falafel at a specific Egyptian place in Holland and wanted to replicate their same Middle Eastern fritters. So she contacted the woman who owns the shop and got the recipe, which they've been busily perfecting at the Patat Spot. "It's a traditional recipe using chick peas and fava beans with no gluten to bind it. We add spices and fresh mint, cilantro, and parsley. It's real green and fresh tasting and so delicious. And we'll grill them too, if you don't want them deep fried."
"My family in Holland is like, that is not Dutch food," she laughs, "but falafel is the street food of Holland, it's something they do everywhere you go."
You can top your falafel pita with fresh toppings at a serve-yourself salad bar, which has an array of pickled goods from the Marion Square pickle lady. The most expensive item on the menu is the combo for $12, which includes falafel, salad toppings, a regular fry with sauce, and a drink.
And for dessert, Mair has declared every day a festival in Charleston because she's serving a traditional holiday dish called oliebollen, which usually appears on the street corners during New Year's and the like. Think Dutch donuts. "They're kind of like beignets, and they have raisins in them and are covered in powdered sugar," says Mair.
The Patat Spot will unofficially open its doors tonight and will be open for business on Sat. Jan. 8 from 11 a.m.-3 a.m.
Mair has no doubt that you're going to love her Dutch food. "Nothing's been like this in Charleston, ever." Patat Spot Friet & Falafel is located at 41B George St. (843) 723-7438.