I've recently come to the conclusion that I've been missing out on one of the better brunch offerings in town, and on Sullivan's Island, no less. I had no idea I'd be presented with a complimentary basket of warm biscuits and a plate of corned beef hash that would become an obsession. As an added bonus, the beach was just a short walk away.
In recent months I've heard many good words spoken about High Thyme, but little did I know it was a brunch destination. But don't think you can show up a mere 10 minutes after opening (10:30 a.m.) to snag a seat on the patio without a wait. It's not happening. However, the dining room isn't so bad either.
One of the beauties of High Thyme is the island vibe and casual feel. The dining room could do without the green carpet, but the aesthetic is modern and clean with panoramic artwork of local sea islands adding a nice touch. It's a small room, one that holds 30 to 40 people, but the outdoor patio along Middle Street adds a breezy expansion.
The no-frills bunch menu is classic and simple, but it's darned good. There's the standard selection of omelets and benedicts, biscuits and gravy, and huevos rancheros, but there's also an eclectic mix of treats like the bowl of chicken hash — a medley of tender chicken, crispy potatoes, and Italian sausage, all topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise ($9).
Refills on coffee and water are prompt and unsolicited and no cleaned plate sits in front of you for too long. Even during the busiest of times, the service has been on point, and that carries over to dinner as well.
In the evening, your server will point you to the right glass of wine or one of the six island cocktails, like the Island Thyme, consisting of Bulleit Rye Whiskey, St. Germain, muddled thyme and orange, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters ($10). Beer includes the standard macros ($3.50-$4.50), and a selection of craft brews including locals like Palmetto Espresso Porter and Westbrook One Claw Rye ($5).
On paper, the dinner menu looks like it's straight from the early '90s even though it does change every few months. In fact, it wasn't much different than the last time I visited, which was seven years ago.
The salads alone could use an update — mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, and balsamic vinegar; a Caesar salad; and the quintessential pairing of roasted beets with goat cheese. As for the starters, there's crab cakes, hummus, and seared tuna. Entrees include lasagna, cioppini, and a hanger steak served with risotto and veal demiglace. None of this screams innovative.
But what hits the table is simple and beautiful. Here, you will not find microgreens or perfectly cylindrical drops of benne seed oil, but rest assured, the dishes are presented with a simple elegance and the flavors that follow are quite good, making it clear that Chef Taylor Still has a true sense of how important consistency and execution is.
Light pink with a crispy brown crust, the pan-seared salmon filet lounges on a remote island of creamy, white smoked gouda grits in an oasis of red wine tomato reduction. A dusting of shaved Brussels sprouts and just the right amount of Dijon dill aioli round off a perfectly executed dish ($26).
That execution carries on to the grilled pork tenderloin, cooked a perfect medium, revealing a flavorful, tender treat. The pork is pre-cut and topped with savory veal demi-glace, lined up on a bed of broccolini and grits, and it's the apple cider gastrique that adds the wow factor ($25).
A starter of three scallops with a one-sided golden, crisp sear sat in sinful, salty country ham brandy cream. On the top was crisp bitter arugula that cut the saltiness perfectly ($14). Fresh mozzarella gets a light fry before being plated with almond basil pesto, balsamic reduction, and an ample amount of arugula, garnished with shaved prosciutto ($12).
High Thyme is one of the best kept secrets of Sullivan's Island, one that has stood the test of time. But with the consistency at which Chef Still is putting out perfectly executed, albeit dated, dishes, one can only assume there's something holding him back from change. With a couple of new kids in the area, the beach dining scene recently upped its game, so it's only a matter of time before the cooking and plating methods of the new era rule the island. The dishes that are coming out of Still's kitchen are on point, but only time will tell if the dinner menu can carry on without an update into the current decade. Chef Still shows clear signs of originality and imagination, but he has yet to be unleashed.
I leave you with this: Chef Still recently acquired part ownership of High Thyme, so maybe now it's time for him to shine. We can only hope. But for now, I've found my new go-to for brunch.