Old Timers 

They've been around awhile, but these standbys still make anyone's cut

Blossom
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 171 East Bay St. 722-9200
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch

New blood only seems to improve the food along East Bay Street. New chef Adam Close continues the traditions at Blossom while refocusing the seafood-heavy menu and bringing his own take on contemporary American cuisine to what is still one of the best places to grab a quick lunch on lower East Bay. Of course, they also serve a fine dinner, turning out innovative pizza from a wood-fired brick oven, but we go for the delectable fried squid, small and tender like they should be, never overcooked, perfect with just a squeeze of lemon and cold glass of white wine at the bar.

Bowens Island Restaurant
Seafood
Entrées $5-$10
James Island. 1870 Bowens Island Road. 795-2757
Dinner (closed Sun. and Mon.)

Bowens is back, and they are slowly resuscitating the business they had before a fire left the oyster room in a charred heap last fall. With a couple of burners set up in the old oyster room, the burned out shell of the legendary place is slated for a good facelift and in the meantime, locals are packing it in on the covered deck outside. There will only ever be one Bowens and the Barber family's dedication to its preservation should inspire us all, or at least get us out there for our fair share of those tasty shellfish when the "R" months roll back around.

Charleston Grill
American/Eclectic — Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 224 King St. 577-4522
Dinner

This is the place that started it all — proving that urban redevelopment is not as evil as some would have you believe. What is now the Charleston Place Hotel complex anchored the revitalization of the entire peninsula above Broad Street, which is to say that almost every fine dining establishment in town owes its very existence to the pioneering that took place in this location. That spirit continues to drive innovation at this hallowed dining spot. New drapes, a retooled dining room, and an exciting-looking menu structured around flavor and style makes Charleston Place a must-see this spring. Manager Mickey Bakst's new focus on cultivating a more local crowd is paying off, with a great bar scene already emerging to the weekend tunes of The Gradual Lean with Quentin Baxter and lots of friends cavorting among plates of inspired food from executive chef Bob Waggoner and sous chef extraordinaire Michelle Weaver. Their fusion of Southern roots and French flair takes on a whole new meaning with a menu that categorizes food as "Lush," "Southern," "French," or "Cosmopolitan" — a bold move for such an established venture, but one that creates a renewed reason to check out the Grill.

The Dining Room at Woodlands Resort & Inn
American/Eclectic — Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Summerville. 125 Parsons Road. 875-2600
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

The Dining Room at Woodlands can be summed up in one word: perfection. Everything they do here is well thought out, perfectly executed, and still, after all these years, delivers the same exemplary meal that we have come to expect, no matter what's on the menu, which changes daily. Despite its considerable distance from downtown, Woodlands remains a strong contender in the uppermost echelon of the Lowcountry's restaurant scene. Executive Chef Tarver King clearly understands his role in continuing the past success of this legendary spot while spurring innovation that keeps the menu fresh and engaging.

Fish
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Downtown. 442 King St. 722-FISH (3474)
Lunch (Mon.-Fri.) and Dinner (closed Sun.)

Fish led the charge in revitalizing the upper King Street district and owners Charles and Celeste Patrick continued to support the cause, renovating the American Theater and the William Aiken house in a part of the city that now throbs with energy. Newcomers have produced stiff competition, but Executive Chef Ryan Herrmann continues to dish out exciting food, focusing more than ever on delivering exemplary seafood preparations that showcase the freshest fish available on the market. Don't miss the nightly "naked fish" selection, featuring an impeccable product perfectly cooked and dressed only in a touch of sea salt.

Hank's Seafood Restaurant
Seafood
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 10 Hayne St.
723-FISH (3474)
Dinner

Once the headstrong new guy on the block — self-proclaiming "world-famous" status from day one — the venerable old warehouse raw bar and seafood palace has weathered nicely over the years to become Charleston's trustiest fish house. We go for the "Grand Seafood Castle," a stupendous assortment of iced shellfish from around the globe, and the perfectly seared tuna. They also serve a fine half-shell plate, usually featuring a distinctive West Coast selection, brilliantly focused on a wide geography of taste and origin. When the entrance alcove is jammed and seats are impossible to obtain, a flute of champagne and sampler tray of iced shellfish at the bar can provide the perfect start to a night on the town. They may not be truly world-famous yet, but Hank's has certainly made a name for itself in Charleston.

Magnolias
Southern/Lowcountry
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 185 East Bay St. 577-7771
Lunch, Dinner, and Sunday Brunch

A leading light from the old days, Magnolias has gone the way of the tourist throng, but locals who brave the crowds or sneak in during the dead of winter can be rewarded with quality interpretations of Southern cuisine. It seems that all those tourist dollars have not totally relegated the kitchen to churning out mediocre fare in high volume. We particularly like the fresh, handmade potato chips that come blanketed in an aged blue cheese, which can make a downtown shopping trip bearable.

Peninsula Grill
American/Eclectic — Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 112 N. Market St. 723-0700
Dinner

Chef Robert Carter's classic downtown spot attached to the Planter's Inn Hotel has been honing its perfect edge for years and shows no sign of slowing down. They may not have been the first high-style "grill" to open in the market area, but they are certainly one of the best. Carter headlines this delicious Southern belle with creative dishes that sing from the plate. Lowcountry influences intertwine with contemporary preparations in a symphony of flavors that lead flawlessly from arrival to dessert. Start at the champagne bar (which serves six selections by the glass), perhaps indulge in a few oysters, a tartare dish, or one of the most scrumptious foie gras plates in the city. Move on to your table, where the signature "Wild Mushroom Grits," still amazing in a town overrun with coarse ground hominy, can start the meal; order up the classic lamb chops encrusted with sesame seeds. Peninsula focuses on perfect consistency and serious service, with professional training for its wait staff, including daily wine instruction. To eat there is to experience one of the most well-oiled machines in the business, but if you have to save up, don't worry, we're pretty sure they're going to be around for quite some time.

Robert's of Charleston
American/Eclectic — Upscale
Entrées $20 and up
Downtown. 182 East Bay St. 577-7565
Dinner (Wed.-Sat. only)

If you had to pick one "legendary" restaurant in downtown Charleston, it would be Robert's. Still going strong after 30 years, the small, intimate dining room has witnessed countless birthdays, engagements, and anniversaries — it's the original "special occasion" place. Robert's still packs them in for live show tunes and opera every night and with Robert's daughter MariElena and her husband Joseph Raya now running the show, Robert is free to perform better than ever. Wine pairings have branched out to embrace some of the best emerging regions in the world, and the five-course prix fixe menu has achieved a new level of accomplishment. If you have not been in years, it's time to rediscover this old standby on East Bay Street.

Slightly North of Broad
Southern/Lowcountry
Entrées $15-$20
Downtown. 192 East Bay St. 723-3424
Lunch (Mon.-Fri. only) and Dinner

S.N.O.B., as it is affectionately known, still produces a steady, reliable stream of classic food from its open kitchen. While the new guys on the block in the East Bay corridor have stolen some of its former glory, S.N.O.B. can still be counted on for a dependable quality lunch or dinner in a charming atmosphere. Chef Frank Lee is a downtown institution and his interpretive Southern fare explores interesting textures and combinations of flavor while remaining true to the culinary traditions of the Lowcountry.

The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene
Seafood
Entrées $10-$15
Mt. Pleasant. 106 Haddrell St. 884-0052
Dinner (closed Sun.)

Welcome to some of the finest platters of fried seafood you will find anywhere. The Wreck has the crispy crunch, the impossible-to-find location, that authentic shabby milieu, and the tattered shrimp boat just off the creekside rail. You go to The Wreck for one thing only — deep-fried seafood (they serve other stuff, but who orders that?). They've been doing seafood since Hurricane Hugo grounded the eponymous trawler on the site and they've been doing it well. The actual shipwreck is long gone, but the remembrance lives on at the end of the world along Shem Creek. We keep worrying that the shrimpers will disappear, and along with them, The Wreck, victims of another gentrifying condo project. Until that day, you can bet that the fryers will be hot, dispensing shrimp, scallops, oysters, flounder, and other local fish. Get good directions before you go; we still get lost trying to find the place in the dark.


Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Classified Listings

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2017, Charleston City Paper   RSS