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Daily life in the I’On community beams with the generous personality and comforting food of Robert Carter, the highly acclaimed chef whose classic Southern cuisine has delighted Charlestonians for years.
Carter’s Kitchen, his recent venture in the former Jacob’s Kitchen space located in the Inn at I’On, pairs simple yet refined American cuisine with the chef’s unique sense of place for a true down-home experience, Carter-style.
Arrival is a welcoming affair, with greetings from the entire staff heralding the big-hearted experience mentored by Carter himself. The restaurant is comfortable and easygoing, with an instant appeal extending to families and friends who can enjoy a full gamut of menu options from Sunday brunch to evening supper.
The main dining room has an uncomplicated yet attractive tavern style, with handsome burnished copper cookware said to be similar to that in Carter’s own home kitchen. Cozy tables, banquets, a community table, and an energetic bar are the seating options offered inside, with a slender enclosed porch nearby for private dining. Beyond, the open-air veranda welcomes the daily breeze while protecting guests from extreme weather.
Executive chef Christian Watson works with Carter to deliver a variety of options, ranging from tavern snacks to entrées. As starters, crispy okra “chips” were delectable—lightly battered whole okra that are fried and served on a chopping board with tomato aioli. Southern “jars” bring regional surprises. On this evening, decadent pimiento cheese in a Mason jar was accompanied by benne crackers; on other occasions there’s Alabama caviar made with black-eyed peas or classic boiled-peanut hummus. Crispy chicken gizzards and brandied ketchup, I’m told, are unbelievably delicious, as are the crispy oysters with spinach and sausage cream. Tavern snacks are designed to be shared and enjoyed with one of the “kitchen cocktails” including Palmetto Punch and Cacky’s Cup.
Salads are not to be missed, with favorite baby kale Caesar at the top of the list. The unique blend of tender, lightly dressed greens tossed with herbed crumbs and shaved Parmesan has created a loyal following for this interesting rendition of the classic, even among the toughest kale skeptics. From the small plates, memorable blue-crab ravioli made with Rio Bertolini’s fresh pasta filled with lightly seasoned crab is delicious when paired with a delicate crab fritter and a seasonal succotash of fresh corn, squash, peas, and tomatoes.
As for the main plate offerings, we were pleased with the shrimp pappardelle, a generous toss of tender pasta and plump shrimp as well as heirloom tomatoes, corn, peas, and country ham seasoned with basil and lemon cream. Halperns’ flavorful natural Australian lamb chops were paired with dense, cheesy potato gratin, sweet pea coulis, tiny Wadmalaw Island field peas, and natural jus, a luxurious treat.
The dessert selection changes daily, with several house-made specialties supplemented with confections by WildFlour Pastry chef Lauren Mitterer. Though reeling from the sumptuous dinner, we ventured forth into the sweet frontier of her ethereal salted caramel peanut brittle cake—six layers filled and frosted with mousse-like icing and peanut-brittle meringue. Excellent coffee added just the right finishing touch, yet the Salted Caramel Martini might have been a contender had we not tried the cake.
Lively with laughter and charm, the caring staff is proud of their product and knowledgeable about all aspects of the operation. While chef Carter wasn’t there during our visit, his spirit shone through the menu, and his ownership was clearly evident throughout. Buoyed by the community spirit felt in this corner of Mount Pleasant, the area is fortunate to have chef Carter in their neighborhood.
148 Civitas St., Mount Pleasant,
(843) 284-0840, carterskitchenion.com Dinner: Sunday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Brunch: Sunday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Average entrée: $23