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Chefs' Food & Bev Faves

Chefs' Food & Bev Faves
February 2017
Every few years, we survey Charleston’s culinary scene, asking area gourmands, food writers, and other F&B pros to share their picks in myriad categories, from locally distilled spirits to down-home seafood. This time, we turned the tables, so to speak, tasking the top toques from all manner of Holy City eateries to weigh in on what they crave, where they dine, and which artisans have earned their respect. Hungry for answers? Dig in!


FISHMONGER: Mark Marhefka, Abundant Seafood

Amberjack, grouper, triggerfish, and vermilion snapper—when Mark Marhefka’s Amy Marie pulls into Shem Creek’s Geechie Dock, local chefs have already laid claim to most of the day’s catch and started planning their menus around it. “Mark is the end-all-be-all for the area’s freshest fish. He knows what’s good—and he’s a straight up, no BS guy to deal with,” says Edmund’s Oast’s Reid Henninger of the second-generation fisherman, who has earned respect for his sustainable business practices and for popularizing oft-forgotten species. Lucky shareholders of his dockside “CSF” (Community Sustained Fishery) enjoy the bounty as well, receiving 30 pounds of wild-caught fish during each 12-week season. 248 Magwood Ln., Mount Pleasant; 
(843) 478-5078 or (843) 452-7352;

MIXERS: Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic & JAM Vinegars

“Jack Rudy tonic has become a Charleston classic,” says Butcher & Bee chef Chelsey Conrad of the artisanal syrup that restaurateur Brooks Reitz developed while still a bar manager at FIG. Named for Reitz’s great-grandfather, it’s the ideal citrusy, peppery foil for gin. With imbibing and cooking in mind, McCrady’s pastry chef Katy Keefe goes for JAM Drinking Vinegars, the crop of fruit-based mixers—think ginger, grapefruit, peach, and pomegranate—that local beverage industry vets Jacob and Samantha Fuhr introduced in 2015. “I put them in everything,” says Keefe. “They’re the perfect way to create balance in pastries.” &

BUTCHER: Ted's Butcherblock

“Who doesn’t love a bacon-of-the-month club?” quips John Ondo of the former Lana restaurant and upcoming Kairos fast-casual Greek eatery. Guided by “great guy” Ted Dombrowki, the 12-year-old East Bay Street shop tempts discerning carnivores (like Peninsula Grill chef Graham Dailey) with top-notch meats, such as Painted Hills natural beef from Oregon and Berkwood Farms Berkshire pork from Iowa, as well as house-made sausages and gourmet sandwiches. Neighborhood tip: on Friday nights, you can select your meat or seafood from the case, and they’ll cook it right up for you on the Big Green Egg out back. 334 East Bay St., (843) 577-0094,


CSA: Take Your Pick!

When it comes to local produce, Charleston boasts an embarrassment of riches, and local chefs take full advantage. Besides the work of stalwart farms such as Ambrose, Joseph Fields, and Rosebank, a diverse crop of new farmers, not to mention GrowFood Carolina’s distribution hub, are offering up an abundance and variety of organic veggies, fruits, and more through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and farmers markets.

“Having Ambrose Family Farm as a resource makes our job that much easier. The quality of their products is something that I never take for granted, and I continually remind our staff that their produce is paramount in distinguishing our restaurants.” —Jacques Larson, The Obstinate Daughter & Wild Olive

“Lowland Farms! They formed a co-op with other small farmers on John’s Island, so you’re always getting an amazing array of the most pristine produce. If you purchase a large CSA, you also get fresh eggs.” —Chelsey Conrad, Butcher & Bee

“Spade and Clover: John Warren has cornered a particular area of the produce market by offering an eccentric array of pristine stuff to a small number of buyers. Easily the most beautiful vegetables in the walk-in.” —Reid Henninger, Edmund’s Oast

“We buy from GrowFood Carolina, and some of our favorite farms distributed through them are Hickory Bluff (Holly Hill), Wabi Sabi (Cordesville), and City Roots (Columbia). We also source more locally from Spade and Clover Gardens, as well as Rooting Down Farms.” —Shuai Wang, Short Grain

“Nano Farms was developed by one of my best cooks; he is passionate about food, and it shows in his produce. Spade and Clover has some of the best baby ginger I’ve ever used.”—Vinson Petrillo, Zero Restaurant + Bar

“Compost In My Shoe: Jim Martin’s care and attention to detail really struck a chord with me. Their drop-off sites and price points make it accessible, and the website is always full of recipes pertinent to what’s in the share. OMG, the chocolate surprises that may appear courtesy of chef David Vagasky, just the cherry on top!”—Anthony DiBernardo, Swig & Swine


MEAT ’N ’THREE: Bertha’s Kitchen

For no-frills fare that’ll stick to your ribs and your soul, roll up to the Neck’s meat-and-three fixture. You’ll know the spot by its turquoise hue and the crowd spilling out the door. Here, blue collars, starched suits, come-yahs, and back-for-more bin-yahs stand rooted in line for home cooking like mac’n’cheese, sweet potato pone, and oxtail stew (Hominy Grill chef Robert Stehling’s favorite). For Butcher & Bee chef Chelsey Conrad, tucking into the down-home grub at this 38-year-old institution is downright spiritual: “Okra soup, lima beans, yams, fried chicken—life complete.” 2332 Meeting St. Rd., (843) 554-6519

KNIVES: Middleton Made

Chefs are serious about their knives, arguably the most important tool in the kitchen. But they get positively euphoric about custom-crafted and stylish blades, such as those by Saint Stephen-based artisan Quintin Middleton. “The things Quintin’s putting out these days are incredible—they’re functional works of art!” says Travis Grimes of Husk, who has collaborated with Middleton on several knives for the restaurant. Mentored by master bladesmith Jason Knight, Middleton has been producing high-carbon steel knives for top chefs like Sean Brock since 2003. “We value Middleton Made Knives for the craftsmanship,” says MariElena Raya of The Gin Joint and Bittermilk. “I love the variety of woods and colors his knives have, especially my most recent purchase, oyster knives.” Find them at Coastal Cupboard or

Spread 3: Knives

Bladesmith Quintin Middleton of Middleton Made Knives from BadJon Photography - Jon Stout on Vimeo.

CONDIMENT: Burnt & Salty Korean Mustard & Red Clay Hot Sauce

F&B execs like Joe DiMaio (The Darling) and Vinson Petrillo (Zero Restaurant + Bar) think these chef-concocted bottles are just gravy. “Burnt & Salty condiments are way too addictive,” says Short Grain food trucker Shuai Wang of the zippy Asian flavors bottled by Cypress and Artisan Meat Share chef Bob Cook and partner Cris Miller. “I literally put their Korean mustard on everything.” The Gin Joint’s MariElena Raya relishes eggs with Red Clay, the cold-pressed hot sauce from former The Ordinary chef Geoff Rhyne. “It’s nice to see a local guy cranking out quality sauce with a depth that stands up to any of the big names on the shelf,” adds Husk’s Travis Grimes. &

SPIRITS: High Wire Distilling

Whether you’re thirsty for the perfect tonic-and-lime counterpart or a smooth splash over ice, the small-batch spirits from Charleston’s first post-Prohibition distillery deliver. Proprietors Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall’s culinary approach to the cocktail elevates happy hour from mere tippling to tasteful sipping. Their New Southern Revival Rye Whiskey, a smoky riff on caramel and cinnamon, performs hardily in an old-fashioned, while their spiced Hat Trick Botanical Gin flourishes in a martini or mule. The Obstinate Daughter and Wild Olive chef Jacques Larson is a “big fan” of the citrusy Southern Amaro Liqueur, recently lauded on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Spirits of 2016 list. 652 King St., (843) 755-4664,

BBQ: Smokin’ Hot!

For decades, the question pertaining to barbecue in the Lowcountry was all about the sauce—vinegar, mustard, or sweet and tangy tomato. These days, with a veritable Barbecue District having formed in the NoMo industrial area, now it’s about what style and protein you crave. From whole hog to smoked turkey to Texas brisket and beef ribs, not to mention the eagerly awaited Rodney Scott’s Barbecue (set to open on upper King in late January), there’s something for every palate and penchant.

“Lewis Barbecue: I’m partial to Texas brisket after living there for 10 years.”—Marc Collins, Circa 1886

“Scott’s or Sweatman’s: When it comes to ’cue, yardbird is king. Scott’s chicken is the best I’ve had in South Carolina, and his sauce is exactly like we ate growing up in Alabama. Sweatman’s has the quintessential Carolina mustard ’cue, and all the sides are great!” —Chris Stewart, The Glass Onion

“Swig & Swine: The brisket sandwich special with pimiento cheese and pickles on griddled jalapeño cheddar bread alone is worth the trip!” —Scott Lovorn, Circa 1886

“Lewis Barbecue: The overall dining experience is really fun, not to mention the brisket is smoky, savory deliciousness—the perfect balance of everything you want out of barbecue.” —Amalia Scatena, Cannon Green

“Home Team stole my heart a long time ago; they are like family. Lewis’s is an amazing addition. And Rodney Scott—you are a badass!” —Emily Hahn, Warehouse

“They don’t call John Lewis a ‘pitmaster’ for nothing. His smoked turkey was the best Thanksgiving turkey I’ve ever had.” —Reid Henninger, Edmund’s Oast

“The family platter at Swig & Swine is pretty damn hard to beat. A little bit of everything for a great value.” —Chelsey Conrad, Butcher & Bee

“Swig & Swine’s awesome brisket! And those smoked wings are insane!”—Nico Romo, the forthcoming Nico’s on Coleman Boulevard

Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ: 126 Williman St., (843) 225-7427; 1205 Ashley River Rd., West Ashley, (843) 225-7427; & 2209 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, (843) 883-3131;
Lewis Barbecue: 464 N. Nassau St., (843) 805-9500,
Rodney Scott’s BBQ: To open late January 2017 at 1011 King St.,
Sweatman’s BBQ: 1427 Eutaw Rd., Holly Hill; (803) 496-1227;
Swig & Swine: 1217 Savannah Hwy., West Ashley; (843) 225-3805;


TACOS: For years, there was nada for those craving authentic Mexican bites. Today, whether it’s pork carnitas, al pastor, or Baja shrimp tucked into a warm corn tortilla, there are many muy sabrosos tacos from East Bay to Rivers Avenue. Here, chefs call out a few faves:

“The tacos at Minero speak to my soul. It is such a visceral experience to eat there, brought to you by the man who has become better known for his cerebral creativity.”—Jacques Larson, The Obstinate Daughter & Wild Olive

“La Norteña has amazing handmade salsa. I like the tacos al pastor.” —Amalia Scatena, Cannon Green

“The taco truck inside the Ladson Flea Market [Maya]. Order the tacos de lengua—braised tongue, crisped up and slid onto a fresh tortilla with diced onion and cilantro. They have homemade sauces. My favorite is the tomatillo—but go easy; it will light you up!” —Michelle Weaver, Charleston Grill

“Santi’s: I don’t know if anyone really loves the food, but I love the place in its entirety. Great service, outdoor patio, margaritas. That’s living.” —Reid Henninger, Edmund’s Oast

“Torres Superettes. Inexpensive, authentic, quick, and in my neighborhood.” —Graham Dailey, Peninsula Grill

“There’s nothing like a good taco, and Minero delivers.”—Vinson Petrillo, Zero Restaurant + Bar

La Norteña Taqueria & Mexican Grill: 6275 Rivers Ave., North Charleston; (843) 225-7055;
Maya Food Truck: Coastal Carolina Flea Market, 165 Market Rd., Ladson
Minero: 153 East Bay St., (843) 789-2241,
Santi’s Restaurante Mexicano: 1302 Meeting Street Rd., (843) 722-2633 & 1471 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mount Pleasant; (843) 388-3146
Torres Superettes: 843 Rutledge Ave., (843) 937-0707

OFF THE PENINSULA: The Obstinate Daughter

With a name that recalls Sullivan’s Island’s Revolutionary War history, The Obstinate Daughter has become an island ballast in a mere two years. “I love their composed small plates,” says Cannon Green’s Amalia Scatena. “I like sampling a little bit of everything, and there’s nothing like a wood-fired pizza on my day off!” Amidst the laid-back, weathered-wood interiors, executive chef Jacques Larson serves up Mediterranean-Lowcountry dishes highlighting local ingredients, such as the Frogmore chowder with sweet local shrimp and The Moultrie pizza with Mepkin Abbey mushrooms. The super casual patio invites sandy wayfarers to come in and stay a while, and the extensive Italian wine list suggests they linger even longer. 2063 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island; (843) 416-5020;

COCKTAILS: The Belmont

It’s no wonder that many chefs have an affinity for this dimly lit shotgun space on upper King: one glance at the shelves stocked with esoteric liqueurs and spirits and nearly 40 amaros, not to mention the menu of 73 drinks, and you know the tie-clad barkeeps in this joint are serious about their craft. “I love the cocktails at The Belmont. The bartenders always know just what you need,” says John Lewis of Lewis Barbecue. Drop in and order the Texas transplant’s favorite drink, 43 Problemas, a clean yet complex boozy combo of Botanist gin, Manzanilla sherry, Licor 43, and bitters that originated at Austin’s Midnight Cowboy. Better yet, just ask for a “John Lewis.” 511 King St.,

CHARCUTERIE: Artisan Meat Share/Cypress

“Craig is still king of curing in Charleston,” attests The Grocery chef-owner Kevin Johnson of Craig Deihl, long renowned for his snoot-to-toot whole-animal charcuterie programs, first at Cypress and now showcased at Artisan Meat Share. Deihl and his right-hand man, Bob Cook, source blue-ribbon butcher-counter provisions from regional farms and purveyors with seasoned reputations for good animal stewardship. And carnivores who heed their hog call find themselves heartily rewarded with a winning bounty of fresh, cured, and smoked meats—masterfully sliced, sandwiched, or sold by the pound. “Artisan Meat Share is incredible,” agrees Lewis Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis. “I have a lot of respect for what Craig is doing over there.” Artisan Meat Share: 33 Spring St., (843) 641-7299,; Cypress: 167 E. Bay St., (843) 727-0111,

FRIED CHICKEN: Martha Lou's Kitchen

“Martha Lou’s is about the experience,” says MariElena Raya of The Gin Joint and Bittermilk mixers in regards to the pink concrete-block soul-food institution, where the fried chicken has been cooked-to-order according to Martha Lou Gadsden’s crave-worthy receipt for more than three decades. “The wait is long enough to drive your mouth to water as you hear your order of fried chicken hit the pan. You kind of feel like you are at a church picnic but happen to be served the crispiest and juiciest chicken you’ll ever taste.” 1068 Morrison Dr., (843) 577-9583,

INNOVATIVE MENU: McCrady's & Xiao Bao Biscuit

When it comes to those pushing the culinary envelope, Charleston’s chefs went high (fine dining) and low (casual). Of course, the reinvented McCrady’s—with its adventurous 16-course tasting menu—was a standout, and Sean Brock’s peers lauded his ongoing “cerebral creativity” and quest for excellence. “Sean is the reason I chose to come to Charleston,” says Vinson Petrillo, of Zero Restaurant + Bar. “Knowing that he could be successful serving his food to 18 guests a night and it being completely original helped me realize that I could bring my own originality to town.” Over on Spring Street in a former gas station, Joshua walker and his crew at Xiao Bao Biscuit continue to “crush it,” wowing palates both discerning and otherwise with their blend of Asian soul food. “We usually end up getting everything because we can never choose,” says McCrady’s pastry chef Katy Keefe. “They always leave me wondering how they make it that good!” Creative minds must think alike, as neither of these establishments lists a phone number. Other shout-outs went to Chez Nous, The Macintosh, Spero, and Warehouse. McCrady’s: 155 East Bay St., & Xiao Bao Biscuit: 224 Rutledge Ave.,

BREAD: Root Baking Co.

“Chris Wilkins is the best baker in Charleston, period,” says Reid Henninger of Edmund’s Oast, one of many local restaurants that buy Root Baking Co.’s tasty artisanal loaves showcasing regional heirloom grains, such as spelt, red fife, Carolina Gold Rice bran, and Jimmy Red corn. “Chris’s bread is the best because he won’t let it out of his door unless it’s exactly what he wants,” continues Katy Keefe, pastry chef at McCrady’s and McCrady’s Tavern of the naturally leavened loaves. “For me,” says Wilkins, “good bread is balanced, with a taste that’s not too tangy, a delicate open crumb, holes that aren’t too big, a fair price, and sustainably farmed ingredients.” Nods from the chefs also went out to Brown’s Court, Butcher & Bee, and Normandy Farm. Find Root Baking Co. breads at goat.sheep.cow. and Veggie Bin, as well as the John’s Island, Sunday Brunch, and West Ashley farmers markets;


GUILTY PLEASURES: From sinful high-calorie sweets to lip-smackin’ lowbrow grub, the city is rich with spoils and spirits. So which guilty pleasures tempt the Lowcountry’s top-most tasters?

“Beluga caviar—when you can get your hands on it!” —Frank McMahon

“I generally try not to feel guilty about eating, but hot lard chicken with pancakes is pretty irresistible.” —Robert Stehling, Hominy Grill

“Nana’s Seafood & Soul! More often than not, I order most of the menu. I can sit there and eat garlic crab and shrimp drenched in butter for hours. It’s the messiest and most delicious meal in town. You have to go home and shower after.” —Sean Brock, McCrady’s

“I go to Bagel Nation on Folly Road a lot and get an Egglewich Deluxe on a poppy bagel with American cheese and sausage. It’s freaking delicious!” —Mike Lata, The Ordinary & FIG

“Jersey Mike’s Original: I get it Mike’s Way at any location.” —John Ondo, Lana & Kairos

“Definitely the fried bologna sandwich at Royal American.” —Anthony DiBernardo, Swig & Swine

“Waffle House: the happy collision of salted ham and maple syrup on a pecan waffle.” —Forrest Parker, Drawing Room

“Cheese steak sandwich at AC’s downtown.” —Nico Romo, formerly Fish & upcoming Nico’s

“Dunkin’ Donuts; ice cream from Sugar Magnolia on James Island; and the tops, my mom’s astronaut cake—chocolate cake with peanut butter, caramel, and ganache. Oh my god! So freaking good!” —Craig Deihl, Cypress & Artisan Meat Share

“Glass Onion’s Fries and Béarnaise: fried potatoes dipped in a sauce made of butter and egg yolks. Seriously—you can keep the ketchup, the gravy, and the mayo; I’ll take Béarnaise any day.”—Michelle Weaver, Charleston Grill

“Santi’s Mama’s Specialty Soup with two taquitos—if that’s not the way to a woman’s heart, I don’t know what is.” —Emily Hahn, Warehouse

“The No. 1 breakfast combo at Chick-fil-A. Add egg and cheese and smoosh it a little. It takes me back to high school days!” —Jeremiah Bacon, The Macintosh

“Ice cream at Marble Slab. I’m a sucker for ice cream.” —Marc Collins, Circa 1886

“A Shot of Fernet Menta at the end of a busy service.” —Vinson Petrillo, Zero Restaurant


BEER: With 15—and counting!—breweries for the sampling, Charleston is happily soaking in suds. Here are some top sips:

“Anything Tradesman makes, but their Welder’s Wheat Ale and Shift Change Coffee Stout are standouts.” —Marc Collins, Circa 1886

“I’m torn between two: I love the creativity of Frothy Beard and their use of local seasonal ingredients—plus we collaborated on a miso chocolate stout last year and it was bomb! But I also love the full-body richness of Revelry’s beers. They brew some funky sours that are awesome.” —Shuai Wang, Short Grain

“There are starting to be too many to love, but I’m partial to Coast’s 32°/50° Kölsch, Westbrook’s One Claw Rye Pale Ale, and Freehouse’s Ashley Farmhouse saison.” —Kevin Johnson, The Grocery

“I’ve never had a sub-par beer from Holy City Brewing. I also love their open-air seating that’s close to my ’hood in North Chuck.” —Chelsey Conrad, Butcher & Bee

“Coast’s HopArt IPA is hands-down the best!” —Chris Stewart, The Glass Onion

“Edmund’s Oast: my husband, Kevin, and I love going there to get some awesome food and taste the small-batch beers with some spunk! I mean, the PB&J—seriously good! Plus Scott Shor is one great dude.” —Lauren Mitterer, WildFlour Pastry

“It’s a toss-up between Palmetto and Tradesman. I love Larry, and I love Chris.” —Anthony DiBernardo, Swig & Swine

“Revelry: The outdoor setting can’t be beat!” —Graham Dailey, Peninsula Grill

Coast Brewing Company: 1250 2nd St. N., North Charleston;
Edmund’s Oast: 1081 Morrison Dr.;
Freehouse Brewery: 2895-B Pringle St., North Charleston;
Frothy Beard Brewing Company: 7358 Peppermill Pkwy., North Charleston;
Holy City Brewing: 4155 Dorchester Rd., North Charleston;
Palmetto Brewing Company: 289 Huger St.;
Revelry Brewing Co.: 10 Conroy St.;
Tradesman Brewing: 1639 Tatum St., James Island;
Westbrook Brewing Company: 510 Ridge Rd., Mount Pleasant;

PASTRY SHOP: WildFlour Pastry

Not only is WildFlour Pastry creator Lauren Mitterer beloved in the F&B community for her genuinely sweet demeanor, the James Beard Award-nominated chef can deliver the baked goods. Case-in-point: the lines around the block for Sticky Bun Sundays at her original Spring Street location. “Mitty is one of the best people I know, and those sticky buns are among the very few things that can get me up early on a Sunday morning,” attests Charleston Grill’s Michelle Weaver. But don’t miss out on the cases of savory quiches and scones, decadent double-chocolate brownies and salted caramel tarts, and the seemingly humble donut muffins. “They’re really sugary outside and moist and scrumptious inside,” notes Hominy Grill’s Robert Stehling, and they’re only $1 a pop! 73 Spring St., (843) 327-2621 & 1750 Savannah Hwy., West Ashley; (843) 990-9391;


Tried and true, this longtime local eatery tops the category for good reason. The Barber family has run this waterside seafood shack the right way: no frills, just great food. “Bowen’s Island, hands down—steamed oysters by the tray plus an incredible view? Yes, please!” says Chelsey Conrad of Butcher & Bee. “I’ve been to Bowen’s and had a meal that reflected more TLC in the food than many upscale restaurants I’ve been to in my life,” says Reid Henninger of Edmund’s Oast. Dave’s Carry-out, Roadside Seafood, and The Wreck all had good showings as well. 1870 Bowen’s Island Rd., (843) 795-2757,

UPSCALE SEAFOOD: Hank's Seafood & The Ordinary

Hank's Seafood
“Quality seafood handled properly and prepared well isn’t as common as it should be for a city by the sea, but I’ve never been disappointed at Hank’s,” says Husk chef travis grimes, an alum of founding chef Frank McMahon’s kitchen, which turns out everything from spicy ceviche and seafood towers to succulent pan-seared scallops and the retro seafood á la Wando. “Frank left a legacy for attention to detail and love for his craft,” says Circa 1886’s Marc Collins. “It’s a great place to enjoy seafood at its finest.” 10 Hayne St., (843) 723-3474,

The Ordinary
“When I feel like treating myself, I head to The Ordinary and order a seafood tower. Not only does it look impressive, the fresh tastes are incredible,” says Lewis Barbecue namesake John Lewis of Mike Lata and Adam Nemirow’s swank oyster hall on King Street. Think piles of briny oysters, clams, cooked-to-perfection shrimp, and crab claws and the luscious king mackerel app with fresh horseradish—not to mention the must-try specials. 544 King St., (843) 414-7060,

GRITS: Anson Mills & Geechie Boy Mill

“I’m constantly torn between Anson Mills and Geechie Boy,” says The Glass Onion chef-owner Chris Stewart. And what a wonderful conundrum it is for Lowcountry chefs to have their pick. Renaissance foodie farmer Glenn Roberts started Anson Mills nearly two decades ago with a focus on heirloom corn and quickly developed a following among the nation’s five-star chefs. “Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Grits are sweet corn goodness,” enthuses Circa 1886 chef Marc Collins. The Drawing Room’s Forrest Parker singles out the Sea Island White Flint: “When you open the still-frozen bag, it smells just like buttered popcorn!” Out on Edisto Island, farmer and Geechie Boy Mill owner Greg Johnsman turns out raved-about grits and cornmeal on a 1945 grist mill. “We came up with our Geechie Frites at The OD just to highlight his superior product,” says The Obstinate Daughter’s Jacques Larson. Pick up some bags and taste-test for yourself. &

FOOD TRUCK: Short Grain

“My wife calls me every time Short Grain parks by her office on East Bay, and we make a lunch date,” says chef Nico Romo. And they’re not the only ones stalking the food truck that serves umami goodness all over town. Chef Shuai Wang’s twist on Japanese fare—donburi (rice bowls); karaage-don (fried chicken); and even bento boxes of rice, salad, and dumplings (served on Thursdays at the True Value Hardware on East Bay)—have locals queueing up on the regular and hoping for more nighttime pop-ups like the January collaboration at Edmund’s Oast. Last summer, Bon Appetit named Short Grain among the Best Restaurants of 2016, and the James Beard House recently invited Wang to cook. Among the chefs’ other top trucks are Avila, now a restaurant on Calhoun serving Venezuelan specialties such as arepas and tostones (see New and Notable, page 124), and Platia, Greek street food about which Emily Hahn of Warehouse exclaims, “Shame on you for being so delicious!”

OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL: Pearlz Oyster Bar & The Ordinary

Pearlz Oyster Bar serves up juicy bivalves from Lowcountry and Gulf waters, as well as a selection of specialty oysters, in a laid-back, eclectic atmosphere. “I have to go with my neighborhood favorite on this one,” says The Obstinate Daughter and Wild Olive chef-owner Jacques Larson.“Happy hour during oyster season is great, with killer pricing on Gulf oysters. Fat, happy, and mildly buzzed is my favorite way to walk home in Avondale.” Pearlz: 9 Magnolia Rd., West Ashley; (843) 573-2277 & 153 East Bay St.; (843) 577-5755;

The Ordinary
“There’s always a great selection at The Ordinary,” says Hominy Grill’s Robert Stehling, and he couldn’t be more spot on. From Massachusetts (petite and briny Falmouths and big and meaty Katama Bays) to South Carolina (Caper’s Blades and Lady’s Island Phat Ladies), the impeccable offerings come from up and down the coast, with chef Mike Lata and crew often working with oystermen to meet their high standards. Belly up to the long bar; order them by the trayful; and slurp them straight or with a variety of mignonettes, fresh horseradish, or the crave-worthy five-spice cocktail sauce. The Ordinary: 544 King St., (843) 414-7060,


Searching for exotic ingredients such as durian or preserved duck eggs? Or perhaps you’d like to peruse a dozen or so fish sauces? Then follow local chefs, foodies, and Asian residents to the wide-aisled grocery on Rivers Avenue that’s been the go-to for everything from fresh seaweed to intriguing imported snacks since 2007. “When I moved down to Charleston, I didn't know if I was going to be able to make authentic Chinese food at home ever again—let’s face it, the Asian ingredients at any American grocery store are all garbage,” says China-born Shuai Wang. “But then I found H&L in North Charleston; as soon as I walked in it smelled like home.” 5300 Rivers Ave., North Charleston; (843) 745-9365

CHEESE SHOP: goat. sheep. cow.

A smartly curated selection of regional and traditional European cheeses lure turophiles to this inviting fromagerie tucked into a brick nook off Broad. “I walk over at least twice a week to pick up cheese—and to talk and taste and laugh for 20 minutes,” shares McCrady’s pastry chef Katy Keefe. “Patty [Floersheimer] and Trudi [Wagner] and the team are passionate, knowledgeable, and so damn friendly you can’t help but love working with them.” And fans have melted over the group’s handsome NoMo shop, which opened in November with cheese, charcuterie, wine, and coffee service. 106 Church St., (843) 480-2526 & 804 Meeting St., Ste. 102; (843) 203-3118;

FOOD EVENT - In a culinary-driven town like ours, rarely does a week go by without a food-related fête to attend—from casual oyster roasts to fine-dining fundraisers. Mark your calendars with a few chefs’ favorites:

“Charleston Wine + Food. I love getting together with other chefs in town to make yumminess happen. This is our first year hosting a Signature Dinner at Warehouse. I’m very excited to have chef Casey Thompson join us from Top Chef Season 14!” —Emily Hahn, Warehouse

“I love showing off the city to so many people, both industry folks and visitors, during Charleston Wine + Food.” —Kevin Johnson, The Grocery

“Charleston Wine + Food’s finale event, ‘Toasted: Up in Smoke,’ is a great nightcap for the week.” —Anthony DiBernardo, Swig & Swine

“Little Chef Big Chef: I love working with the kids—amazing young people taking charge of making changes to be better versions of themselves. It’s inspiring.” —Michelle Weaver, Charleston Grill

“Noodles Without Borders: Josh Walker of Xiao Bao Biscuit and I have just finished the third incarnation of this event, and it was my favorite one yet. This annual dinner is a great way for Josh and me to create dishes (primarily in noodle form) that are outside of our usual styles. It always seems to have a jazz-like element to it—improvise baby, improvise. Sometimes it’s fun to step out of your comfort zone.” —Jacques Larson, The Obstinate Daughter & Wild Olive

Charleston Wine + Food: March 1-5, 2017;

Little Chef Big Chef: Date TBD;

Noodles Without Borders: Look for an announcement in November 2017 for a date in December.

CHOCOLATES: Christophe Artisan Chocolatier

WildFlour Pastry’s Lauren Mitterer knows good treats: “Chocolate is my lifeline—second only to coffee—and Christophe Paum does it best!” Inside the third-generation French pâtissier’s sweet shop, the lustrous candy gems and delicate chocolate objets d’art nestled into glass displays are as marvelous to survey as they are to savor. “Christophe is an amazing chocolatier with a great personality, which makes his chocolate even more fun,” adds chef Nico Romo. With distinctive flavors like Earl Grey, star anise, and bleu cheese alongside the de rigueur nut, coffee, and berry pairings, the handcrafted edible indulgences seem almost too belle to bite—almost. 90 Society St., (843) 297-8674, & Christophe’s Macaron et Chocolat: 1901 Ashley River Rd., (843) 225-9133

WINE LIST: Charleston Grill

Like a fine vintage made better with the passing of time, Charleston Grill’s award-winning wine list scores top honors yet again. Under the stewardship of Advanced Sommeliers Rick Rubel and Andrew Marshall, the lauded collection boasts 1,300-plus bottles, including classics like California cabs and Old-World beauties such as Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne “Grand Cru.” But the true mark of the restaurant’s mastery is these wine wizards’ ability to conjure up the perfect pairing for any occasion, every time. (High marks also went to FIG and Stems & Skins.) 224 King St., (843) 577-4522,


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