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Hot Chicks

Hot Chicks
January 2019

Thanks to its versatility, the humble chickpea is popping up on menus all over town


Most recognizable when ground with tahini and olive oil to form hummus, the chickpea is otherwise an ingredient constantly flying under the radar. However, Charleston establishments are putting the earthy legume center stage, showcasing its versatility in local dishes, from breakfast sandwiches to Trinidadian fry bread.


Babas (11 Cannon St.,

Panisse ($8), a fried chickpea fritter, comes from the Mediterranean coastal region between Nice, France, and Genoa, Italy, and is traditionally served both as a street food and bar snack. “I first came across this dish while working at Bouchon in Las Vegas, and its been cool to see it in different iterations throughout the years,” says Babas co-owner Edward Crouse, who fell in love with the “salty, fried, and creamy” panisse. At Babas, the rendition arrives in large fried rectangles with a smooth interior reminiscent of potato wedges. Pair it with an As You Wish cocktail—your choice of spirit mixed with fresh pomegranate, lemon, orange, Campari, and demerara sugar—and you’ve got the perfect pre-dinner bite.

Charlie’s Grocery & Deli (1 Jasper St.,

A deli churning out scratch-made falafel lies within Charlie’s, a family-run corner store that’s been serving downtown Charleston for more than 20 years. “The falafel sandwich is the longest running item on our menu,” explains co-owner Abraham Dabit. “We’ve had people who lived in this neighborhood 15 years ago come back for it.” Chickpeas, cilantro, onions, and spices are fried into tender fritters, joining a chunky cucumber, tomato, and tahini salad inside a warm pita. This messy falafel sandwich—just $6—is best with the optional hummus addition and a touch of hot sauce. 

Daps Breakfast & Imbibe (280 Ashley Ave.,

Known for its whimsical breakfast options (see: Fruity Pebbles Pancakes) and casual neighborhood feel, Daps Breakfast & Imbibe offers an unconventional breakfast sandwich ($7) that substitutes meat with a spiced chickpea patty. “We wanted to do a fun, vegetarian egg sandwich, so we approached the chickpea as we would ground pork, adding the same spices as we do in our sausage,” owner Nick Dowling says. Crisply fried on the outside with a contrasting mushy interior, the patty joins a folded scrambled egg and sweet sorghum mayonnaise inside a doughy English muffin.

Tu (430 Meeting St.,

Hidden on Meeting Street behind a Chinese restaurant, Tu serves a menu with global influences that are often hard to pin down. But their take on a Trinidad-style double—a Caribbean street food resembling a chickpea flatbread sandwich—makes perfect sense. A marriage of creamy, spicy curry gravy with a crisp yet chewy roti-style fry bread, it’s a quintessential chickpea meal. “Chickpeas are so versatile and add texture, making them a perfect vehicle for flavor in this dish,” says chef Josh Walker.