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New & Notable: Chef George Kovach debuts an inventive cocktail list and menu times that double as works of art at Bearcat

New & Notable: Chef George Kovach debuts an inventive cocktail list and menu times that double as works of art at Bearcat
April 2024

The Avondale restaurant features a casual bar and a dining room that leans “Lowcountry foraging clubhouse”

(Left) Putting the final touches on a grilled oyster with creamed leek and beef fat; (Right) Foie gras atop brioche toast with flower petals.

Armed with a resume that name-checks some of Chicago’s top temples of fine dining, including Michelin-starred restaurants Acadia, Elizabeth, and Ever, George Kovach moved to Charleston during the pandemic intent on bringing more of a cheffy, modern vibe to a town whose food rep was built on elevated Southern standards. To wit, a Facebook page for his early pop-ups promised “pretentious food for non-pretentious people.” A few years later, that concept has evolved into Kovach’s long-anticipated Bearcat, which opened in the former Al Di La in West Ashley’s Avondale neighborhood last fall. 

Keeping the bones of its predecessor, the restaurant is divided into a casual bar area and a dining room, the decor of which could be described as “Lowcountry foraging clubhouse.” A low wood ceiling sets an intimate tone, Spanish moss hangs from halo light fixtures, and small animal skulls perch on wall-mounted driftwood. If the atmosphere feels too Wes Anderson, the waitstaff keeps it real with attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable service.

(Left) Dim lighting sets a cozy mood; (Right) Strewn with Spanish moss and driftwood, the dining room decor riffs on Lowcountry environs.

The cocktail list is a good indication that the masterminds behind Bearcat don’t take themselves too seriously either: a cachaça-based concoction made with cognac, kaffir lime, and clarified milk is called “Pasture Bedtime,” and a splash of bubblegum syrup livens up a classic frozen strawberry daiquiri. 
On the menu, each dish is a work of art—Kovach started as a pastry chef, and it shows—but there’s plenty of substance, too, especially among the smaller plates. A golden beet salad with pecans and a scattering of purple flower petals is pure Instagram bait while also being complex and refreshing. A mound of granita alongside hamachi crudo and avocado mousse recalls the froth on a wave and lends a delightful contrast of texture and temperature to the raw fish. And what looks like a coiled octopus tentacle but is actually perfectly al dente black sesame pasta makes for a playful presentation; its cashew, chile, and lime elements landing in quick succession on the taste buds like so many Pop Rocks. 

For the last course, a terrarium layered with a miso-peanut butter custard base, coffee sponge cake with chocolate crumb, dehydrated meringues, and a brittle candy top appeared—“creme brulee” in name only. “Not what we expected,” we half-joked to our server. “It never is!” he shot back. Cheffy, yes, but fun, too.

25 Magnolia Rd.
Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9:30 p.m. (last seating)
Bar open till midnight