Another Charleston Restaurant Week is in the books and, by most accounts, it seems to have been another successful affair.
A few restaurants told me their crowds were a little down this year, The Volstead Room had to be evacuated due to smoke one evening and Sam’s Uptown Café unexpectedly had to cancel dinner service on the last night after a refrigerator died.
I also heard my fair share of horror stories from diners throughout the week recounting particularly bad dishes or service at one place or another. But by the end of the week, feedback was overwhelmingly more positive than not.
In fact, let me share this one observation with you and then I’ll tell you why.
“My wife and I have taken part in Restaurant Week every year since it started,” reader Jack Cipoletti wrote. “It's become a wonderful tradition in our city and we owe a big thank you to Dickinson Gould for the idea and to you for playing a large role in promoting and sustaining it. I have to tell you, this year has been the best we've experienced.”
He went on to describe food and service that “could not have been better” at Bridge Road Bistro and a first visit to Fernbank Public House “that won’t be our last” thanks to outstanding food and service.
“I had the Goat Burger with a house-made bacon jam topping at Fernbank,” Cipoletti said. “Wow. I told our server that if they bottled the bacon jam for sale, I would buy it. I was told they’re working on it. My wife had a sandwich of hot honey-glazed fried chicken with house-made pimento cheese. Hers was equally wow.”
The reason I singled out his comments were because the two restaurants he mentioned (Bridge Road Bistro and Fernbank) also seemed to receive the most praise from readers who reached out to me throughout the week. I didn’t visit either place for Restaurant Week, but am glad to hear so many glowing reviews.
As for my Restaurant Week adventures, we enjoyed flawless meals at Ristorante Abruzzi and 1010 Bridge, a pretty solid effort at Soho’s, a decent experience at Tidewater, and both highs and lows at Dem 2 Brothers.
The wedge salad at Dem 2 was very underwhelming and our strawberry cheesecake wontons were small, flat, hard triangles that didn’t have a bit of cheesecake inside them. I suspect it seeped out when they were fried, but I saw photos the next night that showed thick, fat wonton tubes that I bet were stuffed with creamy goodness. Too bad we missed those.
However, Dem 2 also served two of my favorite dishes of the entire week.
The brisket sushi appetizer featuring savory brisket, Asian citrus slaw and yum-yum sauce over a crispy rice cake was fantastic.
And that sticky short rib they featured? That sticky short rib! Simply beyond.
The Chinese 5 spice-braised short rib – coated in slightly charred, richly flavored, ooey-gooey glaze – served over purple cabbage with fried rice was easily my best bite of the bunch.
So cheers to another great Charleston Restaurant Week. There’s only 51 weeks to go until the next one!
And if you can’t wait that long, both Ichiban and The Volstead Room announced they are extending their Restaurant Week menus through this coming Saturday for folks who couldn’t get in last week.
FeastivALL releases beer and wine pairings
From one major annual food celebration to another, the wine and beer pairings for next Saturday’s FeastivALL fundraiser have been announced leading up to the Feb. 17 FestivALL fundraising dinner at the University of Charleston.
I’ve already shared the full FeastivALL food menu in all its mouthwatering detail, which you can check out again at www.festivallcharleston.com/feastivall. Now, here’s a brief summary of the libations that await with each course.
Appetizer: Tuna tartare wontons prepared by Chef Seth Samples of the University of Charleston will be paired with Hawk Knob Salty Beach Hard Cider and Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc.
Salad: A baby arugula, Brussels sprout and beet salad made by Emily Isaac of The Humble Tomato will accompany High Ground Brewing’s Ymir the Creator Farmhouse Ale and William Hill Chardonnay.
Soup: Tuscan bean soup from Chef Tim Urbanic of Bop & Nana’s will arrive alongside Jackie O’s Endless Echoes Hazy IPA and Thread Count Red Blend.
Entree: Braised wagyu beef cheek Bourgogne prepared by Chef Paul Smith of 1010 Bridge is paired with Bridge Brew’s Shays Revenge Oatmeal Stout and Quilt Napa Cabernet.
Dessert: Shortcake with West Virginia maple sugar strawberries and bourbon cream made by Chef Brian Magliochette of CB Culinary Service will accompany Screech Owl Wild and Wonderful Strawberry Blonde and Lamarca Prosecco.
Tickets for the event are $130 per person for general admission and $175 for VIP access, which includes an early private reception and other perks. They can be purchased while they last! at www.festivallcharleston.com/feastivall.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.