What a week on the local restaurant scene! We learned that Charleston Restaurant Week is back (with two late additions), The Barge was sold and there’s a new restaurant taking over The Block. Delicious news indeed, so let’s get to it.
Organizers of the city’s popular Charleston Restaurant Week announced Friday that the event will return this year, but in a slightly different format to give restaurants more flexibility as they continue to battle staffing shortages and supply chain issues related to COVID.
A dozen participating local restaurants will still offer specially created three-course meals from Jan. 24-29, but can set their own price that works best for their business.
In years past, the “three courses for $30” deal was a big draw, but restaurants are facing unprecedented cost increases due to the extended pandemic. Organizers say providing them the flexibility to set their own price this year encouraged enough places to sign up to be able to pull the promotion off.
As a result, restaurants are offering special menus from $20-$48 this year, with most in the $30-$45 range.
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews is taking it one step further to make the typically busy week a little easier on its servers and kitchen staff. While the downtown spot is still offering two different three-course menus, guests will only be able to choose one complete menu or the other instead of picking their own appetizer, entrée and dessert combination.
Speaking of choices, here are some of my early favorites based on Restaurant Week menus that have been released so far.
1010 Bridge’s braised beef short ribs with roasted corn and scallion grits, winter vegetables and red wine demi-glace looks insanely good (just check out that photo!) and Books and Brews is going ethnic with two incredible-sounding entrees.
That West Side hangout is offering a West African peanut-based stew with sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, spinach and tomatoes topped with crushed peanuts and hot sauce. (You can order it with or without meat added.) The other option is a Syrian hand-tossed pizza with an olive oil base topped with ground lamb and beef, onions and pine nuts with yogurt on the side.
Also on the West Side, Mi Cocina is offering a sea bass dish that you can enjoy grilled Vera Cruz style (typically with tomatoes, olives and capers) or pan-fried Rodrigo style (a traditional Mexican preparation with onions, garlic, jalapenos, lime and honey). You can cap off your meal there with either Kahlua or Red Velvet flan, which both sound intriguing.
Elsewhere, Bricks & Barrels downtown will feature a filet tower of steak, marinated and grilled portabella mushroom, goat cheese medallion and seasoned grilled green tomato, or a shrimp and scallop fettuccini with spicy house-made marinara – and chocolate chip peanut butter cannoli.
Bridge Road Bistro in South Hills is offering a rosemary garlic-brined pork chop with cornbread stuffing, haricot verts and honey garlic sauce, which you can follow up with banana bread pudding with warm hazelnut chocolate fudge.
Other menu highlights include Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill’s crispy rib-tips (please tell me that’s another name for burnt ends!) and Jeff’s Curbside’s famous Cajun chicken pasta, reminiscent of his days working at Cagney’s. Ichiban is in with miso-glazed salmon with grilled asparagus and shitake risotto or filet mignon and shrimp with kimchee mashed red potatoes and soy butter.
Tasty Ristorante Abruzzi appetizers include calamari fritto or fig and balsamic bruschetta, while Soho’s at Capitol Market will have vertical Italian meatball skewers, shrimp scampi in white wine garlic sauce, or a steak, scallop and shrimp stack over garlic mashed potatoes.
The Lookout is pitching a baseball sirloin steak served over roasted portobello mushroom, tomato and goat cheese with garlic mashed potatoes and broccolini topped with demi-glaze, and Tidewater Grill will serve up bourbon, maple and apple-stuffed chicken with rice and veggies.
Meanwhile, back at Black Sheep, the two pre-selected menu choices there feature a butternut squash soup with candied pepitas; a duo of sous vide crispy duck breast tacos with maple sweet potato hash, pomegranate-cherry reduction and ancho agave sauce; and elderflower crème bruleé.
Or you can try a kimchi and pork eggroll with chili-mirin reduction; Pad Thai with marinated al pastor shrimp, stir-fried rice noodles, egg, tamarind, bean sprouts, green onion, fresno chili and toasted peanuts; and sesame honey churros with green tea ice cream.
Keep following The Food Guy as more Restaurant Week menus roll out in the coming days.
This year’s full list of participating restaurants includes newcomers 1010 Bridge, Barkadas at the Fort and Jeff’s Curbside, along with returners Black Sheep Burrito & Brews, Books & Brews, Bricks & Barrels, Bridge Road Bistro, Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill, Ichiban, Mi Cocina de Amor, Ristorante Abruzzi, Soho’s at Capitol Market, The Lookout Bar & Grill and Tidewater.
For more information, check out www.facebook.com/eatlocalcwv.
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But wait, there’s more!
Last Thursday, The Barge Restaurant in South Charleston was auctioned off to a Parkersburg man and his son, who plan to open a new floating restaurant at their campground there.
The very next day, Bar 101, Ichiban and The Lookout Bar & Grill owners Todd Moore and Dave Andrews inked a deal to take over the space formerly housing The Block Restaurant, which they plan to turn into a mid-scale steak bistro called D.T. Prime.
The name represents not only the restaurant’s prime downtown location on the corner of Capitol and Quarrier streets, but also the initials of each owner’s first name: David and Todd.
Before first reporting this scoop on Saturday, I took a tour of the space and spoke to the owners Friday night, and I’m ridiculously excited about what they have in store for the new place. Butcher block paper on the tables. Top-quality steaks you select yourself before they’re prepared. Excellent wine and cocktails in a casual lounge or slightly upscale dining room.
Count me in.
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After last week’s ode to memories of eating at my grandparents’ houses growing up, so many of you called or wrote in to tell similar stories from your own childhoods.
And several of you even made Mammaw’s jam cake as well, even though I forgot to provide one very important bit of information with that recipe. That would be the baking temperature, which is 350 degrees.
“I just baked your Mammaw’s jam cake and it is delicious,” wrote Sherry Hughes, whose own email address was “mamawsherry.”
She added: “I also think I have a recipe for the starter for sourdough bread. I will check and send it to you via email. I have not made it for a long time, but will look through my recipes this weekend.”
How thoughtful. I actually do have Mammaw’s recipe for the sourdough starter and bread around the house somewhere. I just need to dig it up and get to baking!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.