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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Cluckin’ good chicken salad and bangin’ smashburgers

Dancing Dog Ice Cream Cafe scoops up great lunch options, plus a new cafe is coming to Charleston's Clay Center.

Grilled smashburger and fries from Dancing Dog Ice Cream Cafe
Grilled smashburger and fries from Dancing Dog Ice Cream Cafe

Oh, how I love a good food challenge!

“Steven, the chicken salad sandwich has become much of an icon in America, and everybody feels they have the answer to the finest one,” reader Gary Borstein recently wrote to me.

“But I want to submit that I feel you, as a stellar observer of culinary bests, need to go to the Dancing Dog Ice Cream Café on West Washington Street to taste theirs on rye or wheat and let me know your observation.”

Of course, I raced right down there. The very next day.

Although I’ve written about the Charleston ice cream shop’s expanded lunch menu before, this was my first time checking it out in person.

Grilled chicken salad sandwich from Dancing Dog
Grilled chicken salad sandwich from Dancing Dog

In addition to ice cream cups, cones, shakes and smoothies – as well as pies, cookies and cakes – the cheery West Side café serves a lunch menu from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday featuring Nathan’s hot dogs with all the fixings, a four-cheese grilled cheese (add bacon or ham, if you dare), chicken tenders, BBQ and a fish sandwich.

There’s also a drool-worthy smashburger, the delicious sight of which will stop you dead in your tracks. It was hard – oh, so hard – not to get that burger. But a challenge is a challenge, so I ordered Gary’s aforementioned chicken salad.

Talk about a delicious throwdown, that sammy was pretty good!

The chicken salad itself was a touch sweeter than I usually prefer, and since the sandwich was grilled (something I usually like) the bread was a tad heavy, which overpowered some of the chicken salad’s individual flavors. But it was tasty, nonetheless, and I ate every bite.

A few days later, however, I still couldn’t get thoughts of that burger out of my head. So I popped back down to devour one, along with a basket of crispy hand-cut fries. (Pro tip: Be sure to ask for them seasoned. So good!)

Featuring two beef patties smashed on the grill to crispy perfection – with a slice of melty American cheese oozing out between them – you can load this baby up with tomato, lettuce, onion, pickles, mustard, ketchup, mayo or special sauce.

I got mine with everything, of course, and then moaned and groaned with delight at every gloriously messy bite.

Even better, the food here is such a great deal, with sandwiches only in the $3-8 range. And that bangin’ burger? Just $5.95, with your first two toppings free, and any after that are a mere 20 cents.

That’s a doggone steal.

  • IF YOU GO: Dancing Dog Ice Cream Café, 201 Washington St. W. in Charleston, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Lunch is served until 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-982-5010 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

New café coming to Clay Center

Speaking of cafés, a new one is coming to the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in downtown Charleston. Currently still under construction, Bits & Bytes Bistro will be located on the facility’s main floor just past the box office inside the main entrance.

Artist rendering of Bits & Bytes Bistro
Artist rendering of Bits & Bytes Bistro

The space is being designed to provide families a casual place to enjoy a meal or snack while visiting the museum’s galleries and attractions, plus create a spot for others to gather for coffee or lunch meetings. Charging stations and laptop spaces will be offered.

With large windows facing the lobby, guests can enjoy a healthy meal paired with views of the Avampato Discovery Museum entrance and Ashton’s Climbing Sculpture rising from the lower level.

Bits & Bytes will include a self-serve dining area with grab-and-go soups, salads, wraps, sandwiches, desserts and snacks, plus a walk-up coffee bar. Gluten-free and kid-friendly items will be in the mix as well.

An opening date for the new bistro has not yet been announced, but stay tuned here for more details.

• • •

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 or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at

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