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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Elephant Thai returns, The Loopy Leaf stays planted

Two popular local restaurants recently caused mild freakouts among loyal fans, but I’m happy to report both stories have happy endings.

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad from Elephant Thai
Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad from Elephant Thai

When South Charleston’s Elephant Thai announced in early May that it would be closed for two months, many readers reached out to me asking if the restaurant was really closing for good.

Not a chance. The owners just took some well-deserved time off to visit family back in Thailand and – I’m happy to report – the highly regarded Thai restaurant and sushi bar at The Mound reopened last month as promised.

And the food is as good as ever.

You may remember that I praised the new restaurant when it opened a few years ago, going all ga-ga over its luscious panang curry, its glorious drunken noodles, its tangy fried pork and its moist chicken satay.

Hawaiian Roll from Elephant Thai
Hawaiian Roll from Elephant Thai

Elephant Thai has added a full sushi bar since I’ve been back, so I popped in this weekend to check it out. Still basking from an epic two-week vacation eating my way through Hawaii, I channeled by inner-island and ordered the special Hawaiian roll with a large crab and avocado salad to go with it.

My delicious sushi was rolled with spicy tuna, tempura flakes and pineapple drizzled with eel sauce and spicy mayo in a gorgeous stacked presentation. The salad I inhaled before it featured a large mound of thin crab sticks, fresh avocado slices, masago and scallions with a spicy cream dressing on the side.

Both were so flavorful that I can’t wait to go back and try more of the restaurant’s classic and specialty rolls, curries, stir-fries, poke bowls, soups and salads.

LOVE this place, y’all!

  • IF YOU GO: Elephant Thai, 228 Seventh Ave. in South Charleston, is currently open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. For more information, call 681-265-0205 or visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.

The Loopy Leaf cuts back hours

Several readers were also concerned when The Loopy Leaf recently reduced its hours of operation, but owner Sondra Zahn has assured folks that her vegan hotspot in downtown Charleston isn’t going anywhere.

Avocado Tostada and Spicy Katsu-Kimchi Ramen
Avocado Tostada and Spicy Katsu-Kimchi Ramen

At least, for now.

“I’ve had all sorts of questions come my way,” she wrote in a Facebook post last week, “so just to reassure you again, we aren’t going anywhere.”

She went on to explain that her fiancée has moved to Florida for work and they are in the process of trying to buy a home there and looking for space to open a second location of Loopy Leaf there, hopefully in the Coco Beach area.

“I abbreviated our working days in Charleston to take some load off of the girls. As soon as I can get things a little settled here in Florida, I’ll be back and we will get rolling with more days open for you guys, I promise. In the meantime, thank you so much for supporting Loopy Leaf … and my crazy dreams of a successful restaurant that serves an option to the standard American diet.”

For those who are unfamiliar, I absolutely raved about this place when it first opened in Charleston back in 2021 offering an impressive 100% plant-based menu and regional craft beer.

What is so interesting about The Loopy Leaf is that it not only serves the salads and soups you’d expect to find in a vegan restaurant, but also dozens of heartier vegan burgers, sandwiches, subs, tacos, nachos and more.

Vegan Philly Cheesesteak from The Loopy Leaf
Vegan Philly Cheesesteak from The Loopy Leaf

They are all fantastic and – by both taste and sight – you’d be hard-pressed to guess any of them were meatless if you didn’t know that going in. Their food is so fresh, hearty and filling that you won’t miss the meat one bit.

The Mountaineer, for example, is a towering Impossible or Beyond burger stacked with fried mushrooms and onions, melted gouda, greens, crispy onion straws and creamy horseradish sauce. It’s gloriously messy and totally delicious.

I also love the large Spicy Katsu & Kimchi Ramen Bowl full of purple cabbage, green onions, orange carrots and organic greens swimming in a spicy broth. I loudly and unashamedly slurp every drop.

Recent specials on the menu have featured grilled Cuban sandwiches and all manner of fresh pastries, cookies, bagels and other baked goodies.

If you still haven’t tried this place out, there’s no better time. Just be sure to hit them up on a day they are open.

  • IF YOU GO: The Loopy Leaf, 700 Virginia St. E. in Charleston, is currently open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday. For more information, call 681-265-0553, visit or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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

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