Restaurant Week highlights and new restaurant openings
By all accounts, the much-anticipated return of Charleston Restaurant Week was a success, with continued COVID concerns and a new multi-price format not stopping fans from sampling special three-course meals at 14 local restaurants last week during a time when they really need our support.
Most restaurants were fairly full – some filled to brim – nearly every night during last week’s promotion, which ended this past Saturday.
Or did it?
After having its “best week ever,” Jeff’s Curbside announced it was running its special Restaurant Week menu and pricing until this Saturday and, due to popular demand, 1010 Bridge Restaurant also expanded its offerings through this Wednesday night. That last tidbit was especially welcome news to me, since poor planning on my part prevented me from scoring a table at Charleston’s hottest restaurant “on the hill” in South Hills.
I did, however, enjoy a few standout dishes elsewhere.
Books and Brews on Charleston’s West Side blew me away with its intoxicatingly rich and delicious West African Peanut Stew studded with tons of sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, spinach and tomatoes, then topped with crushed peanuts and a healthy pour of hot sauce.
Oh my gosh, y’all, they should sell kegs of this stuff! Of all the Restaurant Week dishes I sampled last week, it was easily the best of the bunch. I sure hope it makes an appearance on their regular menu soon, or is at least rolled out as an occasional special. I’ll so be there if they do.
We enjoyed a stellar experience from start to finish dining inside a giant wine barrel at downtown’s Bricks & Barrels. Since I was there with my 14-year-old mini-me partner in crime, we were able to share both complete Restaurant Week menus.
All of their dishes were good, but I think I won the night with my selections of rich, creamy and tangy Red Pepper Gouda Bisque and a gorgeously presented steak tower featuring a filet, marinated and grilled portabella mushroom, goat cheese medallion and seasoned grilled green tomato with a cacophony of balsamic swirls. (Shout out to our waiter, Sam, for excellent service throughout the night and bartender, Drew, for a dandy black walnut old fashioned to accompany my meal.)
I ended the week on a high note at Ristorante Abruzzi, where a basket of warm Charleston Bread with soft butter and olive oil – paired with a couple of really nice red wines, of course – would’ve been all I needed to keep me happy.
But that’s not why I was there. I proceeded to savor a plate of fig balsamic bruschetta, a perfectly cooked herbed salmon, then found myself at a stalemate trying to select one of the two desserts offered. I was so conflicted, in fact, that my gracious waiter Roberto said he’d be glad to bring me both.
Roberto is my new best friend, because the chef’s cannoli and Charleston Bread pudding were both divine. The bread pudding was especially noteworthy because it wasn’t too sweet or heavy, plus it had the most wonderful moist and airy texture thanks, I suspect, to a bread with high egg and butter content. (I’m thinking brioche.)
Outside of not making it to 1010 last week, by biggest regret was missing Soho’s at Capitol Market. I heard high praise for its elevated menu featuring Italian meatball skewers, shrimp scampi, a steak-scallop-shrimp stack over garlic mash and asparagus, plus a strawberry float cake and chocolate mousse cube with almond biscuit for dessert.
But alas, there are simply too many good places to visit during a single week. At the risk of ticking of my restaurant friends, who already work hard enough, it would be awesome if Charleston Restaurant Week became a two-week affair in the future – giving more customers a chance to try more menus.
Can I get an amen?
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In other local restaurant news …
Developer Martin Riggs and attorney Roger Nicholson, the same business partners who currently co-own Soho’s at Capitol Market with manager Tracy Abdalla, have taken steps to open a new place in the old Quarrier Diner and Timothy’s Bar on Quarrier Street. I peppered them with a few questions recently at which time they confirmed the news, but weren’t ready to divulge any details just yet. Can’t wait to see that iconic Charleston space come back to life!
Bowling fans (me among them) will be glad to hear that the owners of Venture Lanes in St. Albans are currently remodeling that facility for an anticipated reopening later this year. Food and beer fans (that’s me, too) will be excited to know they’re also building a new kitchen, café and sports bar on site as well. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to enjoy pizzas, burgers, craft brews and more, alongside 32 lanes of good ol’ fashioned fun.
Many folks are all aflutter that the long-shuttered Golden Corral in Cross Lanes is planning to reopen this spring under new ownership. Although I could not care any less about such culinary cattle calls, you do you.
Los Amigos Mexican Restaurant opened a second location in Cross Lanes over the weekend at 200 Goff Mountain Rd. That’s the former Pizza Hut just off I-64 that most recently housed Los Primos Mexican Restaurant, a spot that never quite got off the ground. (I blame Los Primos’ margaritas for that stumble, as they always had a weird taste to this aficionado.) The new Los Amigos joins the family’s original restaurant at 2911 7th Ave. in North Charleston, which will remain open as well.
On a related note, I just realized I’ve never been to Los Amigos in all the years it’s been open in North Charleston – not even once – which is odd given my fondness for Mexican food.
I’ll definitely be reviewing the new location, but maybe I should compare it to the original as well. You know, in the name of research.
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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.