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  • Writer's pictureSteven Keith

Savoring the flavors of fall, but no "pumpkin spice" y’all

The flavors of fall are all around and, no, I’m not talking about a pumpkin-spice pandemic that has gotten COMPLETELY out of hand.

For kicks, just Google “ridiculous pumpkin-spice products” for proof that the end of the world is near.

Pringles. Salmon. Bologna? Gross!

When it comes to fad-fueled seasonal lattes, I’m usually a one-and-done, but I am being tempted by other fall favorites this year I fear I may not get enough of. Like this jaw-dropping creation a reader text-taunted me with Friday night.

“We just ate the Date Night pizza from Pies & Pints,” she said, rattling off a string of tasty toppings, “and it was amazing!!!” (Three explanation points and all, mind you.) “You need to try it … truly decadent.”

I immediately looked it up to find it features walnut halves, sliced dates, goat cheese, fig jam, applewood smoked bacon, Mike’s Hot Honey and fresh thyme – and I will SO be having it this week.

Fall Fashion from Ichiban & Bar 101
Fall Fashion from Ichiban & Bar 101

The next night, I’m innocently surfing through Facebook when posts touting a new “Fall Fashion” bourbon cocktail at Ichiban and Bar 101 instantly made my mouth water. I heart-emojied them all and made plans to try it myself the next day.

With cooler temps outside and football games playing inside, I sipped this ingenious concoction of Old Forester poured over a mélange of muddled cherries, oranges, fresh ginger, cinnamon and cranberry bitters, then topped with club soda and an orange twist.

You can have all of the pumpkin-spiced everything. That’s fall in a glass right there.

What other fantastic fall food and drink specials have you found around town?

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Last week’s request asking folks to vote for their favorite sandwich generated lots of love for the usual suspects I mentioned, but also support for a few unlikely contenders.

Reader Taylor Raab endorsed the Fried Green Tomato BLT from The Grill on Charleston’s West Side (I endorse this message) and the new-to-me “Al Burger” from the Burger Carte in Smithers, a small town on US 60 along the Kanawha-Fayette county line.

Although I wasn’t including hot dogs or hamburgers for the purposes of this sandwich survey, my curiosity got the best of me. I did a little research to learn said burger comes with your choice of ham, salami and/or pepperoni, along with cheese, pickles, mustard, onion and A-1 Steak Sauce.

Sounds good to me, although the restaurant’s ginormous half-pound JoJo Burger – along with a variety of hearty “steak house” burgers topped with bacon, onion rings, mushrooms, chipotle sauce, caramelized onion and such – really got my tummy rumbling.

Beef Banh Mi from Yen's Sandwiches
Beef Banh Mi from Yen's Sandwiches

Other readers reminded me of sandwich gems I’d forgotten about or ones that have been on my list to try.

“You asked us to name our greatest sandwich and my current favorite comes from Nosh Catering & Carryout,” JW wrote. But it’s not the restaurant’s Prime Rib Philly I had raved about.

“I am now totally addicted to their Smoked Salmon BLT with middle-cut bacon, tomato-caper salsa, herbed cream cheese and romaine,” he explained.

“The list of ingredients does not suffice to describe the flavor – they all combine to create a sublime, unique experience. In other words, this sandwich is much greater than the sum of its parts.”

Oh, that IS a good one, JW!

I also praised it when Nosh first opened, but it’s been almost two years since I’ve enjoyed one. Time to remedy that, for sure.

Reader John Query added: “Great sandwich article! I’m glad you enjoyed the veggie sandwich at Pies, however Yen’s Sandwiches beef banh mi is the preeminent sandwich in town.”

I’ve heard many others say that, too, so I ran down the next day and devoured one for lunch.

Full of tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned Vietnamese beef topped with pickled vegetables, carrots, peppers, lemongrass and fresh herbs drizzled with a chili-spiced crema on fresh-baked pillowy bread, it’s a candidate that lives up to its hype.

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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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