The Best of Charleston – Husk, Fig, and The Gin Joint
Last week I started sharing our Charleston dining experiences with you, but I didn’t tell you about them all; I purposely saved the best for last.
There were 3 establishments that won our hearts and made our trip one to remember. Ready to see what they were?
Well, I guess the first one isn’t too hard to figure out since it’s the intro picture to today’s post!
Husk lived up to the hype. As I mentioned when I wrote about the Sean Brock dinner we attended here in Nashville a few weeks ago, Husk was recently named the best restaurant in America by Bon Appetit’ magazine. I, of course, am not an expert and can’t confirm that’s true since I’ve only eaten at a fraction of a fraction of restaurants in the U.S., but I would agree that it is a very special experience indeed.
First course: Husk’s Wood Fired Clams with Braised Peppers, Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Sausage, and Crispy Garlic Toast
When the free rolls delivered to your table knock your socks off, it’s a good sign. At least that was the case here. Served in a canvas sack, the buttermilk benne seed dinner rolls with ramekin of pork butter – yes, pork butter – was the first sign that the meal ahead was going to be fantastic.
We started with 2 appetizers, wood fired clams (pictured above) and cornmeal fried trout ribs with parsley and lemon. The clams ended up being one of my favorite dishes, requiring that I reach for even more of the benne seed rolls to sop up every last bit of the flavorful juice in the bottom of the bowl.
Husk’s Beeliner Snapper, Rice “Risotto” with Shrimp, Sweet Peas, and Tomato Gravy
As soon as I saw the words risotto and peas on the same line, my ordering decision was made. I can’t ever seem to pass up that combo. Not only was it a beautiful dish to behold, it was delightful to devour as well.
I wish I’d taken a picture of my husband’s dish, because it was equally, if not more delicious than mine. He chose the Cornmeal Dusted Catfish, Fried Cabbage Creamed with Sweet Corn, Mustard Butter and Crispy Cornbread Salad. Actually, if I’d just gotten a side of that cabbage alone, I’d have been a very happy girl.
Husk’s Baked Anson Mills Grits with Carolina Mushroom and Tennessee Cheddar
And of course, we got a side of the grits. How could we pass them up? Ooey, gooey, cheesy, grits. This side portion is best shared among a group of 6 or more I think, because we couldn’t even make a dent in them.
Not that I needed it, as I was beyond stuffed, but I also couldn’t bring myself to forgo dessert once I looked over the menu. An Anson Mills Oatmeal Pie with Brown Sugar Custard and TN Fudge Sauce ended the evening on a very sweet note.
Charleston, SC 29401-2220
On our last night in Charleston, we dined at Fig, another James Beard award winning chef’s restaurant. While I would love to be able to say that one of the meals I’m writing about today was better than the other, I can’t. It’s simply impossible because they were completely different, and both amazing in their own way.
As our server described all of the appetizers, we found ourselves torn between several dishes. Our solution? Go heavy on the first courses and split an entree. This way we could experience more of what the chef had to offer.
This was definitely a smart solution.
Fig’s Tomato Tarte Tatin with tapenade and fromage blanc
When we were at the Husk bar the night prior, our bartender recommended we try the tomato tart at Fig- he said it was a dish not to be missed. It was hard for us to imagine that a tart would be something we’d be wowed by, but we ordered it as instructed. Boy, oh boy. I wish I could go back and give that bartender a big hug.
Words cannot describe how I felt as I ate this incredible little piece of heaven. Even my husband couldn’t stop raving about it, and that never happens. Wow. Just wow.
Fig’s Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Bolognese
The next two dishes were a ricotta gnocchi and pork trotters. The decadent pork trotters with sunny side up egg and peppers was delicious, but I’m glad it was a small portion because it was so rich that splitting it made for the perfect portion.
Now, the gnocchi. Oh my goodness, the gnocchi.
A couple of years ago I had Ricotta Gnudi for the first time at The Spotted Pig in NYC. It pretty much changed my life. When I saw that this gnocchi had a ricotta base, I was definitely curious if it would be similar. Our server confirmed my suspicions that it would be a pillow-y and divine experience in my mouth.
There are certain aspects of some meals that you will never forget, and for me, this will be one.
Fig’s Prosciutto Wrapped Grouper
We ended the meal with our shared entree, the prosciutto wrapped grouper with red wine braised eggplant and pine nut gremolata. Again, another beautiful dish, but so rich that I’m thankful we decided to share.
All in all, an incredible meal and a place that I would highly recommend you put on your Charleston “must do” list.
Charleston, South Carolina 29401
Since I’m with child at the moment, some of you might find it odd that one of my top 3 picks is actually a bar. But then again, if you know me really well, that won’t be odd at all!
Even though I’m pregnant I still appreciate a good cocktail. The only difference is that now they’re sans alcohol.
When we sat down at the outdoor patio table in the front courtyard of The Gin Joint, I was expecting to just ask the server if they could kindly get the mixologist behind the bar to whip me up a mocktail.
Imagine my surprise and delight when, as I flipped through the pages of the drink menu, there was an entire page titled “Temperance Cocktails”. Did this mean what I thought it meant?
The Gin Joint’s Orange Flower Collins
It absolutely did, confirmed the server. I could drink everything on that page without worry, as there was no alcohol involved.
The first drink I had was the Orange Flower Collins, a mixture of orange flower water, lemon, simple syrup and CO2. The next was a Saratoga Cooler- house made ginger beer, lime and demerara. (For those of you that see the word “beer” and are alarmed, don’t worry, ginger beer is not actually beer.)
The Gin Joint’s Salted Chocolate Bar
As much as I loved the cocktails, there was something else I ordered that will never, ever, be forgotten. On September 24, 2012, on the patio of The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina, I ate what just may be the best dessert on the planet.
A salted chocolate bar made with pretzel, caramel, peanut butter, pop rocks and sea salt. Salty, sweet, insanely, ridiculously, mind-blowing.
What is pictured above is the last half. The half that I took back to our hotel room and promptly stored in our mini-fridge for safe keeping. Then ate a bite of when I woke up the next morning. Then ate the rest of when I got back to the room the next night. When I ate that last bite, I think a little part of me died. I can’t imagine not ever experiencing those flavors and textures in my mouth again.
Gin Joint, we will be back. And while we hit you up on 2 of the 3 nights we were in town this time, when I’m without a baby bump, I have a feeling it might be every night.
182 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401