Posts Tagged ‘Low Country Cuisine’

Hominy Grill ~ Charleston South Carolina

Posted 24 Jun 2012 — by S.E.
Category Full Service

Fine dining in major metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco has evolved to a point where, aside from certain local ingredients, there’s a common stylistic and technical thread that ties all these cities together. Great chefs are preparing “local foods” with sustainable sensibilities and fantastic technique in a casual and affordable setting in such a manner that it’s hard to distinguish restaurants in one city from the next based on food alone. This is great except for the fact that the advance of American cooking has also resulted in a gradual demise of the classic regional specialties that once defined these venerable cities. However, deep pockets of regional cuisine remain in the U.S. and my recent trip to Charleston in search of classic as well as modern low country cooking proves that both can exist and prosper.

Hominy Grill sits on the other end of the cuisine spectrum from McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina. Chef Robert Stehling is a master of southern cuisine served in a clean and attractive but classic style.  He’s a James Beard Best Chef Award winner (2008) just like Sean Brock and both deliver some of the best cooking in the country. Hominy Grill looks the part and is smack in the center of Charleston on Rutledge Avenue in a restored storefront and adjacent courtyard. Pulling into the parking lot, guests are greeted by a billboard sized “grits are good for you” painting on the side of the building including a 1950’s era waitress with grits in hand.

The interior is bright with large storefront windows and white paint. I reflect for a minute and consider how this cuisine, although similar to some of the foods served in the deep south including New Orleans, is so uniquely its own. The flavors and sensibilities are different, they’re not as complex as New Orleans nor are they so globally influenced. In a sense, they are lighter although the cuisine itself isn’t light at all. Looking around, the dining room is full and people are happy; low country cuisine couldn’t be more popular.  

Each table is adorned with a mason jar perforated on the top, filled with water and used as a bud vase. The lilies in the jar offer a splash of color against the white painted wooden paneling. Across the room, a set of three large black chalk boards listing menu specials sits on a shelf. Right off the bat I notice a fantastic selection of items including grits, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, red rice, mashed sweet potatoes and okra with tomatoes. Enticing items include a pit roasted beef brisket sandwich but the shrimp bog with sautéed shrimp in a low country rice stew with ham, creole vegetables, cream and sherry has my name on it. This is where I get into trouble with my restaurant visits; I always order way too much. In addition to the shrimp bog, orders are placed for shrimp and grits and shrimp creole. Words can’t express how delicious Stehling’s cuisine is or how friendly and comfortable the setting and service are.

Main Dining Room

Hominy Grill Menu

Shrimp and Okra Beignets

Fried Green Tomatoes

Shrimp and Grits

Creole Shrimp

Shrimp Bog with Cream and Sherry

 Hominy Grill

207 Rutledge Avenue

Charleston, SC 29403

(843) 937-0930

McCrady’s ~ Charleston, SC

Posted 12 Jun 2012 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

Last month I bumped into Sean Brock twice; once at McCrady’s in Charleston and again just before the start of the James Beard Awards in NYC as he was setting up his station for awards gala celebration. We had a chance to talk for a bit and he reflected on his trip last year to Japan for “Cook it Raw”, what it was like surrounded by the likes of Rene Redzepi, David Chang and ever opinionated and phallicly focused Anthony Bourdain. Brock was awe struck while quietly confident and clearly on the verge of moving to the highest levels of the culinary profession. His ascension remains on his mind, a sense of positive anticipation hanging in the air as we talk.

Sean is a great guy and the critical acclaim and attention couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. His ideals are as indelibly stamped on his core as the vegetable tattoos on his arms. He isn’t full of crap, seeking fame, or engaged in some sort of narcissistic self-promotion.  Instead, he is trying to create fantastic locally sourced, historically based, low country food from his heart, an approach to food he was engaged in long before it became popular. And so it makes sense that a guy like Sean is headed to the highest echelons of the profession.


It has been ten years since I last visited Charleston. Arriving at McCrady’s to catch up with Sean, I nearly walked right past the alley leading to the entrance. Charleston has such a historic southern feel to it and strolling down the brick and cobble stone alley to the restaurant’s front door felt much like walking a back street in eighteenth century London. Once inside I am quickly escorted to the private dining room in the back for a sampling of Sean’s latest inspirations. He joins me at the table to talk and to describe each dish, what inspires him and where he is headed. The influence from his trip to Japan is pronounced and profound.

Crudo of Carolina Striped Bass, Rhubarb, Bullrush, Dill and Ginger

Green Garlic Soup with Fried Oyster

Grilled Local Mussels with Ramps (the mussels were a recent discovery that Sean’s favorite fisherman sourced from local waters)

Salad of Killed Baby Spinach, Pickled Quail Egg, Crispy Potatoes

Duo of Berkshire Pork, Cabbage Roasted in Embers (Brock takes great pride in raising his own hogs)

Laural Aged Carolina Rice Pudding, Citrus, Rooftop Herbs

(the herbs are from the roof top garden and the dish itself the most representative of Sean’s trip to Japan)

Sean’s chioggia beet tatoo and a chioggia beet from my plate too


2 Unity Aly 

Charleston, SC


(843) 577-0025 

The Macintosh: Charleston S.C. ~ Brunch

Posted 29 Apr 2012 — by S.E.
Category Full Service

It’s spring time in Charleston, South Carolina and the trees are turning green. The travel gods have smiled on me once again and I am here for a couple of days on business which in my case means several nights of excellent dining with exceptional company. Of the many cities in the south that I love, Charleston has to be near the top of the list. It is one of the best restaurant cities in the country with more high quality dining establishments per capita than many a city twice its size. My first stop upon arrival is brunch at The Macintosh, the newest addition to the highly acclaimed Indigo Road Restaurant Group and recent 2012 James Beard Awards nominee.

Antebellum Tree

Charleston is made for walking and my hotel is one block north of Market Street and the center of town. I quick step down to Market Street and head west toward King Street taking in the sights. The architecture is so lovely and well preserved that a true Antebellum aesthetic settles over me. It’s still early (10:30 am) and the streets are moving with people but not overly so. Along the way I click a few photos with my point-and-shoot and make a right hand turn to the north onto King Street toward The Macintosh. After a leisurely stroll down the far side of King Street I find myself in front of the old American Theater and notice The Macintosh directly across the street, its large plate-glass storefront clearly pained with the restaurant logo.

Confederate Museum Steps Detail

Once inside I meet General Manager Andrew Fallis, (a graduate of Johnson & Wales University) and congratulate him on the Beard nomination; he is elated. Fallis reminds me of a stylish Keith Urban, he is smooth and gentlemanly with the guests and floats us over to a power-table for brunch. Settled in, I gather my senses and take in the room. The interior is rustic and informal with exposed brick, ductwork and ceiling joists. You won’t find white linen here (no need to waste precious resources on a linen contract), instead hardwood tables are set with black woven placemats, black cloth napkins, stainless flatware and short stemmed glassware. Fallis and his team are managing their resources well.

View Toward King Street

The menu is a single printed legal-size sheet clamped onto a hardwood clip board. There are four starters, ten main dishes and six sides priced from $5 – $13. Although limited in scope and scale, the menu represents real value at these prices.

 The Macintosh Menu

Triggerfish Brandade, Alabama White Sauce

Eggs Over Easy, Sweet Potato Hash

Chicken & Waffles

“Mac Attack” Pork Belly, Bone Marrow Bread Pudding, Poached Eggs


The Macintosh

479-B King Street

Charleston, S.C. 29403