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Archive for the ‘West Ashley’ Category

It’s strange how a restaurant’s space affects the diner. Fancy food seems to taste better in an elegant setting and likewise, rustic food is better enjoyed in a rustic space. This is why West Ashley’s new BBQ establishment Home Team is throwing me a little bit. In fact, I want to call this place an instant classic, but wait.

In the newly renovated Bunch’s Garage (next to Bait and Tackle), this new BBQ dig is the antithesis of all classic BBQ temples (Sweatman’s, Big T’s, Lexington BBQ…to name a few). Inside it’s so clean that it’s almost antiseptic and there is a wrap sandwich on the menu to boot (wraps are the worst food trend since sun dried tomatoes and asian-fusion and I hate them). Sounds like sacrelige to all purists, and this to me is where it gets tricky. I’m not sure if I’m just aggrandizing a good BBQ restaurant, but it seems like the pit master here is both tipping his hat to grand old tradition (BBQ is arguably our only native cuisine) with incredible, sublime BBQ while irreverently goofing off (and arguably showing off) in it’s face. Apart from the wrap, and another example of its irreverence for that matter, Home Team serves a mayonnaise based BBQ sauce that is remarkably good. Stripped to its bare bones, with all of the temporal elements of ambiance and feel aside, I think that Home Team has some of the best BBQ anywhere. Just without the classic BBQ shack feel.

The meat at Home Team is pit roasted with a dry rub and served with no sticky, tricky, or even worse, sticky-icky sauce. What results from the rub and slow cooking is truly sublime, with rich smoke and pork flavor, very subtle sweetness, and nothing overpowering. And it absolutely does not need sauce. To call it tender would be an understatement. It’s downright soft, so tender that it’s almost strange. The pulled pork, ribs, and even the chicken all taste the same both in flavor and texture; delicious. In fact, I’ve never had BBQ chicken that could compete with pork and this one certainly does. The sides are great as well; I like the collards, squash casserole, and creamed corn. But who cares about the sides, it’s all about the BBQ. Anyhow, enough fawning, time will tell where Home Team lands in the great BBQ realm of the Carolinas, though with lines already out the door, I am comfortable calling it an instant classic.

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I grew up in west ash so needless to say, avondale and other old neighborhoods make me nostalgic with their grit and non-pretentious old Charleston character. West Ashley Bait and tackle was also around in my youth and was a good place to get fishing and crabbing supplies or even a sandwich if you so dared. Anyhow, my point is that I am biased towards this place and I think the new owners have done a great job preserving its old charm while converting it into a great restaurant/bar.

As a bar, B &T is superlative; it is smoke-free, has good, inexpensive beer and liquor, good live music (mostly bluegrass) and a truly friendly, down-home staff. Strike up a conversation with any of the barteders and if you are not freaky or disgusting, you will find them to be charming, witty, and friendly. The crowd is clearly local and seems to gravitate around the music playing on any given night (blue dogs’ member projects are a good example).

As a restaurant, B&T does a great job as well, serving the highest quality bar food that has quite obviously been prepared with care. One of my favorite parts of this rustic and rewarding eating experience is the message from the chef on each table that basically says cool-out while I spend time making you a generous portion of delicious food. The eastern NC style bbq plate is great, though they often run out of it. The pork stands up to any place that “specializes” only in bbq. The burgers are also up there in the local burger realm (poes, gene’s, apparently o’malley’s, ac’s…) The sides are uniquely good too–the collard greens are perfectly balanced with pepper vinegar and ham-hock and are a truly soulful and proper rendition. The tater-tots are deep fried to crispy perfection and seasoned with sea salt and make me dread the day when the ban on trans-fat reaches Charleston and all crunchy fried goodness disappears from our restaurants (the anti-trans fat movement deserves its own discussion). Anyways, definitely a great neighborhood bar and well worth a try.

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Kim’s

Compared to the famous K-town in Manhattan, we’ve got nothing in terms of Korean food. With their 24 hour spots, charcoal grill in table set-ups, and a litany of truly exotic, interesting, and fresh dishes, we seem to be in the dark ages. This strange, suprisingly huge dining room on the top edge of west ashley seems like a far cry atleast.

But this is not nyc, and like so much ethnic cuisine in charleston, there is no competition within the genre. I had not been to Kim’s Restaurant in years until recently and am left with mixed reviews. The side dishes (requisite in any proper Korean meal) were delicious and offered authentic, hard to find specialties like kimchee, marinated cucumbers, marinated bean sprouts, potatoes, and a very strange marinated fish cake with daikon radish. Our table shared a green onion pancake that was tasty as well. This part of the meal was without a doubt the strong point.

Our meals came and I was already unimpressed at their sight. My steak bulgoki was soft in texture and sickly sweet tasting, simply bad. A friend’s pork bulgoki was slightly better in texture but still unimpressive though probably the best meat dish on the table. Abu’s beef ribs were less than tender and unimpressive. If you wish to consume meat here, I would suggest one dish for 2 or 3 people as the portions are huge, or no meat and lots of appetizers and kimchee dishes. Apart from the bad meat, a pretty good experience. Take out of the good dishes would be worthwile.  

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Al Di La

A recent trip to the beloved Al Di La left me a little dissapointed, though i think this is one of the best Italian spots in town. I ate with 8 other people and tasted most of the menu. The dishes are very rich in keeping with the tradition of Northern Italian food which lies closer in influence to France and Germany than to the Mediterranean. I think another restaurant from this obviously talented chef serving upscale Sicilian or southern style food (grilled sardines, tomato sauces, and so on) could be a huge hit if executed properly. Out of the nine diners nobody was wowed in particular by the meal, though the wine, an amarone, was excellent.

Another trip to the bar side of Al Di La, Bacaro, was a good experience and quite unique from the al di la experience. Apart from a ridiculous, loud, pugelent dousche-bag who felt it necessary to yell like he was at the king street grill, the meal was beautifully paced by a skilled, attentive server and really affordable. We ordered 6 appetizers and wine for under $50. The bresaolo (air dried beef) was like a delicious, glorified pastrami. The cured ham with melon was legit, and most interesting was the pizza with confit duck, braised grapes and ubriago cheese. I’m not even sure if I liked this pizza but it was so unique that I let it pass. The marsala mussels were also very good, smaller delicious morsels without any of the funk that you sometimes find it huge, mature mussels. My only complaint would be the overall saltiness of everything, especially the bread. These meals always leave me parched. I wish they would serve a little sorbet or something fresh to cut through the salt. Oh well.

Later in the meal, the offending aformentioned dousche face set his wine glass down on our table (while we were eating) to pay his bill. I don’t want to fight in a nice restaurant, but this was like having a new pair of nike’s stepped on. I didn’t fight, of course, because I don’t think that one can beat the meatiness out of another. Also, I would hate to end a nice meal locked up on leeds ave.

Tito

Visits: 6

Prices: Pasta around $10, entree $17, wine $25-50.

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Though it may seem too classy for you, this kitchsy bar on the top floor of the round Holiday Inn is one of the most underrated, undervisited spots in Charleston. It still feels like the late seventies in here in a good way. The view is actually very pretty–one of the best in town and the drinks are expertly mixed by seasoned veterans. The bloody mary is excellent. Don’t miss weird food nights either, like tuesday night hot dog night, weds chicken wings night, and so forth. Great place for a date with a good sense of humor.
Create your own VIP lounge in the back.

Visits: 1
Prices: $4 cocktails, cheap beer

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