Memories surface at Lowcountry Bistro
| Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Cuisine: Lowcountry Southern
Category: Neighborhood Favorite
Location: 49 S. Market St.
Hours: Daily 11 a.m.- until
Food: 2 1/2
Service: 3 1/2
Costs: Soups $5-$7, salads $5-$15, appetizers $4-$10, entrees $16-$19, dinner sandwiches $11-$12, lunch $9-$15.
Vegetarian Options: Yes
Bar: Full-service bar, Happy Hour (bar only) 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday
Decibel Level: Moderate
Wheelchair Access: First floor
Parking: Street and parking garages
Other: Daily special sheet, piazza, small patio, Facebook, Twitter, email@example.com, lowcountrybistro.com.
Lowcountry Bistro is in the former space of Garibaldi Restaurant on Market Street. But before it was home to a restaurant famed for its whole fried flounder, it was the business address of H.B. Limehouse Produce, a family-run, wholesale produce business that is still in the family and still distributing produce.
All of this bodes well for Lowcountry Bistro, as it is a sister property to 82 Queen, where the Kish family has created a legacy of its own.
Steve Kish and partners Harvey Poole and Joe Sliker opened the Queen in 1982, and Steve’s son Patrick is now the general manager at Lowcountry Bistro.
Steven Lusby is the executive corporate chef, and Lusby is the fourth generation in his family to find a career path in the food and beverage industry.
The family brought Matt Paul on board as chef de cuisine.
Though a Pennsylvania native, a little bit of Maryland runs through his culinary blood with crab imperial on his menu as well as a Maryland crab dip.
The menu celebrates the season and shops Boone Hall Farms for its strawberries; local Carolina sweet onions, and local swordfish and flounder were all part of the menu.
The Ambrose Family farm was supplying corn at the time of our visit and local okra was featured in a Parmesan-crusted appetizer.
Residents will get a taste of what they live with; tourists will embrace the flavors of Lowcountry food history: benne seeds, collard greens, pulled pork, Frogmore stew, sweet potato pie, and shrimp and grits will tempt their palates.
The address alone is pure Lowcountry: a Charleston single home complete with piazza and patio.
Price points are fair and entrees such as shrimp and grits ($18), crab cakes ($18) can be ordered in appetizer-sized portions ($9, $10).
I did find the interior sparse and barren of local charm.
The upstairs dining room has a great phalanx of windows but with a westerly orientation and no window treatments, you need to pick your table wisely as sunset approaches.
The local artwork scenes of casting a seine net and a watermelon stand bring a sense of place to the Bistro, but barren brick walls and spartan tables (albeit crafted from bread boards) leave a naked feeling to the space. That is easy to fix and worth the investment.
We had a server who is every restaurateur’s dream: engaged, informed and going the extra distance to ensure the guests’ experience.
There was that sample of she-crab soup ($5, $7), the offer to taste the two wines we debated, the invitation to see the piazza for a future visit: little things that went a long way to create that first impression.
The food is a bit over-gilded. But the menu offers some change-ups from standard coastal Carolina dishes.
Parmesan-crusted okra ($7) appealed but the pods were not cooked long enough to soften.
A pesto-crusted mahi-mahi was “just” overcooked but its bed of white cheddar and country ham grits was the grits of memory.
The roasted corn and tomato salad needed a bit more roasting and the Champagne beurre blanc was in excess in a dish already lacquered with basil, Parmesan cheese and garlic.
The chicken and waffle dish ($16) was quite good. It married all you like in a rustic dish: sweet, crunchy, salty, soft. It was a sweet potato and cornbread waffle seasoned with bacon topped with gently fried chicken, crowned with pecan butter and roused with a Bourbon reduction sauce that tasted faintly of sorghum. It is a keeper.
And we graciously displayed ours to a table of tourists puzzled by this assembly of ingredients.
The plates coming out of the kitchen are colorful and generous.
The price points favor your budget and if all the servers model the behavior of ours, you will not be disappointed.
Sandwiches are on the dinner menu. A house-roasted turkey, house-cured corned beef and a Charleston Cuban will pleasure all sizes of appetites.
A grilled cornbread shortcake ($6) with local strawberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream ended our meal on a sweet note.
A daily chalkboard will keep you informed about daily and seasonal specials and the commitment of the Kishes will keep you well-fed with regional dishes priced right.