The Low Down Oven & Bar opened in the former Andolini's Pizza spot on James Island. Partners Danny Porter and Taylor Styron undertook a complete renovation of the space except for the elephant in the room that became the albatross around the menu's neck: a 6-foot-high pizza oven. These industry veterans with a combined 20-year career in food and beverage with the TBonz Group (now Homegrown Hospitality Group) tossed a few ideas back and forth until an oven-baked pies concept secured a spot on the menu.
Low Down Oven & Bar
Cuisine: Pizza and sandwiches
Representative Dish: Oven pies and burger specials
Address: 967 Folly Road, James Island
Bar: Full service bar
Hours: Daily 11 a.m.- 2 a.m.
Costs: Appetizers $3-$10; pies $9-$11; sandwiches $8-$10; salads $5-$10; protein add-ons $9; snacks $3-$4; $7 lunch menu
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Other: Facebook, Twitter; Happy Hour Monday-Friday 4-7 p.m., No Shower Happy Hour Saturday-Sunday 3-6 p.m.; Trivia Tuesday, live music Thursday-Saturday; beer cocktails; brunch menu on Sunday; lunch menu $7; children's menu; gluten-free pizza crusts on request; covered patio, outdoor bar access, corn hole lawn games; carry-out.
The expanded and refreshed outdoor patio, along with a patch of grass that provides space for corn hole games, cultivates a welcoming landscape to the front door of the restaurant. Garage doors roll up from the interior bar side allowing for "outside in" drinking.
The atmosphere speaks more to "bar" than "restaurant," and high-top and community tables command the major interior space. A few booths spill out around the perimeter, but when bands perform, floor space is quickly gobbled up with amps and instruments.
Five rotating local beers on draft cross no state lines; beer geeks may find the bottled beers pedestrian, but the assortment is well balanced from a fruity Angry Orchard to a Murphy's stout.
Porter and Styron have developed a beer cocktail menu that takes classic libations and hops them up with a balanced brew. Citrus liqueurs fill the straws in their "regional" margaritas and the "odditorium of Professor Hendricks" is a sophisticated gin quaff amid the sweet-obsessed drinks.
Wines are poured in 5- and 8-ounce portions and the happy hour provides good value for consumers of their house and well brands.
Lowcountry ingredients resonate throughout the menu: pimiento cheese, fried green tomatoes, tomato jam, biscuits, bacon, pickles and peach-based barbecue sauce.
Simple snacks of bacon popcorn, roasted nuts, cornbread and pimiento cheese make it easy for the bar patrons to snack along with their beers.
Soups are homemade and change almost daily. Duke's is the house mayonnaise and cornmeal is freely dispensed in their fry batters. Normandy Farms supplies the sandwich rolls.
The kitchen takes pride in its chicken dishes and prepares it roasted, fried and barbecued. It also is a mindful kitchen, so when the catch of the day gets a Mexican twist, the queso fresco, pickled onions and lime vinaigrette are all consistent to the geography of the plate.
A neighboring table's crispy chicken salad caught my attention with the lightly veiled, golden-colored chicken and learning that they were the "chicken" of the sliders, we ordered a trio of chicken and biscuits. The green chili spread was similar to pesto and the jicama slaw added a refreshing crunch. However, its Vidalia onion vinaigrette had no flavor presence and dampened the biscuits too much so the bottoms gave way. Save for the flaky, self-crumbling biscuits, this is a keeper.
The crust of the oven-baked pies is reminiscent of Chicago "pot pies" in which the texture of the dough marries a cake-like, almost Bisquick batter crumb with a crusty, snappy undercarriage. The pepperoni-topped W.Y.L.F. (what you're looking for) comes the closest to an Italian pizza. Think rustic pies with Southern-influenced toppings and you will marry expectations justly.
Save the tomato pie for summer and enjoy the prosciutto and pear pie (they rightly switched out the peaches for an in-season fruit, kudos). Or hunker down with the comfort food memory of a large wedge of chicken "pot pie" served with a simple green salad.
There is a sweet tooth in the kitchen because many of the dishes have a specific sweet element, be it fruit, sweet tomato jam, a sweet vinaigrette or sweet peppers; or the recipes hit notes of sweet not salty or savory as in the roasted marinara sauce, the house-made vinaigrettes and the pizza sauce.
Lunch is a real value with half sandwiches or half pizzas served with your choice of soup or salad, all for $7. Brunch features breakfast pizzas topped with eggs or breakfast-inspired sandwiches. Look for daily specials to keep menu boredom at bay and a pricing structure friendly to your budget where almost all menu choices are under $10.
The scoop on the Low Down Oven & Bar is that affable owners and attentive servers are providing casual comfort food in a good-natured environment that resonates with the local community.