It's dinnertime, and you're hungry. But you're not dealing with that distressing strain of hunger that requires an immediate lashing with a microwave pizza or the dregs of a chicken paprikash you assembled two nights ago. No, you're hungry for the kind of meal where you can hoist a decent cocktail shaken by someone else, and then fall into conversation as a series of small plates ripped from Bon Appetit headlines find their way to your table.
Cuisine: Contemporary farm
Representative Dish: Confit duck, Charleston Gold rice cake, crowder peas, mustard greens, sunny-side-up egg, $12
Address: 624 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant
Bar: Full bar
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Costs: Small plates $8-$16; Entrees $15-$24
Vegetarian Options: Yes
Other: The Granary this month inaugurated Fried Chicken Mondays, selling chicken, a biscuit and two sides for $19 from 5-9 p.m.
Basically, you're ready to pay a fair amount of money for sophistication without pomp. But where to?
If you live outside of Mount Pleasant, continue to Chapter 2.
If you live in Mount Pleasant, continue to Chapter 10.
If traffic lights cooperate and the evening sea of commuters parts for you, The Granary is a manageable 15-minute drive from downtown Charleston. But it invariably takes a few more minutes to reach chef Brannon Florie's 2-month-old restaurant in the Belle Hall Shopping Center.
The dimly lit dining room, furnished with a compact bar and an array of booths and freestanding tables, has all of the elements you recognize as signaling the chef is on a first-name basis with farmers: The angular space is rife with light wood, dark leather and the jars of pickled fruits and vegetables that are as non-negotiable in a certain type of restaurant as framed family photographs at grandma's house.
Also, near the entry, there's a windowed cooler stocked with hanging silos of house-cured meat. The Granary is very proud of its charcuterie, even if various sausages skew sour and the pates are salty. Now you begin to wonder whether the restaurant's self-regard sometimes overrides its concern for its customers, recalling when you were once led to a drafty table next to the front door. This time, you've been seated in the only spot blasted by a cold air vent, even though the hostess again has her pick of more than a dozen available tables.
If you get cold easily, continue to Chapter 3.
If you're always warm, continue to Chapter 4.
Since the chill isn't compatible with The Granary's Moscow Mules, properly served in copper mugs sweaty with condensation, or a rye punch thickly curtained with vanilla, you eventually ask whether it's possible to relocate. The servers are accommodating, just as they're quick to offer a free charcuterie board when appetizers don't appear as scheduled.
If you're satisfied, continue to Chapter 4.
If you're still cold, continue to Chapter 9.
After multiple visits, you've learned that the well-meaning servers will help you out of a table jam, but much of their advice is best dismissed: A side dish of Brussels sprouts, reverentially credited with converting nonbelievers, is a maple-y mess of charred leaves and sugars. And a succession of small plates doesn't add up to a meal, no matter what the servers say.
But, weirdest of all, the servers keep insisting you try the tomato salad. The tomatoes are grown in a hothouse, so they're not as unseasonal as they seem. Still, the tumble of bitter arugula leaves, split cherry tomatoes and sliced watermelon radishes, pink and flared as parasols, feels conceptually wrong, like breaking out a bikini for lolling in front of the fireplace.
If you're bewildered by tomatoes in February, continue to Chapter 5.
If you're glad to find blueberries on your almond cake, continue to Chapter 6.
The upside of transcending the calendar is consistency: The tomato salad's fans don't have to worry about it disappearing. With an almost corporate vigor, The Granary tries to cultivate predictability and maintain control of its bottom line.
For example, as you scan the two-dozen item menu, you realize it's a study in ingredient multitasking: A hunk of grilled triggerfish is nestled in the same curried carrot puree that undergirds a plate featuring a pile of arid lentils and the tomato salad, sold as the only vegetarian entree. Those same lentils are paired with the Brussels sprouts and small-plate duck confit to form three-quarters of the duck entree.
If you might ever need a reliable restaurant, continue to Chapter 6.
If you're dismayed by the concept, continue to Chap-ter 9.
Deviating from the seasonal mantra allows The Granary to create some very pretty plates, although the kitchen's proficiency with color isn't limited to blueberry and tomato cameos. The beer-based braising liquid surrounding clams draws too much tongue-coating fat from the chorizo in the mix, but the chromatic splashes of Satsuma orange wedges, pickled banana pepper wheels and wispy fennel leaves are lovely.
Much of the menu, like the clams, consists of dishes you already know. There's a Caesar remade with kale; a heavy oyster bisque salted with bacon; expertly seared scallops burrowed into a thick cauliflower puree, with the color part played by shorn Brussels sprout leaves; and a sous-vide chicken paired with smoked celery root paste.
Valiantly trying to find something new, you hit upon a serving of General Tso's sweetbreads.
If you're prone to order sweetbreads, continue to Chapter 7.
If you're not crazy about sweetbreads, continue to Chapter 8.
General Tso's sweetbreads aren't completely novel: Asheville's The Admiral six or seven years ago did a steady business in the preparation. But The Granary's version is crispy and snacky. You suddenly remember reading an Eater Charleston interview with Florie in which the chef said he hopes to eventually introduce more dishes with the sweetbreads' adventure quotient.
If you're patient, continue to Chapter 8.
If you're already bored, continue to Chapter 9.
Yet many of the best dishes at The Granary are straightforward. The Charleston Gold rice cake - nutty, plump and capped with a handsome sunny-side up egg - is wonderful. So is a thick pork chop, its inherent smokiness echoed by an apple-bacon glaze.
You order the tender short ribs. Seated in elegantly textured yellow grits, the meat is abundantly beefy. As you finish the last slender white carrot on your plate, you decide the meal was very nearly worth the trip.
Whether for reasons geographical or philosophical, The Granary isn't the ideal restaurant for everyone. There are plenty of other restaurants, although very few of them are in Mount Pleasant.
In Mount Pleasant, if you're seeking craft cocktails, a relatively hip menu and an impressively competent kitchen, you can't beat The Granary. Make a beeline for it: It's likely to become your new favorite restaurant.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.
The Granary offers a dish with a pork chop, turnip puree, roasted root vegetables, braised greens and apple-bacon gastrique.×
There is a windowed cooler stocked with hanging silos of house-cured meat.×
The Granary has a compact bar and an array of booths and freestanding tables.×
The charcuterie plate has a mixture of offerings.×
Confit duck, Charleston Gold rice cake, Crowder peas, mustard greens and sunny side up egg at The Granary.×
Dining at The Granary in the Belle Hall Shopping Center in Mount Pleasant.×