Tag Archives: Charleston

Breizh Pan Crepes — The Reason I’m Going Back to Charleston Next Year

Breizh Pan Crepes

Breizh Pan Crepes

Well, one of the reasons.

The last time I  was in Paris, back in 2016, I had a very memorable experience at Breizh Café, which, according to people who know such things, makes some of the best galettes in the city. So when I saw that there was a little cafe called Breizh Pan Crepes* a few blocks from my hotel, I had to check it out.

The hotel was next to the College of Charleston, and the area reminded me a lot of Georgetown, here in DC—a mix of small independent shops and restaurants and bars, dotted with some of the trendier international brands. Like any big city college neighbourhood, I suppose.

The owners of the shop, Patrice and Celine, are natives of Brittany,  the region where crepes originated. At Breizh Pan Crepes, French music plays softly, and imported French culinary treats are available for purchase.

But enough background. Here’s an example of why I returned—twice—after my first visit:

La Charleston

La Charleston

No words needed, really. I mean, just look at it.

This one, my favourite of three I sampled, is called La Charleston. It’s made with blueberries, raspberries, Chantilly cream, and homemade salted butter caramel., and it tasted as good as it looks.


* No relation to the Breizh Café in Paris. “Breizh” is the Breton name of what English speakers call “Brittany”.

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Lunch at Swig and Swine

Swig and Swine

Swig and Swine

I couldn’t leave South Carolina without sampling the barbecue, and one of the best places to do that is at the downtown Charleston location of the eloquently named Swig and Swine restaurant.

Sauces

Sauces

I had a choice of five sauces. I tried a bit of each of them, but kept going back to the sweet red.

Barbecue

Barbecue

Here’s what I ordered: A half pound of Beef Brisket and Beans with Brisket as a side, plus a small salad and a large serving of Mac and Cheese. The brisket and the beans with brisket side were extraordinary. I can see why Swig and Swine’s barbecue is rated as the best in Charleston, but I think I’ll have to go back next year to confirm it.

Lunch at Hominy Grill

When I started researching Charleston restaurants, the first thing I did was call up the Charleston entry in Tom Sietsema’s Washington Post series, “The Search for America’s Best Food Cities”. In describing the city’s “all-stars”, Sietsema wrote that “…if there’s a single dish you have to try, it’s shrimp ’n’ grits at the cozy Hominy Grill”.

Good enough for me. Hominy Grill went right into the day plan.

It turned out that the restaurant is catty-corner* from R Table, the site of the previous night’s dinner.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

I started with fried green tomatoes. I wasn’t impressed.

I’d never had fried green tomatoes before, so I have no basis for comparison. Maybe it was because tomatoes are out of season, but the tomatoes had the texture of cucumbers.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Wow! Tom Sietsema was right about the shrimp and grits at Hominy Grill. Nobody else makes them like this. Unlike the traditional version of the dish, this one came without a creamy sauce, and those are bits of bacon scattered among the shrimp and mushrooms.

Excellent.


*Is “catty-corner” a mainstream word, or is it one of those terms that allows a skilled linguist to identify your hometown, because it’s only used colloquially in, say, rural northeastern Pennsylvania? It’s easy to guess where someone grew up, depending on whether they call a certain kind of sandwich a sub, a hoagie, a hero, a grinder, a po’boy or an Italian sandwich. Is “catty-corner” the same kind of indicator?

And what about “daresn’t”? Common where I come from, but I haven’t heard it since.

Dinner at R Table

R Table

R Table

Oh, this was fun!

The nondescript little building in the picture is R Table. As its website makes clear, it’s a kitchen, not a restaurant. There’s no sign on the building identifying it, and no menu in the window, because there’s no menu.

R Kitchen offers two sittings each night, one at 6 PM and one at 8 PM.  Guests don’t know what they’ll be eating until they arrive, only that it will be a five-course tasting menu.

There’s space for 20 on a covered patio, but the preferred seats are the 16 places at or near the bar in the kitchen, where you can see and hear the chefs at work.

Here’s what they served the night I was there:

Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup

Salad Preparation

Salad Preparation

Salad

Salad

Duck Taco

Duck Taco

Rib Eye Preparation

Rib Eye Preparation

Rib Eye

Rib Eye

Deconstructed Apple Pie

Deconstructed Apple Pie

What an enjoyable evening! Delicious food, a happy environment, and a new experience. On top of it all, I met some really nice people before, during, and after the meal. Couldn’t ask for more.

Lunch at Magnolias

Magnolias

Magnolias

Magnolias, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, was one of the restaurants that paved the way for Charleston’s emergence as a great American food city.*

The cool elegance and upscale Southern cuisine of Magnolias was a sharp contrast to that “comfortable Southern joint” vibe at Leon’s.  I suppose that comparing the two is apples and oranges, but both the food and the service at Magnolias were on a much higher plane.

Chili

The short rib chili was one of the day’s specials, and I’m so glad it was. I’m a chili aficionado from way back, and this was one of the best examples of the art form that I’ve ever tasted.

Those large croutons are cornbread. Croutons on chili?  Cornbread croutons on chili? Whatever. It worked.

Seafood on Grits

Seafood on Grits

My main was Shellfish over Grits, another updated version of a Southern standard. This one contained sea scallops as well as the traditional sautéed shrimp, lobster butter sauce, creamy white grits, and fried spinach on top. Memorable.

Gotta mention that my server was also memorable, not only because he was knowledgeable and amusing, but also because he assured me that all of my choices were absolutely brilliant. I had to admire his perception, and tipped accordingly.


Here’s a promotional video showing Magnolias in action:


*According to The Washington Post‘s restaurant critic, Tom Sietsema, the 10 Best American Food Cities are, in no particular order, Charleston, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland (OR), Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Washington DC.

Lunch at Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop

Leon's

Leon’s

The choice of Leon’s for my first meal in Charleston was easy—it was the only restaurant on my list that served lunch on Sunday instead of brunch. Bottomless mimosas and $20 pancakes hold no attraction for me.

Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop operates out of a converted auto body shop. Can’t get any less pretentious than that.

Seafood Platter

Seafood Platter

The restaurant, which describes itself as a “comfortable Southern joint”, was fun and friendly, with a good mix of families, singles, and dates.  This comfortable Southern joint, though, has been “recognized as a leader in Charleston’s food scene by Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, New York Times, James Beard Foundation, and Travel & Leisure“.

I thought the food was just OK. I had the Leon’s Fish Fry: Three oysters, three shrimp, three pieces of catfish, two hush puppies, and a side of scalloped potatoes. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the superior platter that Captain White’s Seafood on the Wharf here in Washington offers for the same price, but I wasn’t impressed.

Leon's Interior. Image Found on the Web.

Leon’s Interior. Image Found on the Web.