Our second full day in Charleston for our Wine & Food Festival week opened with promise. We had a couple of appointments to meet with a landscaper and potential contractor, and then there were some storefronts to visit in the afternoon. Topping it all of was going to be dinner at McCrady’s Tavern, which was very very exciting.
The day did not start out so great. No details necessary, but just to say that of our two appointments of the day, one was a no-show, and the other showed up, and then basically said, sorry, I can’t help you. So when we headed to lunch at Shrimp Roll on King Street, we were feeling very unaccomplished. And frankly, Shrimp Roll was pretty unimpressive – lackluster Chinese food, oh well.
In the afternoon, we did a little better. First, we stopped at Encore Architectural Salvage. I will say that they don’t have much of what I would consider to be “architectural salvage” – just a couple fireplace covers and a shelf full of old doorknobs. They have decided to focus on wood for floors and other purposes (I guess that’s where the money is), so we switched gears and asked lots and lots of questions about that. And so we learned about the different kinds of wood, and lots of details, like what gives wood flooring color. And we talked about having them make us some tabletops for our desks, which we will probably hire them to do.
They also clued us in to the existence of AIM on King, which is right around the corner from Encore. AIM (which is short for Antiques & Interiors Market) is really a huge warehouse of antiques dealers all under one roof, and we saw lots of things that we loved. And unlike other antique stores in Charleston, which seem to be priced only for the ultra-wealthy market, this place actually has prices that might actually fit our budget. So we were happy to walk through there, talk to the owner of the space, and contemplate furniture purchases for when we move in.
Feeling more accomplished, we headed back to the hotel to chill and get ready for dinner.
Okay, let’s talk about McCrady’s Tavern for a minute. Those of you who know about Charleston might be saying, why go to McCrady’s Tavern? It used to be that McCrady’s was the main restaurant, and the tavern was just, well, a tavern, with simple bar food. The first time we came to Charleston, for Christmas in 2013, we did have dinner at McCrady’s and it was wonderful.
Well, since the recent remodeling/re-build, the two restaurants are now very different than before. McCrady’s is now an ultra-exclusive tasting menu restaurant – they only seat something like 36 people a night, in two seatings of 18, and they may now be the hardest reservation to get in Charleston. Meanwhile, the tavern is now the more mainstream restaurant, with still some very pubbish food, for sure, but also some great offerings that would have been very much at home on the menu of the former McCrady’s.
I opened with a tavern salad. You may think, “oh, salad, how boring,” but just as with my appetizer the previous night at Fig, this salad really made my heart sing, for a couple of reasons. One, I knew that with the food festival coming, I would probably be eating lots of rich meat-centered dishes, and this was an opportunity to go healthy, get a whole serving of vegetables. Two, there was lots to enjoy in this salad, like hearts of palm, and it was all covered with a nice light dressing.
For my main course, I went much more in the direction of hearty and decadent. The grilled porterhouse porkchop was everything you always wished a porkchop would be – plenty of tender juiciness and crisp chewiness, all offered in perfect balance. They altered the sauce to accommodate my allergy – very nice – but it was perfect for dipping. And instead of carmelized onions atop the porkchop (butter, boo), they grilled some spring onions and then covered it all with the “herb salad”. A nice balance of all the meaty goodness, and the crunch and bright flavors of the goodness from the garden. And to accompany the dish, I ordered some of the “tavern fries” for the table – they are kind of a thing at McCrady’s, fries that take 48 hours to create, being cooked several times, leaving them very crisp on the outside, and creamy like mashed potatoes inside. My take on the fries: tasty, but not as the revelation the creation story (uttered in tones of reverent awe) would lead you to expect.
At the end of the meal back in 2013, I was thrilled with the inventiveness of the dessert sorbet – I wondered if the one I had this night would be similarly inspired and multi-dimensional. Sadly, it was not. Nevertheless, it was a very good raspberry sorbet. I was a little surprised that it was already well on the way to melting when it arrived at our table – must have been some kind of miscommunication among the wait staff. But I do like my frozen desserts on the soft side – all the better to enjoy the silkiness of the sorbet!
So, I would say that while this dinner may not have been quite the equal of the one we had three and a half years ago, nevertheless, it made the day for me. As we left the restaurant, I felt that we were well on our way to having a memorable week of food feasting (and house preparing) in Charleston.