While I am still basking in my pleasure of being able to update, I must get down to business as usual.
I have been unbelievably lucky to dine at several restaurants since we last spoke. I actually just got back tonight from The Grocery, which is one of my new favorites. I never in 8 billion years thought that I’d get lucky tonight (in reference to the blog) but so I have. Nonetheless, I have come up empty-handed for pictures and would be unable to document exactly what was consumed and how utterly delicious every morsel I devoured was. And trust me, it was delectable.
Pressing on, I recently dined at The Glass Onion with some foodie friends. I had heard tell that their fried chicken Tuesdays were a particularly noteworthy treat and our consensus was “must go” from basically everyone that I mentioned our prospective dinner to. Let’s just dive in before you try and guess my reaction to the place.
Let’s start by saying that I love all of the elements involved here. Honey, yes. Corn bread, dear Lord yes. However, this execution left something to be desired. What I love about many corn bread varieties is the crisp on the outside and the almost dry texture inside, obviously made more palatable with a touch of butter. Unfortunately, this was not the case here. The corn bread was soggy and I couldn’t even eat it with my hands. I decided to use a fork and knife because “when life hands you lemons”, etc. It was like a tasteless, squishy sponge. I have actually read stellar descriptions online of their cornbread and I have to wonder: is it always like this? Did we maybe get a bad batch? Am I in the minority here? Too many questions for something we got before the actual apps. Speaking of which:
The fries were pretty good and tasted like actual potato for once. The hollandaise was hollandaise. Nothing really to write home about. They were good, not amazing, but I wouldn’t have any shame if we left some in the basket when the server bused our table (because I know you secretly have “I didn’t eat all this food and the chef is absolutely going to see my full plate before it goes to the dish pit and therefore hate me” anxiety).
Les shells et fromage. I will admit, this was actually quite disappointing. I’m sure that at this point you’re probably aware that we asked for the server’s recommendations on almost everything. Taking that into consideration, what I expected was artisan cheeses draped elegantly over a dish of baked shells and topped with a light dusting of crispy breadcrumbs, freshly pulled from the broiler. What I got was marginally better than Velveeta. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not too much of a snob to appreciate a box of some 2% Milk Velveeta Shells and Cheese from time to time.
Seriously, if you’re feeling like crap and don’t want to cook or order takeout, that yellow box is the freaking jam. However, I do not like to expect small batch and then get fresh out of the box.
This was a great improvement. A touch on the salty side (even for a cured meat) but it was satisfying. The 4 bite salad served alongside was the best thing we had eaten thus far. We polled the table and all were in agreement.
I’d rather just get all the negativity out right now and then we’ll move on. Yes, those are fried oysters. More often than not, they are absolutely righteous and could exist as their own food group. I adore them. I once called a chef at Cru Cafe the “oyster whisperer” to his face because the oysters he prepared were so indescribably wonderful. Trust me when I say that it would take extreme circumstances for me to leave even one of these delectable bivalves on my plate. As in, the world is ending and there is literally a nuclear bomb headed straight for the Eastern Seaboard and you have 30 seconds left to live. In which case I would probably say “Well, it’s been real” and then eat the last oyster. That being said, these fried oysters were….not good. At all. The breading was too thick and salty, the oysters themselves were too flabby and squishy, and just the texture all around was so off-putting. It took everything in me to push them across the table. I have never refused oysters but I had to take a pass on these.
This was duck breast served atop what I believe was rice and beans (apologies, this dinner took place a few weeks ago). Beautiful presentation and I will give an A for effort for the plating alone. However, the duck breast was also severely lacking. It was very heavily seasoned with a strong cardamom-adjacent flavor, normally something that makes me drool when it comes to duck breast. This was just over-seasoned and I’ll chalk it up to one of the line cooks being trigger happy with the rub. While the duck exterior may have been palatable had there been less of it, the texture was the more egregious error. I typically prefer my duck medium rare, which is normally the way most chefs recommend it, but this was borderline raw and therefore tough and chewy. It completely changed the texture of the duck breast to the point that I had to saw my knife through it to even cut off a piece. Had I ordered this dish, I would have sent it back for a cook up. My companion that ordered this was also not in love but didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. Unfortunately, yet another miss.
While this picture doesn’t do it justice, this dish was actually quite good. The braised short rib meat was well seasoned and moist, as all braised meats should be. It was obvious they had made the pasta fresh and it had this interesting rough cut texture to it that I really liked. I would say this and the 4 bite salad were the true winners so far.
Bringing this full circle, we went there for Fried Chicken Tuesday. A day so holy, they can only have it once a week. Such a rare bird, so to speak, that you must order your cuts of chicken a week in advance to ensure you’ll get to gorge yourself on poultry until you burst at the proverbial seams. Or rather, so that the chicken will be brined and ready for consumption by Tuesday. Be you of the light or dark meat persuasion, they will prepare their chicken specifically for you upon your arrival. I was feeling adventurous and decided to go half and half: white because I personally like the cut of breast meat the best and dark because it almost always has more flavor.
It sure does look beautiful with either white or dark meat. To be honest, the dark meat was good. Plenty of flavor and moist almost the entire way through. The white meat was bone dry and pulled apart in strings. It was really disheartening considering how much we wanted to like it. My group consisted of 4 fried chicken fans and we walked into the place in a great mood, ready to eat what many consider to be the best fried chicken in the Lowcountry. I’m not talking just random public opinion, freaking TED LEE was dining 3 tables over from us. The man knows him some southern food and he looked perfectly at home tearing through a huge plate of chicken. This made me feel even worse about my disappointment. If someone with such a highly regarded southern palate likes the food there then why didn’t I?
I guess the main source of my disappointment wasn’t actually the chicken; it was the collards. Disclaimer: I will absolutely not profess that I have eaten them my entire life. On the contrary, I only first tried collards when I was 18 years old and had moved to Charleston for college. I grew up in New Jersey, the land of “if you’re not Jewish, you’re Catholic” and collards are the punchline of a joke about the Civil War. My renaissance of southern cuisine is new, relatively speaking. That being said, these were the most disappointingly acrid greens I have ever had the displeasure of trying. No redeeming qualities other than the texture.
I know there are plenty of food reviewers and bloggers like myself that absolutely relish the opportunity to write a scathing review of a restaurant experience. I personally hate it especially when I like the people involved; I have that same knot in my stomach that I did when I thought I had lost the password to my blog (which I actually had and then the internet saved me). The Glass Onion is by no stretch of the mind a bad restaurant; on the contrary, I absolutely adore that they have the whole “buy local, appeal to locals” concept down better than almost any other restaurant in Charleston county. They serve local fish, greens, chicken, meat, and rice in an atmosphere that can be described as a comfortable weeknight neighborhood haunt. It has a broad appeal that would apply to either an inexpensive date night or a family dinner, a rare feat among our many area establishments. The absolute best thing they have going for them is their service. I wish I could recall our server’s name because she was fantastic. (Katie?) Every person that we encountered inside the restaurant had an infectious enthusiasm for the product that they were serving; it made us want to order everything off the menu. Any business would benefit from a workforce that was so fully committed to their continued success. Overall, they are a truly strong performer in the service and decor arenas. I honestly have one complaint: I wish their food was better.