A hot New York trend has arrived in the Lowcountry: the ping-pong bar. It's called Hom (as in home), and they bill themselves as a "burger boutique and pong lounge."
The space on Upper King Street has an industrial feel. The dimly lit venue is brightened up by comfortable orange and teal booths and trendy, vibrant artwork hanging on the rustic brick walls. The floor is retro — the remnants of old tile have left faded squares, adding interest to the space. The clientele seems mostly hipster. Yes, I mean you, skinny guy, in your skinny jeans and flannel, sucking down a PBR while waiting for a ping-pong challenge. And you, girl, in a vintage rock tee and tapered jeans competing for a win against your V-neck T-shirt-wearing friend. The alternative music playing at a sensible level reinforces this vibe, but families would also feel right at Hom.
In back you will find two Killerspin ping-pong tables, where you can play for free. They are awesome, but it's the burgers that are a total ace. The menu includes seven juicy beef and five specialty burgers. The beef patties, ground in-house, are made from a blend of brisket, chuck, and short rib and are served up thick, juicy, and full of flavor. Most importantly, they are correctly cooked to order. If you order medium-rare, be prepared to see juices soak into the bun and flow onto the plate when the slightest pressure is applied. This is how it should be.
But what's a burger without tasty toppings? The Hom-Wrecker ($9.50) brings to mind a meaty Southern breakfast. The tender patty comes topped with a perfectly cooked, peppery sunny-side up egg that oozes gooey yolk over the crispy applewood smoked bacon and spicy pepper jack cheese. A layer of sweet green tomato chutney adds a surprising twist to an already satisfying burger. The Little Havana ($9) is a well-played version of the traditional Cuban in burger form. Tender-shaved ham, housemade dill pickles, and baby swiss are dressed with a smoky sweet onion remoulade and creamy Dijon.
Lean turkey and lamb are also ground in-house for a couple meaty options without the moo. The turkey patty ($8) is juicy (yes, it's possible), topped with an exceptionally creamy herbed Boursin cheese, earthy alfalfa, and luscious cranberry-mustard seed chutney. The lamb ($9) has bits of tangy feta hiding within the lean ground meat. Fried eggplant and fresh tomatoes dance together in a sweet-and-sour caponata, giving the lamb Mediterranean flair. Fresh vegetarian options include black bean, tofu, and falafel burgers.
Now we come to the bun, quite possibly the most important part of a burger. Bread can make or break a burger. At Hom, the fluffy white roll is firm enough to hold the juices and creamy egg yolk without collapsing into a mess. It's sweet and buttery, making you reach for your napkin constantly. That's a good thing.
The burgers are not large by any means, but they are definitely not slider-sized, so most won't need more than one. But you will definitely need a side. This is the biggest downfall. The burgers range from $7 to $9.50, and you need to pull more loot out of your wallet if you want fries or onion rings. Add a soda and you are sitting at around $14 for a burger, fries, and soft drink. A lot of people will push back at this price point.
That said, the sides are big and can be shared. The long, skinny hand-cut fries ($3.50) come out in a large bowl with your choice of two housemade sauces. The apple cider barbecue is sweet and tangy but seems to have changed on subsequent visits. The first time it contained too much vinegar, but the second attempt was much sweeter and more satisfying. Fries come with dipping sauce like aioli and creamy chipotle ranch — very Euro, but good nonetheless. The onion rings ($3) are cut thin with a crumbly yet tasty batter, looking more like French-fried onions. They come with a pot of creamy, kicked-up creole tartar sauce. If you really want a treat, opt for the bread-and-butter deep-fried pickles. The fluffy batter smells and tastes a bit like a doughnut. Nestled inside the soft batter is a deliciously sweet bread-and-butter pickle, made in-house. Scrumptious.
Fresh sides include various salads and slaws. The most notable is the vibrant Charleston Caviar ($3.50), a spicy sweet blend of black-eyed peas, roasted corn, onion, poblano, jalapeño, red pepper, and cilantro served cold.
Of course you'll need a chilled beverage to wash down all the food. With six beers on tap and a couple dozen cans and bottles, there's plenty of frothy brew to choose from. Specialty drinks with house-infused liquors are worth trying. The British Ginvasion ($6) is a refreshing blend of cucumber-infused gin and tonic, garnished with a crunchy slice of cucumber. Bloody Mary fans are going to want to try the BLT Bloody Mary ($6), which is made with housemade Bloody Mary mix and bacon-infused vodka. Garnished with a full strip of bacon, it's a pork lover's dream come true. Non-drinkers can be hip by ordering one of the many vintage sodas ($3).
Although you pay a hefty price for a burger and fries, there's no doubt that the food is on point. And if you feel bad about eating a fattening burger and fries, just remember you can burn off some calories in a blistering ping-pong match after dinner.