Tu's Agua Chile is a unicorn of a dish made with Kombu beef, tomatillo water, and bonito mayo
Twice a year we eat and assess which restaurants are most deserving of the distinction of Charleston's 50 best. It's a tough job. This city has such a ridiculous number of really good places, we have to fight it out, often debating with our foodie brain trust. But after many an email, we put together our latest list and I'm happy to report it includes six new recruits.
In alphabetical order, they are:
82 Wentworth St.
The beautiful redux of what most Charlestonians remember as Andolini's is light years away from the pizza dive of yore. With a California chic vibe, the clean aesthetic extends to the plates where Chef Air Casebier delivers a vegetarian-friendly menu. The Basic Bowl has become a CP staff favorite. Made with sweet potatoes and green godess dressing, it's a filling and fresh dish. What we keep coming back for, however is Casebier's turkey burger. A sesame slaw and pickled cucumber provide just the kick this winner needs. Top it off with some 'booch or some fresh juice and you've got what a meal that won't leave you dragging down King Street.
Félix Cocktails et Cuisine
550 King St.
If I had to name the one place I’d like to be on a rainy spring night in Charleston, Félix would be it. The nearly floor-to-ceiling window-framed dining room is the perfect place to sit and sip and stare out the window pretending the Holy City is a bigger metropolis than it is. Making the scenario even better is Chef Elizabeth Schultenover’s French-inspired small plate menu, an ideal accompaniment to the restaurant’s cocktails. The Gnocchi à la Grand-Mère is a must with its decadent chicken confit, brown butter, and chestnut honey. The shaved chilled vegetables in the Salade Lafayette is a smart start with whipped chili-chèvre, citrus, crispy carrots, and tomato-fig compote. My drink of choice, the Kir Royale, is a classic providing light bubbles appropriate for a fancy night out or Thursday splurge. And don’t forget to drink your dessert. The cognac milkshake may not scream Paris, but it is on point.
654 King St.
Juliet is something of a sleeper hit. Housed in the former Butcher & Bee space, I think many locals are still discovering it and they should. With the arrival of Chef Nate Whiting (formerly of Tristan and 492) last summer, this little Italian spot has only gotten better. In addition to superlative pizzas, hand crafted pastas, seasonal salads, and a smart cocktail list make Juliet a top spot.
37 Fishburne St.
As CP restaurant critic Vanessa Wolf wrote, "stepping into this intimate, relaxed Westside bistro is almost like being transported to a Parisian neighborhood." The cozy space is filled with reclaimed wood ceilings and a tile bar. Seats are close together so neighbors can watch each other's plates arrive and consider what they missed. The French dip is a must along with the rabbit rillet and foie gras mousse. Don't sleep on the beet salad either. You may think you can share it, but don't. This is personal pan pizza of salads — you're going to want every bite. And what Purlieu lacks in not having cocktails, it makes up for in wine which only seems to encourage the European cafe illusion.
Rodney Scott's BBQ
1011 King St.
There's a reason Rodney Scott has made the James Beard award longlist — his exceptional barbecue skills and those are more than obvious at his King Street location. The Scott family has been cooking whole hog in Hemingway, S.C. since the early 1970s, but it wasn't until last year that Scott officially brought his particular brand of barbecue to Charleston. The results: savory spare ribs, flawless collard greens, reliable smoked chicken, and, of course, that pulled pork. Don't forget to snack on some pork rinds to start.
430 Meeting St.
Tu defies definition. The second project from Xiao Bao Biscuit partners Joey Ryan, Joshua Walker, and Doulan Li, Tu is serving easily the most creative and avant garde menu in town. For instance, guava, habanero, cheese ice is the first offering and it's as incredible as the description is befuddling. Imagine a cold, salty cube of ice. Does that make sense? Does it have to? I suppose that's the question Chef Walker is toying with. How far can he push diners in his search for new, unique flavors? At Tu, just when your brain thinks it have gotten a handle on all the flavors, Walker hits ya with one more wild dish — rose shaved ice. Looking like a cryogenically frozen camellia, this delicate dessert is like a sweet kiss to finish the meal.
You can read our entire list of DISH Top 50
online or grab a copy on racks all over town.