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At The Getaway, the confit pork and ropa vieja outshine the spotty service

Cabana Nights

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Location Details The Getaway
The Getaway
541 King St.
Downtown
Charleston, SC
(843) 203-3294
Wed.-Mon., D
Caribbean

The Getaway, Top Chef alum Emily Hahn's new venture since leaving Warehouse, brings something different to King Street: A Latin American-inspired cabana bar. Formerly King Dusko, the space has been transformed into a hip, welcoming environment with the added bonus of an outdoor patio in back.

The Getaway's food is eclectic, with a focus on Caribbean and South American options, in part reflecting Chef Hahn's time cooking in Patagonia, Chile.

RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith

Although spelled in the Peruvian manner, the cebiche ($13) takes an Ecuadorian approach with an orange and lime juice base. The chunks of tender fish are accompanied by shaved red onion, cubed tomatoes, and mild pepper slices, and topped with fresh cilantro and mint leaves. Served with a handful of crisp plantain and taro chips, it's a tropical take on the refreshing dish.

The coconut shrimp ($14) is a world away from the dense Tommy Bahama-style version typically seen. Here, the six plump, tail-off shrimp are coated in a batter made with finely ground coconut and herbs and accompanied by a vivid orange marmalade. It's coupled with a green papaya salad, but not the fish sauce and chili-based som tum you might be familiar with. Rather, the shredded, under-ripe fruit is coated in a sweet, lime-based sauce reminiscent of Sprite.

On a busyish Saturday night, I tucked into a cozy corner table as Raiders of the Lost Ark played larger than life on a wall of the outside patio. Interfering with the laid-back atmosphere, however, was overhead music so incredibly loud — yet garbled — that it was impossible to tell what it was, let alone hold a conversation over the din. Moreover, a smoldering firepit outside put off so much thick smoke the restaurant's interior filled with it, and the front doors had to be propped open to the wintery weather.

Salt cod croquettes with local greens, whipped potato, lemon vinaigrette, and radish - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Salt cod croquettes with local greens, whipped potato, lemon vinaigrette, and radish

Thankfully, the salt cod croquettes ($13) were there to provide a little warmth. The three oblong fishcakes look a bit like hushpuppies and the crisply fried breadcrumb exterior provides a pleasing contrast to the creaminess inside. With a mild fish flavor, the slightly sweet croquettes could almost be mistaken for crab cakes ... unless you happen to drag a bit through the accompanying aioli. With a pronounced fishy flavor reminiscent of bonito flakes, it's a most unexpected and off-putting surprise. A more traditional Spanish-style aioli or even spicy red sauce might be a more complementary choice.

The Getaway's cocktail list is unusual, with a focus on rum and some lesser-known Latin American ingredients. The Davy's Sail ($10) is served in a tall tumbler and garnished with a slice of dehydrated lime. Crisp and refreshing, it ends with the bracing flavors of Gran Classico bitters, made with bitter orange, rhubarb, and wormwood. In contrast, the Pisco Sour ($7) pays perfect homage to the Peruvian classic, with a light and creamy egg white layer floating above the grape brandy and lime base. Topped with a flowery flourish of angostura bitters as pretty as any coffee barista's best latte art, it's a spot-on rendition and then some.

Food portions are mostly tiny, a trend that continues with the ropa vieja ($14). That's a damn shame, because the shredded, stewed beef is beautifully prepared: Rich, tender, and flavorful. Served over rice with roasted cherry tomatoes and a parsley garnish, this is a share plate no one will want to share.

Chapa Bread is filled with shaved artichokes & beech mushrooms, and poached farm egg, idiazabal, charred herb vinaigrette - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Chapa Bread is filled with shaved artichokes & beech mushrooms, and poached farm egg, idiazabal, charred herb vinaigrette

Chef Hahn was once known for her Empanada Mama venture, and the Latin American turnovers make an appearance here. With two for $9, the pastries are lovingly formed, but small in stature. The varieties I tried included slightly spicy stewed pork and a less discernible plantain offering. Served with a garlicky aioli and some chimichurri, the empanada crust is the real standout here.

I didn't actually order the Chilean fish stew ($15), but the volume level presumably colluded with the waiter's seeming unfamiliarity with the menu, such that my requests for ajiaco or chicken soup ($12) were misheard. Too hungry to dicker, the light seafood dish arrived and turned out to be a lovely substitution. Six mussels, four shrimp, and two chunks of seared white fish are served in a thin mussel broth sweetened with coconut milk and lime juice. Once again reminiscent of Southeast Asian cuisine, the Chilean version is fresher and sweeter, punctuated by thinly sliced carrot, onion, and red bell pepper slices, as well a fresh cilantro and mint garnish.

The Getaway's backyard patio screens movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • The Getaway's backyard patio screens movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark

Service on the weekend was, well, painful, with extremely long pauses between dishes and a general sense of disarray all around. Staff dress in "come as you are" attire, running the gamut from Hawaiian shirts and khakis to denim and T-shirts. The only thing distinguishing most of them from the patrons was the look of panic and the occasional sight of a rag stuffed in a back pocket.

Thankfully, things fared far better on a quiet Thursday night. With only a few other diners present, service was attentive and friendly, while the light strains of swanky merengue and tango music overhead improved the ambiance rather than detracted from it.

The same can be said for the confit pork ($16). Sweet with a little heat, the meaty goodness is served with some decadent coconut-braised greens and three of the tiniest roasted beets I've ever seen in my life. They were so small, in fact, we had a table-wide debate as to what they actually were. Nonetheless, it's a successful dish and one of the more plentiful portions on the menu for what it's worth.

Perhaps less of a dinner destination than a spot to grab some innovative cocktails and small plates, The Getaway has a few kinks to work, but strong potential to provide just that in the middle of bustling King Street.

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