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Taking Chances On New Deals On Meals Proves Fruitful For Charleston Restaurant Week
Published:
9/17/2014 4:15:18 PM


'Shortbread Lemon Curd Sandwich' from The Gin Joint. Photo by Damion Smalls
 

'Chicken & Bacon Pizza' from Crust Wood Fired Pizza. Photo by Damion Smalls
 
By Damion Smalls


Well over one hundred local restaurants took part in the biannual celebration of the wondrous assortment of food spots around the city as Charleston Restaurant Week was held from September 3-14.

Engineered by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, this month’s commemoration introduced a new pricing system that allowed each participating business more flexibility over how much they wanted to charge. The deals to be had this go-around varied but most were still structured like the previous 3 for $20, $30, or $40 tier.

Judging by the special menus offered, venerable downtown locale Hyman’s Seafood looked to have the best bargain by far with their five courses plus a glass of wine for $30. If I was unaware that Hyman’s was an excellent restaurant from prior experience, I would have went there in a heartbeat. However, Restaurant Week is about exploring new tastes so I decided to patronize two eateries who I still had my doubts about.

The first one I ate at was Crust Wood Fired Pizza. Located at 1956 B Maybank Highway adjacent to the Terrace Theatre, a 3 for $20 meal is what they went with (appetizer, whole pizza/entrée, and dessert). A few years ago, I gave their pizza a shot and was thoroughly impressed with the seafood-based Crustacean pie. I just had to try them again with a new pizza to see if it wasn’t a fluke. Great pizza is hard to come by locally.

Wood fired pizza is not your run-of-the-mill standardized dough, canned sauce, and packaged toppings that most chains around the country deploy to brainwashed taste buds and prosper from. The specialized oven gives their pizza a remarkable aroma that translates to the tongue with every bite. You can feel the freshness in each slice at Crust. They take their time (but not too much) to get orders right and leave their customers satisfied. The laid back bar setting may discourage some, but rest assured that the quality at Crust’s easily lands in the city’s top three pizza places.

The choices I selected at Crust were Anarcini, Chicken & Bacon pizza, and Tiramisu. The Anarcini were fried balls of risotto (Italian rice) stuffed with mozzarella cheese and prosciutto ham accompanied by a simple tomato sauce. Crispy but almost bland, the appetizer could have used more cheese in the stuffing and crushed garlic on the side for more flavor. The Tiramisu was an understated but welcome selection as a dessert. The coffee and cocoa combination blended well together and had just the right out of sweetness in it. I would definitely order that again in the future.

The main course, the Chicken & Bacon pizza, failed to disappoint. What can I say; the grilled chicken was ever tender, bacon pieces were cooked superbly, spinach leaves were fresh and helped create good texture, sun dried tomatoes added kick, caramelized onions were savory morsels, goat cheese complimented the other ingredients well, mozzarella was tasty as usual, and grana padano cheese enriched the entire pizza with its creamy zing.

Yes, even the crust was delicious. It was no fluke; Crust has the pizza I desire. I suggest former or curious fans of Domino’s or Pizza Hut to try this step outside of the box pizza spot.

The second restaurant I gave a chance to was The Gin Joint. This dashing East Bay Street bar offered $10 pairings of food and drinks. As indicated by the name, The Gin Joint mainly serves cocktails, but incorporates a light menu of snacks and bites. I decided on two pairings: the Aeromexico with Oyster Fritters and the Antebellum with a Shortbread Lemon Curd Sandwich.

The Aereomexico may end up as one of my favorite drinks as it was a pleasant surprise to the palate. It was a mix consisting of reposado tequila, lemon, smoked honey, maraschino liqueur, and lemon peel. Not too strong or too sweet, this cocktail opened my eyes to what all tequila can do when not in a margarita or tequila sunrise. Its partner, the Oyster Fritters, were perfectly prepared and enhanced by garlic-filled laphroiag aioli. Jalapeno peppers added to the faddish taste of the fritters.

The Antebellum was a memorable a selection as the Aeromexico but for a different reason: it was the strongest cocktail that I have ever ordered. The rye whiskey concoction was well worth the money. Most bars water down their drinks as best as they can get away with, but this one packed more punch per ounce than others would dare. I respect that. Burnt sugar, green chartreuse liqueur, amaro nonino liqueur, and a lemon peel accounted for this meant-for-sipping neat beverage. Not for rookies or strict dieters, that’s for sure.

Both cocktails were made professionally and had outstanding tastes. The Shortbread Lemon Curd Sandwich was a sweet treat joined with an angostura bitters sorbet. I actually added some of the Antebellum to the dessert, which took it to a whole ‘nother level of deliciousness.

Additionally, I tried a stick of their beef jerky, which resembled venison greatly. It was a flank steak strip flavored with soy and chili that was all flavor. Nothing but small portions were available at The Gin Joint, but the most was made from the offerings. A good experience for me overall, I look forward to visiting this establishment soon.

Charleston Restaurant Week gave me the opportunity to seek out new appetites and confirm old musings. Crust and The Gin Joint resulted in two trials that did not end in error. Now I have more options to go where I know good food and drinks are. And isn’t that the point of it all?

I don’t think I will wait four months to go back to these places but January 2015 will be the next occurrence of Restaurant Week. On the way much sooner than that is the Southern Living Taste of Charleston weekend celebration set for September 26-28. Tickets are still available at most of the events so visit the website for more details.





















 

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