By Mark A. Leon
How often is the appetizer the must indulgent part of the meal? The savory essence of a truly amazing dining experience. Often times, restaurants will offer up a preamble that outshines the meal, a piece of culinary heaven let us say. There are some appetizers/snacks in the Low country that truly define the culinary arts in this foodie haven we call Charleston, SC. We want to offer up some of the most indulgent, flavorful starters to whet your appetite.
We spoke to a number of locals and got their opinions and they were enthusiastic and ready to spill the beans on some of the best starter dishes.
This list is a keeper. Spoiler alert, some of these items may raise your calories or cholesterol intake levels for the day. You have been warned.
- Hush Puppies (Corn) – Harold’s Cabin: 247 Congress Street, Charleston, SC – Corn hush puppies with pepper jam. First, this is a meal in itself. Each large hush puppy rests perfectly in the jam and celebrates the flavor of corn mashed and fried with extreme care. This will only set you back $5.00.
- Oysters Rockefeller – Oak Steakhouse: 17 Broad Street, Charleston, SC – Guests are fortunate to be able to purchase a single Oyster Rockefeller for $3.00 each. Whether you order one or six, each order is treated with dignity and pride. These oysters are large and robust and deserve to come with an audience. This indulgent treat is a must to begin your dining experience at Oak.
- Scotch Egg – Spero: 616 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC – Disclaimer: This is not a regular menu item, but if you are lucky enough to be at Spero on an evening it is being offered, you will consider yourself lucky. It is described by one local as a “perfect molten 4 minute egg inside. It’s a feat of modern cooking”.
- Tuna Lollipops – Sol Southwest Kitchen: 1101 Stockade Lane, Mount Pleasant, SC – This dish is prepared with sushi-grade tuna, panko breaded, spicy
ponzu, creamy ginger cilantro sauce. A regular offered up this to say, “They melt in your mouth. They are crunchy and yummy. I can’t get enough.” This starter will cost $12.00.
- Lobster Mac n’ Cheese – Halls Chophouse: 434 King Street, Charleston, SC – This accompany side dish at $20.00 is a rich and succulent addition to any meal at Halls. Known for fine steaks and customer service along with an award winning menu, there are no bad selections, but if you only order one add on, make it this marriage of two of the most wonderful foods in the world.
- Fried Calamari – Grill 225: 225 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC – The lightly fried calamari is prepared with sauteed peppers, white wine and garlic. As a very proud Charleston foodie explained, “the garlic provides the zest that sets it apart.” This starter is $14.00
- Sweet Potato Fries at Sesame Burgers and Beer: 3 Area Locations – Who doesn’t love sweet potato fries? I certainly do. If you have the ability to prepare a mouth watering batch, you have my vote. These soft and only slightly crunchy pairings to many of the main dishes offers unique flavoring and topped to perfection with a dusting of fresh parmesan.
- Gyoza – Co: 340 King Street, Charleston, SC – The pork and ginger gyoza sided with a soy scallion sauce set the Co gyoza apart from the fine offerings of Ichiban and Basil. When asked why, a local resident replied, “It reminds me of ravioli or stuffed pastas which I love and when dipped, the flavors pop.” This dish will start your evening at $5.00.
- Ceviche – 167 Raw: 289 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC – This $14.00 dish changes daily. So that being said, how can we add it to the list of some of our favorites if it changes? Very simple, quality of ingredients and masterful understanding of how to make a truly memorable ceviche. Starting with the homemade chips that are lightly toasted with the thickness and texture of pita and then add some of the freshest seafood and ingredients Charleston offers and you will walk away so very happy.
- Beet Salad – Maybank Public House: 1970 Maybank Highway, James Island, SC – Fresh Roasted Beets, Warm Pecan Encrusted Goat Cheese, Harit Coverts, Arugula, Maple Vinaigrette. This is a insatiably refreshing and zesty salad at any time of day
There are more. So many more. Why rattle your brain risking the potential of a bad start to your evening. Use this list. Use it wisely as it comes with great power to satisfy.