Located on Ann St. of Downtown Charleston is Feathertop Cafe. Chef Damon Wise of NYC created Feathertop as a second jewel in the crown of the Scarecrow & Co. concept. His hope: to feature three different dining experiences all located in a former train depot across from the Charleston Children’s Museum.
With the tag line, “Protector of the Crop”, it is obvious that Chef Wise is trying to create a culinary legacy promoting responsibly sourced produce and meats. Their first restaurant to open in the Scarecrow & Co. concept was Wise-Buck Smoked Meats featuring in-house smoked meat sandwiches, ribs, and a variety of bar snacks. The third and final restaurant is Scarecrow, the most upscale dining experience out of all three.
However Feathertop Cafe is the second restaurant to open in the Scarecrow & Co. lineup. I would describe the restaurant’s vibe as an amalgamation of rustic, minimalist and mariner decor serving dishes that turn classic cuisine on its head. Nothing is strictly Southern or inherently cultural. The food doesn’t scream New York City or Charleston. It’s simply a mishmash of locally grown menu items bursting with earthy, bucolic flavors.
To get the full Feathertop experience, we ordered two appetizers and two pastas. Per our server’s advice, we selected the Mepkin Abbey Mushrooms and the Shaved Vegetables. The mushrooms were served atop a cashew miso with bits of asparagus. Miso is traditionally made out of fermented soybeans in Japenese cooking. However by replacing soy with cashews, the spread offered a sweet nuttiness that was heavenly paired with the earthy mushrooms. The shaved vegetables came with a pumpkin seed romesco. Romescos (nut & red pepper-based sauces) were first created in Northern Spain and paired with fish dishes. This particular romesco was the perfect blend of nutty and acidic to balance the mellow flavor of the vegetables.
Then for entrees, we ordered the Squid Ink Bucatini and the Rabbit Ragout Rigatoni. Squid ink is becoming a hugely popular ingredient in restaurants across the country because of it’s salty yet fishy taste. This dish was served with whitefish, rosemary, and lemon. I am going to be honest, the bucatini wasn’t my favorite pasta dish. When it comes to pastas, I like them hearty, meaty, and al dente. The salty fish flavor was far too overpowering in my opinion. I had hoped that the rosemary and whitefish would play a larger role in the dish. I did however enjoy the fact that I was eating black pasta. Probably wouldn’t order the dish again, but enjoyed the novelty of it. The other pasta dish we ordered was the rabbit ragout rigatoni with dried olives and tomato soffritto. Hearty, meaty, and al dente = pasta perfection! A total homerun in my book. The tomato mirepoix and the gamey rabbit perfectly complemented the briney olives. Unlike any other tomato based pasta dish I’ve ever eaten. Needless to say, this is not your grandmother’s pasta bolognese and that’s a good thing!
Unfortunately, I didn’t order a cocktail or a dessert this time because I wanted to save room for the main dishes. However, next time I’ll be splurging. Overall we had a great evening out enjoying the tastes of Feathertop. Our server was patient with us not knowing what to order (#totalfoodiemove). Our dishes were served in a timely manner. Our food was plated beautifully and brimming with wholesome flavors. My only resignation with Feathertop is that I am still unsure of what culinary style of food they serve, even after dining there. Hopefully with time, they can create a brand and a niche that’s more tangible. Their menu features so many tasty items, but I’m hoping for some solidity in what their brand is promoting. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to many more dining experiences to come at Feathertop Cafe!