Restaurant: Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), Charleston, South Carolina
With every marathon I run, there is also a celebratory meal. Usually it is on the same day of said race, but Charleston is an odd duck in that it’s marathon runs on Saturday. And we already had eating plans on Saturday. So, instead of changing everything around, we just decided to have the fancy, special meal on Sunday night. And, after scouring a list of places that Amanda sent me (all of which had gluten-free items), it came down to two options – Poogan’s Porch and Slightly North of Broad.
Cathy chose in the end…opting for Slightly North on Broad because of one item on the menu that caught her eye. This was fine with me…there was this amazing honey drizzled fruit plate dessert on their menu that sounded beyond amazing. So…when Amanda came over to help with the planning session…this was decided. And, to make the occasion even more special, Janet (Cathy & Amanda’s mom), offered to pay for our big meal out this trip.
The best part about where we were staying was that Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) was literally right across the street from the hotel. Seriously. So, this meant we could stay out and explore until we absolutely had to return to our rooms. Then, we could all clean up and head out to eat, then come back to change and go out for some more exploring! Of course, when Cathy chose this restaurant, we had no idea this was the case. Amanda enlightened us. Odd, how when it came to eats the only one we really ventured out further than the immediate area of our hotel was Brown Dog Deli. And we were over that way anyway as I was shopping for spices, tea, honey and other local goodies. HA!
So Sunday morning and afternoon was spent walking the streets and cemeteries of Charleston. Honestly, if you ever get to visit this amazing city…just walk it, duck into places, explore. You can take tours, yes, but sometimes it’s just fun to get out there and just find something that intrigues you. I was fortunate enough to have Richie and Amanda with me, to act as the local tour guides. They might as well be locals. They know where everything is…how to get there…and come to Charleston often enough it’s second hand. But, even if you aren’t traveling with your own walking guide books…try something new. We returned about an hour and a half before dinner so we could clean up and get ready to make the walk across the street. I took a shower and changed and then we met Amanda and Richie at their room before hoofing it over to S.N.O.B.
We only had a brief wait while they prepared our table for our 6:15 p.m. reservation. And once we were seated and water (and Coke for Richie) was poured, we were left to peruse our menus until our waitress came over to the table. We immediately informed her that I was a gluten free vegetarian, and she immediately opted up with the Vegetable Plate that they serve. She also said she could see what else could be done for me, but a big plate of seasonal and local vegetables sounded absolutely delicious to me. My decision was made. Now the rest of my dining party needed to ponder what they were going to have. The server gave us a few more minutes to decide.
So, let’s discuss S.N.O.B. here, while we are deciding on food, eh? Because this seems like as good a place as any. S.N.O.B. is described as “an eclectic Lowcountry bistro that brings together an abundance of local ingredients and thoughtful, expert presentation with a friendly, contagious energy.” In other words, very big on farm to table. Love that. They have a nice open kitchen, which I absolutely loved since I love being able to glance over and see what is being prepared as it is being prepared. The food they make is the product of the local farmers, fishermen, and producers. So…very Sean Brock. And I love Sean Brock. And if you don’t know who Sean Brock is…Google him now and learn! The setting is low-light, candles, white table cloth, and soft conversations. You get the sounds of the kitchen…the sizzles, the flames, the dishes clinking, all mixing with the pouring of wine and water, and the clink of silverware as it scrapes up that last bit of food from a pristine white plate. This is S.N.O.B.
So…there it is.
When our waitress returned we all had finally settled on what we were going to eat. Richie opted for the Pan Seared Duck Breast ($27.00), which includes savory blue cheese bread pudding, fig jam, Brussels sprouts, and a honey thyme reduction. He saw duck…he knew what he wanted. Amanda ordered the Grilled Pork Chop ($27.00), which is served with crispy confit potatoes, cabbage, and topped with a sorghum and whole grain mustard glaze. Cathy was the foodie of the group and wanted to try something more than just a large appetizer plate, so she did a medium plate with an appetizer, which is recommended on the menu. For her appetizer, she went with the Herb Crusted Eggplant ($12.00), which is topped off with buffalo mozzarella, green heirloom tomatoes, some sprouts, and pesto. For her entrée, she opted for the Carolina Quail ($16.00), which comes with braised greens, tasso cornbread stuffing, Muscadine glaze (that’s from a particular grape, FYI), and quail jus.
As for me…I did go with the Vegetable Plate ($20.00), which is described on the menu as being “a variety of the best vegetables we can find.” Hey…I’m a vegetarian. There are very few vegetables I don’t like. Very few. So…our order was in and we fell into the din of conversations, discussing everything from our events that day to the other people in the restaurant, to wine bottles we could see from our seats, to how much fun we were having. Lots of laughter and lots of fun going on.
Cathy’s appetizer was up first and we all cast out our appreciative ooohs and ahhhs at the tower of eggplant, cheese, tomatoes, and greens, all soaking in a small pool of pesto. She sliced into it, and said that the eggplant was actually really well cooked and that the cheese was amazing. However, as she went on eating, she got tired of the sprouts getting caught in her teeth, and eventually that herb crust got completely mushy with the mix of the eggplant juice, the pesto, and the juicy tomatoes on top. So, it started off really well…but in the end…all went to mush. She polished it off, save for those greens on top though.
A little after her plate was cleared away, the main courses arrived. Amanda had the largest pork chop I had ever seen in my life. It was only polished off with some help from Richie and Cathy. But…she did eat all her potatoes. Richie’s duck was cooked perfectly and I had never seen him clean a plate until this meal. Cathy was less impressed with her entree, finding her favorite part of the quail to be the pan seared area where it was crispy. She hated the greens with a passion (and she eats greens…I cook them at home). And her favorite part of the plate…the tasso corn bread. Everything else left her rather…unimpressed.
As for me…when they said a plate of vegetables, they weren’t kidding. Upon further looking at the menu, what I have found is that this plate is a compilation of every vegetable in house and offered as a side on the menu. This plate was mounded high with high fiber vegetables that were cooked however the side was to be cooked, and paired with three different starches. It was beyond filling. This plate included grilled eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, green beans, portobello mushrooms, grilled okra (on the list of vegetables I hate with a passion, so these got left behind!), broccoli (with a sprinkle of Romano cheese), sautéed spinach, caramelized onions, caramelized Brussels sprouts, maverick potatoes, Charleston gold brown rice with some butternut squash, yellow grits (with cheese), some sprouts on top, and some sweet pepper jelly mixed in. The plate was a mish-mash of vegetables, no real plating flair…just piled high. In fact, I didn’t realize I had an heirloom tomato until I moved the eggplant. It was hidden below. That being said…the green beans were…well…green beans. I thought the potatoes were that weird overly-whipped consistency, and ate them by mixing them with one of the vegetables…like green beans or some eggplant just to give it a better texture. The spinach was delicious. I didn’t eat the okra because…GROSS. The eggplant was grilled and good enough…though a touch under-seasoned. The tomato was messy, but fresh and delicious. I love that little hit of sweetness. My favorite things on the plate were the grits, the Brussels sprouts, and the rice. All of which I saved for the last things I ate. And when I was done, I wasn’t sure if I was impressed or not…but it was a massive plate of food that was very filling indeed. I mean, I didn’t dislike it…it was just…okay. They definitely give you $20 worth of vegetables. All local and fresh…so I will give them credit for that.
Afterwards we were asked about desserts. I already had my heart set on something, even though I was filled up to the max. You only get to celebrate once, right? So…to hell with it…desserts all around.
Amanda and Richie decided to split the Crème Brûlée ($7.00), which was a creamy vanilla custard with caramelized brown sugar topping. Cathy went with the Vanilla Ice Cream with a Shortbread Cookie ($6.00) for her dessert. It also came dressed with fresh strawberries. As for me…I went with what caught my eye originally on the menu in the first place…the Fresh Fruit Plate ($7.50), which came drizzled with local honey.
Desserts are a must for me. I love trying desserts when I can. And fruit is one of my favorite desserts to polish off a meal with. The whole drizzled with local honey was an added bonus. Our desserts arrived. Richie had never had a Crème Brûlée before, so this was his first foray into that. Cathy’s ice cream looked fantastic and she crumbled the cookie over it and dove in, enjoying the fresh berries for that added bit of sweetness. My fruit plate consisted of grapes, strawberries, sliced apples, sliced bananas, spear slices, and chunks of fresh pineapple. All of it, as promised, was drizzled with local honey, adding to the sweetness of the plate. But it worked. I mean, it was a plate of fruit, but I couldn’t be happier with it. Everything was perfectly ripe, juicy, and amazing. Delicious and perfect way to end the meal.
While I certainly enjoyed my meal at S.N.O.B., when I return to Charleston next time, I will definitely investigate other options. I am happy for the experience, and loved the company, but the food was just okay to me. Maybe it’s my dietary restrictions…but I wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike S.N.O.B. by any means. The food was cooked well and tasted good for the most part. But…there is so much more to taste in Charleston…so while the dinner was nice, I’m eager to go elsewhere next time.