With The Grocery, Chef Kevin Johnson's north King St eatery, Charleston has yet another example of a brilliant chef with a firm grasp of seasonal, fresh, local ingredients. This isn't news to anyone who remembers him from his days at the helm of Anson, but I must admit being shocked at how much I enjoyed his cooking.
For the space, Chef Johnson has renovated the old Altman Furniture store at the corner of King and Cannon. The space has been divided into more intimate areas, though it is a study in minimalist restraint. No embellishment to clutter the space. The entirety of the decoration consists of the original floor safe at the front door, and the canned and pickled produce made in house lining the wall. The effect is pleasant without being distracting.
For this trip, enjoying the benefit of the 3 for $30 Restaurant Week menu, The Girl and I have a couple of guests. First is her sorority sister and longtime friend The Birdwatcher. Second is new friend, and Los Angeles's own Foodess. She has left the Big City for some decompression and gluttony here in the Low Country, and we figured this was a good place to start.
The way the regular menu is set up needs a little mention. They have snacks which are best shared among everyone; bites which are more like small apps; tastes which are either large apps or small entrees; plates which are traditional entrees; and table....which are for the table. We split both the crispy pimento cheese bites (served on melted coke bottles) and a charred onion dip with kettle chips that has to be the best junk food ever.
The Birdwatcher started with a Shaved Squash Salad, with cherry tomatoes, pecorino, pine nuts, and crispy blossom. Overall a well-balanced, composed and light dish. Both The Girl and The Foodess went with the Ricotta-Herb gnocchi with wood roasted tomato and green olive fondue. Pleasant and fluffy pillows in a lightly acidic red sauce that hits on all the marks.
All four of us found the entire meal to be fantastic. The service was spot-on, the dishes were well conceived and executed, and the entire setting promotes sharing and conversation. This may soon become one of our favorite spots, and we are excited to come back for the regular menu.
Overall: 21.5 out of 25. A very inviting space with sharable, high-quality dishes.