Charleston Restaurant Review – Hall’s Chophouse and Circa 1886

8 Feb

It’s guest post Tuesday! Check out our foodie friend A’s reviews of Restaurant Week.

Charleston Restaurant Week January 2011

I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Restaurant Week. I love it because I can try some places that normally would be relegated to the “very special occasion” list, and it seems like most participating restaurants try to have good options for their special menus. But I kind of hate it because it becomes impossible to get a reservation at some places as soon as the dates are announced (unless you’re cool with 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday), and I’ve had experiences where it seemed, by the quality of the food and service, as if the restaurant didn’t care for the frugal Restaurant Week diners as much as the customers who ordered off the normal menu. Oh well, I guess there are always pros and cons in these situations. However, I’m happy to report that the two meals I had during this January’s Restaurant Week were wonderful! I had no complaints – food was excellent for the most part, service was great and I came away from both meals feeling like I’d really gotten my money’s worth.

The first meal was at Circa 1886, a beautiful restaurant on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion, with my husband and two of our foodie friends.

Photo from Circa 1886 website

It was absolutely freezing the night we went, so I was happy to walk through their lovely little garden area and into a warm, softly lit reception space. We lucked out on the table selection – they have these cozy, intimate alcove tables on one side of the dining room, and somehow we managed to score one. I had an arugula salad appetizer with dried peaches, candied pistachios, feta and a few little slices of capacolla. It was a perfect starter, not too heavy and a good-sized portion. Other folks at the table had the seared scallops, which looked yummy if you’re a fan of scallops, but alas I am not. My husband said they were great. I had the braised pork shank for my entree.

The portion was huge, no skimping on Restaurant Week meals here! It was delicious, tender and the sauce wasn’t overwhelming. It was served on a bed of dried cranberry-studded faro with some sautéed brussels sprouts (I LOVE brussels sprouts!!), so it stayed in the healthy range of restaurant food which was appreciated. The other popular dish at our table was the seared beef tenderloin.

I tasted my husband’s, and it was delicious, although another friend at the table said hers was a little tough (we tasted it, it was). Not sure if that’s just the piece of meat she had, or a result of the way it was prepared, guess we’ll never know. Dessert was chocolate chip banana pecan cake – basically like a very light banana bread with chocolate bits scattered throughout.

It came with a little dollop of cinnamon-orange-brown sugar ice cream, which wasn’t really my thing because it tasted strongly of Grand Marnier (I am not a Grand Marnier fan), but the cake was very tasty.

Our second meal was at Hall’s Chophouse.

Photo from diningaroundcharleston.com

We had a group of ten, and the place was packed, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. I was worried for nothing. The meal was perfect, the service was perfect, really the whole evening was perfect! If you haven’t been to Hall’s yet, and you live in or are visiting the Charleston area, you MUST have a meal there. The service alone is worth it – you’re greeted warmly at the door, the servers are always friendly and helpful, and the owners and managers are constantly walking around to check on you, say hello if you’ve just arrived, or say goodbye if you’re leaving. I really cannot stress enough how wonderful the service is – you will definitely feel the love.

And, as an added bonus, the food is outstanding! It’s your classic upscale steakhouse – white tablecloths, Frank Sinatra wafting out of the speakers (when the piano downstairs isn’t being played), and seriously good steaks (they also have seafood and meats other than beef, for those of you who don’t eat cows). I had an arugula salad to start (another arugula salad, yay! Can you tell that I heart arugula?), the filet with broccoli rabe and mashed potatoes for entrée, and a yummy, light lemon mousse/fresh berry concoction for dessert, which was a perfect soft landing after a heavier meal. The filet was a good portion, plenty to fill my belly, and cooked exactly like I wanted it (medium tending towards medium-rare). The group did order a few extra appetizers off of the regular menu – tuna tartare and spicy shrimp. Both were yummy, and I have to say I’ve been craving those spicy shrimp ever since. I’m impressed with how good the food was considering how the place was jumping with it being Saturday night and Restaurant Week, but Hall’s seems to have a firm grasp on how to run a busy show. Bottom line: I’ve been to Hall’s four or five times now, and it’s always fabulous. Just go.

So that’s it for my Restaurant Week experiences this time. But it’ll come around again this fall, and I’ll undoubtedly check out some more places and have new info to report.

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