If you are a seafood lover visiting Charleston, South Carolina, there’s a restaurant you’ll want to try: The Ordinary.
It’s located at 544 King Street in the Upper King Street neighborhood.
When you walk into The Ordinary, you’ll notice the 22-foot ceilings which give the restaurant an open, airy feeling. A bar lines one wall of the rectangular first floor; arched windows line the opposite wall. Yellow ochre-colored walls imbue the atmosphere with a calm earthiness that compliments the pendant lighting.
The restaurant seats about 70 people at either round or square marble tables. Or you can sit at a rectangular four-top in a banquette. The two-leveled restaurant is housed in an old 1920s bank. The original bank vault has been preserved and turned into a window through which kitchen staff passes food.
You may expect the millionaire Jay Gatsby and his paramour Daisy Fay Buchanan from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby” to be nursing a cocktail at the bar.
The Ordinary restaurant comes with its own pedigree. Chef Mike Lata and co-owner Adam Nemirow (the team behind the Charleston restaurant, FIG) opened the Ordinary back in 2012.
The menu is set up for grazing and sharing.
To start, you can choose something cold or hot — or something from the oyster bar. Cold dishes range from $3-$18. They include sea salt potato chips, tuna tartare and smoked oysters. Oyster bar offerings include South Carolina littleneck clams, Lobster Cocktail or the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab with grapefruit and avocado.
Hot dishes range in price from $4 to $36. They include crispy oyster sliders, beets in parchment, sautéed rapini and collard greens farotto.
I started with the sea salt potato chips ($3). They come served in a tin cup wrapped in paper. They were crisp and crunchy without being greasy or too salty.
I also tried the Spring vegetable salad. It came with green beans, peas, asparagus and roasted hazelnuts lightly tossed with buttermilk dressing. The vegetables were crisp and fresh. The buttermilk dressing was sublime.
Hot dishes range in price from $4 to $31 and include broiled oysters, grilled group and littleneck clams. You can’t go wrong with the collard greens farrotto. The grain was cooked al dente, apparently cooked in a chicken broth for flavor. Minced collard greens are blended in with the nutty warm farrotto. It was delightful, robust and much more filling than you’d expect for a dish without actual meat. I highly recommend it.
Plats du Jour (plates of the day) are offered nightly.I went on a Sunday so I ordered The Sunday Fish Fry. It included fried grouper, shrimp and oysters with coleslaw and asparagus hushpuppies. The grouper, shrimp and oysters were all fried to a deep golden brown. The Fish Fry comes served on a rectangular metal plate with a serving of both a hot sauce and a comeback sauce. As the waiter, Justin explained, the comeback sauce is a mayonnaise-based, related to remoulade, seasoned with Tabasco, onion and garlic. The comeback sauce had bite but overwhelmed the grouper when added to it. So, if you order the Sunday Fish Fry, use the comeback sauce sparingly. The plump, non-greasy asparagus hush puppies added a new twist on an old classic. I was eating something nutritious instead of just carbohydrates.
If you like wine, you can choose from a variety. I washed my meal down with an Italian white wine, The Ischia Bianco Superiore. It was dry, light, crisp a little fruity and refreshing with mineral notes.
Being in the South, you’ll want to try something sweet to wrap up the meal. You’ll love the Carolina gold rice pudding with poached peaches ($8). The hints of wine, honey and vanilla will delight your palate.
That’s the Lowdown!