What does Sean Brock have in mind for McCrady's Tavern? (copy)

Exterior of McCrady's Restaurant. Photo taken February 5, 2008. (Melissa Haneline/staff)

McCrady's is in rare company as a newly anointed AAA five-diamond restaurant, a designation that only .2 percent of the 31,000 restaurants inspected by AAA receives. 

After a visit to the Charleston restaurant, a AAA inspector noted that McCrady's offered an eclectic and unusual experience: "This is my kind of interactive experience- exciting top-quality cuisine paired with excellent wines. All prepared right in front of you."

McCrady's is one of eight restaurants in the incoming five-diamond class. Once upon a time, the five-diamond designation was reserved for luxurious high-end restaurants, but today's incoming crop includes restaurants like McCrady's and Nashville's The Catbird Seat, which feature casual chef's counters and changing tasting menus. 

The inspector wrote: "The restaurant side of this dual-concept eatery from renowned chef Sean Brock offers an exciting 10-to-12-course menu of intricate, artistic small dishes rooted in local flavors and traditions. Service is sharp but the ambience is relaxed. Diners sit at a beautiful black walnut counter in front of a gleaming open kitchen. Adjacent is the charming McCrady's Tavern — one of America's oldest, circa 1778 — which serves a more casual menu and is a good spot for a predinner cocktail. The set menu may include sea urchin, local clams, Magwood shrimp, fresh cobia, aged beef, Ossabaw Island pork and foie gras. Expert wine pairings are available as well as a full bar of specialty cocktails."

Joining McCrady's and The Catbird Seat on the list are Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare in New York City, Manresa in California, Pineapple and Pearls in D.C., TEMPO Contemporary Cuisine by Marin Berasategui in Cancun, Mexico, Topper's in Nantucket, and Vetri in Philadelphia. 

The only other five-diamond rating in the area goes to The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, a property described as a crowning jewel.

Follow Stephanie Barna on Twitter @stefbarna.