Hotel dining frequently gets a bad rap. You know: captive audience, overpriced menu, dining rooms carved out of lobby space and expensive parking. Well, the restaurant at Charleston Harbor Resort called the Indigo Grille will dispel all that.
A tranquil dining room looks out over Charleston Harbor. Its walls are washed an appropriate Carolina blue and sponged in the color of golden sunlight. The works of artist Danny McLaughlin inform the space with Lowcountry images and activities. The room appears larger than it is thanks to the illusion created by a rear wall of mirrors.
It is interesting to note that the Charleston Harbor Resort follows the hotel restaurant “grill” playbook: Charleston Grill, Peninsula Grill, Grill 225 and the Wentworth Grill — all “grills” located in Charleston hotels.
Charlotte-born and Alaska-raised, executive chef Josh Woodruff has brought his experiences at Slightly Up the Creek, Cordavi and the Boathouse at Breach Inlet to the Indigo Grille.
Woodruff is committed to using local and sustainable products on his menu and identifies them with an asterisk. Expect to see the populist favorites of shrimp and grits ($15), local oysters, fried green tomatoes, Carolina rice, okra and blue cheese slaw. The Tabasco reduction, so much a part of the recipe for shrimp and grits at The Boathouse, sparks Woodruff’s Carolina crab cake small plate ($11).
The kitchen bravely featured a rabbit soup of the day ($7), which was flavorful and generous with vegetables, marred only by bits of bone. The chef’s take on Oysters Rockefeller ($9) includes braised collard greens, pork belly, pimiento cheese and fried oysters. It is a nice mess of flavors that work the earth and surf mash-up.
Vegetarians will find a grilled vegetable platter ($14) served with a side of pasta. Those adverse to fried will find a menu that includes poached tilapia ($18), pan-roasted chicken ($17) and grilled salmon ($17).
Shrimp and grits ($15), a small plate, is anything but. A generous portion of stone-ground yellow grits was topped with tomatoes, red, yellow and green bell peppers. The shrimp were plump and tender and only the lobster cream sauce missed the mark, tasting very little of lobster.
The broiled seafood platter ($20) featured shrimp, scallops, oysters (that were fried and the server informed you of that) and tilapia. The fish was fresh and moist, the scallops cooked haphazardly and the smaller shrimp on this dish were a tad overdone. The house-made remoulade lacked heat. The cooking of this dish overall demands more attention as each of its elements require different cooking times.
Pan-roasted chicken ($17) was well-received by neighboring guests, and the pork chop ($20) with ginger-apricot chutney is a trencherman-sized portion here. All of the entrees come with one side and should you like to taste more, they are nicely priced at $3.
The wine list is well-balanced and the Reel Bar can mix your cocktail preference.
Desserts are a simple creme brulee served in a custard cup, chocolate mousse, key lime and pecan pies, and carrot cake.
Like any restaurant in town, the servers do more than serve. In many establishments they are tour guides to our city. It was clear at the Indigo Grill, as the guests sought advice and directions, that the staff could benefit from a winter semester as a “tourist in their own town.”
Servers also must know the menu and its preparations and the provenance of an ingredient, as well. So the “tourist” conversations add time to the guest-server interaction; the one server on duty at the time of our visit was working on six-burners.
The city of Atlanta is currently hosting a Hotel Restaurant Week to encourage residents to patronize local hotel dining rooms. Sounds like a good idea to copy. Many of our unique hotel restaurant properties are tucked into places of visual delight. For Indigo Grille, it is the beautiful Charleston Harbor and Marina, the Ravenel Bridge and Patriots Point. Make a reservation and enjoy “eat local month.” You will certainly experience food with a view.