In 2009, Kyle Taylor, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, established Pawleys Front Porch in Columbia.
On the menu: “out of bounds burgers.” Fueled by the appetites of the college crowd, his concept resonated with his audience. They valued the freshly ground burgers and house-made condiments.
This year, it was visited by the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” hosted by Guy Fieri.
You, too, can assume Fieri’s “hunch,” a stance taken to prevent these burgers’ juices from running down your arms or onto your clothing, at the second location of Pawleys Front Porch, which opened in February in Mount Pleasant in the former Beef O’Brady’s spot.
There is no front porch at Pawleys Front Porch, but outdoor seating is available along the sidewalk.
The menu is burger-centric, and each offering comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and a side. Add a small salad, cup of she-crab soup or chili for an additional $3.
All of the burgers are ground in-house. The patties are hand-formed, rested overnight if possible and grilled to order. They are named in honor of the Sea Islands and coastal communities along the South Carolina coast.
The menu provides enough diversity to entertain those who disdain burgers.
Here you will find substantial salads with house-made dressings, fish tacos ($8-$13.50), wraps ($9), sandwiches ($8) and a veggie burger ($9).
Daily specials give the kitchen latitude to explore longitude: Vietnamese tacos, curried chicken tacos, chicken parmesan sandwiches, Italian wedding soup, Moroccan tacos with harissa sauce and stuffed grape leaves all have been available. Expect to see a daily soup, sandwich and taco special.
The restaurant is big on promotions, and you are advised to check out its Facebook page to stay current. They also operate a mobile food truck that was the perfect platform to set the stage for their entrance into our market.
Short of tortilla chips ($6-$8), all the appetizers are fried. And frying is something they do well. A basket of fried pickle “sickles” ($7) with buttermilk ranch dipping sauce was crisp, hot, salty and herbal — a perfect buddy to burgers or a brew.
The she-crab soup ($4.50, $5.50) did not fare as well. The flavor and color were off; the crab meat was minimal and the taste-memory of nutty sherry, sweet crab meat and the lush base that they all perfume was not there.
The burgers are 8-ounce portions and are tasty meat. The bun (you have a choice of sesame Kaiser, multigrain, ciabatta or pretzel) was not toasted as requested.
We ordered Taylor’s favorite: the Wadmalaw ($10.50) without the bacon. The burger had good flavor, but the chilled bun, lettuce and tomato zapped any warmth the meat provided.
Similar temperature ranges occurred with the mahi-mahi taco (2 for $9). Warm, fresh “fingers” of fish (2) were placed on a chilled flour tortilla, topped with chilled corn and black bean salsa, finished with a chipotle seasoned sour cream and wide strips of red and green cabbage. By the time you took a bite, all was cold.
That was the overall disappointment, the temperature of the foods. It appeared that the kitchen was not in sync with the preparations of the cooked foods and the timing of service.
Young, friendly servers are well-schooled on the menu, but as the pace in the restaurant picks up, especially with the outdoor patrons, they seem to lose their rhythm and ability to monitor all their tables.
They are taking all the right steps to create a burger empire. They just need to pay attention to timing and temperature and then their “porch” will get in the swing of it.