Across Charleston, bowlfuls of shrimp and grits often come saturated with scads of butter and a heap of heavy cream. But the local traditional version of the breakfast dish is made with brown gravy, a custom Orrin Mallard upholds at his new seafood take-out in North Charleston.
Mallard maintains he’s selling one of the county’s best she-crab soups at Shipwreck Seafood, which opened just before Thanksgiving. It’s possible: I missed the soup on my visit. But I was very impressed by the shrimp and grits, featuring thick, rich gravy, fat, sweet shrimp and bits of sausage, all layered over a canvas of coarse yellow grits.
“I make my gravy from scratch,” Mallard says, adding that customers have traveled to his seafood counter from as far away as Columbia and Beaufort: “They don’t have shrimp and grits up there.”
Other items on the menu include blackened catfish; deviled crab; po-boys; and fried flounder, oysters, shrimp and scallops. Mallard is purchasing his seafood from Crosby’s, and says he’s using local product whenever possible.
Now 35, Mallard has been working in restaurants since he was 14: He started his career as a dishwasher, and last worked at the Crowne Plaza hotel near the airport.
“The pilots from Southwest would come in and ask for me,” he says.
Despite the years spent at the Noisy Oyster and Sunfire Grill & Bistro, Mallard says much of his kitchen training came from his grandmother.
Because he’s slowly building up his business, Mallard hasn’t yet acquired a permanent sign. The restaurant is also operating without any tables and chairs.
“A lot of people come in expecting to eat here and they’re like, ‘oh man,’ ” Mallard says. “But they still leave happy.”
Shipwreck Seafood is at 5117 Dorchester Road, Unit D. The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information or to place an order (“Call ahead for faster service: food is cooked to order,” the menu advises) call 724-9259.
Pizza has been associated with parties at least as far back as 1958, when Lou Monte released his Songs for Pizza Lovers LP, but Andolini’s is looking to make the relationship official at its new West Ashley location.
The restaurant at 1117 Savannah Highway lost its lease to Starbucks, forcing the move to the building at 1940 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. that previously housed Tenichi Buffet & Grill. “Though we didn’t want or ask to move, we are very excited about the new space,” Andolini’s owner David Odle says. According to Odle, plans include a private dining room that can accommodate up to 100 people.
While Andolini’s will offer food service to groups that request it, the room will also be available to event planners who want to circumvent Andolini’s menu.
“Our kitchen will be set up to allow caterers to either bring in their pre-cooked food or prepare foods from scratch in our spacious kitchen,” Odle explains. “We think that we can help fill the void in West Ashley meeting and party venues.”
In addition to the event space, the new Andolini’s will feature new menu items, outdoor seating and “a casual bar with lots of draft beers.”
There isn’t yet a firm opening date, since restaurant renovations never stick to a predictable timeline, but Odle says Andolini’s is aiming for May 15. “We hope to be in earlier than that,” he adds. “I can say confidently we’ll be open sometime in the spring.”
Andolini’s also operates locations in North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, which recently underwent an interior makeover.
“Consumer customization is not new, but it continues to be a strong driver,” a senior director of product innovation at food trend forecaster Technomic, Inc. recently told Food Business News. “Customers want it how they want it, when they want it.”
The Grill and Island Bar at Folly Beach is now testing that report with its new menu, which is largely sorted into proteins and cooking styles. The entree section, for example, includes preparations centered on grilled vegetables and rice; tri-colored potato and succotash; and Thai chile noodles with edamame. It’s up to customers to choose one, and match it to seabass, mahi, tuna, shrimp, pork shanks, strip steak or chicken.
Flatbreads, tacos and salads are presented in similar fashion.
“Guests (can) build their own dishes that are tailored specifically to their tastes,” operating partner of The Grill and Island Bar, Jason Craig, is quoted as saying in a release announcing the new menu.
As the expert quoted by Food Business News said, the concept of deciding between shrimp and chicken as a salad add-on isn’t exactly novel: Burger King started urging customers to “have it your way” back in 1974. (The slogan was resurrected in 2004, and killed off 10 years later.)
According to Food Business News, customization is still riding high because customers see choices as a way to exert control over their diets.
McDonald’s last year started testing a concept in which customers can choose their own burger toppings. The strategy was inspired by burrito giant Chipotle, which is on the cusp of opening its second Charleston-area location.
The Grill and Island Bar is at 41 Center St. on Folly Beach. For more, call 633-0143 or go to follygrill.com.
Bartenders at restaurants equipped with Cannonborough Beverage Co.’s grapefruit elderflower soda on tap last summer figured out they could mimic the season’s most fashionable swig by mixing the soda with beer. But the soda maker is now looking to save bartenders the trouble.
Cannonborough Beverage Co. and Revelry Brewing Co. are embarking on a collaborative effort to produce a radler, the German shandy combining light beer and lemon soda. Steigl Radler, an Austrian product uniquely made with grapefruit juice, was the first Radler to make a splash in Charleston: Within weeks of its June 2014 debut at Charleston Beer Exchange, the retailer reported it was “flying off the shelves.”
While a few local breweries have experimented with stirring lemonade into their tasting room drafts, the Cannonborough-Revelry partnership represents the first formal attempt at bottling Charleston radler.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” Cannonborough founder Mick Matricciano says.
The idea was an outgrowth of a one-off beverage that Cannonborough, Revelry and Edmund’s Oast are preparing to serve at Brewvival. Attendees at the Feb. 28 festival will have a chance to sample a fermented batch of light-blonde beer and grapefruit elderflower soda.
“That started the conversation,” Matricciano says.
While there isn’t a projected release date for the radler, clamor for the refreshing drink is likely to grow louder as the weather gets warmer.
“It’s still kind of in the early stages,” Matricciano says.
In the meantime, Steigl Radler is available at numerous Charleston restaurants, including Minero, Leon’s and The Ordinary.