Seafood and fruit. Think tropical vacation. Oh wait, apparently many people already are (subtropical at least), since Charleston’s been named the 2016 Travel + Leisure Best City in the World. However, you can “staycation” whenever you like.
Because of its port, Charleston has always had access to tropical fruits and exotic spices, and that same proximity to water has blessed us with a bevy of seafood selections throughout the year.
Combining the two creates a mix of sweet and savory, not to mention adds color.
Fruit also can enhance the inherent sweetness of seafood, including lobster and shrimp, which is countered classically with the addition of a little heat. Thus you’ll see some spice in many of these examples.
Nana’s goes fruit full by using a halved pineapple as the serving dish for this combo of jumbo prawns, cauliflower, green pepper, and more, all covered with a sprinkling of cheese. It’s a full meal but it’s not always on the menu, so if you’re set on this serving, make sure and call ahead.
176 Line St., Charleston
Shrimp and pineapple also are featured at this relatively new spot in Mount Pleasant. While fish ceviche starts with raw fish, shellfish ceviche usually starts with poached protein as the delicate flesh of the shellfish don’t hold up well to being “cooked” by the acid of the citrus.
Congress’ version starts with local poached shrimp, lime and tomatillos (thus the verde), and ends with grilled pineapple, which adds a caramelized sweetness to the dish.
1035 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., Mount Pleasant
These have been on Rita’s menu for years, and while we understand that the watermelon isn’t seasonal all year, it is still hard to resist.
The chips are crunchy, the black beans add heft, the tuna is blackened, and there just the right amount of melted, gooey cheese to bind it all together without making everything soggy. Adding watermelon is a genius move, Rita.
2 Center St., Folly Beach
The Ordinary has a constantly rotating selection of seasonal mignonettes, so it’s not so unusual to see this oyster condiment as an offer.
What is unusual is how the musky flavor mixes with the briny oysters and creates a freshness with a hint of sweet that is light years away from the classic horseradish or cocktail sauce.
544 King St., Charleston
Charleston has had curries on her menu since Colonial days because of the aforementioned port access, along with people who knew how to use them.
Hank’s pays homage to that classic heritage with this traditional take that includes coconut milk, banana, apple, and mango chutney.
10 Hayne St., Charleston
I’m a big fan of green papaya, and the tropical fruit plays a significant part in this dish. It elevates the natural sweetness of shrimp, then is balanced out by some heat and savory notes. And it goes perfectly as a side dish to share when ordering sushi, another of Aya’s offerings.
915 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant