I've had the pleasure of eating a lot of great things this year. From a raw oyster shucked and slurped fresh from the water to a bracing shot of Cuban coffee, the opportunity for world-class eating surrounds us and I'm grateful I have gotten to partake. Here are a handful of my favorites from the past year.
Warm Green Tomato Pie
442 King St.
The name alone was enough to repel me from ordering this dessert, but since I was with a big group and this showed up without me having to think too much about what a green tomato pie could possibly be, I dipped my spoon in and was delighted with the tart and crisp pie filling. Reminiscent of apple pie, the green tomato pie is a a testament to pastry chef Lauren Yerrick's talent. Topped with a tangy buttermilk ice cream, this is a dessert worth ordering when it's on the menu.
Gin & Tonic
11 Cannon St.
The working bar area at Babas is tiny, so bartender Lane Becker worked up a menu that would allow him to pre-batch certain drinks. The G&T's are not only pre-batched but pre-bottled, and come straight out of the refrigerator in clear glass sealed with a Babas-emblazoned bottle cap. It's very cold and crisp and is now a favorite tipple.
252 Coming St.
A fish cheek or collar will always win my favor, so on my first and many subsequent trips to Chubby Fish, this dish was always on order. Seared cheeks, delicate puck-size chunks from the face of the fish, are served over rice with a meaty, chorizo sauce that's much like a gravy. The flavors are rich but the dish isn't heavy in the least. A winner in my book.
98 Cannon St.
My colleague Hanna Raskin called the chicken at Goulette exceptional in her 2017 review, but I didn't make my way to this Cannonborough restaurant until the beginning of 2018, and boy was I missing out. While I ordered the steak, my dining companion went for the chicken, a seemingly boring order, and made me exceedingly jealous. I had no idea rotisserie chicken could be this good. Plus, the vibe at this place was so unpretentious that I fell in love with it instantly, and now the chicken is the only thing I order.
Stretch Armstrong Pizza
721 King St.
Named for the stracciatella cheese that tops it, the Stretch Armstrong is addictive. The creamy, sweetish cheese marries with the bright tomato sauce and is not overwhelmed by the super thin pizza crust. I was so enamored with that cheese that I stopped by one morning to watch them make it.
'Not Fried Chicken' Drumstick
The first time I had one of these ice creams, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It's such a silly, clever thing. Sometimes food can be too serious, and it's great to come across a treat that makes you know someone wants you to have a good time. It looks like fried chicken but tastes like dessert. And their holiday special Wongducken, basically an ice cream turducken, is the silliest and cleverest creation of all.
When I went to interview Jamal Flowers about his new garlic crab food truck, he talked a good game, telling me all about how special his garlic butter sauce was. I had the usual journalistic skepticism. That is, until I got a taste. Thick and luscious, it clings to the crab and adds a perfect dose of butter and garlic. It's no wonder he sells out quickly when he sets up at the T-Mobile parking lot in North Charleston. And his fans are quick to share pictures and videos of themselves enjoying his crabs. My Facebook feed taunts me with them.
970 Morrison Dr.
Wings are one of those things. Dare to experiment and risk angering your patrons, or experiment and win big. The latter is what happened when The Royal American debuted its Magic Wings, a dry-rubbed Szechuan pepper version that stands apart from the pack. A great bar bite with an ice cold beer.
Celia Cerasoli once upon a time had a restaurant in Charleston, where presumably you could order her lasagna whenever you got the urge. Nowadays, she still sells it through special retailers and her website, but this past year, I attended a dinner she hosted at Mercantile & Mash and her lasagna, perhaps the most perfect example of the form, was served. Thirty layers of thin and tender handmade noodles are layered with meaty tomato sauce, creamy bechamel and Italian cheeses. Sublime is the only word for it.
Spanglish may have departed their stall at the Workshop, opting for pop-ups instead, but their Cuban coffee, un cafecito, has changed me for the better.