Pay what you choose at Cainhoy Cookin' Depot

The Southern Field Plate at Cainhoy Cookin' Depot; a smaller version is on the Restaurant Week menu. Paul Zoeller/Staff

Wondering which of the more than 100 restaurants participating in Charleston Restaurant Week is offering the best deal? Put away the calculator and head directly for Cainhoy Cookin' Depot.

The Wando restaurant is taking full advantage of a new Greater Charleston Restaurant Association policy that allows departures from the standard $20, $30 or $40 menu structure. At Cainhoy, the price for three or four courses will be whatever the customer chooses.

"You choose your courses and, after dining, you decide what you think it should be priced," a press release explains.

Menu items include flash-fried oysters; pimento cheese queso; smoked paprika gulf shrimp; Creole pork chop; carbonara with collards; cheesecake and a pumpkin pecan crumble.

According to chef-owner Nathaniel Chamblin, the strategy was designed to underscore the restaurant's commitment to serving fairly-priced food.

"We opened with (the) concept that good food need not be over complicated or overdone," Chamblin says. "We are coming up on our one-year anniversary and wanted to do something that would be rooted in our core belief."

When I reviewed Cainhoy Cookin' Depot, I was very impressed with the food, downgrading the restaurant only for relying on counter service (it's now a table-service operation at dinnertime.) "Many staple dishes at the Depot, including its fried chicken, are at least the equal of what's being served in downtown Charleston's most popular shrimp-and-grits havens," I wrote.

Does my May 2014 assessment hold up? The cost of finding out is up to you.

"Hope to see our regulars and a bunch of new faces," Chamblin says.

Charleston Restaurant Week begins tomorrow, and runs through Jan. 18. For more information, visit