Secrets From The Chefs
You know you’re a local when… you don’t have to look at the menu to know what you’re having for dinner. Leave it to the chefs to create something that they love and leave it to your neighbors to tell you about it. Restaurants give us the scoop on their one-night specials, off-menu items and secret stories. By Margaret Pilarski. Photos by Minette Hand.
Crossing the Border
For Home Team BBQ Chef Jimmy Lasher, it was some back-of-house authenticity that inspired a unique front-of-house special not listed on the menu — carnitas. “Honestly it was the kitchen staff bringing carnitas in on Sunday mornings from North Charleston. That was my first time being exposed to anything like that, authentic. We all fell in love with it,” says Lasher.
Every weekend the staff would gather and share Mexican pork tacos before shifts, a tradition that still holds now that Lasher adopted a recipe to leverage the restaurant’s own pulled pork — different from its existing chicken, pork or bean tacos. For the carnitas, Lasher explains his take on the dish: “We get our pork nice and crispy and keep it simple with a fresh salsa Verde, cotija cheese, pickled red onion and cilantro, garnished with a lime wedge.”
Lasher says the Home Team staff gives the unlikely dish a thumbs up. “We still make a couple to share at the beginning of shifts,” he says. The Home Team take on carnitas is a winner for locals as well — word on the street is that the Sullivan’s Island Southern barbecue joint sells out most days, sometimes by midafternoon, so aim to make your way to Middle Street for a south-of-the-border fix for lunch.
Two for One, Every Day
For those who can’t decide between two favorite menu items, Chef Mike Eckert of The Boathouse on Isle of Palms has a simple solution — flounder stuffed with crab cake, topped with chipotle cream and your choice of two sides. “You’re basically getting two entrees for the price of one — I think that’s the selling point when people can’t decide between fish or crab cakes,” he says.
As for sides, “grits and collards are my go-to,” says the chef. The dish is wildly popular despite not being listed on the menu; in fact, Eckert says it was one of their top three entrees sold last year, merely through word of mouth. The dish is available every day, as are the highly desirable water views. Eckert says tables are first come, first served though, so while the dish may still be available later in the evening, he suggests you plan on arriving early for a window seat.
One other way the restaurant is close with its waterways? The restaurant is a partner of the South Carolina Aquarium’s Good Catch Program, pledging to serve sustainable seafood whenever possible. Eckert says the flounder is locally caught most of the time, and if not, it’s from our North Carolina neighbors.
Flavor with a Hint of Fame
The team at Sullivan’s Island’s pizza, pasta and raw bar haven The Obstinate Daughter prides themselves on frequent menu turnover. “We try to change our menu often and seasonally to keep it fresh,” says Chef de Cuisine Will Fincher. But one of the inaugural menu offerings from the restaurant’s opening in 2014 was “The Dottie,” a sweet and spicy woodfired pizza named after a friend of the restaurant — island resident and writer Dorothea Benton Frank — and locals didn’t stop ordering it when it disappeared from the menu a year after opening.
While the restaurant only serves a few Dotties each month to locals that remember the pie, the ingredients are still the same: a mix of Anson Mills and imported Italian flours, 24 hours of cold fermentation, house sauce made from olive oil and imported tomatoes, house-pulled mozzarella and pickled spicy peppers, all topped with fresh La Quercia prosciutto and drizzle of sorghum. “It’s a great combination of salty, spicy, sweet and savory,” says Fincher, who recommends pairing Dotty with the Planeta Rosé, made from Sicilian Syrah grapes.
“It’s a nice light balance to all that’s going on with the pizza. Sometimes you just need something to clear the palate between slices and a crisp rose does just that.”
TGIT at Acme
For Isle of Palms locals, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is a tried-and-true favorite with an expansive menu that’s heavy on both classic and inventive seafood dishes. Co-owner Rodger Tully says their range of menu is by design. “When people like it, we keep it on the menu,” he says.
But there’s one caveat for those in the know — Thursday night’s lobster special. With a tip from your server (or Facebook, if you’re following the restaurant on social media), you’ll be in the know as well. Three lobster tails and two sides total up to $24.99 on their one-night-only lobster special. While the restaurant used to list it on the menu, it eventually transitioned into a special offered on Thursday evenings if quantities in the kitchen keep up with diner demand.
“When have a good number of locals that like something, we find a place for it,” says Tully, even if it’s limited to one glorious night. While the lobster hails from Maine, most Acme’s seafood items support local fishers and farmers, thanks to the restaurant’s partnership with the South Carolina Aquarium’s Good Catch Program.