Hominy Grille, Charleston, South Carolina
Choosing where to eat in Charleston can be a little daunting. But as soon as we are embraced in the golden light that emits from the entrance of Hominy Grill, Charleston, and embraces like a maternal hug, and take in the scent of lowcountry cuisine, I’m pretty sure we’ve come to the right place. Coats, gloves and other winter paraphernalia slung over paddle backed chairs lend a feeling of homeyness.
Hands are rubbed together; fresh hot boiled peanuts arrive. We settle in and squint at the chalkboard. A man sits by himself wearing a corduroy jacket with elbow patches reading the newspaper. I pretend he’s Pat Conroy because I remember reading in Southern Living that the South Carolina author from Beaufort loves this place.
Intrigue is the operative word here. I entered Hominy planning to order regional and obvious favorites, but one look at the menu had me more than willing to toss that concept out the window. Intent to order Hominy’s lowcountry shrimp and grits, which has a reputation of being the best in town, gives rise to question of “Why would I do that?” The decision becomes more complex when presented with opportunity to try Pan Roasted Vermillion Snapper with avocado orange butter or Deep Fried Cheese Grits & Geechee Peanut Sauce or Lowcountry Purloo with Boiled Shrimp and Fried Chicken Wings.
The Hominy Grill Charleston describes their fare as being, “…just like Grandma used to make (well, if Grandma had known how to cook, that is!)” For over 14 years, Chef/Proprieter Robert Stehling, has earned quite the reputation putting a refined spin on grandma’s pulled-from-a-can cooking style, winning the prestigious James Beard award for best chef in the Southeast in 2008.
Attention grits, okra, fried, barbequed, shrimp, po’boy, cornmeal, country ham, and pimento cheese: Meet your new friends.
hominy: A food made from hulled corn (maize) kernels soaked in lye water, rinsed, then cooked and eaten. The rinsed kernels are dried and coarsely ground into hominy grits
The wine selection is not extensive, or for that matter expensive, which fits with the cultivated yet folksy vibe. Plenty of wines are available by the glass but we go with a bottle of the 2007 Prochaine Chardonnay, a light, fruity choice that complements our meal. Our 13 year old goes with a Coke. From her world of Sonic happy hours is delighted by can served with glass of ice. A vegetarian, she is pleased with fried green tomato appetizer and eggplant sandwich. My husband and I reluctantly share tastes of my snapper and his purloo.
Too personable waiters can be too much of a good thing, but we want to take this one home and introduce him to females we know of courting age. He’s cool: a seamless part of the dining experience, who vanishes at the perfect moment, yet seems available whenever we have a question. He never arrives mid-bite to ask how we like our food. We’ve built up some trust over the past hour or two, and a sideways look is all it takes to convince me to change my mind about one of the cakes and go with the Buttermilk Pie (click for recipe and several others from HG’s cookbook), which like all the best desserts, goes down smooth and light, on what on most nights would be called a full stomach. Daughter enjoys Lady Baltimore Cake, and husband, token chocolate option.
The first flakes of the Charleston snowstorm of 2010 greet us when we emerge with Hominy’s cookbook in hand. We discuss returning tomorrow for brunch the way we are prone to do when leaving a place we’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Won’t happen this trip, but even with all the fine dining choices in town, it will happen the next.
Hominy Grill, Charleston, SC
207 Rutledge Ave.
Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch & Dinner
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Telephone (843) 37-0930 (reservations taken for dinner only)