One of the best (and worst) things about Charleston is how much there is to do on any given night. From restaurant openings to comedy festivals and everything in between, Charleston’s nightlife is diverse and always buzzing– even on a Wednesday night.
Last night I attended my first Charleston Dish Crawl, visiting four different eating establishments along Upper King over the course of a few hours. The premise behind Dish Crawl is not unlike the progressive dinner. Instead of each dinner guest serving a course at their home, each restaurant hosts part of the meal and your next destination is a complete surprise. The price for four courses is about $35, which is a steal! Beverages, aside from water, are not included in the price of your Dish Crawl ticket, so make sure to bring extra if you plan to imbibe.
*Check out the end of this post for a chance to win two tickets to any Dish Crawl event of your choice!
OSTERIA LA BOTTIGLIA
The evening began at Osteria la Bottiglia, a truly charming Italian restaurant at 420 King Street, sandwiched between Modern Trousseau and Blue Bicycle Books. There isn’t a lot of seating, which makes the restaurant feel intimate. Lots of deep, rich browns decorate the interior, making it feel all the more cozy and warm.
Once seated, we were offered two wines, a pinot grigio and a merlot, both selected to, “emphasize the food,” as Massimiliano Sarrocchi, one of the owners, said. The pinot grigio I tried was light, fresh just the right amount of sweet and acid for our first course: freshly made spaghetti enrobed in tomato-basil sauce topped with a single meatball. There’s something about freshly made pasta; the texture is luxuriant in comparison to the dried variety. Fresh pasta, like woman with curves, gives the sauce something to hold onto. The meatball was the size of a gum ball but was packed with meaty flavor. I was impressed that despite its size the meatball was still juicy.
Osteria la Bottiglia recently hired the former executive chef of Scarpetta, a well-known Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, who has taken to making pasta in the restaurant’s front window around 9:00 a.m. each morning. Soon, they’ll be making seven different types of pasta for the restaurant every day– and I’ll definitely be back.
I, along with the rest of my group, was fairly disappointed when we crossed John Street and took an immediate right into Joe Pasta. After eating such beautiful, authentic Italian food at Osteria la Bottiglia, it felt like we’d left an Italy and gone to an Olive Garden.
Our second course of the evening was a spinach lasagna with garlic bread, which I neglected to photograph.
“There’s nothing like freshly baked frozen garlic bread,” remarked one of my group’s members. The lasagna was far from bad and probably would have tasted better if it had not been cold in the center. All in all, everyone at our table was completely satisfied.
Note: In no way am I turning up my nose at Joe Pasta. It’s been a safe harbor for those with hangovers for quite some time. (Many have gotten the Irish flu from Joe Pasta, in fact.) However, if Dish Crawl’s goal was to expose locals and visitors to Charleston’s culinary gems, they failed here.
After walking north a few blocks we found ourselves at O-Ku, a cosmopolitan Asian fusion restaurant on the corner of King and Radcliffe streets. In the past, the food, atmosphere and cocktails at O-Ku are always spot-on. This visit was just as memorable.
Of all the restaurants visited, O-Ku made the best presentation. The manager took full advantage of his captive audience and made sure we knew about O-Ku’s specials (half-priced sushi rolls and $3 off cocktails on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). He expertly explained the menu and what we’d be sampling.Instead of one dish each, we were presented with large portions for the table: Rock Shrimp Salad, Salmon Lemon Roll, Potato Roll, Shrimp and Pork Dumplings, and a Spicy Tuna Roll.
Each sushi roll was delicious– my favorite was the Salmon Lemon roll: salmon and paper-thin slices of lemon atop a crab roll. The potato roll was a great vegetarian option and felt heartier than most vegetable rolls.
At this point in the evening, the night’s Dish Crawl attendees had broken up into groups. The six individuals with which I had found myself were truly awesome. It felt like we were friends instead of strangers.
For dessert, we walked to Yogurt Mountain, a frozen yogurt place on King Street below Calhoun. We were allowed to pile one of three flavors (cookies and cream, cheesecake or cake batter) high with toppings. I couldn’t help myself when I saw they had the frosted animal crackers– or the mini cheesecake bites! A “light” dessert was just what we all wanted, though we all had been hoping for a doughnut or two from Glazed.
While I tried Dish Crawl because of the food, it was meeting the other attendees that made the evening so memorable. After finishing our fro-yo, the six of us didn’t part company. We went to Big Gun Burger to watch a stand-up comedy show, in which one of the six of us performed! I had a truly wonderful evening exploring new restaurants with six new strangers who I’m so glad that I met.
WIN TWO TICKETS TO DISH CRAWL!
I’m giving away two tickets to the Dish Crawl event of your choice! Perfect for Valentine’s Day, date night, or a fun night out with a friend. To win, leave a comment for each of the following (each comment is another chance to win). The winner will be announced on February 13!
- Leave a comment telling me the four Charleston area restaurants you’d visit on your dream Dish Crawl. Include your name and e-mail.
- Share this on Twitter using hashtag #DishCrawlGiveaway and tag me @southern_bel
- Like “Hot Mess” on Facebook