When we started looking for places to live in Charleston we had given up the ghost on finding a location like the one we had in Seattle. And we haven't. However, with every week that passes I feel a little more at home and a little more convinced that we made the right choice in where to live. Tonight was one of those evenings.
As it is Monday Nick and I met our friends Mike and Amy for Monday wine and fondue at the little shop in Avondale. We are regulars there now. That really is the great thing about that neighborhood. There are neighborhood regulars. People that show up for the wine tastings, I am just as likely to run into at the coffee shop and so on. One of the ladies we run into every Monday brought in pumpkin bread today for no reason. There was wine and free melted cheese in a pot. Really, how can you ever go wrong with dipping bread in melted cheese? That's right, you can't. Then we overheard that the girl who works with the shop owner every Monday (her name is Nikki) also works at the Glass Onion, which is this little local restaurant about 4 city blocks down the road. We had already planned on getting dinner there so we asked what we should order. And does Nikki tell us about signature dishes. No. Cause they don't have any. Cause their menu changes daily. Instead she tells us about the dishes for that day, which meats were the best and the freshest etc.
Naturally, when we arrived we could do nothing but order everything she suggested: Grass-fed beef fillet with green beans and mashed potatoes, spinach salad with fried oysters, scallops with fennel gravy served over grits, and a bottle of Tempranillo. Let's just say, at this juncture in my life there are few times where I feel compelled to eat to the point of pain. Tonight I got home and sat, almost moaning, on the couch for about 2 hours. Worth. Every. Second. Let's start with the grass fed beef. I have never particularly bought into the whole organic movement. Sure, it is a nice thought and all, I understand the health arguments and the economic arguments, but in terms of taste, unless it is a tomato you just plucked from your garden, there isn't much of a difference. Grass-fed beef is a whole different ball game. Maybe it is just the grass or maybe you are tasting the happiness and freedom the cow gets from grazing. Either way grass fed beef is like the quarterback to the standard beef's towel manager. The salad included spinach that was hearty and fresh as well as oysters, that were fried, you just can't go wrong with that. Finally, the scallops were nothing but three tender medallions of sweetness that almost cured every hang up I had in life. They sat upon a bed of gravy and the creamiest grits I have had. Really, the texture could have been confused for mashed potatoes. It was like eating a cloud. We finished with a chocolate pecan torte that was prepared that morning by our wine shop girl. Something really nice about knowing who made your food, right?
Best part? The restaurant is run like a cafe. Totally low key. No fancy menus or plates or waiters. No lighting that is too dim to read the menu. No expectations to keep your voice down when you are all but screaming about how good your dinner was and no judgments when you gorge yourself to the point that you are leaning back in your chair moaning like a victim of a stabbing. There were even crayons to color the butcher paper on the table. Score.
These are the things I was worried I wouldn't be able to find again. Between the tourist infested downtown with all the boutiques I can barely afford to step into, much less buy from; or the restaurants downtown, which I love but can be crawling with moms from, like Missouri, with their embroidered sweatshirts, grumpy kids, and husbands wearing trucker caps (and not in the ironic sense) who just want to go eat where Rachel Ray ate; and the strip malls in the suburbs that have the grocery store, target and that one random Chinese restaurant that may be good but you are a little scared to try; it is very easy to loose sight of what a little urban space can feel like. It is the businesses that are doing what they do out of a vocation and doing it well enough to be successful in a place not buzzing with accidental business. It is the people that you run into frequently enough to rate a smile of recognition, or know what their usual coffee order is. It is the feeling of actually being a useful cog in the motions of economy instead of mere drop of gas in the tank. I feel like we have found our secret Charleston and I couldn't be happier about it.