After recently dining at The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina, I’d have to say Chef Mike Lata’s “fancy” oyster bar and seafood hall is nothing short of – EXTRAordinary! Ensconced in an historic bank building with soaring ceilings and quaint architectural details, we were smitten by this charming eatery. Every aspect of our experience made it abundantly clear why the restaurant garnered a coveted James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2013.
Awarded “Best Chef Southeast” by the James Beard Foundation in 2009, Chef Lata is widely considered a pioneer of Charleston’s vibrant culinary scene. His first establishment, FIG (short for “Food Is Good”), which he opened in 2003 with partner Adam Nemirow, set Charleston’s culinary bar high. While FIG celebrates the bounty of the Lowcountry, The Ordinary pays homage to the “merroir” (the oceanic version of “terroir”) of the coastal Carolinas. Using unique types of seafood in inventive, yet not highly manipulative preparations is an intrinsic part of the not-so-ordinary experience.
In addition to the fabulous coastal cuisine, another highlight at The Ordinary is its spectacular staff. Although we made reservations in advance, we decided to dine at the bar (highly recommend!) and our team of bartenders/servers expertly guided us through the menu and wine list. These passionate ambassadors made exploring the menu a delightful adventure, recommending delectable dishes including savory Smoked Oysters with Saltines and Hot Sauce, a fresh and flavorful Porgy Ceviche with Avocado and Cucumber, heavenly Steak Tartare with Crispy Oysters & Horseradish and peel and eat BBQ White Shrimp (worth the mess!) served with charred bread to sop up all the heavenly sauce. Since I’m not a fan of raw oysters, Steve “volunteered” to knock back a sampling of these coastal gems which were exceptional!
On par with The Ordinary’s passion for coastal cuisine is their enthusiasm for wine. The wine list offers a wide range of offerings from around the globe specifically selected to complement the menu. But, if you’re looking for your usual Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, you’re not going to find it here. The Ordinary is definitely the place to go for vinous exploration featuring esoteric selections including a sparkling German Sekt, a Corsican red blend of Sciaccarello and Nielluccio and entire sections devoted to Pink & Orange wines and Sherry. The list is rounded out nicely by a selection of delicious craft cocktails, daiquiris, vermouths, beers and ciders as well as 31 different types of rum from five countries.
We started with their stellar Champagne by the glass, the Laherte Frères Ultradition Brut. It was crisp and vibrant with a refreshing minerality – the perfect choice to prime our palates! We continued to sample a variety of wines with our delicious dishes including another bubbly, the frothy, fresh Albert Mann Cremant d’Alsace, as well as the 2015 Dirty & Rowdy “Familiar Blanc,” a quirky white blend from California. A citrusy Chenin Blanc from the Loire’s Château de Fosse-Sèche rounded out the whites before we sampled our only red wine of the night, a 2014 Domaine de la Pinte Poulsard “Pinte Bien.” You see, red wines are in the minority at The Ordinary, outnumbering reds 25 to 10. Given this extraordinary seafood-focused menu – it totally works!
So next time you’re in Charleston and hankering for an exceptional meal featuring some of South Carolina’s best seafood, be sure to visit The Ordinary. I’m sure your experience will be nothing short of extraordinary.
544 King Street
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