Posted by: wrmcnutt | July 10, 2009

Restaurant Review – Tommy Condon’s, Charleston, SC

Well, here I am, home, for the first time in, gosh, must be ten years or more.  I grew up in Charleston, but I haven’t spent any time here since I left to go to College in Knoxville, Tennessee.  In fact, I’ve only been back once since The Storm.  That’s Hurricane Hugo, to the rest of us. But for people who lived through it, it’s just The Storm.  That’s how the calendar works around here.  There are only two dates, before The Storm, and After the Storm. 

Charleston is unique among American cities, in that the City Fathers have master the ability to surrender like Frenchmen.  In point of fact, Charleston has surrendered to the British twice and to the Yankees once.  As a result, no one has burned it to the ground, and the architecture is among the oldest in the country.  If your familiar with New Orleans, or certain parts of Boston, it may look a little familiar.    Like many tourist towns, the quest is always to find places that other tourists haven’t found yet.  And I don’t know that we succeeded.

As always, when I hit town, I started looking for a good Irish Pub.  And, as always, I found something trying to be at least a facsimile.  Tommy Condon’s, a mere letter away from Tommy Condoms, is located just north of Broad Street, near Market, a couple of blocks in from the harbor.  It’s on Church Street, if you need an address.  We went in via a side door, and so missed the presentation of the front of the restaurant.  Tommy’s has got a fairly large covered dining area with seating for about 25 – 30 on the “porch.”  As my sister was over the Charleston humidity, so we opted to sit inside.  By happy coincidence, we we seated near, but not too near the performance venue. More about that later.

The decor was suitable for a faux-irish pub.  Lots of dark wood.  Like most buildings in the Market Street area, Tommy Condon’s appeared to be about 250 years old, with multiple levels of re-modeling and re-decorating.  So many, that I was unable to see the original purpose of the building.  Given the proximaty to Martket Street, odds are that it was either mercantile or an artisan’s shop.  The floors were solid wood and the walls were paneled in that cheap rippled pine that someone had stained quite dark in an effort to emulate a wainscot without spending the requisite money.  Like most restaurants in Charleston, it was filled with the product of St.Carrier, savior of the South.  (It was air conditioned.) There was the occasional Irish Flag on the walls, plus the obligatory map of the counties of Ireland, but Tommy’s was well below  the average number of repoduction vintage Guiness ads.  (Frankly, I find that to be a good thing.)  Unlike many a city pub, Tommy’s does not grossly over-use the available floor space, but the tables could have been a little farther apart.  While I am told that the hygeine in the Lady’s Room was fine, the Gents needs some attention, all night long.

The music was by a trio.  Guitar, electric fiddle, and bodran.  They were skilled and fairly entertaining, but, as I often find in small venues, over-amplified.  One day I’m going to remember to bring earplugs to concert venues.  Tommy’s has live music Thursday through Sunday.

Service was prompt, accurate, and frequent.  I can’t really complain, except to say that you get what you pay for, and we weren’t paying for Continental Service.  We were greeted courteously at the door, shown promptly to our table, and allowed to move when we got picky, all without getting the impression that we were putting anyone out too much.  The waiter showed up quickly,  taking our drink orders within five minutes, and getting them out to us within another five.  Our appetizer showed up quickly, and the entrees did  not try to muscle aside the appetizer.  The waiter kept our glasses full all night without us having to go on a safari for him.

That brings us to the menu: disappointing.  Shepard’s Pie was the only Irish dish on the menu, unless you count the fish-and-chips, which I consider English.  Everything else was standard US mass-produced bistro fare.  I had, of course, the Shepard’s Pie.   *sigh*  It was edible.  It wasn’t too expensive.  It had salt, protien, starch, and some vegetables.  I ate it.  If I wasn’t writing to you about it, I’d say it was nothing to write home about.  They use beef instead of lamb, and they serve it topped with mashed potatos.  But if that “pie” saw the inside of an oven for more than 30 seconds, I’ll eat another one.  Instead of a baked crust, the mashed potatos were dolloped on like whipped cream on a strawberry shortcake.  My sister had the Crabcake Salad.  From her review, I suspect the crab was frozen.  Like the Shepard’s Pie, she found the Crabcakes to be less than flavorful.  Not “bad,” just not what she’d hoped for. I’m coming off harsher than I mean to.  It was okay.  If I need a place nearby to have a pint, I’ll return.  But it’s no O’Flagherty’s.

The beer selection was good.  The single malt selection was quite small, but the choices were good.  (Balvine, Glenmorange, and McClellan.) 

To sum up, for service, I give Tommy Condon’s three and a half pints of five.

For cuisine, I give Tommy Condons two and a half pints out of five.

For atmosphere, I give Tommy Condon’s three and a half pints out of five.

That gives Tommy Condon’s 3.12 pints of five.

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