Posted by: wrmcnutt | July 27, 2009

Restaurant Review – The Southend Brewery and Smokehouse, Charleston SC

MainLogo4ColorOk – I figured I was in trouble.  My wife was hungry, and that meant that it was time to eat.  You don’t get in the way of K when her primal needs are surfacing.  So even though we were in the heart of the tourist district, I consented to eat.  After all, not all meals have to be haute cuisine, do they?  She was in the mood for beer, and had spotted the South End Brewery and Smokehouse, so away we went.

A quick look around the dining room caused concern.  No locals.  Uh-oh.  Discoball on the ceiling.  Not good.  On the other hand, the giant copper brewing vats were clearly designed to be used, it was air conditioned, and we had no Plan B.  Note:  always have a plan B.

We were seated promptly and with courtesy, if not enthusiasm.  If I were seating sunburned tourists twelve hours a day, I’d have a hard time working up a perky “glad-to-see-you-please-sit-here” myself, so I don’t hold it against her.  The waiter arrived quickly and provided water and took our drink orders.  The South End Brewery and Smokehouse has a respectable list of house brews, and K and I immediately set to work evaluating them for you.  We each started with a Nut Brown Ale.  Their menu describes it as have a “light hoppy note at the finish.”  I’m not saying it’s a bad Nut Brown,  but if that’s a “light hoppy note,” I’ll not be asking the brewmaster to tap me lightly on the shoulder if he wants my attention.  Good think I like hops.  In the heat and humidity, that was enough beer for me, but K went on for a second brew.  It was a light amber brew.  When it arrived it was quite dark for an amber, and had a far richer flavor than she was looking for in the heat.  After two clinkers, we decided that that was all we were willing to risk on your behalf.

My sister S ordered the crab cakes as an appetizer, and reported them to be “OK,” but said they lacked flavor.  She also found the texture to be not exactly what she was hoping for, and left us feeling that, perhaps, the crab had been frozen.  We kind of expect that up in the mountains, but we’re less than 20 miles from Breeches’ Inlet.  There’s no excuse for frozen crab in Charleston, SC. 

My own appetizer was a cup of Brunswick Stew.  Like S’ crab cakes, the Brunswick was “OK.”  I knew better.  One should never order Brunswick Stew outside of Georgia, just like Bergoo should not be ordered outside of Kentucky. 

Perhaps the most disappointing of the appetizers was K’s She Crab Soup.  Like Brunswick Stew in Georgia, Bergoo, in Kentucky, or Clam Chowder in Boston, Charleston She Crab soup is a local point of pride.  Everybody has their own recipe, and it is handed down through the generations.  Everyone’s recipe is the original recipe, and everyone else’s is just a pale imitation.  Well . . .  it was “OK.”  It was kind of flat and not very exciting.  Also, tell tale in mass restaurant cuisine: the cream had broken.  The milk fat had come loose from the liquids.  A dead giveaway that there were huge batches of soup made in vast caldrons and left to simmer too long until needed. No soup should be treated like that.

Like everything else, the entrees were “OK.”  Normally we see K’s Shrimp and Grits served on a grit cake, not loose grits, although it’s not unheard of.  K found the shrimp to be under-seasoned and kind of flat.  Again, we suspect that the shrimp might have been frozen.  For myself, I am a sea food fancier’s despair.  I just don’t like that fishy taste.  I have nothing to complain about, though.  I was in a seafood restaurant ordering pulled pork barbeque.  If it was chewy and had a texture that seemed to be re-heated, I really can’t complain.  And yet I am.

The truly telling point of the meal was when my sister S started to move into the second half of her shrimp pizza and discovered a large piece of plastic packing material on the bottom.  Up to that point, the pizza had been “OK.”  Either this was a pre-made pizza, or the kitchen was using pre-made crusts.

The waiter and the management were appropriately appalled, and comped both the plastic pizza and our drinks in a prompt and courteous manner.  A substantial effort was made to entice us into free desserts, but we were through eating.

To add insult to injury, forty minutes later, K reported that something was sitting in her stomach like a stone, and we had to cancel our carriage ride and return to our B&B where she spent an uncomfortable evening.  To be fair, the fried oyster poboy she had for lunch may have had more to do with it than our dinner, but who knows.

  • I give the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse one pint of five for atmosphere.
  • I give the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse three pints of five for service.
  • I give the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse one pint of five for cuisine.

This gives the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse 1.7 pints overall, and one of the lowest scores I have ever given a restaurant.  I try to judge each restaurant on it’s own merits.  A lunch counter should not be judged by the same standard as a five course prix fixe bistro.  But even for a large restaurant in the heart of a tourist district, the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse was a below-par experience.  This is the first restaurant that I’ve actually had to say, “don’t eat here.”  If ever you are walking down the 100-block of East Bay street in Charleston, SC, keep your eyes toward the harbor.  There is a view of the harbor between the buildings and the facade of the Venue Inn offers some interesting architectural features.  Well, actually, it’s pretty bland architecturally speaking, but it’s still better than letting your eyes fall onto the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse.  If you see it, you might go in. And if you go in, you might eat.

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  1. you are right. there is no excuse for frozen seafood in a coastal town. Ehvah. An’ Ah meeun EhVah.

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