A romantic stroll arm-in-arm one evening led us down an ages-old cobblestone alleyway lit only by the soft glow of antique gas lanterns to what we would soon consider to be one of the best meals of our lives. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places & Landmarks, within the walls of what was once known as Charleston’s first tavern built in 1771 located in the middle of the historic French Quarter district of downtown Charleston, SC this unique-all-to-itself culinary anomaly has been pleasing the distinctive palates of discriminative patrons since opening its doors as McCrady’s Restaurant to the public. I was excited to not only be spending a romantic evening dining in one of the city’s top restaurants, but also to be a consumer of a menu crafted by none other than Chef Sean Brock…multiple James Beard Award winner, passionate foodie, culinary genius.
This downtown locale of opulent grandeur and elegance welcomed us in with its larger than life gastronomic arms undoubtedly knowing and priding itself on the fact that it would possess our undivided attention in every way culinary. Exposed rustic brick walls and archways reminded us of dining in a private wine cellar, while deep violet-hued seating added to the visual complacency of the overall appearance of the main dining room. Vibrant pops of color burst forth from fine art hung on the walls surrounding us and two massive wood burning fireplaces took charge of overseeing the evening crowd, while cathedral-style, almost gothic chandeliers hung overhead. Around a corner in a seductively inviting lounge where George Washington was rumored to have visited on many occasions, rich woods graced with touches of rubbed bronze accents welcome the lone diner or the seasoned traveler hoping for a unique hand-shaken libation or nightly special creation from the kitchen. A striking floor-to-ceiling space reserves time for leisurely evenings complete with festive liquid libation creations. Contemporary crimson under-lighting beneath a spacious bar, and an intimate coved dining space are overseen by a second story wine cellar on display as you look to the heavens from this seductive space, while elegant modernly-enhanced bar-mounted lighting fixtures provide a cast of soft illumination offering an intriguing ambiance in this historic space.
Custom Martinis & Artisan Breads
Homemade artisan bread is supplied to each meticulously-set dining table, while soft radiations of light create the perfect ambiance. Cathedral-style chandeliers hang overhead highlighting deep violet tones of dining chairs, exposed aged brick, and colorful pops of color from eye-catching vibrant paintings displayed on dining room walls. A feel of dining inside an private wine cellar prevails amongst the exposed brick and rich woods. My husband chose a simple yet indulgent rum cocktail, made with a distinct Mount Gay dark rum, while I was in the mood for a martini featuring freshly made artistry from the bar. I ordered an elderflower martini, and when our server said she would check if the lounge had elderflower to craft my request, I told her if not, a cucumber version would be acceptable as well. Upon her return, I was surprised with a new creation: an Elderflower-Cucumber martini. This was a new one for me, but quite pleasing enough that I ordered two more over the course of our dinner this particular evening.
Cucumber, Green Strawberry & Radish Salad
With libations being consumed, and our orders places, our first of four courses arrived. Our four-course dinner selections began arriving soon after our second round of beverages were served. My husband’s appetizer choice was Chef Brock’s stunningly vibrant salad compiled with the likes of fresh sliced cucumber, unexpectedly refreshing green strawberries, bursts of radish for a flavor contrast, and a buttermilk lemon ricotta that joined all these luscious flavors in harmony. A sorrel vinaigrette enhanced this excellent mix of plated greenery, while fresh-picked herbs and shoots from the restaurant’s own rooftop garden were displayed beautifully amongst this collection of elegant edibles.
Cox Farms Beef Tartare
After tasting Chef Brock’s Beef Tartare, we were without hesitation to add it to our top five favorite versions that we’ve ever remembered enjoying so much. Both visually appealing, and full of appropriate flavor, this version was compellingly intensified by the addition of Hay roasted beets, faro and lichen topped with a light-as-air multi grain cracker, and the intense inclusion of fresh pansies atop the finished product, which created a fairytale-esque vision to behold before devouring every single flavor-filled morsel remaining on the plate.
Local Caught Pan Seared Trout
Our second course started with my selection of the Local Pan Seared Trout. A magnificent filet of local caught trout was strategically placed upon a plate of fava bean and parsnip cream, while a benne inclusion added a flavorsome sesame taste to the dish. The additional surprise of Wild Bay foam delighted our visual perception, and forced us to succumb to the intriguing and intense layer upon layer of unexpected, yet highly appreciated flavor.
Artistic Presentation of Pan Sautéed Snapper
The Pan Sautéed Snapper offering was my husband’s choice for his second-of-four courses. Aromatic, visually pleasing, and succulent from first bite to last, this pan sautéed white fleshed provision from local waters appeared artistically prepared and impressive. A conglomeration of seasonal rhubarb, crunchy celery, green almonds, and an ample accompaniment of Polenta di Riso completes the dish nicely.
Cox Farms Ribeye
A third course for my other half arrived offering more culinary artistry and excellence. The Cox Farms Ribeye, ramp, fennel, pistachio, and lime. This presentation was not only a vision to behold, but a sensual flavor experience as well. The tender succulent portion of savory beef graced with exceptional unique enhancements was a surprising, yet delightful experience we were thrilled to partake in.
Duo of Berkshire Pork
Berkshire Farms pork offered us a lighter, yet still hearty third course option. Tender from the first bite to the final savory morsel that was devoured, we appreciated the colorful display of fresh asparagus, honeycomb-shaped sensational morel mushrooms, and a mustard with burnt honey finale that combined to create the expertly-composed flavors of this main course perfection. Trying to not wait too long as we were mesmerized by the visual charm of this thick-cut presentation, once that first taste was savored, we realized just how nonstop this flavor endeavor was becoming.
Ambrose Strawberry Tart & Elderflower and Frozen Parfait of Grits
The fourth and final course for the evening was that of pure sugary delight and satisfaction. So much so that every taste of our selections nearly danced on our taste buds in sheer delight. The offering of all things vibrantly colored and expertly flavored appeared in stunning shades of vibrant reds with coordinating garnishes. The Ambrose Strawberry Tart crafted from berries recovered from Chef Brock’s personal garden on Wadmalaw Island kept company by a presentation of strawberry sorbet and an essence of my favorite enhancement…elderflower. The other, a parfait of grits beneath a crisp disc of crunchy sweetness situated upon a pool of Geranium broth and a preserved dewberry finish atop the presentation offering an added punch of fresh fruit flavor. House made macaroons and almond cookies were given to us by our server on top of it all.
Concluding our divine dining experience at McCrady’s Restaurant, we looked around and realized we had closed the establishment down. We often have a habit of doing this, which we have become known at many establishments for doing. There’s just something about a magical meal, a perfectly charming ambiance, and that feeling of perfection that we so enjoy partaking in. That’s what patrons will experience at this lavish dining institution. We will be returning again very soon, as we were so very impressed by the culinary expertise, alluring environment, and charm woven into the eatery from a city well known for such an attribute.
ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: The elegant setting the restaurant provides its patrons proves welcoming and inviting. Warm hues and a contrast of exposed aged brick wrap diners in a world of all things colorful, soothing, and tantalizing.
- FOOD / DRINK: The cuisine displayed stunning renditions of Lowcountry favorites, but with Chef Brock’s highly skilled touch and culinary sophistication. Truly Southern fine dining at it’s utmost best.
- LOCATION: McCrady’s Restaurant is located amongst Charleston’s cobblestone walkways at 2 Unity Alley in Charleston, SC 29401.
- HOURS: The eatery is available for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 PM until 10:30 PM.
- SERVICE / STAFF: The professional and spot-on service the staff presents is almost uncanny. Noticeable strength in servers’ capability to provide quality service will impress as well as not go forgotten or unspoken about outside of this establishment.
- PRICE / VALUE: The awe-inspiring unique presentations of Chef Brock delight, while hand shaken adult libations crafted by expertly-trained bartenders wow with visual and savory appeal. Items could have been priced double what they were and we would have gladly opened our pocketbooks to pay for such culinary grandeur and opulence.
- CORKAGE FEE: The restaurant charges a $25 corkage fee per 750mL bottle.
- PARKING: There is parking available in city parking garages as well as metered street parking in front of the establishment.
- PRICING: The two four-course menus we chose this particular evening came in at $65 per person, while my husband’s three Mt. Gay Eclipse rum cocktails arrived for $9 apiece. My custom made Elderflower Cucumber martinis appeased me at $14 each.
*Menu and prices subject to change without notice.