Saturday, September 15, 2012

82 Queen And A Historic Carriage Ride-Completely Charleston During Charleston's Restaurant Week

It was a beautiful day for a Charleston carriage ride. It would be Keri's first. We selected Old South Carriage Tours to be our guide and purchased the tickets for $22 each. While waiting to board our carriage, we spent time talking with one of the guides about the horses and met Samson, a massively large gelding, 22 hands tall. Samson at first was attentive but after awhile became bored with our conversation and went to lean against one of the walls in his stall. It was time to board the carriage.

The guide introduced herself and informed us of our horses name, Dave. We pulled out onto the road and headed to the area where a machine randomly selects a colored ball. The colored ball drawn denotes the route the guide must take to regulate carriage traffic in any given location in the city. Ours was a red ball. Our carriage would be traveling to the Battery starting at Mills House Hotel, winding through White Point Gardens and back.

The guide was very entertaining and informative. I give her high marks. Dave didn't like making the scheduled stops and would push the carriage backwards to express his disapproval. After doing this tour repeatedly through the day you would probably feel the same way. The tour reached its conclusion. It was picture time. Keri, an experienced equestrian and horse lover, posed with Dave. We moved on and took a brief walk on King Street where Second Sunday had just come to an end. It was now time to walk to our restaurant destination on Queen Street, our Restaurant Week selection.

No landscaped walkway leading to a large porch and entrance greets you on arrival, no huge sign displaying its name. Two brass numbers on the street wall are all you have to go on aside from a tiny sign on the opened gate. If you are not paying attention you could unknowingly walk right past it and end up on busy King Street. It is 82 Queen. It can't get any simpler. The restaurant's address is its name.

Looking in from the street, you look up a narrow, beautifully landscaped alleyway. Alleys are common features in Charleston and part of its picturesque charm. At the end we could see a couple of well-dressed young ladies and after navigating the alley, we discovered they were the hostesses for the restaurant. We informed them of our 5:45pm reservation. With reservation confirmed, one of them asked what our preference would be, inside or out. Since it was a beautiful night, we said outside. The hostess led us on our way to the table. The outside dining area was a large white-trellised patio with green plants growing everywhere. Tables were strategically placed to maximize space. Overhead fans kept the area cool and comfortable.

Shortly after being seated we were brought the bread. Keri pointed to the four pieces and we both smiled. The amusement had to do with a previous visit to another restaurant where they only brought us out three pieces of bread, emphasis on "only". If you want to know why that was amusing, read my article about 82 Queen's neighbor restaurant the Husk.

Sonia, our server, greeted us next and handed us the menu. She gave a summary of each selection and took our drink order. I chose the Firefly Fruit Cocktail and my company, a wine person, picked Folonari Pinot Grigio. No surprise. We were undecided about our selections and took a little time. We sipped the drinks and Keri engaged in the traditional 'taste your drink' practice. She said, "I taste ice tea." I disbelievingly said, "Are you sure, I only saw vodka and fruit juices on the list of ingredients." "Nope, there's ice tea," she confidently reconfirmed. Well, the controversy needed settling. Ice tea is as common to Charleston as Rainbow Row, but in a vodka drink? I questioned the server on her return and she retrieved the drink list. The list of ingredients read: Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, Monin pomegranate mix, cranberry juice, lemonade. Firefly is a local distillery on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina and the tea comes from the Charleston Tea Plantation; a pure southern blend through and through. It's a good thing I didn't bet the house.

It was time for our 3 for $30 selections. First choice was She Crab Soup laced with Sherry. I may get in trouble with the locals for saying this, but I have been in Charleston for seven years and this was the first time I ordered she crab soup. What better place than 82 Queen for this first. It was superb and the Sherry a refreshing touch. No wonder it is called award winning. For our second selection, I chose the Barbados Style Fish Tostada and Keri picked Grilled Pork Chop. Barbados Style Fish Tostada consisted of the catch of the day with mild red chili sauce on baby greens, crispy tortilla, grilled pineapple, black bean salsa, Cilantro Lime Sour Cream. The chili sauce and salsa added a pleasant tomato taste, not too spicy. The fish wasn't anything extraordinary. I had no clue what specie it was and I didn't ask. Keri gave the pork chop a thumbs up. I liked the caramelized plantains from her dish. Key lime pie was the dessert.
Barbados Style Fish Tostada
Grilled Pork Chop
The whole staff from the front end to the server were professional. Sonia was very hospitable and very attentive, did everything with a pleasant smile. There was one issue but the management went above and beyond to correct it. The outside restaurant atmosphere was beautifully Charleston. Although I did not get to see the main dining area, I am sure it was equally enjoyable. It was Charleston Restaurant Week, so it was a 3 for $30 deal with a total bill of $86. The Pinot Grigio was $8 a glass and the Firefly Fruit Cocktail was $10. Reservations are suggested but from what I saw they will not turn away walk-ins. We saw a walk-in in the beginning and bumped into them leaving. 82 Queen is one address you will need to check out if for any reason, at least for the she crab soup. If you are feeling festive, order a Firefly Fruit Cocktail and clink your glasses to the number one destination in the nation and its top restaurants. Celebrate Charleston.

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