Charleston is brimming with grand stories from the ghostly to the inspirational, but the one I am about to relate is both exceptional and endearing. Its the American Dream at its best. Its telling will warm your heart and put a smile on your face because the main character was a bit of a wanderer who found his place in Charleston society and a permanent residence in an old French Quarter house built in 1888. His name was simply Poogan.
In 1976, it was decided the old house would be turned into a restaurant. Poogan presided over the renovations. Like many Charlestonians, the porch was his favorite part of the house, so on completion, it was christened Poogan's Porch. He greeted its first satisfied customers. Since then, the interior of the restaurant has been upgraded and a 1500-bottle wine cellar was built in 2005. It has been a favorite of well-known celebrities, politicians, tourists and locals alike in addition to receiving recognition from Martha Stewart Living, Wine Spectator and The Travel Channel.
Poogan is no longer here and if he could speak, he would have told you, "To succeed in life, never bite the hand that feeds you." You see, Poogan was a scruffy, neighborhood dog.
There's something appealing and fun about dining at a restaurant that once was a house. Poogan's Porch is all of that and also boasts credentials that make it one of Charleston's oldest and most reputable culinary establishments. It was my choice for Charleston Restaurant Week.
Basking in the aura of the historically renowned Mills House, Poogan's Porch gives off a singular vibe of its own. Flanked by the Husk on its left and a masterfully painted fresco on its right, the yellow Victorian restaurant's street side entrance, enclosed by a black wrought iron fence, opens into a beautifully landscaped patio with cozy table settings leading to the front porch and more outdoor seating. Upon entering the front door, you can sense the antiquity of the house. Adjacent to a stairwell leading to the upper floor, a long hallway decorated with pictures and memorabilia ends at the desk of the hostess where I checked in to confirm my 5:00 pm reservation--the hour the restaurant begins its dinner sitting. I was a few minutes early, so I took a couple photographs and then waited on the porch. For a January evening, it was a pleasant 65 degrees.
At the end of the hall, we passed the restaurant's full bar and I was seated in the front room overlooking the porch. The table arrangements were modest and comfortably spaced along the walls with a fireplace on one of them. There were fans overhead and large baskets decorated the walls. The menus were placed before me and I awaited the room's server, who I was informed would be someone by the name Rosa.
I quickly perused the Restaurant Week Dinner Menu, which was 3 courses for $35 accompanied by $15 wine pairing suggestions. Shortly, Rosa arrived and to begin, I opted for a Stella, yes a beer, as my drink selection. From the menu, I chose the Smoked Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Creme Fraiche and Pickled Apples to start. Butternut squash and apples come into season around the same time and they go well together. Curried Creme Fraiche is literally "fresh cream" that more closely resembles sour cream or yogurt with spices. The combination translated into a dish that was velvety smooth and a perfect balance of earlier stated ingredients--magnificent.
I chose the Plancha Roasted Flounder with Blue Corn Grit Cake, Local Purple Sweet Potato, and Southern Romesco for my entree--all foreign descriptions to me. Plancha is to 'barbecue like the Spaniards', which involves cooking at a very high temperature around 280 or 300ºC (flash cooking) and is considered a healthy way to cook. Nicely presented with greens and sauce, the flounder was laid over the grit cake. My first experience with Blue Corn Grit Cake was pleasantly surprising. The flounder was slightly crisped along its edges, but still flaky and flavorful. All local ingredients made this a thoroughly enjoyable entree.
To complete my sitting, my dessert choice was a tough one, but I finally chose the Chocolate Gingerbread Cake with plum filling--Yummy. Total cost for my dinner was $40.00--well worth it.
Rosa was a delight--very patient and attentive. From Mexico, she lived up north--I believe she said Boston--before she came to Charleston 35 years ago and ten years later began serving at Poogan's Porch making her a 25 year veteran. Her timing was spot on--delivering the courses without missing a beat. She answered my questions with a smile. I asked her about Poogan's statue at the front entrance, which was missing and about the resident ghost named Zoe, for which the restaurant is famous--The Travel Channel voted the restaurant "Third Haunted Place in America" in 2003.
Poogan's Porch is one of Charleston's oldest independent culinary establishments. Located just off of Meeting Street on Queen Street, it is in the heart of downtown Charleston. Its professional staff is excellent. It is like going to a friend's house for dinner, but this dinner invitation includes a top chef by the name of Daniel Doyle cooking in the kitchen.
72 Queen St, Charleston, SC
Phone: (843) 577-2337