Lennon and McCartney were right on when they penned these lyrics for The Beatle's venerable White Album classic, Glass Onion. Forty years later, these words still ring true, especially in the context of the newly opened Glass Onion restaurant in West Ashley. Now a month-old, The Glass Onion, situated in what was formerly an ugly book exchange shop on what is still a relatively ugly stretch of Savannah Highway, is putting the Fab Fours' tune to incredibly delicious culinary music, in a most modern way. It is definitely another place you can go, and one you should go to, too, if you seek across-the-board exceptionally fresh, reasonably priced and delicious food.
The folks here are not necessarily "fixing a hole in the ocean" as the psychedelic song goes, but The Glass Onion is well on its way to casting a brighter shade of green upon the Charleston localvore dining and all-important ancillary local farming scenes. Their web site outlines their commitment to buying locally and seasonally - "We strongly believe in the importance of eating seasonally, locally and naturally. So, you can expect all natural meats, local seafood and vegetables from as close to home as we can get."
The restaurant's timely and relevant creed is backed up with the seasonally revolving, Southern-inspired "soulful food" menu rife with tantalizing, homey promise in dishes like Miss Kimberly's Shrimp with Beans and Rice ($12), Grilled Pimento Cheese Overstuffed Sandwich ($6) and Fried Chicken Livers with Bibb Lettuce (Big, $8, Little $5).
The menu mood is decidedly country Southern, with serious nods to New Orleans and the Lowcountry. It's a logical composition since the restaurant's young owners (Charles Vincent, Chris Stewart and Sarah O'Kelley) hail from New Orleans, Birmingham, and Georgia, respectively. The trio found each other at FIG, where Stewart landed a job as sous chef while Vincent was working there. After a two year-long search and a long-established dream to open their own restaurant, they put their mutual fine-dining backgrounds (which include working with the likes of Emeril) to use to make "mid-scale comfort food," found the space at 1219 Savannah Highway, and set up shop.
The space is bright and uncluttered with a large, open counter to place orders. Several picnic tables are situated outside to invite alfresco dining. The restaurant employs a handy system to pair orders with their owners once the food comes up from the kitchen. Pictures of celebrities - from Jackie O to Miss Piggy - are affixed to clear, plastic stands and placed on your table. The celeb's name (in my case, Einstein!) is written on your order ticket and a clear-visioned spotter then tracks the corresponding picture down and delivers the food. It's a much better system than those pesky buzzers, and infinitely more personal. The food came quickly and with a smile, despite the fact the restaurant was serving a nearly full house the day I visited.
The personalized mood continued throughout and perhaps most importantly, in the food itself. Local, fresh flavor and a love and knowledge of Southern cooking sang through virtually every bite. The House made Pickles ($2, or one of four side choices for $7) are made of snappy cukes, red peppers and onions in a mild, sweet brine that spend a night in the cooler only to emerge as fresh as daisies. Similarly, the Roasted Garlic Potato Gratin, composed of tight layers of whisper-thin potatoes wobbling with frailty in creamery-fresh cream and sweet, roasted garlic, and subtle, luscious White Beans and Rice sides, were impeccably executed and impeccably infused with authentic, rural Southern spirit.
O'Kelley told me the restaurant buys their Bibb lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes from Kurios Farms in Moncks Corner. I assert they need to keep that up! The Glass Onions Bibb Lettuce salad is arguably one of the most simply beautiful things I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Served on chunky, off-white plates (like all the food here) that recall diners of yesteryear, the pale and lime-green leaves were opened like a flower seeking the sun and generously (but not overly) topped with a creamy/tart black peppercorn buttermilk dressing that rivals any truly house made salad dressing I've ever had, let alone in Charleston.
After the stellar starter debut, I was a tad disappointed with Stew's Meatball Po Boy ($8), finding the texture of the meatballs a bit on the mushy side. The flavor of the marina and girth of the thick, oven-warm and toasty baguette were spot on, however, and there is no topping the tender Root Beer Glazed Pork Belly ($12) served with sweet collards and toothsome Anson Mills grits.
"Locals don't let locals eat imported shrimp," one of several green-themed bumper stickers posted on the small refrigerator behind the small order-taking counter implores. Indeed, I contend that locals (or anyone) must not waste another precious minute to take a big bite out of The Glass Onion. Reasonably priced, locally grown and delicious, Southern "soulful" food doesn't come along every day, especially with free and ample parking. The restaurant's menu is updated daily on the web site listed below.
The Glass Onion
1219 Savannah Highway, West Ashley
Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sat., brunch, 10 a.m.-4 -p.m.