Mark Chatfield, co-owner of Ristorante Abruzzi, had no idea what to expect when he agreed to join in Charleston’s seventh annual Restaurant Week.
“I’ve lived here since 1991 and I’ve never done restaurant week personally, and I was surprised at so many people jumping in and participating,” he said.
Surprised — and incredibly pleased.
Abruzzi opened less than a year ago and is located at Appalachian Power Park, where the former Paterno’s at the Park was located. As the owner of a new local business, Chatfield is eager for a chance to highlight his restaurant’s unique offerings.
“My mother’s family was of Italian heritage. They are from the Abruzzo state in Italy, hence the name of the restaurant ... so I’m trying to promote those dishes and flavors that are common in that region, and also the wines,” he said.
“We make 10 different kinds of pasta and serve it fresh, and that’s a different kind of pasta than you can get from a dry pasta dish,” including a beef ravioli and homemade pizzas that have been handed down from old family recipes, Chatfield added.
Other newcomers are eager to showcase their offerings, too.
“We have six new restaurants. Five of six are first-timers and we have one that has participated before and is back,” said Dickinson Gould, president of Buzz Food Service, which has organized the celebration of local foods since it began in 2014.
In addition to Abruzzi, he said, “The new restaurants this year are Books and Brews on the West Side; The Lookout, which is on the hill at Eagle View; Pies and Pints will participate for the first time; Hale House, which is a really sleek modern design; and the sixth would be Keeley [Steele’s] Starlings Provisions.
“They don’t traditionally do dinner but they’re going to do a pop-up style special menu and I think they’ll do well,” said Gould.
Wherever you go for Restaurant Week, whether it’s a new adventure or an old favorite, reservations are highly recommended.
Starlings Coffee & Provisions
A self-described small-batch bakery and espresso shop, Starlings has participated in Restaurant Week once before, and doesn’t typically offer a dinner menu. This year, said Steele, they have the staff to make it happen — and the timing is right.
“Most restaurants see a lull right after New Years Eve and then we don’t have really anything special until Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Restaurant Week happens in the middle of that dead five or six weeks, so yeah, it’s super helpful.”
In addition to a vegetarian-friendly menu, Starlings is also focusing on another niche market not always included in dining events: children.
“One of our dessert options is going to be an outdoor firepit with a s’mores bar set up,” Steele said.
“We’ll have a couple of items on there that are more kid friendly. We think the s’mores set will get kids out. I think it’s important to try to get people that want to bring their families out but feel like it’s a little of the price range or maybe other diners wouldn’t appreciate that so much, but we always try to do kid friendly and vegetarian friendly.”
Nestled in the hilltops of the Eagle View community overlooking Charleston, The Lookout Bar and Grill has a casual style with American fare — and a few surprises on the menu, especially next week.
“The beef Wellington, you don’t see that too much anymore so we wanted to do something a little bit different,” said T.J. Pringle, executive chef and manager.
He also wanted the chance to highlight some of his most popular menu items for new customers in the hopes that they’ll keep coming back.
“The coconut shrimp is one of our regular menu items. It’s really popular, really fresh, really good, and we wanted to get that out,” Pringle said.
“Our bourbon glazed scallops we ran as a special one time. We had a really good response on them, so we wanted to try to put those out there, too,” he said.
Books and Brews
Located in the Elk City section of the West Side, Books and Brews is known best for its pepperoni rolls. In fact, it won the 2019 Charleston Tourism People’s Choice Award for Favorite Dish.
Owner Pat Pelley wanted to build on that success for his first ever Charleston Restaurant Week.
“Since our pepperoni rolls are rolled in our pizza dough, we’re like, ‘Hey, what else can we roll in this dough and have it be very successful?’ So we’re going to roll a vegetarian style dish, and we’re also going to roll Chicken Bacon Alfredo,” said Pelley.
Two more new experiences for the eatery: dealing with desserts and handling reservations.
“I really have never done desserts, so that’s kind of forcing my cards to try something different,” said Pelley. His staff is doing a brand new dessert pizza and a baked apple crisp that’s never been on the menu before.
As for reservations, “We’ve never taken reservations in our whole life. We are for Restaurant Week. We got a new book, we wrote names down and did everything we’ve never done before.”
Reservations have been pouring in, Pelley said, adding he hopes to wow potential new customers.
The newest of the newbies this year is Hale House, naturally located on Hale Street. They had a soft opening just before Christmas and a grand opening earlier this month.
“We’re primarily a restaurant, but we have over 120 bourbons,” said co-owner Vincente Cruz. “We took the wine menu everybody loves and put them on the menu, and most are by the glass.”
One thing he wants to highlight is the diversity of menu items.
“Really, it’s a mixture of stuff ... We have filet, sirloin, chicken, salmon — it’s definitely not just wine and bourbons,” he said.
Restaurant Week, said Cruz, is a good chance to let people who haven’t heard yet know they’re open.
Pies and Pints
Always crowded, Pies and Pints is a popular, upscale pizzeria.
The don’t take reservations and didn’t really need the exposure, so over the past six years they’ve opted not to participate in Restaurant Week.
The seventh time was the charm, apparently.
“The first store to open was in Fayetteville in 2003. [The Charleston location] was 2009, so we’ve been around for a decade. This will be that little extra push to be more involved in the community,” said manager Lauren Bramble.
Unlike what others have done — opting for new, creative dishes — the pizza eatery is focused on the favorites, including char-grilled wings with Sriracha and lime marinade, a chicken gouda pie and the grape Gorgonzola pizza.
“Once people hear there’s grapes on the pizza, they kinda turn their noses up a bit,” Bramble laughed. “Then they try it and love it.”