Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters

For our last dinner in Charleston, we went to Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters. Two days before we left for Charleston, Leon’s was named one of Southern Living magazine’s best restaurants in the South. Husk was on the list as well. Leon’s is another restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, so we had an early dinner. It was pretty crowded when we got there, and they stuck us in the corner. We were near the large garage-style doors, and it would have been nice if they were open. However, it was raining that day.

The food, though, was another story. We started off our meal with oysters from Prince Edward Island and Massachusetts.  I thought it was a little odd that there weren’t any local oysters, but then again I’ve never seen oysters from the Carolinas on a menu. The one oyster that stood out was called “Cooke’s Cocktail”, from PEI. They were huge!!!! But they also had the most interesting flavor. They were surprisingly salty for an oyster that meaty.

Our main course was fried chicken with a side of brussel sprouts. The brussel sprouts were fried and were cooked with red wine vinegar and piperade, which is a Basque condiment of onions, green peppers and tomatoes sautéed with Esplette pepper. The brussel sprouts were slightly crispy from being fried lightly, they had a tang from the red wine vinegar and they had a kick from the Esplette pepper. It was the best version of brussel sprouts that we’ve ever had. They were incredible! We each got two pieces of fried chicken: Paul had two pieces of dark meat and Marnay had two pieces of white meat. The chicken was very hot when it came to the table, like it was right out of the fryer. Fried chicken is easily the most popular dish at Leon’s, so I’m sure they make a ton every night. The chicken was served in a small plastic basket with red and white checked paper beneath it-very casual. The skin was SO crispy. It tasted like it had been fried twice, similar to Korean fried chicken.

When we started eating it, we were surprised that it was quite spicy. I smelled it when it came to the table and noticed that it smelled like Old Bay. I asked the server and sure enough, it was Old Bay. The chicken was absolutely amazing. I (Paul) think that it was my favorite dish of the trip. My mouth is watering while I type this! Overall, the food at Leon’s was excellent; the atmosphere leaves something to be desired. When you compare it to Xiao Bao, Xiao Bao wins on atmosphere alone. But my mind keeps coming back to that fried chicken!!

Address
Leons Fine Poultry and Oysters: 698 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

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Xiao Bao Biscuit

We left for Xiao Bao Biscuit around 5pm, because they did not take reservations. Halfway there, we got caught in a torrential downpour. Even with umbrellas we were soaked, so we took an Uber the rest of the way.

Xiao Bao is in a former gas station and auto repair shop. Where the pumps used to be, are now outdoor tables. The inside has a cool, industrial feel. We felt right at home as soon as we walked in because it reminded us of a place we would find in Silver Spring.

We started the meal with two local beers, Paul had a Westbrook Rye Pale Ale (from Mount Pleasant) and Marnay had a Coast IPA (from North Charleston.) The theme of the restaurant is Asian comfort food, this being a restaurant in Charleston and all. There are dishes from China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s a small plates restaurant, and we ordered three dishes from China to share.

All three dishes were amazing. The price point is very reasonable, and it’s a fun, hip environment with great music. Of the three restaurants in Charleston that we went to for dinner, this is the one we would go back to over and over.

Address
Xiao Bao Biscuit: 224 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29401

Husk

The night that we flew in to Charleston, we went to Husk. Husk is probably the best restaurant in the South, and likely one of the best restaurants in the country! The restaurant is in an historic mansion which was owned by a member of the Pinckney family, who were very prominent in the history of South Carolina.

We had a reservation at 10:15, but we preferred to eat earlier. Husk allows a limited number of walk-ins, so we arrived at the restaurant at 4:30 for their 5:30 opening.

We were the only ones there. Turns out that lining up outside restaurants before they open is not really a thing in Charleston. Luckily, Husk bar, next door, was open. The bartenders were both extremely knowledgeable and friendly. I had an Elijah Craig 12 year and Marnay had a “Charleston Light Dragoons Punch,” with the recipe from the Charleston Preservation Society.

At 5:00, we left to stand outside the restaurant. There were two other parties, and we ended up talking with them. One guy was a flower wholesaler from California who sold to Trader Joe’s. Another guy was from Northern Virginia, although his parents lived near Charleston.

The “walk-in” section was the upstairs outdoor patio, and it really is the best seat in the house. Husk organizes their wine list by soil type, which is a great idea. Gives you an idea of the “terrior” of the wine, the indescribably quality that comes from the earth in which the grapes are grown. Husk also focuses on pre-Prohibition Southern dry ciders.

Marnay had one “volcanic” wine and one “limestone:” a chardonnay blend and a sauvignon blanc. The chardonnay blend was here favorite. I had two ciders, the second of which was combined with apple brandy and tasted almost like a port.

Once we received our drinks, the server brought us homemade benne seed rolls with pork honey butter. They were absolutely delicious, and actually one of my favorite parts of the meal. The salad we started the meal with was one of the best salads we’ve ever had-maybe the best. All the ingredients came together SO well. The freshness of the local grilled peaches and the blueberries were balanced by the crispy ham. The Cheerwine vinaigrette could have been overpowering with sweetness, but it was subtle.

On the other hand, the Benton’s bacon cornbread was disappointing. There was virtually no bacon.

Marnay’s main course was local grouper in a mushroom “tea.” Husk gets all of their fish from one fisherman. He goes out into Charleston Harbor in the morning, catches the fish, and the restaurant serves it that night. I had Heritage Spot Pork from a farm in Florence, SC. Husk specializes in pork, so I had to get it. It was delicious, and it came with pot likker, which is the liquid the collards are cooked it. That stuff was so smoky and savory.

We were too full for dessert, so after dinner we walked home and went to sleep after our long day. Overall, Husk lived up to expectations!

Address
Husk: 76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401