The Grocery: Showcasing The Season's Bounty In Charleston

Located in the heart of Charleston just off bustling King Street, The Grocery is a lively, inviting restaurant where chef/owner Kevin Johnson is showcasing local ingredients and house-made pickles and charcuterie in a variety of creative preparations. We recently had the opportunity to dine there at the invitation of the restaurant, and really enjoyed our meal.

The Grocery has a large, bright dining room lined with large jars of pickled fruits and vegetables, and its centerpiece is an open kitchen showcasing a huge wood-burning oven. The menu is divided into three sections — Produce, Seafood, and Meat — and the latter two are divided into First, Main, and Table. It might appear confusing at first glance, but it's best to approach it from a sharing standpoint: Order a bunch of stuff, and keep ordering until you're full.

We did just that, and ended up with a wide variety of dishes, all of which incorporate ingredients from local purveyors (many of which have partnered with Johnson since the restaurant opened in 2011).

Roasted carrots got a North African twist with the addition of harissa yogurt, raisins, and pistachios, and a scattering of mint and radishes added a fresh and crunchy note. The carrots themselves were nicely charred and tender.

A salad of roasted root vegetables was artfully plated and full of varying textures and flavors, with crisp apples and tender roasted radishes playing nicely with peppery mizuna and chopped spiced pecans. A dressing made with Point Reyes blue cheese tied it all together.

Warm shrimp, escarole, cranberry beans, bacon, radish slices, and chunks of sourdough were artfully arranged into a light and flavorful salad, tossed with a bright red wine vinaigrette.

One of the most popular menu items, fried oysters atop creamy deviled egg sauce topped with house-made bread and butter pickles have been on the menu since day one. And we could see why: The oysters were super-fresh and perfectly crispy, the sauce had all the flavor of a top-notch deviled egg, and the pickle on top cut through all the richness.

Pork belly was slow-roasted until falling apart and glazed with cider, and sweet sauerkraut, diced apples, and mustard sauce gave it a German-inspired kick.

Tortelloni were filled with braised beef, served atop a creamy Parmesan fonduta, and topped with shaved truffles, and the end result was rich and luxurious, worthy of any fine dining restaurant.

A slab of boneless beef short rib was so tender you could cut it with a spoon, and an onion-heavy chimichurri on top brightened it up. Tempura-fried hen of the woods mushrooms on the side were umami-rich and crispy, and one of the meal's surprising highlights.

Roasted chicken with cornbread and winter greens panzanella, pomegranate relish, and chicken jus was the meal's lone disappointment; the chicken was nicely cooked and the jus flavorful, but the skin could have been crisper and we were expecting a whole half-chicken, not just the thigh and breast. The panzanella was also a bit stale and lacking flavor.

All in all, however, our meal at The Grocery was fantastic. The space wasn't exactly cozy, but the buzziness and energy was palpable; our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in guiding us through the menu; and the food was expertly prepared, with a large amount of thought and creativity going into every component of every dish. Whether for a light meal for two or a special occasion gathering with a large group, you really can't go wrong at The Grocery, and there's something on the menu for everybody.

The meal that was the subject of this review was provided at no cost to the writer.