Chefs in Charleston are seen as local celebrities more so than pretty much any other type of person in Charleston. I get more excited seeing Sean Brock than I do Bill Murray when he inevitably pops up downtown. Among the chefs that I follow is Chef Robert Carter. I went to Peninsula Grill shortly before he left, and I enjoyed dinner at Carter’s Kitchen weeks after it opened. So when I heard about his newest venture, Barony Tavern, I was pumped to give it a try.
The restaurant is located inside the Renaissance Hotel, in the location of the old Wentworth Grill (RIP). The decor and ambience really appealed to me; I loved all the dark wood, deer paraphernalia, and old books. I felt like I was dining in someone’s private library or a study in an old mansion.
The appetizers were all so tempting that we couldn’t settle on just one, so we got three instead. The first, a grilled softshell crab BLT, was a special. I’m normally not a fan of softshell crab (usually it’s served fried), but somehow, I actually really liked it grilled. Served with a Portuguese slider roll, bacon, marinated roma tomatoes, bibb lettuce, and green goddess aioli, the flavor combo was just delicious.
Our second app was the crispy oysters with a kale pesto and smoked bacon ($10). These oysters positively melted in your mouth. The bacon added a nice hint of smokiness, and the kale pesto with the crispy piece of kale on top gave it a really interesting texture and flavor that was reminiscent of some Asian cuisine.
Our third appetizer was the seared beef carpaccio with okra aioli, fried okra, and arugula salad ($12). My first question after trying this dish is why isn’t the fried okra just straight up on the menu? Because it was some of the best fried okra I’ve ever had. I loved the way it paired with the smoky, salty beef. Like prosciutto on crack.
We also tried the toasted farro salad with oven-roasted grapes, baby kale, feta, pistachios, and red wine vinaigrette ($9), which was unique and very tasty. The thing that’s great about farro is that it’s a heartier grain, so you don’t really feel like you’re eating healthy. Also, the oven-roasted grapes were like little flavor bombs within the salad, which I thought was a great touch and a happy surprise.
We also got a side of the caramelized cauliflower with truffled brioche ($7), which was outstanding. It was cheesy and truffle-y, and if I hadn’t known better, I don’t think I would’ve guessed that it was cauliflower.
We were also interested in the basil-marinated duck livers available on the tavern menu from the bar area, which were served with wilted lettuce, tomato coulis, and bacon jam ($10). Since I’ve never had duck livers before, I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but it was very gamey. I liked the contrast of the tomato coulis and the bacon jam, which gave it a meaty, sweet flavor. I recommend it if you are feeling adventurous.
For the main course, we decided on the crawfish-stuffed shrimp, which was served with a Charleston “red rice” of orzo and creole butter ($26). The shrimp were cooked perfectly, and I thought the dish as a whole was very creative. I enjoyed the orzo, but by that point, I was getting full and I didn’t want to waste room in my stomach on orzo when there was still that cauliflower to be eaten.
For dessert, we were interested in one of the specials of the night, a piece of chocolate brittle topped with a layer of chocolate mousse, with peanut butter brittle mousse, and a salted caramel sauce. It was rich and decadent and basically heaven on earth.
We also tried a slice of the world-famous coconut cake that is Chef Carter’s specialty. He uses his grandmother’s recipe, and it tastes very homemade. It’s perfectly sweet, and packed full of coconut. I definitely recommend it.
All in all, Barony Tavern is a great addition to the culinary scene in Charleston. If the full menu is too expensive, I definitely recommend checking out the tavern menu, as it gives you a great overview of what the food is like for a smaller price.