If you're willing to sweat a little for an outdoor meal, two downtown restaurants with very different cuisines are offering patio dining this summer: Michael's on the Alley and Eli's Table. Michael's on the Alley is a Chicago-style steakhouse with rich, hearty meats, while Eli's Table emphasizes Lowcountry classics with a modern twist.
Michael's on the Alley is located on Hutson Alley downtown, tucked away from the traffic and bustle between King and Meeting Streets. Tables line the alley, which also is home to several other restaurants, including Rue de Jean, Coast and Vincent Chicco. It's the perfect quiet location for people watching while chowing down on an enormous steak.
If alley side eating isn't your thing, head inside to enjoy the soaring ceilings and dark wood paneling. The restaurant opens up right into Victor Social Club, a lively cocktail lounge next door.
As for me, I preferred to have my Meats by Linz Kansas City Strip ($58) topped with Crab Oscar ($16), which is a creamy bearnaise sauce with hearty chunks of lump crab meat and bright crisp-tender asparagus.
The Crab Oscar is an indulgent but totally-worth-it addition. I sat outside slicing through my buttery, gigantic steak while rivulets of bearnaise sauce swirled around on my plate. The only sounds were a light breeze and my arteries, which judged me for the 40,000 calories I was consuming.
If a crab-covered steak isn't your jam, don't miss the rich lobster mac n' cheese ($22) or dessert, which ranges from classic New York cheesecake, flourless chocolate torte, or this in-house ice cream made from fresh local peaches (all $9).
Photo courtesy of Eli's Table/Lou Hammond & Associates
Across town at Eli's Table, a large, shaded outdoor patio is an ideal setting for a relaxed Sunday brunch or workweek break. Even better, the patio is dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friends while you chow down on some Lowcountry staples, like Fried Green Tomato Napoleon ($8), a stack of crunchy fried green tomatoes slathered with thick layers of pimento cheese and drizzled with tomato coulis and balsamic glaze. The contrast between the tart tomatoes and ever-so-slightly melted pimento cheese makes this a winning appetizer.
Other must-try dishes at Eli's Table are the classic shrimp and grits ($15), with large tail-on slightly blackened shrimp, tasso ham gravy and corn salsa, and the Tuscan grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup ($10). The smokiness of the ham gravy with the char on the shrimp make the dish flavorful and interested, and the gouda flavored grits are creamy and well-seasoned. The Tuscan grilled cheese comes on thick slices of buttered toast and perfectly melted cheese slathered over hunks of ripened beefsteak tomato.
For lighter fare, check out the pear and frisee salad ($12), a lightly-dressed green salad of shaved manchego, toasted pecans, red onions, red wine vinaigrette and truffle oil. The truffle oil is subtle and balanced, and the toasted pecans are just slightly warm. Plus, with ribbons of manchego piled on top, your dog will love it if you drop a few his way. You know, accidentally on purpose.
Michael's on the Alley | 39 John Street | Charleston, SC
Eli's Table | 129 Meeting Street | Charleston, SC
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Note: I was an invited guest of Michael's on the Alley and Eli's Table, but was not otherwise paid or compensated for this post. Thanks to Michael's on the Alley and Eli's Table for hosting me!