It started on Thursday with a scratchy throat, a tell-tale sign of one of the season's worst foes—the dreaded summer cold. The scratchy throat quickly morphed into head-clogging congestion and full-blown misery that left me in bed for much of the weekend. By Sunday, I was feeling a bit better and was purely ravenous, not just for some good food, but for some favorite-restaurant TLC.
Charleston has so many delicious choices for dining out in a variety of categories and price points, it's often difficult for me to decide where I want to go. Also, because I've been writing about food for so long in this town, it's often difficult to find someplace that's going to be low-key, where I can just show up in my sandals without makeup and anticipate a quiet meal where nobody knows my name, or at least leaves me mostly alone.
And that is exactly what the doctor ordered yesterday—some restaurant TLC. All that was really required was a place close to home, delicious, and where very little talking or personal charm would be required. My stuffy mind kept swirling with three places: Monza, 39 Rue de Jean, and The Glass Onion. All three of these fit the above description, plus, each serves dishes that are consistently delicious and personal favorites.
Monza's wood-fired "take the wheel" pizza, which I usually dress up with the house made ricotta, mozzarella, sausage, and some tomatoes, is almost constantly residing somewhere in my subconscious and frequently fills my dreams. As are Rue's cool, soothing, and quiet atmosphere, friendly but subdued staff, and world-class burgers and quiche, and almost anything from The Glass Onion, in particular the buttermilk dressing and shells 'n cheese.
Don't get me wrong, these are not my only favorite places. The list is much longer and changes with the day and my mood. This was just what was on my let's-feel-better-soon mind yesterday.
In the end, Rue won out. As wonderful as Monza's pizza is, it seemed like more than my appetite could handle, and I wasn't in the mood for brunch food (which Glass Onion serves on Sunday). A quiche or a burger sounded really, really good.
Hands down, the quiche at the Rue is the best in town. Huge, fat wedges of souffle-like light eggs, usually fortified with cheese, bacon, and roasted sweet vegetables swaddled in flaky, buttery pastry, never disappoint. But it was the Rue burger, still one of the best around in the growing sea of local burger competition, that ultimately fed my cold and my soul.
The burger was rich and meaty with a pink center, topped with an oozing slice of tangy gruyere that co-mingled with fresh Bermuda onion, tomato, and crisp lettuce, and served on a hearty, fresh bun. On the side came super pungent, delicious Dijon mustard (great for a stuffed head!) and fresh-from-the-fryer twice fried French fries. And, to wash it all down, was a cool glass of white wine and a soothing smile from my friendly, quiet server.
About the time I was first biting into the burger, my eyes came across an expression in the Tudor-era book I was reading that made me laugh out loud: "wantwit fool." They say that (well, next to delicious food) laughter is the best medicine.
Charlestonians and the city's many visitors are blessed to have so many choices for delicious food to fit any mood, or, for that matter, any state of wellness. I feel better already.
(Photo by Margaret Houston)