We were truly in a foodie fueled mood yesterday. Feeling adventurous, we decided to boldly go where Charleston Foodie has not gone before: Ben Berryhill’s Red Drum. I had heard a lot of hype about this Southwestern themed restaurant on Coleman in Mt. P and I was definitely curious. I have a pretty broad palate and I love trying something new and different. I figured I’d throw inhibition to the wind and give them a shot.
The first thing we noticed upon entering was their tavern-like dining room. There isn’t really anything that I can compare to Red Drum’s atmosphere in Charleston. They are alone in their category, something that I’m sure Chef/Owner Berryhill has worked very hard to maintain. We were greeted at our table by Aaron, our server. He was extremely friendly but still professional, something that seems trite nowadays but many servers don’t realize how important it really is. Someone too casual might have greatly altered our exerience by underplaying the elegance of the atmosphere and someone too formal would have made us uncomfortable. He was truly a great server, I recommend requesting him specifically.
On to the food! Patty ordered the crab and avocado served on toastada points:
We had ordered something similar to this a few weeks ago at the Palmetto Cafe at Charleston Place. Not to sound rude, but P. Cafe wishes they could create something even half as delicious and exquisite as this dish. The flavors were so delicate that you could really taste every ingredient. Patty handed over a point and I said “thanks, but I don’t think I can eat a whole one of these”. She replied “trust me, you’ll want to”. I did. Mom knows me too well. I was in crab heaven. I would have been too full if I had ordered this myself so instead, I ordered a salad.
I know it just looks like a salad. I really don’t think a picture can do this delicate concoction justice. Let me describe what it was like. The greens were entirely arugula, something that I rarely see. Most of the time salads are of a mixed green variety. There’s nothing wrong with that but I appreciate the subtle differences here. There were tiny, thick chunks of fresh bacon, pecans, and huge pieces of goat cheese, all drizzled with a delicate, summery dressing. Oh, and yes, I almost forgot. There were pieces of minced Granny Smith apple mixed in there too. So simple, but I have never had a salad like that here in Charleston. It was really genius in its simplicity. Apple, bacon and pecans. Of course they melded together beautifully but nobody else does a salad like this. It was delightful and not super filling, exactly the combination that I was looking for prior to my grouper.
Once again, I really don’t feel like this picture does my dish justice. I am being completely honest here. I think it’s evident that I eat out a lot. I love fish, especially the locally caught genre. Grouper is one of my favorites of those. I order it probably more frequently than I do other types of fish simply because it takes flavor so well and it’s such a delicate and subtle fish. The grouper that I had last night at Red Drum is without a doubt one of the best fish dishes (not just grouper, but every category of fish) I have ever ordered in Charleston. Exquisitely prepared and warm until my last bite (something Patty mentioned about her fish too) it blew away my expectations of what I thought it would be. I have a feeling that pretty much on the way out to our table they squeezed a tiny bit of lime over the fish, making every single ingredient pop. The creamy sauce under which the filet was served complemented all of the fish’s delicate flavors in a way that I didn’t think was possible. Incredible, really just one of the most satisfying and unexpectedly amazing dishes I have had since I moved here 4 years ago.
Patty got the local snapper special served over grits with corn and tomatoes. It was absolutely delicious in every way. Snapper is another one of my favorite dishes and to be honest I almost ordered this instead because it sounded so amazing. The grits were creamy and went so spectacularly with her fish. I was begging her for more than one bite because it was so succulent and addictive. Truly a fish that stood out from so many other bland snapper dishes that I have eaten. Everything about this dish was upscale, gourmet, and way better than some ordinary fish house’s snapper. It was in a class of its own.
When our meal came out, Chef Berryhill came out and talked to us for a few minutes about the food and where he is from and the like. He was so thoroughly pleasant and friendly and just added to the elevated ambiance of our experience. We felt so fawned over in a good way. The staff wasn’t smothering us with their attention; they just clearly wanted to make sure that we were having the best possible time at their restaurant. It felt as though we were welcomed right into their private dining room in Chef Berryhill’s home. It was a calm, understated elegance that can only be found in very select restaurant environments.
We were so full from dinner but we couldn’t resist ordering dessert. General Manager Charlie Chance brought over freshly made donuts with a side of dulce de leche cream and two glasses of Moscato d’Asti. Yet another member of the staff that was overtly welcoming and super friendly. We really felt like we were at home.
The donuts were indescribable. They were warm and toasty on the outside and sinfully rich on the inside. The cream was incredible as well. We were so full, we ended up taking home 3 of the donuts. Not on this planet would we ever let those go to waste.
To sum everything up, I think the best way to describe the way I felt when we left Red Drum is euphoric. One of the most outstanding experiences that I have had in recent memory. I would put it on par with the best restaurants that I have eaten at since I moved to Charleston. I might even go so far as to say that they’re in my “top 5 new favorites that I hope become regular haunts” list. In this particular instance because our dinner really blew the roof off our expectations, I do want to cite one of my rules for dining out: don’t overhype your experience in case someone listens to you and goes. The reason why I say this is because I have a tendency to embellish my experiences when I dine out because I’m so enthusiastic about it. As a result, some obscure people (for indescribable reasons) don’t necessarily share my foodie lust and might be disappointed. I don’t want to say that you’ll have an experience as fantastic as ours was because it was truly exceptional. That being said, I think you’d be very hard pressed to dine at Red Drum and not have a fantastic time.