(Update: We made another visit, see below)
I’d heard about the opening of this new “gastropub” in the building that used to house Murad’s sportsbar a few weeks ago and had wanted to try it. After some false starts, some good friends made arrangements with Missy and me to check out the latest entry to the Charleston dining scene. After reading a story about the new owners, there were some worries about the place because of the owners’ admitted lack of experience (the restaurant business is tough) and goal of serving a better burger than Applebee’s (not exactly a high standard). Still, I went hoping for the best and wanting to like it.
First, let’s make this clear — this is not a true gastropub. There are no blowtorched scallops, stuffed truffles, parfaits of duck and foie gras or any of the exotic ingredients you would expect at a true gastropub. B&D is a bar that is trying to serve some slightly out of the ordinary burgers and sandwiches with some good beer. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I would call a gastropub.
Our group started with drinks (we’ll get to that) and a collection of appetizers. Let me start with the highlights. The beer battered veggies were fabulous. The batter was light (slightly heavier than a tempura, but not close to the traditional fried taste of bar food) and had a savory flavor that impoved the squash, mushrooms and zucchini. The dipping sauce was the ubiquitous ranch dressing (fine, but not exactly gastropub-y).
The jumbo chicken wings were also very good (even if they were not really jumbo, just decent-sized).
The cajun sauce wasn’t hot, but had a nice smokey, chipotle favor. I’d order both again.
The jalapeno boats were fairly routine sausage and cheese stuffed jalapeno halves. They were fine, but packed no heat. I think I had forgotten them as soon as I ate them.
The major appetizer disappointment were the garlic fries. The fries were undercooked and the garlic seemed to come from some garlic salt as opposed to real garlic. As my friend said, Dracula would have felt at home at our table, despite the (unnecessary) worries of our sever that they would be too garlicky.
One thing I need to mention that this place struggles with is presentation. Every serving dish looked empty. Appetizers cost us $5 or $6 each — a totally appropriate price — but they all seemed to be swimming in a large serving dish that made you feel like you were being shorted.
We all got burgers (except the four year old, who greatly enjoyed her mini-corndogs), which is the house specialty. If you are of a certain age (at least 40) you may remember Wendy’s “where’s the beef” ad campaign that saw Clara Peller and her friends eating at a fast-food joint that was “home of the big bun.” That establishment must have been the inspiration for B&D.
The burgers were advertised at 6 oz, which is a perfectly-fine size (not every burger needs to be a food challenge), but on that bun they feel under-sized and chinzy. Not a positive on a $10 burger. My burger (not pictured) was the “melt” supposedly stuffed with your choice of cheese (I went with the recommend feta). I say supposedly because I never saw even a hint of cheese. Missy ordered “the remedy” with bacon, a fried egg and American cheese. It was missing its bacon; our server insisted it didn’t come with bacon, but the menu begged to differ. The burger to the right was my friend’s “gouda” with bacon, gouda, mushrooms and chili cream sauce. The meat was good quality and bun tasted very fresh (critical because there was so much of it), but it wasn’t a $10 burger. I can get a bigger, better, burger at 5 Corners for about a dollar less.
The beer selection was good to very good (Rogue, Mountain State, Chimay, Guiness, Sled Dog, etc.) but I was served two of the same beer (Rogue Good Chit) in two different glasses of two different sizes for one identical price. The drinks were served by someone other than our server, which made for painful delays and confusion. Our server was very nice and eager (you only have to ask once if I want any condiments, three times is too many), but clearly didn’t know the menu. Some of that new restaurant jitters that will get worked out.
At the end of the day, I have no idea what the market is for B&D. The $125 price tag (pre tip) is pretty steep for everyday dining, considering we all left hungry. And burgers and sandwiches are hard to call high-end cuisine that would justify a three digit bill. I’m not sure if B&D wants to be a pub (focused on the beer selection) or a restaurant (food focus). From my visit, I would urge them to focus on the pub idea.
Ten years ago, I would have loved this place. But a lot has changed since then and that window of opportunity is closed. We have Lola’s, Pies and Pints, the Bistro, South Hills Market, Charleston Brewing, Bluegrass Kitchen, Five Corners, Bruno’s and others I’ve forgotten. There are places to get good food and a high-end beer. Or good food and a Miller or Bud. It isn’t enough to just be open, you have to be good.
The food at B&D is fine, if not spectactular. I’d rather eat there than Applebee’s, but that’s not saying much. I’d put it on par with Adelphia or any decent sports bar. But the price tag doesn’t match the quality or the quantity.
UPDATE: Some friends decided to check out the Gastropub for lunch and give it another shot. Unfortunately, the original opinion holds. The appetizers were still good; the dragon bites (feta stuffed dates wrapped in bacon) were unusual and very good. They were probably the most “gastropub-y” item on the menu. The sandwiches ranged from the good (grilled cheese with bacon and guac) to mediocre (a dry meatloaf sandwich and an understuffed rueben). The burgers seemed to “fit the bun” a little better, but the fries remain undercooked and soggy. The sweet potato fries were pretty good if that’s your thing. Service was friendly enough, but not making two of our six sandwiches (full disclosure, one was mine) until the other four hit the table was very, very bad. And I wish I knew what this establishment had against condiments; none of the sandwiches come with mustard or mayo on them or on the side. I don’t think my rueben had 1000 island.
This place has the potential to be a decent bar with really good beer choices. If you want to drink non-standard draft beers, go here. Grab an appetizer or two. You’ll be happy, at least until the bill arrives. If you want a good meal, however, there are simply better choices for your hard-earned dollars here in Charleston.