Out and About Over The Holidays…The Ordinary

December 28, 2012

We aren’t quite back in full swing at the office but we are out enjoying our city.  Charleston!  It seems as though a new restaurant crops up every time we turn around.  For those of us who have had our heads in the sand, working hard and celebrating Christmas, a slow drive down Upper King Street revealed The Ordinary.  A quick google would reveal that The Ordinary has been all over the Charleston City Paper and the foodie networks as the doors on December 19.  Reservation, please!

Not so fast.  They don’t take reservations.  We didn’t mind one bit but it’s good to know what you’re getting in to.  We pulled up at peak time, 7:30, and were pleasantly surprised to find a spot in the parking lot next door.  (Location: 544 King Street, the old bank building at the foot of Cannon Street)  Although, we will note that the parking lot is a bit rough and we were glad to be in an SUV to handle “off-roading” to the last spot in the back corner.

Interior of The Ordinary
A daytime shot borrowed from theeater.com…..taken from the balcony…you can see the booths and tables with bar on the left. The raw bar resides just beyond the lower edge of the frame.

A quick check-in with the hostess revealed a 30-45 minute wait so we put our name down and went to scout out a seat at the bar. The bar, too, was packed but by the time we had our drinks in hand, a couple of seats had cleared up. From our perch in the window, we were able to take in the whole scene. The restaurant’s design maintains a lot of the integrity of the bank space. The linear nature of the layout and design provide a nice order that balances the hustle and bustle of the staff and the excited buzz of the diners. The vault still holds court at the back of the restaurant, in the raw bar and leading to the kitchen.

The Ordinary
image borrowed from The Charleston City Paper

We were offered a seat at the raw bar after about 20 minutes. We gladly accepted and were probably more excited about watching the action. We’ll try a table next time. Once seated, it was time to absorb the menu. Our waitress was fantastic! She welcomed our barrage of questions and educated us on the menu. Her guidance landed us on a salad and soup for appetizers followed up by one of their small seafood towers. The fall vegetable salad with stone crab and citrus was delicious. It was light yet flavorful. The gumbo was chock full of good things. The dark broth was a bit sultry but again, it left plenty of room for the main event…a plate filled with oysters, clams and shrimp.

Raw Bar
Our view from the raw bar

Thank you to the gentlemen who so expertly opened them up and put them on ice so that we might enjoy with ease. Some wine by the glass let us get a feel for the selections; the selections won’t let you go astray. We agree with the Charleston City Paper when they noted the wines were selected to compliment seafood.

All in all, The Ordinary gets a gold star. Our take is that the environment is created to encourage an evening. No reservations calls for starting with a drink. The menu allows for a lingering evening of nibbling, tasting and sharing. The rice pudding tops off the night with a refreshing twist. For the traditionalist, the daily specials and cooked options allow for a more traditional evening (appetizer, entree and dessert).

I guess we would be remiss to not make a few comments on the interiors. The lights by Urban Electric are a bit retro, a bit industrial and a bit understated. The hanging pendants mirror the “T” layout of the hostess station and center booths. There is a balance to the surfaces in the restaurant. There are marble bars and tabletops as well as oak tabletops. The richness of the honed marble is a compliment to the warmth of the hardwood. The main bar’s bookcases take marvelous advantage of the 20+ foot ceilings and mimic the tall windows on the opposing wall. Last but not least, the green glass tiles of the raw bar are thoughtfully contrasted by the camel leather, tufted barstools. Overall, the design worked with the space, not against it. The design enhanced the dining experience appropriately while not stealing the show from the food.

So get out there! Wherever you are, enjoy your city. Take in something new. Cheers to the New Year!