Saturday, September 18, 2010

82 Queen, Charleston, SC

File Under: I Felt Like I Was At A Bad Wedding…..

As restaurant week was coming to a close we selected 82 Queen as our last stop of the tour. I didn’t know much about the restaurant, but I did know that their dress code was very confusing. Some sites listed it as “Business Classy”, others as “Business Casual”, so I decided to get a better understanding by stopping by the restaurant ahead of time.

The restaurant is an old home with small rooms and a lovely courtyard. The hostess less than clarified the dress code by saying, “We really don’t have one but if I were to define it I would say business casual.” So rather than being underdressed, we went the “Business Classy” route.

The courtyard was less than lovely when it’s raining, which it was when we arrived. All three hostesses huddled under an overhang while customers tried to stay close to the outside of the building to avoid some of the showers. We were escorted up a flight of wet (also not protected against the elements), wrought iron stairs (also slippery when wet) to our table. I was now damp and came to quickly find out, incredibly overdressed, as a woman seated at one of the nearby tables was wearing gym shorts and flip flops. Golf shorts and tee shirts were also a popular item. I felt like a cocker spaniel after a rain storm.

We were seated in a room with four tables. It was dimly lit and old fashioned wallpaper adorned the walls. There was an old, nonworking fireplace and a few enclosed bookshelves, but that was it for ambiance. The only word that came to mind was dank. In the hallway at the top of the stairs that was in our view was a makeshift bus station - cluttered and stacked with dirty plates and glasses. The music was very low and everyone spoke in very hushed tones.

Our waiter, Lindsey was a gem. His talents seemed very out of place for the restaurant. I asked him how long he had worked at the restaurant. He said that it hadn’t been long and that he had worked for more formal dining locations previously, but 82 Queen was convenient to where he lived. I also asked how business was during restaurant week. He said that it had been “insane” and that they were booked with reservations for 320 people that night. “I’m used to more formal service; here it’s just churn and burn. Get ‘em in and get ‘em out.” Well, that was encouraging.

I ordered a Stoli cosmopolitan and we ordered a bottle of sparkling water for the table. My drink was terrible. It tasted as if it were simply lime juice with a splash of cranberry as a teaser. Warm, herb yeast rolls were quickly brought to the table. Although they were warm, they were not flavorful and the butter was served in a plastic ramekin that seemed very cheap and out of place. Everything about this place was starting to feel very dated.

Fried Green Tomatoe
Our appetizers, “Crisp Romaine Hearts” (aka a Caesar salad) and “Fried Green Tomatoes” arrived very quickly and were also bad. My salad had zero flavor and the “Focaccia Croutons” had to be store bought. The Fried Green Tomatoes were hot, but mushy and also lacked flavor. I began to feel like I was at a bad wedding and the “Get ‘em in and Get ‘em out” attitude meant that all of the food was being held in warming in chests in the back of the house. At this point, I was hoping I was wrong.

Dinner arrived as soon as our appetizer plates were removed. Lindsey recommended the “Grilled Angus Rib Eye”. He said that it was “on the menu for $30.00, so it was a real deal.” The table next to us had ordered off the menu and the rib eye was one of their selections. It looked beautiful. So my husband chose that. I selected the Braised Pork Osso Buco. Both dishes were a disaster.

Pork Osso Buco
My Osso Buco was so dry it was inedible. What I had envisioned as something, “falling off the bone” needed a chain saw. The collard greens and mac ‘n cheese were both cold. The rib eye looked NOTHING like the one that was served to the gentleman next to us. It was a half inch grey flat piece of overcooked meat resting atop of cold, flavorless goat cheese-chive mashed potatoes and tempura covered fried green beans (who does that with beans???) We sent both dishes back.

Lindsey arrived back at the table and suggested that I order something else. He said, “If I bring another one of those to you, you will probably just send it back.” He suggested the Chicken, Sausage and Crawfish Purleau. He described it as “a lighter dish since the tomatoes were not cooking directly in it, but added later and it was with rice. Based on his recommendation, this is what I selected.

Rib Eye In A Bowl
The rib eye returned, still gray, still tasteless, but the sides were hot. My dish was a glob of sticky overcooked “something”. It appeared that it had sat in a stock pot all day. Mushy, thick, tough… warm though, (at this point of the night we’re looking for any win). I had a few bites and that was it.

We decided to take our desserts to go. Lindsey was happy to oblige. They were the best part of the meal.

It is my understanding that there are well over 120 restaurants in Charleston. I have often thought, “How do you compete in an arena like this?” 82 Queen should stop trying. That horse has left the barn, and it could have been in the form of the rib eye we were served.

We have to give 82 Queen St the "Cracked Plate" rating out of a possible 5 plates.

82 Queen on Urbanspoon


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