Gwen Fowler



Louis Osteen heading up Nashville restaurants

Posted 8/19/2010 1:16:00 PM

Chef Louis Osteen, who played an important role in popularizing Lowcountry cuisine, is overseeing three Nashville restaurants.

As executive chef of Hospitality Development Group, Osteen is working with three of the company's restaurants, including Watermark Restaurant and Blind Pig No. 55. The third, Miro District Food & Drink, closed Aug. 1 and will reopen Sept. 1 as Fish and Co.

Osteen was well known for his restaurants in Pawleys Island and Charleston. He and his wife, Maureen, ran the restaurant at the Pawleys Island Inn in the 1980s before moving to Charleston to run the restaurant at the Charleston Place Hotel. He opened Louis’s Charleston Grill in 1989 and returned to Pawleys Island in 2002 to open Louis’s at Pawleys and the Fish Camp Bar. He branched out across the country in 2007, opening two restaurants in Las Vegas. In 2008, he closed Louis’s at Pawleys, and that site is now the home of High Hammock, one of the Maverick Southern Kitchens restaurants. The Las Vegas restaurants closed later in 2008.

After a couple of other stops, he landed in Nashville, just in time to help with the mid-June opening of Blind Pig No. 55. The restaurant serves barbecue, smoked meats and southern dishes.

Osteen explains the name: “The Blind Pig is an old-timey name for a speakeasy,” and the building once was home of Hill grocery store chain’s store no. 55.

Fish and Co. will feature the seafood of the Southern coasts, especially the South Carolina coast and Gulf Coast as well as New Orleans. Certainly the Lowcountry influences are plentiful, with She crab soup, shrimp and grits, and an Osteen signature item, “Pate of the South,” pimento cheese.

Fish and Co. also will have a raw bar. He said he will serve oysters from different parts of the country and will be getting fresh blue crab meat from a Maryland company.

When he first moved to the S.C. coast in 1979, there were six processors of crab on the state’s coast, he said, and now there is zero.

That’s a result of overfishing and of so many of the crabs that are caught off the coast being shipped to the Chesapeake Bay.

“I’m going to buy them back,” he said.

Osteen, who won the James Beard Award for best chef in the Southeast in 2004, said that regional food began getting lots of attention about the time he first moved to Charleston.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, it was hard to find a good restaurant in most towns. Now there’s huge interest in regional American food.”

“Charleston has bloomed into a real culinary destination,” he said. The past three James Beard winners for best chef in the Southeast have been from Charleston, and he expects many more from the city to be strong contenders in upcoming years.

“I’ve always thought Southern food is good because I’m from the South.”

Osteen, who is 68, said he misses Charleston and Pawleys Island.

“I was there for a long, long time. I miss the people a whole lot, but I’m now in Nashville and I’m having fun.”