Angel Oak Restaurant on Johns Island, SC, is a testament to the farm-to-table concept. With a menu built around seasonal, locally grown products, owners Jay and Nicole Kees proudly uphold what's become a Charleston food tradition. It is protocol for Nicole to visit each table and personally explain that aesthetic to guests as they study the menu.
Angel Oak is named for the legendary tree that grows just seven miles from the restaurant. A pilgrimage to the massive, 1,500-year-old live oak is an apt warm-up for a night of dining at its namesake. Once you've been awed by the sight of this gentle giant, prepare to be wowed by the flavors of the Lowcountry. Depending on the dish and time of year, offerings at Angel Oak Restaurant might feature beef from nearby Legare Farms, grits from Edisto Island's Marsh Hen Mill, Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, goods from Charleston's Saffron Bakery, pork from Burbage Meats in Ravenel and locally sourced, sustainable seafood and fish.
Part rustic cottage, part European bistro, the eatery's open dining area hums with energy as servers slip between tables to refresh jars of sweet tea or serve glasses of wine. For starters, there are complimentary cups of freshly boiled peanuts to munch on, but don't let that dissuade you from ordering a platter of pimento cheese-topped fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. The sharp cheese and tangy green tomato flavors are offset by smoky bits of house-cured lardons. One order is enough to share with the table and prepare your taste buds for the main course.
Entrees reflect a mix of old-timey comfort foods and modern cuisine. The buttermilk fried chicken, glazed with local honey, is salty-sweet and crispy. It is accompanied by a bubbly crock of macaroni and cheese and a side of braised collards, so you get the trifecta of the South's most beloved dishes.
As a nod to America's love affair with shrimp and grits, Chef Jay serves up his own interpretation. His Bang-Bang Shrimp and Grits is a structured dish of yumminess that begins with a foundation of slow-cooked, stone ground grits spiked with creamy pimento cheese, then topped with seasoned sautéed shrimp. The dish is studded with fried green tomatoes and finished off with a "bang" - a drizzle of a sauce that adds heat and sweet.
Overstuffed ravioli and a New York Strip with spicy chimichurri sauce will tempt those craving more exotic flair.
You'll be stuffed once dessert is mentioned, but you can appease your sweet tooth without pushing the limits. Split a plate of warm beignets, tender puffs of dough coated in powdered sugar. They are light and satisfying, especially when dipped in the warm chocolate sauce served on the side.
Angel Oak Restaurant, located at 3669 Savannah Highway on Johns Island, is open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, and for brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. A child's menu is available. Reservations are highly recommended, particularly if you have a large party. Call 843.556.7525 to check table availability.