The Ordinary lives up to high expectations

By:Gwen Fowler


South Carolina's The Ordinary's triggerfish
The Ordinary's triggerfish

It’s hard to imagine that any restaurant has opened anywhere in recent years to higher expectations than The Ordinary in Charleston.

Chef Mike Lata and his business partner Adam Nemirow, the team behind the very popular FIG, opened the restaurant Dec. 19.

Esquire magazine named it to its 2012 list of “Best New Restaurants,” Southern Living said it was one of “50 reasons we’re thankful to be Southern,” and Vogue suggested making it the first stop on a night out in Charleston.

And all that praise came before The Ordinary even opened.

So I was certainly eager to try The Ordinary, and when friends and I were in Charleston for the Wine and Food Festival, we decided to try to get in. Our hopes weren’t high because we hadn’t made a reservation, and Wine and Food Festival is a busy weekend for the city’s restaurants. But we lucked out and were seated at the bar after a short wait.

For me, the visit to the seafood hall and oyster bar had three highlights.

First, the restaurant is beautiful. The Ordinary is in a renovated bank built in 1927 on upper King Street. The restaurant has 22-foot ceilings and Palladium windows along the front and one side that stretch almost floor to ceiling and give it a huge, airy feeling. One of my favorite touches is that the original bank vault door was left intact and now gives diners a peek into the kitchen.

Second, the food is excellent. Lata has said that the menu varies according to the seafood available that day. The raw bar features different oyster varieties, peel and eat shrimp, pickled fish and more.

Shellfish towers filled with oysters, raw and cooked seafood and house-made condiments can be ordered

I ordered triggerfish schnitzel, where the fish is lightly breaded and pan sautéed. It was served in a tasty sauce along with roasted sunchokes and capers. It was delicious, and I ate every morsel. The serving was generous but not overly large.

Third, just as impressive as the food was the excellent service. Since we were seated at the bar, I expected our helpful bartender to know all about the wine and cocktails. But he also could answer any question we had about the food.

Naming this restaurant The Ordinary sounds like the owners could have been joking because the place isn’t ordinary at all, but the name comes from an old English reference to a tavern or eating house serving regular meals to all guests at a fixed price.

You should definitely add The Ordinary to the list of great restaurants in Charleston to try on your next visit, especially if you are an oyster lover.

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