Wednesday, October 20, 2010

RLS: the fruit of the sea

"Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it."   -Bubba

Some friends came to visit me this weekend! Because they love me. And well, because they love Charleston.

On the to-do list for Saturday:
  1. Farmer's market in Marion Square (to get delicious tiny powdered-sugar donuts and to enjoy the state-fair atmosphere of jump houses and many babies and dogs) 
  2. Aimlessly stroll around the city, inputting historical tidbits that I learned by walking next to the slow-moving carriage tours
  3. Japanese horror movies! Hosted by the C of C Japanese Club. Which is different from the Anime Club. Different. They were very adamant.
  4. Dinner at Hominy Grill
So. Hominy Grill. You may have heard of it. You've definitely heard of it if you live in Charleston. Or if you are a die hard foodie. Or if you watch or read Anthony Bourdain (if you don't you should).
From reading Anthony Bourdain, watching No Reservations, and living in Charleston, I have ascertained that Hominy Grill is delicious in many respects, but famous- maybe world renowned- for its shrimp and grits. The name "hominy" means grits. Heck, grits are on the sign! For years I have been meaning to eat at this restaurant, but never made the time to. A few weeks before they came, Stephen texted me with one request for the Charleston trip: Hominy Grill.

Saturday night- of course we go. It's a great place for brunch, but we were really hungry and ready for some famous food. Also, there was the slight possibility that it would be easier to get into around dinner time.

6:32 PM- I call ahead to ask the waitress about the wait time. The restaurant is several blocks away and in a direction I normally don't like to walk after dark. She says there are tables, but we should probably make a reservation. "OK, can we have a table for 7 o'clock? For four," I ask- CaraBeth is coming with us. "Our next opening is at 8," she says. Eight. I look around at Kala and Stephen and CaraBeth and mouth "eight?" But no one gives me a firm yes or no, so I freak out and say thanks and hang up the phone.

We decide to walk over and hope they can fit us in. We arrive around 7, which would have been perfect if they had had a table waiting. No such luck. We find the hostess and put our names down for eight.

In the intervening time, CaraBeth needs a drink because she hasn't been feeling well (since she ate a package of cookie dough the night before). We wander around, finding coffee houses that close the minute we walk to the door, a mysterious "Tent Association" building that is crumbling to pieces, and end up eating an appetizer at O'Malley's.

FINALLY, we get back to Hominy. It's starting to get cold at night, and we are tired of walking and shivering. The hostess leads us in the cozy, warm, homey kitchen-like restaurant...and then out the door onto the patio. Of course, it's an adorable patio with lanterns and twinkle lights, but still.

All I can think about is how good the shrimp and grits are going to feel: warm, hearty, delicious. I will have shared a meal, across the time/space continuum, with Anthony Bourdain.  

Our waiter comes out, gives us water, asks if we'd like anything else to drink. Stephen gets a decaf coffee. The rest of us mumble something like "water's good..." "mm fine..."

"Great!" he says, "I just wanna let you know about our specials tonight, they're on the wall behind you" (he points) "and I do have some bad news- we're out of shrimp tonight!"

My jaw. hits. the table.

No shrimp? No shrimp and grits? No SHRIMP? What would Bubba have to say about this? I have been building this meal up in my mind for weeks. And no shrimp. Thanks for taking our drink orders first.
"You're totally welcome to leave and come back tomorrow," he continues. "Honestly, I've worked here four years and this has never happened before." I'll bet. I'll bet you're lying.

I already don't like this guy.

I order some rice casserole that usually has some shrimp in it, and we negotiate the changes: instead of shrimp, how about chicken? Fantastic. I am still disappointed.

When he brings out our food, he hands everyone their dishes and as he makes his way to me says "Guess what, it's your lucky night, we found FOUR shrimp for your meal! You got the last ones!"  Oh, it's only every girl's dream to eat the last four shrimp! Especially with the knowledge that they were probably fished out of someone else's unfinished entree or scraped out from under the fridge. Goodie.*

All in all, the food was pretty good, Kala and Stephen's visit went great, and the Japanese movie we watched was expectedly and understandably grotesque and confusing. So, a good weekend for sure.

*This is not meant as a negative review of Hominy Grill, and I fully intend to go back and try again someday. But maybe next time I'll try for brunch.

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