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There has been a disturbing trend creeping in over the past 10 years in Charleston restaurants, and it thinks it’s Casual Fine Dining. The culinary offenders in question create an egregiously overpriced menu that any home cook could accomplish, pepper it with catchy local ingredients, strip some poor historic building down to the studs, fill it with five too many tables, and staff it with 20-something College of Charleston students with scruffy beards and skinny jeans who think they can recommend a wine because they’ve tried all the California Chardonnay under $14 from the East Bay Harris Teeter.
Ugh. I’ve made myself angry just thinking about it.
Entering Indaco, I immediately became concerned that we had made the wrong choice of restaurant and were about to fall victim to yet another over priced and under delivering “casual fine dining experience”. The interior of the restaurant is well done, like they all are. It has a pleasing type of industrial mixed with country italian kitchen thing going on. The staff is decked out in the uniform du jour of every restaurant that’s opened in the past five years with an average per person cost of over $50: jeans, button up shirt, some sort of apron. Funny, since the average diner in jeans looks just a little underdressed. As I approached the hostess stand, I heard one of the hostesses telling some guy reeking of sunscreen, in shorts, ball cap, and a Steelers t-shirt that there was zero availability for the evening.
Secretly this pleased me. Point Indaco.
The first table we were given was about 2 feet off from the front door, which probably would not have been an issue if the front door were not crowded with people trying to get a table. Not wanting to spend our evening with a view of the 12 rear-ends of the tourists crowding the hostess stand, we asked for a different table, and the hostess was fairly accommodating. The new table we were given felt more like a punishment than an improvement ( situated in the bar area ), but not wanting to be total jerks, we accepted it.
We were greeted by our waiter almost immediately. He was very knowledgable about both the food and the wine, offering several suggestions throughout the evening. Unfortunately there was another element there that evening that indisputably marred the experience: the clientele.
Within minutes of our seating, the bar area filled in around us. People weren’t just waiting for tables or having a drink, either. One group ordered dinner and then stood nearly shoulder to shoulder with us next to our table while they ate pizza standing up for the next thirty minutes. They were replaced by a group of guys who elbowed at our table ( and wine glasses, and bodies) while they talked loudly about being from New Jersey. Awesome. The last wave was a group obviously there to watch the football game that was inexplicably being shown at the bar. Most of them were in some sort of jersey. Luckily, there are acoustic panels camouflaged throughout the space to help with the noise from all the hard surfaces and obnoxious bar crowd, but I have to wonder — why provoke that kind of crowd to come in the first place? It seemed like half fabulous Italian ristorante, half West Ashley Kickin’ Chicken.
We had originally intended to get their version of a tasting menu on the recommendation of several foodie friends who had raved about it, and at $45 for four courses, it would have been a steal. Unfortunately, given the grating bar crowd, we opted simply for a bottle of wine, an entree and a pasta dish for the two of us. It would be remiss of me not to note how knowledgeable the waiter was in discussing the wine list and the menu.
The Porchetta with Kale and Lima Beans was decadent, as expected, but had an amazing rich, salty, slightly smokey flavor. Although not listed on the menu as such, I believe the lima beans were the same heirloom local variety that I’ve found at the Mixon Farmer’s Market — and they were killer in the bean and kale mixture.
Since they make the pasta daily in-house, we opted for a pasta dish over one of the pizzas. The Cappellacci with blue crab, grilled corn, lemon, and basil was honestly lacking in presentation — it looked like a bland plate of yellow, but while the presentation lacked, the flavor was vibrant. The natural sweetness from the crab and corn blended with the citrusy bite of lemon to make a luscious dish that was simultaneously fresh and decadent. The fresh pasta did not disappoint, either. It was perfectly tender. I would happily try any other pasta dish on ( or off! ) the menu.
For dessert, we had a glass of limoncello, made with Meyer Lemons in-house. I find the Meyer Lemons give the liqueur an unpleasant bitter taste, but I think that it might be pleasing to some, if you’re in to that kind of thing. Next time I’d like try the in house arancello and see how it compares.
All things considered, I think the things that really matter ( food, service ) are spot on at Indaco, an impressive feat in the sea of only pseudo-successful casual fine dining spots in the same part of town. Hopefully the loud and lacking-in-personal-space-awareness bar crowd will die down on nights without sporting events on the television, or alternatively, maybe Indaco will leave the sports airings to the dive bar across the street.
This newest installment from The Indigo Road group delivers on food and has spectacular service, but attracts an obnoxious bar crowd. Try to get a table on the patio for the best experience.
Cappellacci with blue crab, grilled corn, lemon, and basil
Anything from the well curated Italian wine list
Business Casual to Dressy Casual.
(Downtown) Charleston, South Carolina. 526 King Street, between Woolfe and Reid Street.
Free Valet Parking Available behind the building on Woolfe Street in a gravel lot. Metered parking on King Street ( good luck ). The Visitor’s Center Garage is a short walk away, with flat rate $4 parking after 5 pm.