If traffic weren't so terrible in West Ashley, I never would have known Livelihood Cafe existed. There is no bright neon sign, no discernible parking ( hint: it's behind the building ), and no major exterior indication of what type of food they serve, other than the word "cafe" in the name. Luckily for them, I sit in my car, parked in traffic, for at least five minutes a day inching past their building, so eventually, I started wondering what the little tan and brown boxy restaurant with a gravel driveway served.
The interior is simple and pristine, much like the exterior. The decor is eclectic, but not too junky. There are two small dining rooms, with a total of about ten tables. I was worried it was going to be awkwardly small ( you know that type of place you go that is so small the staff stares at you the whole meal... ) but the layout of the rooms prevent this. We sat ourselves at a small cafe table directly in front of a bright window, and the waitress greeting us pretty much immediately. We perused the menu, which has both lunch and breakfast options. We settled on lunch, but noted that they do have a build-your-own omelette option, which my husband is eager to go back for.
The menu is very eclectic; enough so that I was a little concerned. However, my fears were unfounded. I had the Salmon BLFGT (Bacon Lettuce Fried Green Tomato), easily the most expensive item on the menu, at only $13. I chose to get grits as my side dish, because I couldn't resist getting a taste of their breakfast menu, even though I was eating lunch. They have quite a few options for sides other than the grits, including the expected french fries, and also the less-expected options of fruit or grilled vegetables. The salmon was cooked perfectly, and even though I'm pretty sure I caught a hint of Old-Bay in the seasoning, it tasted delicious. The fried green tomatoes had a very light batter, and were crisp and fresh. They were not greasy at all. The bacon slices were huge and thick, and obviously of very high quality. They, too, were perfectly cooked and drained. The grits are of the stone-ground variety, which as far as I'm concerned, is really the only type of "true" grits. They were wonderfully thick, and were not doused in butter or cheese, but were well seasoned. Perfection.
My husband, who has had hamburgers in all the finest restaurants in Charleston, went with his standard: a hamburger. Their base burger is only $7, which was a refreshing price point, now that a $16 burger seems to be the standard downtown. He had their Barnyard Burger ( only slightly more than their standard burger, at $10 ) with fries. The burger patty was much bigger than we expected for the great price, and cooked precisely to the temperature ordered. The bread was soft and not too overwhelming. The egg was a skillful over-easy, and created its own condiment for the burger. One side note, even though we didn't ask for any, we did notice when another table requested mayonnaise that they actually keep the mayo in a refrigerator until someone asks for it, indicating that they understand ( and care! ) about food safety. Very reassuring.
Throughout our meal, the waitress was friendly and attentive, but not overbearing. Both of our meals were perfectly prepared, and even though they leaned toward the heavy side, were not greasy.
A hidden gem in West Ashley for breakfast and lunch with both light and heavy fare. Very reasonably priced, but the caliber of the dishes is on par with pricier downtown options.
The grits are killer. I highly recommend both of the dishes we got ( Salmon BLFGT, Hamburger ), and am excited to go back and try more.
Sadly, they don't seem to have a liquor license. Stick to water or coffee. ( Canned sodas are available as well. )
1337 Ashley River Rd
Charleston, SC 29407
Behind the restaurant
Livelihood Cafe on Facebook