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the food may be great, but the bill will be greater.
There are, of course, places to eat here that are reasonably priced ... but are they really that good? The usual suspects are full of fried food, bar snacks, and generally speaking, a whole lot of "blah". The price gap between delicious gourmet food and meals I can actually afford has been too wide for too long downtown.
Cue Spero: a small eatery a little off the beaten path in downtown Charleston. Truthfully, I was hesitant to go here when I learned it was in the former "Hello, My Name is BBQ" slot downtown. I've never been a huge fan of that location, but after going, I now question why I didn't like it. There is free (freeeeeeee, people!) parking, none of the traffic pain of King Street, a decent sized bar, and a small but comfortable dining space inside. Seriously, why have I been avoiding this location for so many years?
The menu is to the point, but not lacking in choices. We started at the bar with a bread flight and some red wine while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive. We perused the menu, and made friends with the manager, who was super friendly and had some great suggestions for us. I must admit, we didn't plan on going there and ordering most of the menu; it just kinda happened. The prices are super reasonable, but the food is on par with what we've all come to expect from pricey "casual dining" restaurants downtown. Once we tried one dish, it felt like we simply had to try another.
I'm so glad we took the recommendations given to us, because I probably would not have ordered a few of the dishes that really delighted me with their unexpected flavors. At the top of that list is the raw oyster dish. Y'all, this dish is comprised of beautiful oysters on the half shell in the classic bed of ice with .... yellow mustard and chopped pickle on top. You can't make this stuff up. I was skeptical, to say the least, but I am so glad this dish made it to our table. It's such an odd combination -- you almost don't want it to work it's so odd.
Oh, but it does work, and it's killer. Tangy and salty, the mustard and pickles make a sort of redneck mignonette. Combine those bits with a glass of blanc de blancs and you've got an amazing start to the night.
Here's the thing about Spero: it's delicious, it's farm-to-table, it's fresh. It's not fussy about any of those things, though. Don't be scared off by the location -- Spero's food is killer, service is friendly and on point, and their wine list is short, but good and super reasonably priced. Go here now, before the crowds discover it and take it over! I hope Spero is a good indication of what is to come over the next few years in the Charleston dining scene. Dum Spiro Spero.
Bread Flight, Smoked Duck Sausage, Duck Confit, Raw Local Oysters, Red Russian Kale Salad, Cookies and Milk
Blanc de Blancs, Grapefruit Radler, or the Champagne of Beers.
616 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403
In the gravel lot in front of the restaurant.