Last month saw another successful helping of Restaurant Week South Carolina, a statewide dining extravaganza that we love to enjoy near and far every January. We view any sort of ‘restaurant week’ concept as a great way to try a place for the first time . . . or to return to an old favorite – like Ribaut Social Club for us this year.
Though restaurant week details can vary by destination across the state and country, and we recently learned that the Beaufort Area Hospitality Association (BAHA) pursued their own stand-alone restaurant week concept called “Tides to Tables,” Restaurant Week South Carolina is generally 10-ish days long in mid-January, including two weekends (tasty details at www.restaurantweeksouthcarolina.com). Participating restaurants offer special menus (sometimes even different ones for lunch and dinner), unique menu items, promotions, discounts, and more. Several Palmetto State destinations have also started offering another restaurant week come fall.
From Charleston to Columbia to Greenville and many tasty spots in between, dozens of restaurants across the state participate in Restaurant Week South Carolina. In Beaufort, this year’s third Tides to Tables Restaurant Week participants included: Breakwater; Dockside; Fat Patties; Fish Camp on 11th Street; Hearth Wood Fired Pizza; Dockside Restaurant; Old Bull Tavern; Q on Bay; Ribaut Social Club; and Saltus River Grill. Ashlee Houck, BAHA’s President & CEO, says, “Tides to Tables Restaurant Week, alongside the Beaufort Oyster Festival, aims to celebrate the area’s restaurants, culture, and, of course, the oyster, while contributing to the local economy during what we call a shoulder month.”
Some restaurant groups elsewhere in the state, like Greenville’s Table 301 (of Soby’s, The Lazy Goat, CAMP, and NOSE DIVE fame) even offer tasty incentives to enjoy Restaurant Week South Carolina at multiple destinations. This year, Table 301 provided $75 Table 301 gift certificates for February usage to anyone who enjoyed all four of their Restaurant Week menus and had their “Passport” stamped. We love this concept and incentive, and hope it’s pursued more often by other restaurants and restaurant groups in coming years.
Of course, we didn’t need any incentive to again participate in a
restaurant week, Beaufort-style. Beaufort’s version is called “Tides to Tables” (with a focus on oysters) and is part of the Beaufort Oyster Festival. When we saw Ribaut Social Club, the intimate restaurant tucked inside Beaufort’s elegant Anchorage 1770 along Bay Street, was participating again, we immediately made a reservation (always a great idea at this busy Beaufort hotspot, with dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (last seating)).
Of the restaurant week concept, Anchorage 1770 and Ribaut Social Club co-owner Frank Lesesne says, “I love it. It’s a home run for all of the restaurants and hotels in town. January is a tough month in the hospitality industry. The Beaufort Oyster Festival and Tides to Tables is a great addition as well.”
Re-opened in 2017, the Ribaut Social Club was originally founded in 1891 as a fine dining, imbibing, and socializing destination. Today, dinner in the elegant dining room or out on the front porch with a view is as social – and tasty – as ever.
Ribaut Social Club Executive Chef Daniel Salazar planned and executed a Restaurant Week menu that is honestly one of the best we’ve ever experienced over the years. Priced at just $45 (a bargain!), the three-course menu included: Cream of Oyster Soup or Baked Oysters (both were a great start to the Beaufort Oyster Festival); Golden Tile Rockport or Chicken Cordon Bleu; and a luscious Napoleon for dessert.
For our Ribaut Social Club return, we were joined by long-time dining buddies, Gene Rugala and Edie Smith (ask us sometime about our yummy yurt supper with them at The Grey in Savannah). We both went for the Restaurant Week menu (trying everything, natch) and so did Gene, while Edie opted for the regular menu’s great-sounding Farm Salad, followed by Lump Crab Stuffed Flounder with sautéed farm vegetables (which you can bet were fresh and local).
The oyster-focused first course was phenomenal, with the soup featuring a large perfectly fried oyster in the briny broth, and equally big baked oysters with a unique duxelles featuring shiitake mushrooms and shallots. The second courses were equally creative, with the golden tile joined by scallops, mussels, local shrimp, farm vegetables, and creamy potato purée. The Chicken Cordon Bleu featured a roasted bone velouté that took the sometimes bland dish to new heights. And, Chef Dan’s Napoleon was, as expected, perfect, with one of our two servings making its way home, but not making it to the refrigerator.
Edie’s two courses were typical of Chef Dan’s world-class work. The regular menu never ceases to amaze us, whether it’s the fresh vegetables (mostly sourced from Tuten Farms, a Port Royal Farmers Market fave of ours); various offerings from J and J Carolina Kidz (also at the market most Saturdays); local seafood (often from Sea Eagle), which Chef Dan has embraced in a big way, as well as other fresh seafood from further afield that Chef Dan deems worthy, like Alaskan halibut or king salmon from the Faroe Islands; and varied beef options (trust us when we say that the seeming splurge is worth it). So, to put moula where our mouths are (literally), we plan to order the $125 24-ounce Buffalo Tomahawk during our next visit.
Of his creative food, Chef Dan says, “We are pricey, but you won’t leave with buyer’s remorse.” Emphasizing that, every night, he prepares every plate, he also says he’s proud of mentoring and developing future chefs in his kitchen. “It’s my legacy here. I want to be known for that. I don’t horde recipes or techniques.”
The ever-changing and surprising wine list, which is European-leaning, is generally Anchorage 1770 and Ribaut Social Club co-owner Amy Lesesne’s territory (she curates the list, also serves as a somm, and holds most of their wine tastings). When we asked her about wine list standbys to try, she recommended several French faves, including: Le Perriere Sancerre; Bouchard Puilly-Fuisse; Sophie Chassagne Montrachet; Maison Champy Bourgogne Pinot Noir; Chateau Belgrave Grand Cru; and their Bordeaux Domaine Vincent. Amy also says they love sharing their selection of Napa cabs (like Jayson Pahlmeyer, Chimney Rock, and La Jota), which pair particularly well with Chef Dan’s nightly beef magic.
We’ve tried several of these wines already and look forward to further research by way of Amy and Ribaut Social Club’s great general manager and sommelier, Misty Baker, Chef Dan’s wonderful wife.
During dessert, our friends Gene and Edie told us about a ‘staycation’ they’d enjoyed during the Holidays a few years ago. This reminded us of our own Anchorage 1770 stay when we’d first moved to Beaufort and had been asked to write a story about the boutique inn. Suffice to say that we’ll be booking another staycation in 2022, as well as a reservation at Ribaut Social Club, of course.
That stay will also come with a delicious breakfast, which we think is among the best to be found in Beaufort (in fact, we might do a Dish one day on breakfast options in town). Chef Dan’s imprint is all over the first meal of the day as well, including bacon and sausage from North Carolina’s Cooper River Farms and grits from one of two well-known South Carolina purveyors. And, speaking of morning meals, we need to mention that Chef Dan’s hearty Brunch (which Frank says is more like “Brinner” and we concur) is served on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (last seating). See ya there!
Ribaut Social Club
1103 Bay St.
Beaufort, SC 29902
Mea culpa from Seldon Ink: We failed to give credit to the great folks at Soire Social Media for the fab photography included in our recent Dish about Breakwater’s wonderful Wine Room.