Bull Street will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first street I lived on when I moved to Charleston 10 years ago, and it felt far enough away from the heart of the city yet still within walking distance to everything. But the best part by far about living on Bull was its quaint cafe, Bull Street Gourmet, just blocks away from my apartment.
The original Bull Street Gourmet closed in 2013, but the location has remained a wistful reminder of a time when a local could walk through the doors of a neighborhood sandwich shop and not have to wait in line behind a parade of tourists. After Bull Street Gourmet’s move to King, the address never remained empty for long. But each new restaurant felt devoid of the original soul that Bull Street Gourmet brought to the space. That is, until a little unassuming restaurant with a simple conceit opened its doors five months ago.
60 Bull Café clearly means to pay homage to its most successful predecessor while still trying to grasp its own identity. Proprietor Torrey Glass has lightened up the once dim dining room and taken full advantage of the bright, sunny windows. Tables are still casual with the deliberate lack of white tablecloths meant to contrast the more upscale restaurants just blocks away on Upper King, and the menu is smartly priced to match.
Thankfully the cafe serves breakfast every day, and it’s not just of the egg sandwich variety. The menu is chock-full of sandwiches, wraps, omelets, egg scrambles, French toast, and three different kinds of hash. The Bull St. braised beef hash ($10.50) while just a touch dry, had a nice salty finish and was sliced into large cubes instead of shredded. This smart choice allowed the beef to maintain its moisture and ensured that every bite of the hash resulted in a mouthful of flavor.
While the hash was a hit, the country fried chicken biscuit ($9) didn’t fare as well. I can fully understand and appreciate that there are about 7,000 iterations of chicken biscuits in the South, unfortunately this one missed the mark. The texture of the biscuit was soggy and reminiscent of a muffin, most likely due to the fact that it was wedged between a sweet potato biscuit. While both sweet potato biscuits and fried chicken have their respective places in food culture, I don’t believe that the two should coexist under a blanket of gravy and cheddar cheese together. The resulting flavor was oddly sweet, yet salty at the same time. The dish could probably been saved had the texture of the chicken and the biscuit both been crispy instead of wilty but in its current form it doesn’t work.
Dinner fared about the same as breakfast with some truly standout items placed alongside others that sounded interesting on paper but did not live up to expectation. Cheese-fanatics will appreciate that 60 Bull has an entire section of its menu devoted to grilled cheese. I could have ordered every option but managed to limit myself to just one: the Huger St. grilled cheese ($9.50). Composed of gruyere, mozzarella, andouille, and roasted peppers on sourdough, this sounded like the most appealing of the bunch, but, much like a rainy day on the street it was named for, the deluge of oil made it too soggy for it to be appealing. The bread absorbed too much grease and overpowered the flavor of the cheese — a shame as the subtle funky nuttiness of the gruyere was all but drowned out by the oily bread.
Thankfully, the other dinner items were more successful, though I should note, the dinner menu featured on the website was not what I received. While dinner is served from 6-8 p.m., I was given a menu identical to lunch even though I arrived at 6:30 p.m. I had been anticipating options like pork tenderloin and roasted chicken, instead —since I happened to dine on a Tuesday night — I opted for 60 Bull’s burger special. From 4-8 p.m. burgers are $6 with fries. Though a touch greasy and relatively messy, the burger was hearty and juicy. Not the best burger in town but absolutely worth the $6 price tag.
60 Bull’s best sandwich was easily the porchetta ($11.50). Somewhat misleading, as I was expecting a more traditional slice of roast porchetta with herbs, this sandwich was actually better. The juicy pork was topped with small, crunchy slices of rapini. And it came with the added bonus of a pork au jus for dipping. I just don’t understand how a sandwich could get any better than that. Well, maybe the bread could have been crispier, but that’s just being picky.
Overall, 60 Bull is a very friendly neighborhood restaurant that is not aiming to overthrow the already established upscale food scene in Charleston. The owners clearly understand that their niche is in their neighborhood, notably one that has a distinct lack of restaurants. Though they’re only blocks away from a veritable smorgasboard of eating options, 60 Bull presents itself as a corner cafe alternative, a place where you won’t have to wait for three hours to get in and you won’t have a heart attack over the price of dinner. It’s not a revelation but it’s the kind of casual throwback that has all but disappeared from downtown in recent years. I just hope for 60 Bull’s sake that Charlestonians are still willing to support a neighborhood place that doesn’t have a line out the door and three James Beard nominations.
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