Condiment kings and queens, please rise — this one’s for you. Sure, most people are cool with adding a healthy squirt of Heinz ketchup to their fries and burger, and local bottled options like Burnt & Salty and Red Clay are pantry essentials. But what about when you’re dining out?
Lowcountry chefs are intentional about each component that goes into a particular dish, but they are also aware of the fact that diners sometimes are overtaken with a desire to “just dip it” in a tasty condiment. Those expecting to only find decadent condiments (or condiment-like substances) at casual establishments will be pleasantly surprised, as eateries like FIG and Husk find their way onto our list, and other destinations’ saucy creations even come with their own quirky monikers. So without further ado, here are the spots in Charleston to venture for all the salty/spicy/sweet/creamy condiments your heart desires:
Let’s start with a standard condiment at a classic Charleston eatery; few things are more Charleston than Husk, and Lowcountry residents sure do love their hot sauce. Husk makes their own “table sauce,” which is made with red cayenne, yielding a slightly fruity flavor with a moderate spice level. To make it, executive chef Travis Grimes starts by blending up the peppers before adding 2.5 percent salt by weight to the pepper mash. This concoction is placed into a fermentation crock to sit at room temperature for 30 days. After fermentation is complete, he adds roughly 30 percent distilled white vinegar, strains it through a fine sieve, and blends in just enough xanthan gum to stabilize the sauce.
Diners can also find a jar of housemade hot sauce in the middle of each table at James Island Sichuan eatery Kwei Fei, but chef David Schuttenberg’s is a little different. Coined “Angry Lady Sauce” as a tribute to the popular LaoGanMa spicy chili crisp, the chunkier sauce is a blend of chili flakes, Sichuan peppercorn, fried garlic, fried shallots, salt, sugar, and a touch of MSG. Apply this spicy sauce with care.
Butcher & Bee still offers their well known home-made ketchup (we fondly remember dipping into this sauce late night at the old King Street B&B) on select sandwiches, but the true can’t-miss item on their menu is the whipped feta. We know, that sounds a little funky, especially when you find out that it’s made by combining the feta with local honey that’s infused with a housemade lacto-fermented chili liquid. But trust us when we say that this mezze dish will become a must every time you visit the NoMo eatery, as the sweet and salty combination pairs perfectly with a crisp slice of pita bread.
You don’t always get to “dip it” at barbecue establishments, but the crew at Home Team serves the sauce on the side of their smoked meats so guests can apply as they choose. Pitmaster Aaron Siegel’s Alabama white sauce is an ode to Big Bob Gibson’s recipe — legend has it that this was the first-ever white sauce creation known to the barbecue world. Things may get a little messy, but grab a dry rubbed smoked chicken wing and give it a dunk in this thin, tangy sauce for a bite.
For a vegan-friendly wing and sauce combination, head to Basic Kitchen, where they offer tempura fried cauliflower “wings,” which are served with a side of cashew “ranch.” The creamy, dippable condiment is made using cashews, parsley, cilantro, dill, lemon, and a cast of spices.
There’s always room for dipping, even at breakfast, and Millers All Day provides the perfect companion for their crisp yet tender homefries, which are boiled then fried. Dip the medium-sized pieces in their sweet and savory MAD sauce, which is a mixture of Dijon and yellow mustard, barbecue sauce, honey,and mayonnaise.
FIG recreates the Italian sauce/spread/dip known as tonnato, which is classically served over cold veal. FIG doesn’t attempt to mimic this retro dish, but they have evolved how they use the mayonnaise-based condiment over the years, serving it over poached pork or with beef tartare. To make it, they puree oil-packed tuna, egg yolks, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and white wine vinegar. The puree is then emulsified using grapeseed oil, olive oil, and some of the liquid used from poaching the pork loin, forming a creamy aioli-like sauce that has the ability to single-handedly transform a dish.
Ever since Tu transitioned to a menu featuring ingredients and dishes inspired by the cultures of the Indian subcontinent, chef Josh Walker’s imaginative offering has thrilled diners by providing a spin on run-of-the-mill, hearty Indian flavors. The inspiration for his raita, which is a traditional Indian condiment used to cool the palate, stemmed from a belief that ginger and beets pair well together. Walker married this concept with flavors from a Chinese ginger scallion condiment and voila, his crazy pink-colored raita was born. The beets are juiced and combined with ginger scallion oil before they are mixed in with the yogurt, offering guests another saucy concoction in which to dip their warm naan.
Well, there you have it. As you can see, the options are far more vast than the everyday condiment staples, and the vessel for dipping is often almost as stunning as the dip itself at these Charleston establishments. As we roll into the heart of summer, there couldn’t be a better time to get out there and “just dip it.”