Charleston, South Carolina. Old World atmosphere. Cobblestone streets. Architecture back to the 1700’s. Friendly folks.
Ok, fine. You get the portrait of this charming older lady by the sea. What’s another word that comes to mind? Seafood.
Yep, you can find it in seafood shops and seafood restaurants and even at the Saturday Farmer’s Market, where a local vendor calls out in the low country patois, “Aw shrimp was swimmin’ yes-ta-dei.”
Shrimp and oysters. I raise the flag and salute both of those mainstays. But, that’s not to leave out hand caught crabs and bounteous fish and seasonal soft shell crabs.
I’ve long since forgotten how many times I’ve visited The Holy City, or how many restaurants have come and gone. And not all that have disappeared were second rate. Families gave up the pressured life of serving the public. Leases lapsed. Tastes changed.
One thing for sure. In Charleston, restaurant longevity rests on two things: atmosphere and food. Believe me, to survive you better be real heavy on the second. Atmosphere will get people in the door, but only the high quality, deliciousness of what’s on the plate will bring them again and again, and make them tell their friends, family, and folks they’ve met at the bar to “Get your ass over there and go early, ‘cause there’s gonna be a line.”
What’s the first place I think of when I want seafood? Fleet Landing. Sure, there have been other pretty faces in my misspent youth, but Fleet Landing remains. You can well ask, “If you can get seafood all over Charleston, why play a favorite?”
Ok. You’ve probably never been there, so I’m going to forgive you for asking. The answer in simple English is: Lots of Stuff! As you might guess, FRESH is the key word. But, that’s not all. The menu covers the gamut from the usual (and especially delicious) fried fare, to fantastic salads, gumbo, and crispy flounder with apricot glaze. Don’t give me that look, you unbelievers! Check out the menu. http://www.fleetlanding.net
|Don't miss the gumbo!|
Thanks to Chef Drew Hedlund, this seafood haven has caught the eye of not only Charlestonians, but national foodie magazines.
Fleet Landing sits right near the old vegetable market, on the water’s edge, in the marsh, with a panoramic view of the harbor. Built by the U.S. Navy in 1942, Tradd Newton turned it into a first class restaurant in 1988. Almost thirty years later, it’s still packed at rush hour.
Walk through the market, past the Old Custom’s House, and continue toward the water. Look to the right. There it is.
|The City Market, not to be confused with the Saturday Farmer's Market on Marion Square|
Of course, there’s a nautical theme throughout the interior, but tastefully done. A long, inviting bar slides gracefully along one side of the dining room. Large, revealing windows make you feel like you’re on a dock, ready to put to sea. Matter of fact, if you really want the feeling of being on a dock, sit outside on the wrap-around porch.
On one visit, the air conditioning was out. This was summer in Charleston and normally, a restaurant without air conditioning would be an abandoned building. With the staff prying open windows that hadn’t been opened in years, the interior welcomed the cooling comfort of a sea breeze. A hint of salty air captured the aroma of frying shrimp, creole flavors, and delicate greens. It was beyond comfortable. I ordered another Martini. This was Charleston as it should be, a historic seaport, redolent with the sea.
Outside was a tranquil harbor that had once been the site of wars and home to pirates. Fleet Landing hadn’t been there for all of that, but now it is definitely a part of the glamor and the history.
Over the entry, frozen in cement are the words: U.S. Navy. Inside is the spaciousness of an open restaurant, bordered by a sweeping porch, serving the best of Charleston seafood.
History. Atmosphere. Spectacular food. Fleet Landing has it all. No wonder it’s my first choice, every time.