Charleston is known as a prime destination for hardcore foodies which means there’s a plethora of incredible spots to dine at. If your time in the Holy City is on the shorter side, you want to do your research carefully to ensure you’re dining at the best of the best. Thankfully, Circa 1886 was indeed just that.
After booking our hotel, we discovered that through a collaboration between the Fulton Lane Inn and Circa 1886, hotel guests could enjoy a three course meal for just $50. While you may think that’s a lot, it’s actually not, since Circa 1886 is considered to be one of Charleston’s most elegant dining establishments.
Unlike many of the city’s well known restaurants which are congregated in the area of the historic district closer to the harbor, Circa 1886 is a bit removed and is situated in more of a residential area. It’s actually located on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion, a former private home turned 5-star luxury inn and hotel.
Upon entering the restaurant, it greatly reminded me of another fine dining experience, Bonaparte’s in Montreal. The ambiance was elegant yet subdued and the staff incredibly professional. This was the case for the entire meal (how often at some restaurants does service “die off” as the meal progresses).
Another reason why it reminded me of Bonaparte is that after placing our orders and in between courses, we were given “complimentary chef’s tastings.” In the course of our meal, we received a lemon and shrimp cocktail and a bass cake with BBQ sauce and parsley powder (if you’re wondering what’s a bass cake, it is basically a crab cake except with sea bass). Both of these were decadent.
I had somewhat of a hard time deciding on an appetizer as none really “called out” to me. (I attribute this to the fact that I had been up at 2:45 AM that day in order to catch my 5:20 AM flight.) So I ended up going with the Grilled Baby Iceberg Salad ($9). This came with grapefruit, cucumbers, French radishes, spiced pecans, and dill buttermilk dressing. I actually had it sans iceberg (slightly odd, I know) or as the waitress who brought it said, “baby iceberg salad, hold the iceberg.” Thankfully they were very accommodating and loaded up my plate with the other items. It was a good starter if for no other reason than it didn’t fill me up and ruin my appetite for the rest of the meal.
My mom went with the Barley “Risotto” ($9). The reason for the quotations is that the risotto was made with barley instead of the Arborio rice. This came with Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, asparagus, raisins, mascarpone, and carrot puree. It met with her approval.
There were innumerable dishes I debated between for my main course; I wavered between the Carolina Flounder ($28) and the Sea Scallops ($35), but ultimately went with the latter. The sea scallops did not disappoint…not in the least. They came on a bed of country ham (why I love Southern cuisine), and were topped with a field pea cassoulet, fennel cranberry chutney, and a cornbread crumble. This was simply divine.
For her main dish, my mom selected the Niman Ranch Pork Osso Bucco ($29). This was accompanied by pear mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pancetta, and topped with Gorgonzola butter and port reduction. As she said, you don’t often see osso bucco on restaurant menus so when you do, you partake. She most thoroughly enjoyed it.
All of the “sweet finish” selections sounded incredible-Smores, Banana Split Ice Cream Sandwich. However, I went with something I knew would be delicious but also capable of taking home with me if I wasn’t able to finish it all. I opted for the Croissant Donut Trio ($10) which included a chocolate glazed, vanilla crème, and cinnamon one. Simply put, you can’t go wrong with donuts…ever.
My mom ordered the traditional yet dependable Key Lime Pie ($11) because when has key lime pie ever disappointed?
Our meal at Circa 1886 was nothing short of fantastic and it was a wonderful way to end our first day in Charleston. It may not have a cool sounding acronym like many of Charleston’s other restaurants, and yet it provided a meal we will undoubtedly always remember.
149 Wentworth St|Charleston, SC|29401