We’ve had steady stream of visitors since August, which has given us great excuses for going out on the town. And even though there’s never a shortage of great or new places to choose from, over and over again we find ourselves drawn to The Ordinary, an upscale, seafood-focused establishment built out of an old bank building.
Over a handful of visits, including one where we brought the kids while fully dressed in Halloween costumes, we’ve grown to love not only the dishes, but the more than accommodating staff. This isn’t a place that most people would consider exactly kid-friendly, as a huge portion of the menu is devoted to a raw bar. Try telling the Gravy Baby that, though. He declared The Ordinary his “favorite” after they brought out a “kid’s” perfectly seared triggerfish filet decorated with bright haricots verts. Needless to say, if you win over the Gravy Baby, we’re not far behind in our fandom, either.
On our must-try list are the marinated razor clams, in whatever delectable preparation the kitchen has dreamed up. We’ve had it Asian-style, with lime juice, cilantro and crispy peppers, to a more traditional American preparation of fennel, apple and jalapeno, and every single time everyone at the table is always happy.
While the menu changes seasonally and features local ingredients, like Dave’s steamer clams or local root vegetables in the pickled shrimp, another favorite of ours, what I like about The Ordinary’s menu is that it’s consistently understated. A hot menu item described simply as barbecued shrimp with charred bread is a delightful combination of perfectly cooked large white shrimp swimming in a creamy, tangy barbecue sauce. Call me a traitor to the cause of Southern barbecue, but I can’t stand an overly sticky, sweet barbecue sauce. What I love about the barbecue shrimp is that it’s every bit a nod to Lowcountry barbecue but still has a really sophisticated taste. In low-class terms, basically what that means is that I’d paint my face with this sauce and call it a night.
The desserts haven’t varied since our first visit, and the menu usually consists only of three things: a chocolate pave, lemon panna cotta and a Carolina gold rice pudding with seasonal fruit. If you’re with a group, I’d recommend all three. If you’re dining alone, I’d recommend all three. The thing about ending a seafood meal with dessert is that I never want anything too heavy or too rich to end it. Seafood is such a delicate thing that ending with like, say, a cobbler, just doesn’t seem right. Luckily, even the rich chocolate dessert is just a bite and so it seems like the perfect sweet finish.
My only quibble with the place, and this is a minor one, is that if you’re bringing kids, be mindful of the chairs. They’re featherweight and the floor is tile, so the Gravy Baby fell backwards onto the tile while wiggling around in his seat. Twice. Of course I attribute this to bringing a 3 year old to a fancy restaurant and I have zero expectations whatsoever that the chairs be anything different than what they were. We’re always going to be those people with the kids at a 7-course tasting dinner. That’s just who we are.