Helen Schwab

A few bites in Charleston

Peering into 167 Raw’s tuna burger.
Peering into 167 Raw’s tuna burger. Gary Schwab

A few suggestions for those Spoleto-, beach- or just Charleston-bound:

▪ Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters puts the rust in rustic in a sprawling, light-filled space, with weathered everything: artwork, coolers, light fixtures, the idea of serving fried chicken....

But the aesthetic is consistently intriguing for all its plainspokenness (menu categories include “Oysters,” “Fried Chicken,” “Cheap Beer,” “Expensive Champagne”), and consistently studded with surprise.

That juicy chicken’s got a deceptively simple skin-crunch, for instance, and its bit of heat sneaks up.

That whole grilled fish (beeline snapper on our visit) arrives grilled with seaweed butter, with its thickest, meatiest side down – a first in my experience.

That cocktail menu sports an Aperol and Stiegl Radler concoction: The Italian bitter aperitif and a German grapefruit soda/beer mix that may sound weird, but just trust me.

Servers were bright and engaging, excepting one laconic counterman, and char-grilled oysters were the only bland item we had.

Consider the creamy vanilla soft-serve ice cream for dessert, or move along; the only choice you get is whether you’ll add jimmies (aka sprinkles; there’s an interesting etymological question there, but we don’t have time!).

698 King St.; 843-531-6500; www.leonsoystershop.com.

▪ Saint Alban is a sibling of Leon’s, just up the street, and I can’t do better than the Charleston City Paper, evocative-sketch-wise, which awarded it “Best Wes Anderson Set” in its annual best-of edition.

Fans of Euro-quirk, hipsters and lovers of coffee/tea/cafe/shops will enjoy the offerings, which range from baked goods (scones, banana bread, cookies) and sandwiches (croques monsieurs, little toasts) to salads and cheese/charcuterie, etc. (caramelized grapefruit, chia seed pudding).

That’s in addition to the beverages, of course: a nice little sherry collection, plus cocktails, wines, Bellocq teas and La Colombe coffee. (If you, like me, are trying desperately to remember who Saint Alban was, you can stop: Reitz has said it’s named for “The Book of Saint Albans.” That was a 1486 treatise on hawking, heraldry and hunting – you know: all the cool stuff for cool guys at the time – put out by the St. Albans Press, in St. Albans, about 19 miles north of London.)

710 King St.; 843-531-6868; saintalbanallday.com.

▪ 167 Raw proffers an array of oysters, with all provenances listed, and the place is barely big enough to hold the list, much less its few tables and bit of counter space.

But: that tuna burger.

Sure, the lobster roll is terrific, and that’s what’s grabbed most of the place’s press (it’s also market price, which on our evening was $27). But this burger is sushi-grade yellowfin, ground and pattied and cooked perfectly – as in, maintaining both a meaty quality and rareness, astonishingly difficult to find.

The place feels like a shop – so white and stainless! – and indeed you can buy to cook at home. But grab a seat and chat with a server: They’ll steer you well.

289 E. Bay St.; 843-570-4997; 167raw.com.

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